Monday, June 11, 2012

I am a writer. This is not negotiable.

I read a lot. Books and blogs primarily. I have an excellent attention span but little patience for bad writing or information that doesn't add to my life. As you can see from my blog roll, I focus on writing blogs. There are some amazing blogs out there, offering sound advice, voices of experience, and challenges to readers. And, of course, some blogs offer nothing more than what Steve Martin calls "Pure Drivel".

Charlotte Rains Dixon over at Word Strumpet is one of the amazing bloggers who nourishes my writing appetite. Several days ago, she asked her readers, "What are your writing non-negotiables?" Normally I respond right away but something about that question caused me to pause, reflect on my beliefs - not just as a writer but as a person - and inventory my negotiating skills.

Let me stop for a second to confess that I am not good at confrontation. Scares me to death. I have a visceral reaction to it. Red face, increased heart rate, cotton mouth, itchy palms. However, when it comes to writing, I am the Karate Kid in crane stance, facing Johnny Lawrence of The Cobras, saying, "Bring it."

C'mon, Johnny. These legs pack heat.

I haven't always been this tough about my writing. For years, I cowered under the blanket of bullying, believing my "little hobby" was a waste of time. But after 39 years of living, I'm done with submitting to the voices of ignorance, jealousy, and control. It's personal. And I'm willing to take names.

So, Charlotte, what are my writing non-negotiables? 

1. I don't negotiate with terrorists (those critics - inner and otherwise - who aim to terrorize me into an inert, catatonic, non-productive state).
2. Write when I can, because I can.
3. Remember that what works for others may not (and probably won't) work for me.
4. Write until the end...of the sentence, paragraph, page, idea.
5. Write for me. Audience is important, too, but I write to breathe and fly in the blue skies of freedom.
Whew. I did it. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

39 IS just a number. Right?

Last week I celebrated my birthday. Not quite a milestone, but the big four-oh is rapidly approaching. Birthdays tend to put me in a contemplative, reflective trance. Time's sweet, scary passage bodes its relevance through birthdays rather than a New Year. Resolutions weaken my resolve. But as I celebrate my birth, I think about my life - what I've done, where I've been, and where I'm going.

Flowers from my dear friend
I sat down with a few dear friends this past weekend, discussing everything from Facebook and perceptions to writing and the beauty of grey.  Our conversations stimulate hours of contemplation, and often prompt an afternoon nap (due to deep conversation overload!). However, this particular day prompted a to-do list. Not the kind of list that sits on a counter collecting dust but the kind that simmers on the heart and mind for years.

My pre-40 list (of the non-bucket variety):

  1. Feel better physically and mentally
  2. Get to Plot Point 2 in my novel
  3. Attend a writing retreat
  4. Strengthen my relationship with God
  5. Write daily (blogging, WIP, journaling)
  6. De-clutter my life and mind (prune away the people and things keeping me from being true to myself and God's call for me)

I can do this. Forty isn't that scary...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day, Freedom, and Writing

I know, I know, I'm late, but I have an excuse. Honest. It's a good one, too.

I saw Rascal Flatts in concert Monday night. I know, I know. You=jealous! Can I just say that Gary LaVox is one of the most talented singers on the planet? The man doesn't need instruments to sound better. His voice is the instrument and it is fine-tuned.
The man can SING

The concert served as the finale in the Folds of Honor Foundation's Memorial Day celebration. Not only did I take part in honoring our troops and fallen heroes, but I cried and goosebumped my way through Rascal Flatts performing the National Anthem a capella.You know you wanna watch Of course, it's not quite the same as seeing it in person.

Maj. Dan Rooney, who founded Folds of Honor in 2007, said that Memorial Day is the most important holiday, because without it, we wouldn't be celebrating any others. So true. His words have scrolled like a news ticker across my mind, reminding me what it means to be American and free. Do I truly value freedom, or have I become complacent? Can I really understand how lucky I am to live here, how truffle-sweet my life is? I went to bed with a full tummy (after an evening at Stonewood with friends where we celebrated my birthday with talking, writing, coffee, and cheesecake!), crawled into clean sheets next to a hubby who sleeps with the assistance of a Bi-Pap machine, had a book on my lap, a cat at my feet (and two on the floor), and a bottle of water next to my reading lamp. My biggest worries: upcoming bills, taxes, and the rumbling thunder outside. Every day I rise and fall in peace.

Last night as I sat next to and across from my friends, I realized how I experience the feeling of freedom when I write. It's a feeling I love and never want to lose.

Friday, May 25, 2012

This old dog has learned new tricks

I went to my favorite coffee bar last night with some friends. Good conversation. Good coffee. Writing (I won't qualify my writing as good because it was "writing with velocity", as Charlotte Rains Dixon calls it). But I got words on the page. And that, my friends, IS good!

Bottomless cuppa joe, great pens, a corner booth, mood lighting. Yes. You=jealous.

I used to write scenes, mostly random, never knowing where to put them or how they would fit together. But now I have a plan, or structure. Ever read "Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks? Well stop everything and go read it. Now. That's good stuff, peeps.

I owe it all to my good friend over at Ars Longa, Vita Brevis, for holding up a mirror and that book. She woke me from my self-induced slumber of ignorance. If you haven't read her latest post "On Magpies and Art", then I HIGHLY recommend you mosey over there and prepare for brilliance.

For the first time in a long time, I am excited about writing. I feel like I had a puzzle in front of me but all the pieces were upside down, and pieces from several different puzzles littered the mix, making the task of putting it together seemingly impossible. The light is on now. The puzzle pieces are right side up. And I've got my Mod Podge on standby.

I can always count on Buddy to keep me in line.
It's too much to hope for a weekend of writing, so for now, I pine for a few hours of writing bliss. Perhaps tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Weird Fortunes

I love Chinese food. Not too keen on fortune cookies (I prefer REAL dessert), but I do love the little gem of goodness inside. Sometimes I get poignant, thought-provoking nuggets. Sometimes I get Jack Handy-esque sayings. And sometimes...I get just plain weird ones.

This one threw me. Well, the comma threw me. Had the comma been remanded to its proper place in Separation Street, the fortune would have made perfect sense...AND been true!! Heh. But that comma...

Yesterday, after lunch, I unwrapped my fortune, broke open the crumbly cookie and revealed...

Ok...I get the whole deceptive appearance thing. But that second bit... "Endurance makes gold." Hmm...what does that mean?

I asked around - my smartest friends had NO idea. I even tried rubbing Squeaky's belly.

Master Squeaks
Four years ago someone posted a question on Yahoo! Answers and this was the response:
It could mean "You'll never know until you get to the bottom of the matter" for "Appearance can be deceiving" and "Remember endurance makes gold" could refer to the struggling of an athlete to get a medal like in the Olympic Games.

Interesting. But still not buying it.

The way I figure it is this: Either there's a leprechaun named "Endurance" who has a gold-making factory, OR, if we have patience and endure the trials we face in this life, God will reward us with riches greater than gold...not HERE, not with the meaningless baubles we collect and wear, but with the eternal gold of Heaven.

Your thoughts?

Do you have an odd fortune you'd like Squeaks and I to analyze?

Monday, May 21, 2012


So. Yeah. It's me... I didn't fall off a cliff, join a cult, enter the witness protection program, or spend time behind bars. Squeaks didn't hold me hostage in my own house, and I haven't lost my passion for writing (if anything my passion has increased...more on that later!). Nope. I didn't even run off with Jason Statham OR join the circus. Of all the aforementioned things, the circus is the least plausible. Me. No. Likey. Clowns. I think I am allergic to their brand of happy.

I won't bore you with a sequential list of "here's what I've been doing" or even offer excuses for my absence. I will, however, offer some morsels of goodness that I have discovered this past year...

1. My mom is a fighter. She kicked cancer out of the playground. This strong, resilient woman is new...and I like her.

2. Life is too short to read bad books. I used to give a book 50 pages. Now, if it doesn't hook me by the first chapter, I am done. By "hook", I don't mean the books has to jar me with a thrilling plot. I want to care about the story and the protagonist.And I certainly don't want to read sloppy writing.

3. It's OK to admit you don't like a person...and even to their face. I am trying on this new outfit called truth. For too long I've lived under the stifling assumption that I can't be honest with my feelings. Let me tell you, truth is freeing. I participated in an activity for too long, simply because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Meanwhile, I was sick inside. I listened to a sermon on facing your giants and realized, this person was a giant in my life and it was time to move forward and move on. So I did. Confrontation is NOT easy for me, but I did it. And survived. I sloshed around in the muck of self-doubt and self-pity for awhile, but God pulled me through, and I am stronger now. What or who are your giants?

4. Reading the Bible in chronological order pretty much rocks my socks. And some of my husband's comments as we read together give me the biggest laugh I've had in weeks. (Perhaps I will share some of our discussions...)

5. I love spending time with people who encourage me in my passions, who push me to search for truth in my life, who will share a cup of coffee and a laugh, who give me free reign over organizing their life's work, who feed me simple solutions to my writing dilemmas, and who won't let me pull away when that's all I want to do.

6. I love Stonewood Coffee and Cafe. I am a regular. I love meeting my writing friends there to chat, eat, sip coffee, write, and eavesdrop. Don't know you've done it, too.

Tuna salad sammie yumminess...
7. My cats Gizmo and Snickers are getting old. Fifteen, in fact. I cried when I lost my goldfish that I'd had for ten minutes. I'm pretty sure it was an accidental murder. I don't know what I will do when the time comes to make THE decision for Giz and Snicks. Squeaks has kept them young these past few years. She has brought joy into our home. Is it weird for a cat to do that? Look at that belly...

Did someone say "tuna"?
8. I am a writer. There...I said it. It's in my bones, veins, cells, hair follicles... A dear friend of mine, who you can visit here, gave me the BEST writing advice EVER. Now I am not writhing under the assumption that there is a magic pill somewhere that nobody will sell to me. There's actually a plan. A simple one. And if I follow it, then those four books I have swimming in my head can reach fruition.

9. I've edited papers, stories, articles, other people's writing, and now...I've edited my life. And it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. I don't recommend you do this on your own... In fact it's nearly impossible to do on your own. Grab a friend, spouse, sibling, and read Dan Allender's To Be Told. But DON'T, I repeat, DON'T expect to go through the process unchanged. Awesome book. About killed me...but it was awesome. 

That's it for now... Off to writing and working...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A bit of Independence...

Yesterday was emotional for me. I kept thinking about the idea of independence and what it means to be free. It's a glorious, miraculous, beautiful, scary thing to be free. But I am not. Not truly. Not anymore.

Some of my fondest memories are of driving home from college for long weekends and holidays. That six-hour road trip meant hours of quiet reflection peppered with my favorite music and stops along I-35. A girl and her car. Nothing better.

Even now, after 14 years of marriage, my hubby wubs knows I need the freedom to hop in the car, go to a bookstore, a friend's house, a coffee bar, or even - up until recently - out of town.

The 30-minute trek to work every day is not easy. I am acutely aware of each mile that separates me from safety. With Meniere's Disease, driving can be scary. Attacks sometimes come suddenly. A once-clear road appears blurry and the traffic melds into a kaleidoscopic crayon soup on blacktop.

Thank God, my attacks have come in "convenient" locations: work, home, a friend's house, in public but surrounded by friends. I haven't experienced an attack while driving. Yet.

That "yet" shackles me to fear, keeps me from true freedom. No key exists to release me.

A couple of weeks ago my mom was experiencing stomach pain - bad enough she had my dad take her to the ER. She's a tough, strong woman, so I knew the pain was excruciating. Doctors ran tests and found tumors on her ovaries. They loaded her with hydrocodone, sent her home, and scheduled her for a hysterctomy. Like most of the women in my family, she is allergic to hydrocodone. After dry-heaving for several hours (and exacerbating the pain), mom had dad take her back to the ER. The hospital admitted her and rehydrated her, then took her into surgery. When the docs opened her, they found cancer on her ovaries. Two of the tumors had burst spraying cancer into her abdomen. After tests, the oncologist said it is stage three ovarian cancer.

She sees her doctor today for the four-week post-surgery check-up. Tomorrow she gets her portacath. Monday she starts chemo.

I want to be there. Would give anything to be there. But I can't go. It's a 4 1/2 hour drive and one I can't make alone.

Independence: America = 1; Me = 0.