Hello, 2020!

Welcome to the New Year, my friends. We’re only a couple of weeks in and I can already tell it is going to be a wild one. At the start of every year it is commonplace to start assessing where we are at and where we want to go. Particularly this year, as we are ascending into a new decade.

For me, I’m ascending into my identity as a writer. Part of that is to have goals and ideas of where I want to be by 2021.

Something I’ve been doing for the last year and a half that has really helped was to have A WORD. A word that themes my entire year. And it’s not just for writing. It’s frames my other goals as well.

Continue reading “Hello, 2020!”

Thanks a lot, 2019.

2019 was a pretty fantastic year, personally. For a lot of people 2019 was fraught with hardship and drama. My life was far from drama-free, but, overall, the good outweighed the bad.

My brother and his came to visit for the first time, and it was brilliant! I flew to Denver to visit my BFF. My oldest is finally taller than I am, much to his delight. The garden went bonkers and produced about a gallon of tomatoes per week for four months. We went to the beach before heading back to the Midwest for a summer visit. Pretty dreamy.

Then the best thing happened. I committed to a writing retreat for outlining my next book. That outline gave me the solid foundation I needed to churn out 63,543 words during National Novel Writing Month (November), and complete a first draft of my first mystery novel.

To top it off, I decided my first book – a women’s fiction piece – was ready to be seen by agents. I have sent it off to about eighteen so far. The best moment was when an agent wanted to read my first 100 pages. I was elated. I sent it off and then waited, like a girl waiting for that special someone to call her.

They didn’t call. They emailed back with a “no thanks.” While they found my voice “approachable and engaging,” they just didn’t feel passionately enough about it.

I was crushed. Eventually, I understood. Getting an agent is just the beginning. Like getting pregnant is just the beginning of being a parent. There is a ton of work that begins once an agent says yes. Then once you find a publisher there is even more work. The agent has to love the book if they are going to toil over it for an entire year.

I was not so graceful that day, however. I moped and sulked. Mark brought me flowers and I could barely bring myself to look at them. I hardly got any sleep that night. So, while I was busy not sleeping I decided, fuck it – I was going to send out my manuscript to even more agents. I research the details of 10 more agents before forcing myself to go to bed. After a busy morning at the preschool, I tweaked my query letter and sent it out to six of the ten agents I’d researched.

Within 2 hours I had 2 requests for the entire book!!

I am really proud of myself for not letting my disappointment crush me. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of the mud and keep moving forward.

The greatest thing was telling my kids that more people wanted to read my book. They were so proud of me, and, I think, a little impressed. They looked at me like I was more than just their mom, and that made me really happy.

Now I am waiting to hear back from two more agents. Let’s hope it’s a phone call!

In the meantime, I will be starting the editing process on my mystery and formulating new goals for 2020.

Writing Retreats in Order to Advance

Somehow fall has happened. I have no idea what happened to September.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I spent it sending my kids back to school where others could try to teach them something while I traveled. Before you call me a bad parent, I was traveling for mostly professional reasons.

I actually went to a writing retreat. It was my first ever. It was amazing.

Continue reading “Writing Retreats in Order to Advance”

Lateness and Effort in Writing

I’m a bit late on this, but lateness seems to be one of my main characteristics recently.

I am late for lunches out, late to appointments, late in getting my children to bed. I’m just late.

I am also late in my own personal deadlines for this book I’m working on.

I am writing a book. A fiction novel about a woman who loses her sense of who she is when her husband dies and has to go back to her hometown in order to finally find out who she was meant to be.

I meant to get my first draft done by December 31st. However it is now January 14th and I have at least a solid week of writing left to go.

I could have had it done by December 31st, but my own entire sense of self slid off the map and I was completely overwhelmed by what it would mean to finish this book. Because finishing the first draft is so not the end of writing a book. Even finishing the last draft is not the end. Nor does it end with finding and agent or getting the book really and actually published. And that is overwhelming because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just a woman with a story that has been bouncing around in my head for a few years and I finally took the time to sit down and try and get it out.

And it has poured out of me. I have over 95,000 words right now and I’m still not done.

Oh, I know that there will be some major rewriting happening. And I know for sure that a whole section is going to be cut and buried in the boneyard. That is daunting, too.

People think that writing a book is a piece of cake. I know that as a reader I devour books in just days. Sometimes even as little as 1 day. So far this book as taken me 375 days to write. And I’m not done yet. I feel close to finishing my first draft – like I said, I think I can be done in a week, but then there are the second, third, and fourth drafts, too.

I hope one day you will be able to read this book in 2019. And then the others that come after this first effort. Because I have more stories that are begging to be told.

Journaling the Journey: Writing Makes Everything Better

Something I do as an Organization Development professional and a Life Coach is journaling. Not so much that I become a navel-gazing moron, but I write down enough so I can sort things out in my head.

All OD pros do it. We’re taught to journal as part of the training. It becomes second nature to all of us.

Journaling helps me to clear my mind; express my creativity; know myself better.

When I know myself I can see how I am influenced by and how I influence the world around me. I can learn what brings me joy, or sadness. I can learn where my triggers or “buttons” are and even the responses I have to those “buttons.”

I learn my programming.

But it’s more than just knowing. It’s also being able to contemplate why. Why am I programmed this way? Why is it I love the smell of rosemary? Why does the color blue make me so happy?

And why, for example, don’t I like it when my kids’ playing hits a certain volume or pitch?

I gave myself time to write it down. And I learned that once a certain volume and pitch is reached, even if it’s laughter, someone gets hurt soon after. Crying and yelling starts. And I end up stomping up (or down) the stairs yelling and mad that they can’t just play together without someone getting hurt.

But now that I know all this – the button and response – it means that I can consciously watch for the trigger. In fact, the more I journal and contemplate I can even watch for the finger about to push the button.

Once I can do any of that I can then consciously change the response.

Journaling isn’t just for psychologists or organization development professionals. Journaling isn’t even just for adults. Children also benefit from writing down their thoughts.

Children’s journaling doesn’t have to be just writing. Poems and essays are great, and so are drawings, collages, stream of conscious lists. Journaling builds empathy and gratitude in children. It brings what they know subconsciously up into conscious realizations.

Journaling gives children a safe way to express negative feelings. Children can write out stories about bad days or rotten experiences. They can sketch out scripts to test conversations they might have with a classmate who is picking on them.

Journaling helps them play with mental creativity. Drawing, writing scripts, creating comic strips. This kind of creative self-expression can also help children heal from physical and emotional damage.

This kind of healing through self-expression is part of the reason why those fancy adult coloring books are so incredibly popular right now. Coloring, collage, and doodling all have the effect of lowering stress, increasing focus, and developing mindfulness in both adults and children.

Usually I just use a notebook as my journal. I go to the local bookstore and pick out a book that speaks to me. I let the kids pick out whatever speaks to them.

You have to love the journal you are using. You need to want to carry it with you all the time. You have to love the feel of it in your hand and the look of it as it sits on your desk or on your bedside table.

270929e58cd262f03ec5dacb3117f28b_originalIf this is your first time journaling you might need a journal that is also a little bit of a guide. This new one called The Connected Hearts Journal put together by Sumitha Bhandarkar is actually one that combines a journal for parents and a journal for kids.

It has questions that prompt introspection and deeper thinking, helping me to get to know myself better as a parent and my boys to get to know who they are. Especially for my tween, who is right smack in the middle of becoming someone new.

The Connected Hearts Journal also has a sharing section, but still allows for my boys to keep their own secrets. It lets me tell them how much I care for them and gives them the chance to figure out where their own strengths lay.

Children don’t have the experience to be introspective or to make connections into their subconscious without someone to help them. You don’t have to use a journal like this, but for those of us who don’t have a lot of experience teaching kids about writing, a journal like this helps to guide them into being able to more freely express themselves in a safe and private environment.

Even if you just get a regular spiral-bound notebook, start journaling. The benefits are worth the time. Even if you just have 10 minutes once or twice week journaling can lower your anxiety and help you to better understand yourself.

NaNoWriMo

I wasn’t much of a writer in high school.  I did my English essays adequately. I daydreamed out stories in my head. And it is true that my senior year Chem grade was saved by my essay on Louis Pasteur. But I was going to be a veterinarian so I didn’t really focus to much on all these characters speaking to my inner self.

Needless to say, everything changed. Life happens. You don’t always end up where you thought you were headed.

And now here I am. Married woman. Mother of two. Living in Switzerland. Writer.  Getting a first article published.  Then a second. Soon a third. Hoping to be published again.

And I’m working on a book. Several, in fact, but I am focusing on just one right now. I’m trying to take advantage of NaNoWriMo and get my first draft finished.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It happens for the entire month of November. It’s a national thing. They even have a website. You can sign up, make contacts, earn “badges,” and get moral and inspirational support.

Or you don’t have to sign up. You can just make a pledge to yourself and work to write 50,000 words in the next 30 days. (Well, 29 now.)

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is going to be easy. Writing is work. It is a job. It takes time and effort to think up characters – their flaws and their talents – and tell their story.

It is also wonderful. I am the creator of another world. Anything I can imagine can become real. I could spend hours writing. Of course, when I’m focused on writing I can do nothing else. And the state of filth in the house proves it.

I have found I do my best writing in the morning. I get the kids sent off to school and then I sit down at my computer with a cup of coffee (milk and sugar). I go through Facebook and Twitter; check in on the rest of the world through internet sites and then ideas start popping out to me. Conversations between characters start happening in my head. And I simply start to write them down.  Sometimes the words won’t come and so I read about how other writers write.

I wish this could happen all the time, every day. But I have other responsibilities. I have dinners to make, a house to clean, a husband to dance with, and children to read to.

But every November, I do try and make writing my full-time job instead of just a part-time job or “hobby that pays.” I try to sit down everyday and spend a significant amount of time to put words on a page. Maybe on December 1st I will be posting about how I have my first draft done. Who knows?

But now I’m going to vacuum while my characters knock at the door of my imagination until tomorrow morning.

I’m PUBLISHED!!!

So about a month ago I sent in an outline to a sort of “request for proposals” on an online parenting journal called A Fine Parent.  It was accepted and I wrote the article.

Well, today it was published!!!  Here it is!!  http://afineparent.com/emotional-intelligence/active-listening.html

I am incredibly proud of it as it combines my MA degree with parenting.  Plus working with my editor helped to craft it into one of the better things I’ve ever written, to date.

I hope to write more for them again!