The Day Everything Changed in My Life

imageFlag Day. June 14 – a significant day in my life. It’s the day my first son was born – I became a mother. This event has changed and shaped everything in my life since that moment.

You are never really prepared to be a mother, even if you have read the best books, had an excellent role model, and babysat until you know everything about children. But then you have your own, and everything goes out the window.

I’m sure someone told me that every child has a unique personality, but I didn’t listen. After all, I was the eldest of four children and had practically raised my siblings. Sheesh! I was such an idiot to think I knew how to be a mother.

The learning started a few minutes before the nurse handed me my precious child to feed for the first time. The nurse took a few seconds to explain what to do and told me to relax. Like that’s going to happen! It’s my first child. A multitude of questions popped into my head at that moment as I gazed on that small bundle lying so still. What if I do something wrong, will he be scarred for life?

The nurse laid the child in my arms, and immediately he began to cry. I looked up in a panic, but the nurse was totally unaware he was crying. She was helping me get ready to nurse my baby. I watched as the bundle began to twist and turn. Soon an arm and foot were out of the blanket and flapping around. The nurse smiles and encourages me to try feeding him.

Feed him? He was practically turned over in my arms. Tears formed in my eyes as I tried to smile thinking, “I’m a failure as a mother!” The nurse patted my shoulder and made a couple of magical waves of her hands, and my baby was snuggled back into his blanket.

So life as a mother began. Being a mother isn’t for weak people. Also, it is best to have a partner to make the job easier. Having a partner gives you someone to turn to when your perfect child becomes an absolute monster turning your dryer into a hiding place for the cat. Which by the way, cats don’t mind being put in the dryer as long as it’s not turned on. Turn the dryer on and between the bumping and howling you fear it has become demon possessed.

Single moms (and dads) have their work cut out for them. If you should ever wonder why they are always tired, the answer is found when you look at their child and see he is growing, healthy, and happy.

A child can drain you of energy, test your emotional well-being, and cause you to question your sanity almost every day. But when the child is sleeping on your shoulder or runs across a room as fast as their little legs can carry them to give you a jelly covered kiss, you realize this is about as good as it gets.

To my first born son, happy birthday and thanks for giving me so much.

Say Something Nice Day

SocksJune 1, “Say Something Nice Day.”  When my sons were young there were times when they would get on each others’ nerves, bickering, fighting, and, in general, just being ugly to each other. At those times, I would make them sit at the kitchen table and say something nice about each other. It has to be a real comment about what they liked about that person and could not be repeated from one brother to the next – it had to be an original thought about something nice in the other person.

On a particularly trying day, I had the three boys sitting at the table. They were so upset with each other they could hardly stand being so close together. They knew the drill and would not be allowed to leave the kitchen table until everyone had said something nice about the others. We began the process. It was slow, but the first brother got through it, and things lightened up ever so slightly.

Then the next brother said to youngest brother, “I like your socks.”

Reply, “They’re yours.”

“I know, that’s why I like them.”

Sometimes finding something nice to say comes down to the socks, but there is always something nice to be said. Celebrate today.

The Not Fun Part of Writing

Blank Page with Pen 572x600The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  Mark Twain

Writing is so much more than putting down the story, which for me is the easy part. The story just flows and it is fun to write. My mind fills with characters and plots as my fingers fly across the keyboard. Once completed, I feel exhilarated. Now comes the hard part – editing.

I have been editing my second book for publication at a snail’s pace. The marked up draft sits there mocking me as I say, “I’ll work on you tomorrow” and laughing at me as I walk by too busy to work on it.

Two other stories are sitting nearby gathering dust and waiting for my attention. At this point, they have remained silent, but I expect any day to hear their murmuring complaints.

Slowing my editing progress is the new stories that keep trying to come out. The new story’s characters march across my mind developing their personalities and whispering things they would like to do. Then out of nowhere comes a plot line that needs to be jotted down for future use, which leads to doing a quick bit of research to confirm that the plot line is even doable.

“Stop the editing!” The new story demands, “Write, now!” Sigh. Editing continues to wait.

When I die, there will be stacks of stories that have never seen the light day because they lack editing.  I tell myself that at least the stories will have been written, and maybe someone will pick up the story and do the editing. But will it still be my story if I’m not there to direct the editing? Sigh. Another story plot just popped into my head.

I would welcome hearing from other writers about how you get and stay motivated to edit.

Were You Born in a Barn?

barn with sunflowerWhat is the craziest thing your mother or dad ever said to you? As you read the sentence above a memory came into your mind. It may have been something your parent said all the time or a once-in-a-lifetime event. For me, it was when my mother looked at me and asked, “Were you born in a barn?”

I was about ten, going on twenty, and acting like a three-year-old. I had been sent to pick green beans in the garden, but I wanted to play with the neighborhood kids. Pleading my case that I would pick the beans when I got back was of no use. My mom wanted to can the beans now. She worked outside the home, and this was one of her few days off.

So I picked up my bucket, tromped out to the garden, furious that I had to do this right now. It was a large backyard garden with about a ten rows of green beans. On that day, the rows looked like there were a mile long each. The reality was they were about thirty feet long. Typically the job would take less than an hour, but today, I felt sure it would take all morning and my friends would be having fun while I slaved away.

Pouting I began picking, and with each bean, I got more upset. I glared at the back door and finally sat down in the middle of the row on the soft, moist soil. I sat there picking at the dirt and throwing dirt clots at the bees that were working the garden.

Slowly I finished the chore and carried my bucket into the house. My mother took one look at me covered in dirt and mud with the back door hanging open and asked, “Were you born in a barn? You’re a mess. The door is open. Where are your shoes?”

I stood there with my bucket and thought, “You don’t know where I was born? Weren’t you there?”

She took the bucket, sent me to the bathroom with a promise that I would be cleaning up the floor where I tracked in mud. Looking into the full bucket, she smiled and said, “You did a great job picking the beans.”

Through all of these garden chore episodes (or maybe because of them), I have a love of gardening and the ability to laugh at myself. And, no I wasn’t born in a barn.

Dot-to-Dot

dot-to-dot-ragged

Storytelling is ultimately a creative act of pattern recognition. Through characters, plot, and setting, a writer creates places where previously invisible truths become visible. Or the storyteller posits a series of dots that the reader can connect. Douglas Coupland

I was raised in a family of storytellers and never thought of a story as a dot-to-dot, but there seems to be some truth to this quote by Douglas Coupland, novelist, designer, and artist.

When I write a story I follow a formula of if this happens what is the logical thing to happen next – one thought leading to the next. Imagining a conversation between characters with their quirks and writing it can be a challenge. But by taking one sentence (sometimes one word) and then thinking about what is the logical response, I develop a conversation.

To write an action scene, it the same thing. If this happens what happens next. Even in the world of fantasy, there are rules by which the imaginary world works. Using these rules to formulate what happens next, keeps the story moving and holds the scene together.

So are authors really dot-to-dot creators?

How I Won NaNoWriMo 2015

nano-2015-winner-badge-large-squareNaNoWriMo is officially over for 2015. How did you do? Me? I wrote over 52,000 words during the month of November but didn’t finish the story until December 2.

The experience this year was very different than previous years. The common thread was the push to write every day. The reality was I wrote fewer days but wrote more each day. And I didn’t feel anxious about not writing every day. No nagging feelings that I shouldn’t be out with friends when I need to write a thousand words. Not sure why this change but I believe it has to do with my confidence that I could write enough words to be a “Winner.” This was the fourth year for me to participate in NaNoWriMo.

In previous years I had a lot of uncertainty about having enough words to meet the goal. My writing style is a “pantser.” I don’t outline, write a story brief, or anything that organized. I set down with the roughest of ideas for the start of a story and then I write. Characters grow as the story progresses and when I reach a point that I’m not sure what is going to happen next, I have one of the characters do something. It may be something as small as calling a friend to talk, or taking a walk, or looking through a photo album. From this action, I create a situation of what happens, what they learn, etc. and then work the story from this new information.

The ending of the story came as a surprise to me. I was writing but didn’t know how to end the story. As I wrote about what was learned through a phone call one of the characters made, the ending just appeared. And it’s a great ending! (No false modesty here.)

Thanks NaNoWriMo for helping me develop as a writer.

NaNoWriMo Preparations

For the past 3 years, I have participated in the NaNoWriMo. It has been great fun and way to get me focused on putting the story floating in my head on “paper.” Starting NaNoWriMo for the first time I had many questions including could I write that many words that fast? But my first year’s NaNoWriMo story, Canyon Riddle, has been published. Yeah, I’m a fan of NaNoWriMo.

I am beginning my preparations for my month long hiatus.  Preparations include:

  • Putting a few rough notes together from all the random thoughts that keep me awake at night.
  • Translating the random thoughts that were written in the middle of the night.
  • A trip to the story’s location to refresh my memory of the place and to give me a weekend away.
  • Prepare research notes on some key (or obscure) ideas that will be (or not) incorporated into the story.
  • Make sure I have a good supply of tea, caffeinated soft drinks, and lots of water.
  • Computer area cleaned and reference materials organized.
  • Tissues for those emotional moments in the story or a runny nose from a cold.
  • Extra vitamins to keep me a little healthier since I won’t be sleeping much.
  • NaNoWriMo account activated and resetting of my password, which I have forgotten.
  • Write notes and place in strategic locations to remind me to be very nice to my best supporter, my husband, who has to put up with being abandoned for the month.

But the most important thing is the Halloween candy selection. The month of November is for NaNoWriMo. So it follows that all the leftover Halloween candy will be part of my sustenance, inspiration, and morale booster for the month. I am not very picky about candy, but there are some that I prefer and I need to make sure there is plenty leftover.  Of course, I will hand out candy to all the trick-or-treaters that come to my door and I will be generous (after all I have a reputation to uphold). Having an abundant supply of my preferred candies will help ensure there are leftovers for a month of creative thoughts.

If you haven’t participated in the NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to try it. Consider my preparation list as a starting point for your writing adventure.

3-Hour Cruise

It is difficult to believe it has been 50 years since Gilligan’s Island first appeared on TV, or that I am old enough to have seen it when it first started. Back then it was in black and white, with a peppy theme song that gets stuck in your head. As a kid, it was a show that I could hardly wait for it to come on in the afternoons. Summer boredom was made easier thanks to the show’s reruns.  Island Palm

Imagination ran amuck thinking about what it would be like to be stranded on an island. Of course, on Gilligan’s Island there were a lot of things going on that did not happen on the island of Tom Hanks’ Cast Away. There were many visitors to Gilligan’s Island even a return visitor in Wrongway Feldman.

The fun things from that show always gave me good memories. I took advantage of one of my characters in my book Canyon Riddle to relive a favorite childhood memory and a real life opportunity to “touch” a part of Gilligan’s Island.

Over the past 50 years my taste in television programs has changed, but given an opportunity to watch a Gilligan’s Island episode (didn’t care for the movies) and I will sit back and watch the adventures of a 3-hour cruise mishap.

Sometimes You Need a New World for Your Story

Grenheims ThornI have a young friend (I’ve known him all his life) who recently published his first book, Grenheim’s Thorn by Clay Lewisson. As a writer, I sometimes find it difficult to make my story fit in the environment. Clay has overcome this by creating his own world and any odd items he might need, no one is surprised they are in his world. But if you are writing using planet Earth as the backdrop it is difficult to come up with a second sun to light the path as the first sun sets.

Clay’s imagination knows no boundaries and his book is filled with wonderful settings that just do not exist in the everyday world.

I have some very interesting bits and pieces of a story floating in my head that could work if it was set in a different environment. Probably need to contact Clay and see if he wants to create the world for my story. But I know right now isn’t the time, he is very busy with the next story in this saga.

In the meantime check out this amazing story Grenheim’s Thorn by Clay Lewisson. It could be the inspiration needed to create a new world where anything is possible.

Is Your Time Spent Busy or Productive?

Paperclips-vRecently read an article by Francisco Santos, Regional Director for H&R Block, where he wrote about Being Busy Isn’t the Same as Being Productive. He is correct. When I sit down to write, sometimes I am just busy – checking reviews, sales results, straightening paper in the tray, making sure there are plenty of paperclips in the holder, etc. None of these things are unimportant but are they important?  Are they productive?  The short answer is no, not when my goal was to write.

Mr. Santos states as humans we strive and are wired to be busy. Even when we are just sitting around, our mind is busy and frequently we have something to work on in our laps (knitting, carving, eating, reading, playing a musical instrument, planning a takeover of the world, etc.) Becoming productive isn’t something you just find yourself doing. How do you get from busy to productive?

For me, the move to being productive is a conscious step. I make the decision to write, even if the writing is terrible; it is productive as it will lead to better writing. While checking on my paperclip supply serves a purpose, but it doesn’t move me to be a productive writer unless my story is about paperclips and then its research.