Victoria Schwab Does It

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I’ve talked about tracking progress before, and today I saw Victoria Schwab’s tweet on keeping a calendar. She awards herself with stars for the number of pages she writes and the number of pages she reads, as well as the amount of exercise she gets each day. The magenta stars are for days she’s travelling or attending events.

As you probably know, I keep a calendar of my writing and submitting schedule. I set goals for the week, then record my progress as I go. But I know I’m not getting enough exercise. Victoria’s calendar has inspired me to keep track of my own physical activity. I truly believe in the importance of balance. We need to be aware of how we spend our time. So much of my life goes to household chores and tasks that have to be done every day. Having a calendar to prove that will force me to take action and reclaim some time for myself!

How do you keep track of where your time goes? How do you make time for yourself?

Note: Victoria Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic” is a current goodreads Choice Awards Best Book of 2015 nominee. If you’ve read and loved it, vote for it here: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2015.

My Story at HOBART

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My story, “Forensics & You,” just went live at HOBART today! If you have a few minutes today, please give it a read. I hope you enjoy!

http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/forensics-and-you

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image: Carabella Sands

A New Journey

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Taking Jasmine Kay Uy’s piece of art to heart, my daughter, Natalie, and I began a new journey in art journaling. We watched some YouTube videos and looked through a bunch of ideas on Pinterest. Then, we decided to just jump in.

Luckily, we’ve accumulated a LOT of supplies! We visit Hobby Lobby when we get a chance–and some “extra” money. We have a nice selection of scrapbooking papers, stickers, and tags. My husband used to paint in college, so we have acrylics and brushes. Plus, I went through a period of time where I wanted to give watercolor painting a try, so I have some nice, thick papers and tubes of watercolor.

I worked on a simple project with a watercolor rainbow, a stamped message: “dream on,” and some polka-dotted tissue paper Mod-Podged onto the page. Natalie drew and water-colored a bird with a stamped quote: “Believe in what you can do, not what you can’t do.” We both wanted inspirational quotes in our pieces.

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Through our experimentation, we came up with an idea for a children’s book. It seemed like once we opened the gates, the ideas just started pouring through. We drew up sketches for each page, setting off on a new adventure together. My mom and I used to talk about writing a book together. As Natalie and I worked, I said that we should bring grandma into the project, too. Then, maybe when that little girl wandering in the background of this picture is older, she can also join us!

It’s a fun way to try to recapture your creativity. And doing it with my daughter was the best part. What do you do to find your creative spirit? What inspires you?

For the Love of Art

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Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a post with this picture. This is part of an art installment by Jasmine Kay Uy at University of Texas at Austin Department of Art and Art History. (Click on the link below the picture to see her portfolio.)

Writing is Thinking

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As a writing instructor, I often wondered how my students had made it through high school with their limited writing skills. To me, their writing was an indication of the condition of their minds. In this digital age, many are losing the ability to communicate, and not just through writing. In a recent conversation with the principal at my daughter’s high school, she said some of her students can’t even talk face-to-face anymore. When she asked one to apologize to another, that student asked if she could text the apology instead.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, David McCullough said, “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.” His assertion is supported by modern psychology. If you’re interested in this, here’s an article by Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic from Psychology Today: “Writing is Thinking.”

When I came back to writing at the age of 28, I wanted so badly to be published. Now, I’ve never actually stopped writing. I churned out essays as an English major, but when I say I came back to writing, I mean stories and poetry. I grew up absent from my own childhood, preferring to create alternate worlds instead. I also read. A lot. I preferred the written word to the harsh reality of life in an unstable and abusive home. Probably what saved me was the ability to safely escape through books, and writing provided a way for me to order my thoughts and deal with things in a productive–rather than destructive–way.

Because writing came so naturally to me, I thought I would be published instantly. I was mistaken. I had to learn how to edit. I had to learn the meaning of revision. Re-vision: taking another look. Looking deeper. Reading as if you’re someone else. The words we find so pretty and perfect often fall short of our intentions. In my post about balance, I discussed how “most of the editing and revision process happens inside my head, before I even begin to write.” It hasn’t always been that way. I had to learn that writing is a process.ember cover

This week, I proofed my story, “Fear of Sudden Things,” for EMBER: A Journal of Luminous Things. [I should mention that I also read through most of the issue after I finished proofing mine. It is a beautiful publication–for younger readers, as well as adults–filled with magical illustrations, stories, and poems by talented artists and writers. It is worth a subscription, for sure. But, in the words of LeVar Burton, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Check it out for yourself! You’ll be glad you did!]

As I read through my story, witnessing it in the digital form before it goes to the printer, my vision blurred from tears of sheer amazement. I wrote it close to 2 years ago. When I submitted, they accidentally rejected it. Then, a few months later, an editor contacted me and stated that Brian Lewis was asking about my story. They then realized their error. Laughing, I told them in my reply that things like this happen to only me.

I mention this because the story was rejected, then accepted back in March, and I am just now proofing it for publication. The entire process has taken 2 years. On Sunday, I received an acceptance from HOBART for my story, “Forensics and You.” I sent an immediate letter of gratitude and received an instant reply to proof the story, which will appear in the web edition on November 24th. I wrote this story last June.

Long story short: the entire process requires patience, faith, and an unbeatable confidence in your own ability. I cycle through loving, hating, doubting, and back again–even after publication. I worry that it’s never good enough. But this says more about the state of my mind than my writing. It’s determination to keep going that leads me to success. When Yoda said, “Do, or do not. There is no try,” it’s obvious he wasn’t a writer. He was a Jedi Master. Sometimes trying is all we mere mortals can do. The rest is up to the editors, readers, agents, publishers, and whatever other employees handle our writing. I imagine the editors at PLOUGHSHARES sitting plumbers and cleaning ladies down at computers to filter through submissions. It’s probably a good practice. I mean, If plumbers and cleaning ladies actually want to read it, who wouldn’t?

Author Appreciation Day

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Thursday was Author Appreciation Day in the Twitter-sphere. In his Writer’s Digest newsletter, editor Brian A. Klems said:

As writers, we all know how difficult this industry can be to breakthrough and find success. Some days it can be exhilarating while other days it can be so frustrating. Today’s the day we want you to show your support of other writers by finding a book you enjoyed (especially by an author trying to find success) and leave that writer a nice review on Amazon or B&N or Goodreads. When you have a book published, you’ll realize how valuable and uplifting those reviews can be (especially when you’re having a tough day).

Thursday was the perfect day for this because I had just finished reading Amy Lukavics’ Daughters Unto Devils in the wee hours of the morning. So, taking Mr. Klems’ advice, I logged on to Goodreads and left my first ever review:

daughters unto devils“Daughters Unto Devils left me breathless. I mostly binge-read it, and found myself clutching my chair at certain points along the ride. I’m also a YA writer and often deal with paranormal themes in my writing, so I know the difficulty involved in achieving this level of reader interaction/emotional response. Amy Lukavics successfully balances the paranormal elements with the human factors (i.e. characters’ relationships, desires, fears, etc.) in this book. Aside from the sheer terror I experienced numerous times, there were tender moments between Amanda and Hannah, which showed a change of heart for the protagonist–a very difficult thing to capture this well in writing. Though I understand some readers’ frustrations from the parents’ choices, even this was a realistic depiction of the stubbornness common with pioneer mentality. Overall, it read like a realized folk-ghost-tale, as the author intended. A+”

5 STARS to Amy Lukavics, with her debut YA novel, Daughters Unto Devils.

Have you written a review? If so, please leave a link below. If not, consider writing one for a book you loved, especially for a new author. Who knows–when the time comes, maybe he or she will write a review for you!

Balance

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Here, in the crazy beginning week of NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to get swept away with reaching that all-important word count. I posted yesterday about the benefits of coloring to highlight the importance of balance. I’ve read some participants’ accounts of frustration, disappointment, and pushing away children and spouses in order to write that novel by the end of the month. The thing is, NaNoWriMo simply isn’t a good idea for some people. Some of us don’t work well under that sort of pressure. Furthermore, some aren’t wired in the manner necessary to produce the sheer quantity required to complete that kind of a task. I’m known for my (mostly) clean first drafts. The way most of my writing is published is very close to the way it comes out. I’m not saying I’m a superior writer, though. I’m saying that most of the editing and revision process happens inside my head, before I even begin to write. For me, the emphasis–each time I write–is quality.

Michael Grab is a stone balancing artist. He does some truly amazing sculptures. His method of rock balancing is a good metaphor for my writing process. Before he places a rock, he studies it carefully. He says, “The fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of ‘tripod’ for the rock to stand on… By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another. In the finer point balances, these clicks can be felt on a scale smaller than millimeters.”

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He moves on to a discussion of the mind in balance. “Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise.” (Lisa Be, Life Buzz.com) So, it’s important to take care of yourself: mind, body, and soul.

In terms of NaNoWriMo, find what works for you. As some wise person once said, “It’s only a failure if you didn’t learn something from the experience.” NaNoWriMo isn’t going to work for me. I decided to take the first week to totally revise my YA novel, Children in the House of Vengeance, taking some valuable feedback I’ve gained from a few rejections and putting them into action. You see, to date 3 agents have requested the full manuscript, and 3 agents have rejected the full manuscript. This tells me I need to re-evaluate it. I’m still writing something each day, but it might be a new portion of that book or a blog post, a few pages of my new long project, a poem, a guest article for someone else’s blog, or my Awkward in the Midwest column over at Easy Street Magazine. As long as I’m working, I’m happy.

So, if you’re like me and you’ve already decided NaNoWriMo isn’t for you, give me a shout! It’s a lonely world out there in the digi-sphere right now. Everyone is busy crunching through those word counts. Or, if you are continuing on the path to write your entire novel this month, tell me about it. Let me know that you’re still alive!OogwayPoTalk

The important thing is to find BALANCE in your life–including the part of you that is a writer. Take care of your health. Take care of your heart. Take time to laugh. And cry. And talk to other people. Most important of all: Be present in your life. Because, as Master Oogway says to Po in Kung Fu Panda, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.”