2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

I am excited to be a participant in this year’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge which will start this Tuesday April 1st and will last all month.

As a part of this challenge, I will be blogging every day in April with most days following the format detailed below. This challenge, though, allows for Sundays to be off as a rest day, but Sundays are my set blog days, so those days will not be in the A-Z Challenge, they will be my regular DYSB style.

20140330-222156.jpg

For all the Monday through Saturday posts I’ll be following the challenge style, which has participants following an A-Z guided schedule using a letter a day in our blog post title. Some will use the letters without a theme, but I have chosen to have a theme to my A-Z.

A recent tweet from a friend (check out Jessica’s blog here) got me thinking about inspiration and how we find it all around us. So, in my A to Z Challenge blog posts, each letter will be something that inspires me.

Maybe it will be something that inspires me as a writer.

Maybe it will be something that inspires me as a mom.

Maybe it will be something that inspires me to be a better person.

Maybe it will be something that just inspires me to make it through another busy day.

But, you get the point, it’s all about inspiration, baby! 🙂

Posts will be shorter than normal for the most part, as I am still keeping my commitment to write every day, and usually, I don’t count writing my blog as my meeting my writing commitment for the day.

Another cool part of the challenge will be committing to visit other participants’ blogs. I am really looking forward to seeing what everyone else is doing for this challenge. Hopefully you will, too. And who knows, maybe one of them will show up in a post about what inspires me.

If you want more information on the A to Z Challenge, please go check out how to join in!

Also you can use (or look for those of us participating, with) the hashtag #AtoZChallenge on Twitter.

Have a great week and hopefully I’ll see you (and your comments) as I tackle this challenge starting on Tuesday.

Hey Mom, You Should Read This

My super smart, super wonderful 8 year old son (and no, I am not at all biased! 🙂 ) gave me his first serious book recommendation this week. At the time, I was tired, and more than a little overwhelmed with all the STUFF there is to get accomplished and to worry about, so I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t really give a lot of thought to what that meant to me. But I have thought about it since and decided it was worth a middle of the week bonus blog post to share.

My husband and I are both serious readers. As a writer, it’s an essential job tool, but it is also simply one of my absolute favorite things. For as long as I can remember I have loved to read, so I have always tried to pass along this lifelong love of reading to my three young sons.

Their dad and I have tried to make it a point to always let the boys see us reading. I even make an effort to check out actual books from the library or buy real books at the book store instead of reading all books on my Kindle. My kids are smart enough to know that mommy may be looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston instead of reading a book on her Kindle. (Don’t you judge me. 😉 ) But also, going to the library for books and buying books at the bookstore are part of the joy for me.

We’ve also always read to them, both for school and just as part of bedtime. When they were babies I remember reading something that said it didn’t matter what you read to your kids, it could even be the sports page, as long as you were reading to them, it would benefit them. I proceeded to read them all the Harry Potter books before they were able to walk. I’m certain this benefitted them greatly.

Here’s what happened that made me realize that I must be doing something right.

My family made a special adventure to the ginormous Half Price Books flagship store in Dallas. The place is seriously really huge and packed full of wonderful goodness. While we were there, we gave the boys a limit on how many books they could get and then did our best to manage the giddy excitement of finding new books.

For my twins, who are 6, this meant superhero books mostly. My oldest twin thoughtfully picked up a Thor book with Loki in it for mommy. He’s a sweet kid.

My oldest’s priority was sports books, specifically football, but then he wanted to look at chapter books. While looking, he found the section with graphic novels. He then became very excited and wanted to find this “awesome” book he’d read at school.

I am not sure if this was through the school library or in the classroom possibly, but he had read Zita The Space Girl. Seeing all the books like the one he wanted, he decided we had to get it.

So the search began.

Thanks to the greatness that is having all answers readily available on a trusty iPhone, I was able to find the author’s name (Ben Hatke) and begin looking for the book. The Half Price Books’ employee was very kind but had not heard of the book, so we did our own search, and -miracle of miracles- found the one copy they had in stock!

The book went home with us (along with many others) and my son read it the next day. He then had my husband read it. He then repeatedly told me I needed to read it, going so far as to set it alongside my other books piled up on the nightstand by the bed. Then, and I am not exaggerating here, actually nudged me with the thing while we were all piled in bed watching TV. Evidently I was not reading it as soon as I should.

So after the kids went to bed, I kept my promise and read the book.

I will admit here that I was not excited. I haven’t paid much attention to graphic novels. I told myself, though, that I would at least start taking a look at it.

It turned out though that my son was right. The book is awesome. The pictures are engaging and lovely. The characters are well defined and interesting. And it left me wanting more.

The next day, driving to work, I started thinking about it all. I thought how cool it was that my son cared enough about a book he read to seek it out and them to recommend it to others.

Isn’t that what I want? I have a child who was passionate about something that means a lot to me – a book – and then shared that with me. What an amazing gift.

I am thankful I opened my eyes to see it.

Being in a Good Writer’s Group

In a recent comment on this blog, a friend asked some really great questions about what I like about my writer’s group. Her experience had not been as good as mine. Her questions started me thinking how fortunate I have been. So I thought I’d share in greater detail how I came to be in the group that I belong to and share a little bit about my experience so far.

I’ve belonged to my writer’s group since January of 2013. I joined because – you guessed it – I had made a resolution to actually finish something I had started writing. I found the group on the local library webpage under the calendar of events. I considered going for awhile before I actually plucked up the courage to go.

With my resolution I made myself take that first leap into acknowledging myself as a writer by checking out the group. Fortunately for me, I walked into a really great group.

My group meets twice a month on Sundays at the local library. Years ago, the library asked a writer (and editor for a small press) to moderate the group. Amanda S. Green has knowledge of the industry and the experience as both fellow writer and as editor to share with the group. Her books are smart and fun. I would recommend reading both her Nocturnal Lives books and her Hunters Moon series as Ellie Ferguson.

I would also absolutely say that a large part of the success of our small group is due to the excellent moderation provided by her as the group’s leader.

New members are always more than welcome and are greeted with a quick rundown of what the group is about and what to expect should you choose to join. It’s clear from the beginning that the group provides thoughtful critique of work submitted, and encouragement as needed, but is not about negative commentary that is not constructive.

New members are also not immediately able to access the work of the group. Newbies need to attend a few meetings before they can access our works in progress, so we feel our work is well protected.

Meetings usually consist of general discussion about what is going on in the always changing world of publishing, as well as critiquing of work submitted.

I haven’t submitted much for critique but I always get a lot out of meetings anyway just listening to suggestions for how to improve what has been submitted.

The group is a mix of both published and unpublished writers. Our work is varied, including poetry, essays, a small amount of non-fiction and lots of short stories and novels.

Many genres are represented, from literary fiction to horror to romance to urban fantasy. Having writers from other genres reading your work has its benefits. Amanda points out how it keeps us from relying too much on the tropes within the genre. For me, I always see how despite the genre, the writing should have a lot of the same quality characteristics. Regardless of genre, you should show and not tell, for example. But we have covered many little details that make up solid writing skills. I always learn general writing concepts that are helping to make me a better writer.

Probably one of the best things about my group, and what I would recommend you seek out if looking for your own group, is that it is very low drama. No one seems to treat anyone in the group with an air of superiority, regardless of their level of success. Everyone gives support and encouragement as we all are working to be better writers – even the ones who have novels or books already published. We all acknowledge there is work to be done and improvement to be made.

Perhaps that in itself is the most comforting part of being in a good group, just the community of other writers all working toward the same goal. To be better.

I know I am.

My Writing Process

Being a part of a writer’s community can have many wonderful benefits and one of those benefits, for me, has been learning from others how their writing process works.  From that I have learned that not one of us seems to have the same process.  It’s comforting to know that everyone seems to find their own personal way of turning the process of writing into something that works for them.  It’s comforting to know there is no one “right way” to do it.  Or a wrong way, for that matter.

A friend I’ve made recently through the local writer’s group asked me to be a part of the blog hop she’d been asked to participate in by another person from our group.  It’s worth noting that the gentleman, Larry Atchley, Jr., who asked her to join the blog hop is also a very talented writer and I look forward to reading more of his work and also in his blog.

Jessica kindly talked about me and recommended my blog last week.  She’s a talented writer and a kind person who is, as she says in her Twitter bio, “changing the ending of (her) story, and daring to begin a new one.”  I am very impressed with the goals she is setting for herself and with the honesty and beauty of the writing in her blog.  She posts samples of her work weekly and should have a collection out soon. I’m excited to see her do a reading of her work this week.  If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area, be  sure to come out to the Half Price Books on Northwest Highway in Dallas on Wednesday (3/19) from 8-10 PM to hear some readings.

Jessica included me on this blog hop where we talk about our writing process.  I’m excited to participate and we can all promote it on Twitter with the #mywritingprocess hashtag.

The problem then became thinking about what my writing process really is and how to share that with anyone.  I’ve pondered it a bit, and this twitter post by @ChuckWendig (Campbell-nominated author of Blackbirds) seemed to sum up my process pretty well.

MY CREATIVE PROCESS :

1) This is Awesome

2) This is questionable.

3) I hate myself and this story.

4) Cry – Eat Cake

5) This is awesome.

Okay I am joking about this.  I don’t eat much cake.  🙂

But doubts that plague a lot of writers are no stranger in my writing process.  However, I’m learning to manage those a lot better.  The editor from my writer’s group will appreciate this if she is reading, I am beginning to trust my own voice as a part of this daily writing commitment I’ve set for myself.  Rather than going back and re-reading what I’ve written and tearing apart each bit of it until I’m completely unable to move on, I’ve begun just adding more wherever I feel that I can.  Then I go in and fill in pieces or move on to where I feel called to write next.  Essentially, I’ve finally given myself permission to just write.  That may sound silly or unnecessary, but let me assure you, it is not.  I remind myself of Hemingway’s quote that ‘the first draft of anything is shit.’  Perhaps this sounds harsh, but I find it freeing.  Yes, what I’m writing will need work.  Yes, I’ll have to edit it.  But I think what I’ve really gotten down to with my writing process after beginning to write every day is that I have to just put the words on the page.

And it feels great.  I am really excited today because I am really making progress in my book.  While I have stuck to my commitment to write every day, I haven’t always written a solid amount at each sitting.  Yesterday however, I set myself a solid word count goal.  Then I also forced myself to start tackling the ending to my current work in progress. I had an idea where it would go, but yesterday I promised myself I would write at least 5K and start that where I felt the ending would begin.  Not only did I meet my 5K minimum, I pushed past that to bring myself to the 70K total word count I have for my novel in progress.  I know of the 70K, at least 5-10K will be cut, but it still feels good to get myself to this point.  The big picture is coming together.

From this brief description, you may have figured out already, but I’m not an outliner.  I am not one who maps out my whole novel and then sits down to write.  No, I sit down and just write and let the story develop.  This has its advantages, my characters seem to present themselves to me and the story finds itself.  But it also has its disadvantages in that I am never quite sure where my story is going.  I am only just now getting a clear picture of what this book will be and where it is going.  I had an idea which got me started, but that initial idea has morphed and changed as I’ve gotten further into the story.

So what is my process?  It’s a good question, and I have to be honest, as a writer I am still finding my way.  But every day in my writing challenge seems to be bringing me closer to finding my way.  Maybe just the commitment to write is where I am winning in this process.  Maybe it is just the idea that every day I will make myself put words on the page.  Maybe that’s the key – just getting the words on the page.

Another key is surrounding myself with others I can learn from and be encouraged by.  I am fortunate to have met some really great people through this writing process.

One of these friends I met through my writer’s group.  She’s been very encouraging in my writer’s journey.  Even though she is taking a break from our group, I count her as a great source of encouragement and hope to stay in contact with her as I get my work closer to a point for real feedback.

Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray.

Published in Doorknobs & Bodypaint, she also has poems in Silver Boomer anthologies.

Joanne is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba. Look for her humorous memoir My Zoo World: If All Dogs Go to Heaven, Then I’m in Trouble, a story collection Wordsplash Flash and three poetry books – Wordsplash Poetry Puddle: Nature, Hazy Memory, and Tread Water on Amazon.

http://wordsplash-joannefaries.blogspot.com

Another friend, who I met through Twitter, has been encouraging both on Twitter and in comments on this blog.

Robyn LaRue is a Montana girl living in Texas (by way of several beautiful states).  Blessed with an active imagination and mean crayon skills, she wrote her first opus just before kindergarden (on her brother and the nearby wall).  Robyn and her husband live with two cats determined to put their fur in all food and drink, an adult son, and a precious toddler grandson.  Her first published novel debuts summer 2014

Her web site is www.robynlarue.com and though the front page is still under construction, the blog is up and running.  The “about me” page has extra information on it and  http://www.robynlarue.com/how-to-connect/.

Another is a friend who, like Jessica, is changing the end to her story.   I met Anna Kos through Twitter and it’s been a pleasure to read her blog posts. Anna writes about her life, her travels and things that interest her.

life-worth-loving.blogspot.com

Please go take a look at their blogs and also follow the #mywritingprocess hashtag on Twitter to see how others are working through or following their own writing process.

Have a great week!

Dallas Buyer’s Club

I am late to this party, I know, but I just managed to go see Dallas Buyer’s Club tonight. If you have paid any attention to any of the awards shows, you know it has received all sorts of awards, including Oscars for both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. My husband and I have limited opportunities to see movies, but fortunately for me, my husband likes to see Oscar caliber movies and not just summer blockbusters. (Though of course we see those too when we can.)

Dallas Buyer’s Club is well worth watching for a lot of reasons. Matthew McConaughey’s Ron Woodruff was no hero in many ways, especially in the beginning, but there was something very compelling in his fight to stay alive.

Dr. Eve Saks: We can make you comfortable.
Ron Woodruff: What? Hook me up to the morphine drip, let me fade out? Nah. Sorry lady, I prefer to die with my boots on.

His story raises a lot of questions about the access to and regulation of treatments for disease, like HIV/AIDS, and spotlights how people with AIDS have been treated. His journey is well worth watching and Matthew McConaughey looks 100% the part of a dying man. Shockingly so at times.

But the moments that really grabbed me and truly broke my heart were the scenes with Jared Leto’s character, Rayon.

Rayon, I suppose, also tries not to die, but it seems through drug addiction and self loathing, he is fighting all sorts of losing battles. The scene where we see him go to his father, not as the transvestite he is, but wearing a suit that does not fit him, in more ways than one, will tear you apart. Or at least it did me. Then afterwards we see him, devastatingly thin, looking in the mirror and promising God (and himself) that when he meets God that he will finally be pretty. He looks in he mirror and you can feel the pain he finds there.

This is not what the movie is about. But it made me feel, it made me cry, and it made me hope for a better world where a father would never make his son feel unwanted and unloved. It made me want a better chance for him, and others like him, at more acceptance and more love. A world with less judgement, both of others and of ourselves.

As Ron says, “I’ve only got one life, I want it to mean something.”

“Everything is Awesome!”

If you have seen the new Lego movie, you sang that title and finished it with … “Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!” If you haven’t seen the movie, well, you should.

My husband and I took our three boys to see The Lego Movie last night and we are all still trying to get that catchy tune out of our heads. The song is actually a bit of a joke because it’s what the unenlightened Legos love, but it sure is fun.

Sure, it becomes clear everything is not as awesome as the villain would have them believe, but they all go through the big journey of the
movie and in the end, wrap it all back up with ‘Everything is Awesome’.

Tonight I am watching the Oscars. I’ve also been following along with all the tweets. I see there are a couple of ways to see the Oscars. A popular one is the ‘Lets Criticize and Mock Everything and Everyone and their Clothes and their Face’ view.

I live in more of an ‘Everything is Awesome’ worldview. Here are some of may favorites so far:

Benedict Cumberbatch’s photobomb of U2. Taking Awesome to a whole new level.

Jennifer Lawrence stunning, stumbling, and ultimately her usual level of awesome.

Ellen Degeneres hosting again and her opening bit -awesome.

Jared Leto’s acceptance speech. So much awesome.

However, I am seeing it is not at all uncommon for people to focus on the not so awesome, not just what they see and want to make fun of on Twitter or Facebook, but then the comments on the comments on the comments. Yuk.

One especially awful series of Tweets I saw focused on Barkhad Abdi’s teeth. The Captain Phillips Best Supporting actor nominee has a great story and a lovely spirit but I saw a hateful comment about him followed by some equally hateful back and forth between several Tweeters. Why?

Is it a simple way to look at things to see the beautiful and the lovely things? Does it show greater intelligence to tear things apart and belittle people?

Perhaps some could say I am like the unenlightened Lego people bouncing along to my upbeat little song and not digging into what needs to change in the world.

But I think it’s possible to both strive to see the good things and still work to improve those things around and within us.

Of course I am not perfect and I have snarky thoughts and I make jokes, but I really do strive to filter what I put out into the world, both with IRL interactions and on social networks. I really do try to see all the stuff out there that is awesome.

And I will continue to try to get that song out of my head.

Hope everyone has an awesome week!