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A while back, I posted about the Joy Project, finding and recording things that brought me joy, things to focus on that help to offset the craziness in the world in order to center and not let the bad things get me down. There have been a lot of things bothering me lately: a huge lack of manners in people, the government, work issues, the government, rude teenagers in public places, the government, serious world issues… you get the idea. And while these things deserve attention, if I let them take up all of my thoughts and time, I’d forget why I’m here in the first place. You have to step back sometimes and find the joy because life can’t be all about gloom and doom.

I haven’t been very good at writing down my joys, which was the original intent, but I have been doing a better job at looking for the little joys every day. Still, now that it’s summer and I have a couple of weeks off, I’m going to try to get back into the habit again, starting now. These are a few of the joys I’ve had in my life lately, big and small:

Free time. I usually love being busy, I love feeling useful, and relaxing usually makes me feel guilty. This summer, I am consciously, selfishly, enjoying the time I have off.

Middle Child graduated. Few things compare to seeing your child in a cap and gown. It’s a very concrete ending to childhood and a proud moment for us.

Dates/quality time with my husband. We’re so busy during the school year that it’s hard to find time for us, but lately, we’ve made spending time together more of a priority. It’s a very good thing.

My teenage boys. I know, it sounds contradictory, but as my boys get older, I enjoy them more every day. It’s a different level of parenting now. I loved having squishy babies and snuggly toddlers, but seeing my boys mature into adults is amazing. Conversations can definitely get interesting.

Writing. Editing a completed novel, beginning a new one, and not too worried about balancing the time involved.

A new tattoo. I’ve been wanting to cover up an old (ugly) one for a long time now and took the plunge to trust an artist and get a little color. Still very fresh at less than two days old, but happy to have it done.

Hedgie snuggles. Allegra wasn’t around when I started this project. but she is definitely one of my big joys. My little ball of prickles is quite the cuddler and an endless source of entertainment.

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Little black squirrels. The first time I saw a little black squirrel, I thought it was the cutest thing ever and wished that they lived in my yard. They’ve been slowly spreading out ever since, getting closer to my house, and just a few days ago, I SAW ONE IN MY YARD!!! Definitely a joy.

Travel + family. A couple of months ago, I was able to join my cousin and her kids in South Carolina. (See my earlier post for more on that.) This was a double joy, going somewhere new and beautiful and getting to catch up with far-flung loved ones.

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Theater. I’ve done a lot more of it this year and while that has definitely contributed to time crunches, it has also helped me grow in a lot of ways, including my self-confidence. I’ve gotten braver, both on stage and off, thanks in part to a super-supportive theater community who makes me feel loved.

I’ll leave it there for now. This is a good start for my list and I’ll catch it up as time goes on.

I’d love to know what the joys are in your life. Feel free to comment and spread it around. We could all use a little more joy in our lives.

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So, I self-published a novel this week on Amazon.com. It’s a little scary to put it out there, but what the heck. I’m thinking of it as an audition. No pain, no gain, right? Besides, with no agent, I have to do all of my own marketing.

It’s geared toward middle-grade kids (4th through 8th grades-ish), but I think a lot of ages might enjoy it. It’s been a labor of love for the past few years and all four of my past classes that I read it to have really liked it. Right now, it’s only available as an e-book, but I’m checking into getting a printed version soon.

Give it a shot.

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I might not post as much this month. I’m doing NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. This contest runs every November, the object being to write 50,000 words, the minimum length for a novel, by the last day of the month. I’ve gotten a start, but am nowhere near where I need to be right now. Thus, my blog will have to take a back seat for a couple of weeks until I get on track. Check out the website at nanowrimo.org.

I’ve done this before, a few years back ,and made it, although I cheated a little. I used part of a novel that I had already been working on a bit, but I justified it because I got a late start. This time, I started fresh, so we’ll see how it goes.

A presto

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Last week I wrote about pet peeves, things that drive us insane at times. I do like to keep things balanced, so this week I’m writing about things that bring me joy.

Joy is different than happiness, a term that I use in to describe my constant feelings about certain parts of my life. For example, I have happiness in my marriage. That’s something that is all the time; a state, if you will, rather than a moment. Do I have moments of joy in my marriage? Undoubtedly, yes! But in my mind, joy is one of those things that happens spontaneously, a moment that catches you off-guard and can take your breath away while filling you with, well, joy!

For me, joy can be elusive. It’s not that I want to be joyless, but depression makes it hard to feel good things sometimes. Therefore, when I do experience something that brings true joy, the feeling is so profound that it stays with me. Moments of joy give me hope and keep me going. From the silly to the sacred, reactions vary from genuine laughter from deep inside to quiet awe and reverence. Here are some of my favorite things that bring me joy.

When Marty Man does something romantic. We’ve been married a long time, but he still has that power to make my heart flutter. It can be the surprise book that he ordered for me because he knew I would want it, the spontaneous, “I love you” that drifts across the couch, or even just a look that he sends my way. My husband brings me joy.

Connecting with my kids. I love my boys, always, but when we have a moment, whether it’s snuggle time or a good conversation, it makes my heart swell. They get closer to being on their own every day, which makes those moments precious to me.

Baby belly giggles. Completely unresistable. Hands down one of my favorite sounds in the entire world. I dissolve into a puddle of joy. It’s so real, so genuine. I can take on the world after hearing a baby lose it in laughter.

The ocean. Wild, raw, powerful, untamable. I love being around water in any case, but something about the ocean just fills my whole being when I watch it. I could stand there for hours.

Travel. Not necessarily the nitty-gritty parts of it, but the very thought of going somewhere, especially somewhere on my bucket list, is more exciting than Christmas morning. Right now, I’m looking forward to Italy. One month from today I’ll be in Rome. The anticipation is wonderful, but the reality will be even better. Even the opportunity to drive someone else to or from the airport makes me giddy, because it’s a wonderful place. I know, I’m a dork, but that’s okay.

Sleeping babies in my arms. I can’t even explain. Settling a baby down so that he or she is sleeping in your arms is amazing. They’re just so perfect, so innocent and beautiful.

Feeling God’s presence or understanding when He’s at work. When I’m reading the Bible or something related and a point just hits home, there’s no mistaking it, especially after I’ve been through a rough patch and the result is something that I never would have expected or planned for, but I know is right. The awareness that comes through and the feeling of being close to Him is indescribable, but joy is in that mix so it definitely belongs on my list. He is my everything.

Seeing the sun and clear blue sky after several cloudy ones. Relief, just pure relief and joy. I don’t know if this is a depression thing, but I do know that people, in general, feel better when it’s sunny out. It’s especially joy-inducing when it has been hot, awful, and muggy. I hate muggy. It makes my skin crawl, so when that lifts after several days and the sky is that clear, clear blue, it’s heavenly.

Music. I don’t know where I’d be without music. It helps to cope with or enhance every emotion, from the dark deep holes I can get into to the best moments in my life. There is a song for every feeling, every day, every time. Music understands.

Writing. I amost didn’t include this one, because when I write, I have to fight the nagging feeling at the back of my mind that tells me I should be doing laundry, or cleaning, or something else mundane because writing feels like such a guilty pleasure, but the times when I really just put that on the back burner and allow myself to get lost in my story or my blog are really full of joy. I love to write and I wish that I could make more time to do it. A work in progress, yes?

I’d love to know what brings you joy. Life is hard, joy gets us through.

Until next time.

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The time of year has come where it’s nearly impossible for me to write. By that, I mean school has begun. It’s not that I don’t feel like writing. I do. I would really love to just chuck all of my lesson plans and papers out the window with no regrets and sit at the computer all day in my fantasy world, but there’s a slight problem with that. I’m not exactly supporting the family with any writing. At least not at the moment,. I do receive royalties, albeit tiny, from the publisher of my first book, (That would be Put Up Your Hair; A Practical Manual to Nineteenth Century Hair Styles, available through www.heritagebooks.com and Amazon, if anyone is interested. I’m getting better at shameless plugs.) but since one can’t live on dreams, one must have a real job in order to survive. Especially if there are children to support. Big children who have big expenses and who are going to begin leaving for college next summer. Until I can earn a steady income from writing, I shall have to keep plugging away at the day job. This, in turn, inspires guilt about not being one of those teachers who lives for her job, but that’s a topic for another day.

The difficult part about that is finding the time to write. Heck, during the summer when I do, sort of, have time, there are people all over the house at all hours of the day. I feel like if I’m sitting and writing for a long time the house will implode without me there. Of course, I know I won’t. How arrogant of me. Nevertheless, with the family home, it is really hard for me to focus. Marty is excellent at monitoring everything that goes on, but we live in a small house and I hear everything from children arguing to them doing their normal, everyday things, such as having Nerf gun battles. I used to get a lot more productive writing done when I was a substitute teacher and didn’t get a call for the day. I could crank out 10-15 pages at a time when everyone else was gone at school, but those days are gone, at least for now.

I went to a book signing last year where the author talked about staying up late after her family went to bed in order to write her book. She had small children and could not write during the day. I thought about what a great idea that was until I remembered that after teaching all day and coming home to make dinner, running kids around, going to rehearsals, etc., I was exhausted by 10:00 pm. We’re up at 6:00 am and I’m the kind of person who just does not function very well on little sleep. That strategy was not going to work for me. Neither was getting up early to write. Getting myself and a middle-schooler out the door in the morning is a chore as it is. Besides, I find that I do my best writing in the afternoon, but that is generally frowned upon when I’m supposed to be giving a math lesson.

I think I would feel better about it all if I could actually get signed with an agent for the book I’m currently peddling, a middle grade children’s fantasy novel with the working title, Traveler. I had an offer from a subsidy publisher this past winter and have had a few nibbles, but after about two years, it’s still sitting unloved on my computer table. In search of beta-readers, I’ve read it to two of my classes who have both loved it. My last year’s third- and fourth- grade students who are now my fourth- and fifth-grade students want me to read it aloud again this year. In fact, they wanted another story about Tommy, the main character. I know that kids like it, I think it will sell, it’s just a matter of getting someone in the publishing world to agree with me.

I actually have two novels in progress right now. One is the next in the series to Traveler and the other is a historical fiction novel told from the perspective of Bessie Blount, the mistress to Henry VIII who had a son by him. It’s not a sexed-up tawdry thing like the HBO Tudor series; it’s realistic and as historically accurate as I can make it. (Okay, there’s a little bit of sex in it, but it’s historically accurate sex.) That one doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m further along in writing it than the other one. Bessie has been a fascination of mine ever since I found out about her and not much exists about her early life or about her feelings on things. I’m loving being able to give her a voice and establish her as a real person, not just a king’s plaything. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun to write and I’d really love to finish it before next summer.

As I said before, Marty Man is really supportive of my writing, so it’s really about me being proactive and finding a time where I have no choice but to stick to it. That’s the difficult part. I’m a creature of habit and it’s difficult for me to make time for new things, although I’m usually pleasantly surprised when I do. Like when I signed up for a hula class last winter, which I only did because I knew the teacher and I was confident that she wouldn’t laugh at me. At least not to my face. I loved that class! It challenged me, but that made me want to succeed even more. I think finding a writing time will be the same way. Now, I’m not going to be able to write for a significant time every day. Teaching takes an incredible amount of time that used to be free time in the evenings and on the weekends, but I do want to find at least a little time each day when I can add to things, or to blog. Right now, there’s a laundry basket full of clean clothes across from me that keeps calling out for attention, but I was determined to sit down and write tonight. It can wait. The dusting can wait. The dishes can wait. Being a full-time writer is what I really want to do and I need to find time to make that happen while still paying attention to my responsibilities. Right now, however, I need to wrap this up because the eleven-year-old tornado is finished with his shower and trying to stall before bedtime, one of my many, but lovable, distractions.

One idea that I have is to go to the library on the weekends for a couple of hours. We have three libraries in our city and one has quiet, sound-proof cubicles for working. That will be step one for next weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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The Writing Process

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything. I’ve found out that I’m a terrrible blogger, especially when life gets in the way. I don’t know if anything would be different if I didn’t have to physically go to a job every day. I don’t mean not working; I would go stir crazy and feel like a drain on society without some sort of job to do, but I would absolutely love a job where I could work part of the time at home and sometimes go into the job, wherever that may be, preferably in a museum environment, but that’s a story for another time. The point is, blogging while teaching and running a household (and acting in a play) is darn near impossible, for me, anyway.

The reason that I’m posting now is because I’m on Christmas Break, not Winter Break as it has been known at previous schools, but an honest-to-goodness Christmas Break. Now that the fanfare has subsided and I have a few days of peace before returning to the craziness, I can sit down and actually get some writing done, something that has been nagging at me for the past three months.

For those that don’t know me well, I became a published author for the first time in May of 2011 with a little book entitled, Put Up Your Hair: A Practical Manual to Nineteenth-Century Hairstyles. While it is through a small publishing house, Heritage Books, I was nevertheless overjoyed and very honored. Friends and family have been wonderful about it and the fact that I had been actually published by a REAL PUBLISHER gave me the confidence to continue working on some fiction projects. The efforts there have not been quite as satisfactory.

My novle, marketed to middle school-age children, is a fantasy, wherein the main character, trying to find his missing father, discovers that his father was actually a time traveler from the past. He and his best friend find a way to journey back to Tudor England in search of him and the story encompasses the challenges they face, including getting used to sixteenth-century hygenic practices. It’s a fine little story and while it isn’t perfect, it’s been gone over and edited time and again to where everything makes sense and fits where it should. The language is current and I’ve tried it out on a few “victims” who have actually enjoyed it, which, again, boosts one’s confidence. The problem comes in finding an agent. While not essential to fiction writing, an agent is vastly more knowledgable about the publishing process than little old me, but they’re so darn elusive! This is definitely an exercise in patience and humility, something that is needed but absolutely sucks to learn.

While being too busy to blog, I’ve also been too busy to keep plugging away at polishing my query letter, polishing the novel, and actually querying agents. Forcing myself to sit down and make time for it again as opposed to, oh, running the vaccuum cleaner or doing the dishes is tough for me, but it will be done. Blogging this post was a way for me to sit down and begin the process of writing again. Perhaps this time, I’ll get more than a nibble and if anyone knows of a good agent looking for a new client, send them my way!

Until next time (perhaps Easter?), I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

 

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