Friday, August 31, 2012

Free book on Writers Block

Julie Duffy, over at, is giving away free Kindle copies of her book, Breaking Writer's Block until September 2nd. Follow this link to find your free copy at Amazon. It's got sections on creativity exercises, goal-setting, accountability, inspiration, and more.  And if you don't have a Kindle, you can always read it from your computer or iPad.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hello blog

Poor neglected blog. I checked my blog stats on a bored whim, and was surprised to see over 400 hits this month. It made me feel guilty that people are still checking for updates and I haven't been offering them anything new. So much happens and so much doesn't get written until it's hard to start back. My youngest boys ran track this year, and graduated middle school. We all had what was diagnosed as bronchitis and pneumonia but that I'm starting to think was actually whooping cough. It took months to recover, and more months to recover from all that didn't get done while we were sick. My oldest returned from his first year at college. Our garden was trashed during a hailstorm that also managed to flood our basement and tear up our roof and window screens. We spent a lovely week at one of my favorite places in the world, Hunting Island, SC. It's a beautiful island, but it is eroding so it's a bittersweet beauty. We spent a weekend in Atlanta celebrating my father's 80th birthday and saw so many dear old friends. We returned to scorching weather that got worse. The fires in Colorado this summer were perception changing, even though my house wasn't one of the ones threatened. The community came together in amazing and wonderful ways to help one another. We went to a dinner party last night and everyone was still trading fire stories. Everyone is still stressed. Safety is an illusion, and we don't take it quite as much for granted anymore. I taught a writing class for 4th and 5th graders this summer, and loved watching them discover their voices. An art co-op asked me to join, so now I have my clay pieces on display at a local shop.

High school starts tomorrow, and my oldest is leaving for a year long teaching position in China on Sunday. The garden bounced back in a lot of ways, and once again we have more tomatoes in the garden than we know what to do with.

All of these things to write about. I haven't quite processed any of them. And as I told my students this summer, writing helps us process. So thanks for visiting. I'll leave you with a few pictures of Hunting Island as a goodbye to summer.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

inspiration for writers

I've got two links for you today:

Stop waiting to be picked - advice and a push to just go for it already.

25 things writers should stop doing - this is more of a kick than a push, it's not gentle, the language is not the kind you want small children reading over your shoulder to sound out - but the advice is awesome and inspiring. Thanks to the Writing Nag for the link.

And I'm going to go get busy with my work now. Ahem.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spinning Plates - a new way of getting things done

This week between Christmas and New Year's is always a good one for reflection and plans. Last week I started a new experiment with my to-do list and goals. I've been reading about the brain - how it likes novelty, and games, and new challenges ever day. And I've been reading about Kaizen, the idea that tiny steps of improvement and change can add up to big things. So I started adding one little chore to each day. Just a small something that I wasn't already doing, but wanted to.

I do think it's like spinning plates, you start one and then build on it, keeping the others going as you add on new ones. I think this can work for any kind of goals - writing, art, health, housework, etc. The first day's task was to clear the floor of our bedroom. I hid all the presents in my room, and was tired of tripping over all the shipping boxes. The next day I made sure the floor was still clear, and added setting a pretty table. Nothing elaborate, just a fresh tablecloth and maybe a candle. Mainly it involves clearing away books and projects so we can have a nice clear table for meals. The next day I picked up some shoes from the floor, did the table, and added giving my children vitamins to the list. The brilliant thing is that a lot of the tasks take so little time once they are initially done. And I feel like I am making progress because things don't get undone while I'm doing something else.

I'm starting to add in once a week projects too. I'm on day 11, and so far this is fun, and I'm wondering how many plates I'm going to get spinning. I have plans to add editing, writing, submitting stories, exercise, art, and other things to the mix. Anybody want to play?

Monday, December 19, 2011

In The Morning

I heard this song on the radio this morning, and I kept thinking of my own little guys (years ago when they were actually little). I love this ode to missing teeth, and childhood toys, and morning hair. "The gifts we keep" indeed.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Power of Story

I don't remember where I read or heard it, but the phrase "if you get the same message three times, pay attention" has been stuck in my head for years.

We saw the new Muppet movie over Thanksgiving break. The movie was delightful and silly, and had lots of 80's jokes that my children didn't understand. And I will admit to getting a little blinky eyed over the Rainbow Connection song. But beyond all that, it was about how stories, these silly muppet stories, had made a difference in people's lives, how Gonzo's daring antics made a young muppet feel that he too could do anything. And it made me think about stories, that we need heroes to inspire us, make us stretch a little deeper. Even if those heroes are blue and have funny purple noses.

Then we saw Hugo. I loved the book, and was worried if the film would do the book justice. It does. It has a different magic than all those lovely sketches in the book, but a magic all the same. Pay for 3-D, it's worth it. And getting to see parts of the Méliès films on the big screen was amazing. Beyond the story of a young boy and an old man, it was also about how those early films--when magicians used tricks of light to make dreams come to life, to get imaginations to soar---were important and life-changing and life enriching.  Again, the power of story.

I've been reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Not quickly like I usually read, but slowly. I don't want it to end. I'm very attached to this world and these characters. And without giving any of the plot away, here is what one character says toward the end, "Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."

So, the power of story, the magic of story, times three. Write your stories, tell your stories. Stories are important in ways we might never know.

P.S. The picture above is from the original Muppet Movie. My husband and I still say, "Bear left." and "Right, frog." And see, that silly little joke has become part of our story.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey passed away today. I never met her, but Pern and her dragons, and the crystal singers, and the ship who sang are all old friends. They were the much loved stories of my teen years. I can't even began to explain their influence - strong female characters, the music, and the dragons, and the owning up to your talents, and time travel, and the fire lizards, and the secrets hidden in old ballads.

There's a nice obituary here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fear and Dragons and Writing

I realized something, the past couple of weeks, about myself and writing fears. For a long time, I've made clay dragons, and phoenixes, and ornaments, and weird flying creatures for gifts, and my kids, and my own amusement. Last week I opened up an Etsy store, and have already sold three things.  But it was scary to take that leap, and it remains scary. All this time when I've queried, or entered contests, or sent off things to a beta reader, I thought my fears maybe signaled that the writing wasn't good. But I had all the same fears and reactions for posting pictures of my clay creatures on Etsy, and naming a price for them. And part of it is hoping people will like them, but they are weird creatures and I know not everyone will like them. Not everyone likes every writer either. A lot of my anxiety was simply over learning the process, taking pictures, learning what to charge for shipping, figuring out how to mail them safely, how to set up the banking, how to describe them and post it all online.

I still am learning - about clay, about selling creatures, about writing, even about motherhood - and I've been at that job for eighteen years! I want to encourage you though, to just try whatever it is you want to try - writing, or dancing, or creating jewelry, or running a mile, or canning, or playing an instrument, or making a pie. The unknown is always scary, but it gets easier as you go along.

My Etsy store is called Give Them Wings. I picked that name from the old saying "give your children roots and wings". Most of my creations literally have wings, but the phrase appealed to me for a different reason. Wings to me are a symbol of taking off, of trying, of imagination, of wonder, of soaring above those things that drag us down. I want to encourage everyone to give flight to their dreams.