Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year

Today's Mood: Happy. Today's Music: Unwell--Matchbox Twenty (at the moment) Today's Writing: this blog. Today's Quote:
It's our choices that make us who we are. - Dumbledore (Harry Potter--but I don't know which book)

Well, this is it. In about twenty minutes it will be a whole new year. A year filled with possibilities, opportunities, disappointments, and successes. And it's often hard to tell what things we will remember, and what we will forget by year's end. I've found that it is usually little things that I remember most: an emotion, a smell, a strand of music.

If I were the type who believed I could keep a resolution, then I'd make several. Of course, I'd resolve to get published, but since that isn't totally under my control, I guess that falls more under wishing or praying. So okay, I'd resolve to exercise more--which technically shouldn't be hard since at present I don't do any exercise beyond the daily chores. I'd also resolve to get more sleep, eat healthier, and floss once and awhile. But I never keep resolutions, so why bother making them?

What I do want to do is live passionately, without regrets. I figure if I can really do that, then obviously I won't regret not exercising more, or eating healthier, or all that other stuff. Most of all, I don't want to get to the end of the year and find out I just put in time. Yup, real living means I'll get banged up, bruised and broken. But it also means I'll laugh so hard that my guts will hurt, and I'll love so deep that I'll lose myself and gain the world.

So this year I'll wish you all the courage and wisdom to live all out. The full Monty, take no prisoners, like there's no tomorrow kind of living. Give it your all, don't hold back, and savor every succulent, bitter, sweet, wonderful bite of life in 2008!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Proper Title

I want to title one of my essays 'rat Houses, with the "'rat" a shortened term for muskrat. Is it okay to use the apostrophe and small letters for the first word in the title? A capital "R" just doesn't convey the same thought nor does "Muskrat." I suppose I can write ir the way I want, and let the editor decide.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Picking the editor's brain

Today's Mood: Mellow with an edge. Today's Music: Matchbox Twenty- mad season. Today's Writing: revising Black Dragon (I'm down to 226 pages! Only 2 more to cut out!) Today's Quote:
You can't hope to be lucky. You have to prepare to be lucky. -Timothy Dowd

I'm conducting researching into how many chocolate covered peanuts a relatively small (I'm a very sturdy waif) female can eat before she feels ill. Or should I say, very ill?

Just a quick post here since I have all that research to do, as well as conducting play tryouts. So, here is my question: If the current Writers Market says a publisher accepts queries OR the full manuscript, but that same publisher's website makes no mention of accepting the full manuscript, should one avoid sending the full manuscript? Will that publisher read it, or throw it out into the very large pile of culled slush garbage?

IMO (granted, it is a relatively inexperienced opinion, so take it for what it is worth), it is better to send the complete manuscript so it saves time. I mean, you always send it with a short cover letter anyway--sort of like a query. And if that interests them, then there is the manuscript, ready for them to read. Of course, maybe editors don't see it that way.

Check out my question to an actual, real live editor about how not to get black balled by editors. Editorial Anonymous writes a very funny response back. She made me laugh--and I found it encouraging to know that maybe the competition isn't as horrible as I always imagine. The previous post's question on Editorial Anonymous was mine as well. Check it out here.

And, as always, keep those little fingers writing or taping away at that keyboard!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter fun

Today's Mood: Cheerful. Today's Music: Inner Genius--Creative Mind System. Today's Writing: Revising Black Dragon (down to 230 pages. It needs to be 224 or less)Today's Quote:

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. -Victor Hugo


Our family hunted down the perfect Christmas tree on Saturday. It was an especially good year because it only took us 10 minutes, which is by far the record for the shortest time spent getting a tree. Usually we have to look at every tree on the tree farm--twice. But this year we wimped out and bought one off a lot. So even though we still looked at all the trees twice, there just weren't that many to look at. And my children were happy since it was next to a playground. Okay, I have to admit I was happy with the playground too. Let me tell you, going down the slide with ski pants on helps you catch some serious air! It's like a rocket launcher! (My daughter pointed out this guy standing there watching me go down the slide. I told her he wished he had snow pants on so he could do it too.)

Anyway, a lot of Anne Sexton's poetry is dark, but a fellow teacher shared this delightful poem with us last week. And I thought I'd pass it along to you.

Enjoy the snow!


blessed snow,
comes out of the sky
like bleached flies.
The ground is no longer naked.
The ground has on its clothes.
The trees poke out of sheets
and each branch wears the sock of God.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
I bite it.
Someone once said:
Don't bite till you know
if it's bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
Today God gives milk
and I have the pail.

Poem: "Snow" by Anne Sexton,. © Houghton Mifflin, 1975. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Logic and emotion battle over priorities

Today's Mood: Disappointed. Today's Music: Foo Fighters. Today's Writing: Revising Black Dragon (again.) Today's Quote:
"I am where I am because I believe in all possibilities." -Whoopi Goldberg
I'm starting to think I'm weird. Don't laugh. I'm talking beyond the normal weird. Maybe even obsessive weird. This diagnosis comes from recent events. Get this. I belong to two writing groups. Each group meets once a month (which isn't enough for me), so between the two groups, I have two small group writing meetings a month. Last month only 3 people could come per group. A bit slim, but workable. And this month, no one could come--to either group. Except for me. Sigh. My momma always told me to look for the common denominator. Guess that would be me.

Now the logical part of me (yes, there is one, although it is by far the slimmer of the twins), says that it is a busy time of year, most of us have day jobs, and all of us have lots of things to do. Yup, very reasonable. But the fat twin, the emotional one, is disappointed. And thinks these are scheduled meetings, people! (hear her? She really is a drama queen). It's not like you can't schedule most things around a once a month meeting! Logical twin-Okay, yeah, I get hernia surgery. You're excused. I get moving and boxes everywhere and no DSL and no bed. You're excused too. Bloated emotional twin-But come on! Isn't your writing more important than some of this stuff?

It's about priorities. Fat Emo cannot understand why other writers don't seem to put more priority on their writing. But Logic says that, as the common denominator, I'm the one with the screwed up priorities. And when I combine my split personalities, I get that writing fulfills different needs for different people.

Still, can't but help feel disappointed. I write no matter what, but being a part of a small group makes me feel like a writer instead of just a mom/wife/housekeeper/librarian/goddess--oh wait, that's just a fantasy of mine. Seriously, if I don't keep my writing as a high priority, it'll just disappear amid piles of laundry, sick kids, happy kids, school projects, meals, meetings, and all the other things that DEMAND my attention.

Okay, well, I feel a little better. I guess I'll just buckle down and write more. After all, best way to feel like a writer is to write. Right?

On a different note, let me tell you, if you have to stay home from work with a sick kid, pink eye is the way to go. I brought Shanna in to the doctors on Sunday and she was diagnosed with pink eye. Since kids are not supposed to go to school until they have been on the eye drops for 24 hours, she missed morning kindergarten--and I got to sleep in. Well, sort of. I actually took my oldest to school with her invention (let me tell you, school projects are getting much more complicated these days. Or at least, parents are making them that way!)

Anyway, Shanna and I colored, and beaded, and went hot tubbing since she didn't feel sick and was in a great mood. Now if I could just catch pink eye and stay home.... Just joking (well, sort of). But seriously, here I figured out that all I have to do is revise 9 pages a day and I'd have the Black Dragon revision done by the deadline with several days to spare. And then I proceed to use all my days to spare because I'm knocked out of my normal early morning writing routine.

The good news is that I don't hate Black Dragon. In fact, dare I say it?, I even like it. But it does need to be shortened (for the contest) and I find myself tightening, adding smoother transitions, and tweaking the dialogue (I'm still too wordy for my male characters.)

Anyway, logic says to tell you all that I understand your need to do things other than writing. After all, some writing is better than none. But Fat Emo says what the heck is your problem? Don't you know that writing is the best thing ever?! Writing is the drug of choice, a spiritual experience, a high like no other, a...a... words can't express it. You are all so screwed up. You need to see a therapist. Seriously. I feel sorry for you.
*(Current blogger takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed by Logic or big Fat Emotion.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Maine-inspired Poetry

Hey All! I'm stuck in the Portland, ME airport--my flight from Chicago to GR was canceled due to freezing rain, so the airline got me on a competitor's flight into Cleveland, then home. No biggie. Better safe than too dead to be sorry, as I say. However, I had to PAY to use the airport's wireless and there's only ONE electrical outlet for every hundred or so seats. I'm not complaining, just surprised that even this small airport hasn't moved to become more business-traveler friendly. The Starbucks tastes the same, though.

Yesterday, as I said my goodbyes to my Cottage By The Sea, I managed to write a few lines about the moornise the night before. The beginnings of a poem, methinks. Me also thinks that more will come as I process everything I saw and did. I think now that my non-writing while in Maine was more because of my desire to be on the road seeing and doing, instead of writing. Perhaps the next time, or the time after, I'll be more inclined to sit by the water and put thoughts on paper. For this first trip, I needed to experience everything.

The other thing is/was sensory overload. Sometimes I get so numb, or maybe paralyzed is a better word, because I have absorbed too much--too much color, texture, mental videos, information, too many smells, too many new ideas, etc. I tend to become unable to do anything but veg out. I play solitaire or online Euchre, stare at TV, or read, just to focus my senses on only one thing so my brain can process all the other stuff. Jigsaw puzzles are good for this purpose, too.

Does anyone else have this problem? Does it negatively affect your writing? How do you deal with it?

I also discovered on this trip that because I write so much on assignment, when I don't have an assignment to write about I can't come up with anything on my own. I go blank, and because writing then becomes a chore, I don't PBIC (Plunk Butt In Chair). If I did PBIC, chances are I'd come up with something to write about. Hmmmm. OK, guess I just solved that conundrum by writing about it!

Well, I'll be home tonight. I've decided that three days a week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) I'm going to set aside 30 minutes first thing in the morning to write my own stuff. That will get me back in the habit of coming up with my own "assignments."


Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Flu in Maine is the Same as in Michigan

Blogger: Deborah Music: James Taylor, Fire and Rain, on The Maine Grind coffeeshop (Ellsworth, ME)sound system Weather: rainy, gray, windy, cold, foggy

The first photo is the view of the bay I'm on, Pigeon Hill Bay, from atop the hill south of my cottage. I thought this view was cool, with somebody's summer house and garage in the foreground.

The second photo is what I saw further up the hill ("behind" the camera) at the Petit Manan nature preserve -- an inland swamp surrounded by wild blueberry bushes -- they're the red things. The wild blueberries here are a major income source, and though they're wild they're actually cultivated, harvested, and sold worldwide. The bushes are only about eight inches tall, and they cover the hillsides wherever there aren't trees.

Well, I've had the stomach flu since two days after I got to Maine. I went to MedNow yesterday and they said it could be the flu or it could be the microbes in the water at the cottage I'm staying in, so they took blood and I'll know in a few days, after I get home. All I know is that having chills in the middle of the night, alone in a cottage on a desolate peninsula hundreds of miles from home, isn't fun. But hey, Immodium A.D. is my new friend!

This coffeeshop I'm in is really cool -- it's in the former Masonic Lodge, a hundred-plus year old four-story brick building that has a dance studio on the lower level, and two cool gifts shops in the front of the main floor, and this big open coffeeshop/deli in the back. They serve fresh sushi made by an Asian restaurant in Bar Harbor, and beer. All the coffeeshops here serve beer. I didn't think the sushi would sit well on my tummy, so I opted for homemade spinach quiche instead, and that was really good.

This place has the original wood floors, original dark walnut trim and built in cabinets, and the walls are painted a sunflower yellow and the ceiling is grass green. I love being surrounded by these colors.

Well, I've got my new blog designed, but haven't written on it yet. I plan to "tap" into that today or tonight. This place is only open until 5:30, then I have a 45-minute drive to the Eagle Hill place where I can get online until they close at 9 PM. The blog address is (I think) -- and right now it's entitled Urban Appeal.

I'm quite excited about the blog. I want to do some serious writing about the writing I do, the people I talk to, the developments I see happening and how I see (or don't see) God's hand in it. I think people often think they can only encounter God in nature, and they have to get out of the city or get to a park to do it, and I want to push back on that idea. Although God is certainly in the beauty of the trees and sky and moonlight and flowers, he is also in the beauty of architecture, a revitalized neighborhood, and a thriving city. He's in the new grassroots efforts to reduce light pollution and to build buildings, indeed entire neighborhoods, that are earth friendly, energy efficient, and feed the souls and lives of the residents.

And I want to write about these things and explore my thoughts in writing. Or, more accurately, I'm GOING to write about them. And I'm starting today.

Hey! I forgot to say that 31 years ago yesterday I became a mom! Wow. That's unbelievable it was so long ago. And it's also very cool. Very cool. Blessings!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Writing in Maine

Blogger: Deborah

Music: the hum of a nearby furnace
Quote of the day:
"What in heck am I doing in Maine?"
by Deborah Johnson Wood

Hi All,
I finally made it to Maine! I took the fish by the gills and made it happen. I thought I would be writing, writing, writing while out here, but I got so burned out just getting my writing-for-hire done before I left that I haven't felt like writing at all. Now, four days here and I feel like getting cranked up.

I'm staying in a 600-square-foot cottage on a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic. It's quiet and comfy. No Internet access. No phone, except my cell which has intermittent reception. One channel on the TV--I can HEAR the news, but I can't see it. NPR on the radio.

Yesterday I drove 80 miles to find an Internet connection because the library which is just seven miles away wasn't open. Went to the library today and picked up a flyer for a new Internet and research library at the Eagle Hill Natural History Study and Resource Center on Dyer Bay--it's on the same peninsula (Petit Manan) as my cottage, and only eight miles away. It's open every night until nine. Larry, you'd be in heaven here.
This place is waaaaay back in the boonies via dirt two-track. A complex of cedar-shake-sided buildings. I'm sitting alone in the library/gallery, surrounded by original Maine nature art. A chandelier hangs from the middle of the unfinished ceiling, and to my left is a GIANT fireplace (not burning right now) of Maine rocks.

And the books? How about Buddhism & Science, Dragonflies and Damselflies, Darwin's Orchestra, Gulls of the Americas, Horns and Beaks--Ceratopsian and Ornithopid Dinosaurs, Science and Conservation of Vernal Pools in Northeastern North America, and the ever popular Up River, The Story of a Maine Fishing Community (which is actually QUITE a cool book!)?
I need to write. I need to write. But the idea that whatever I write won't be good enough (a good quote from Sylvia Plath, BTW) has stopped me. This blog is "getting the cork out" and I plan to tackle at least something before I go home.

My plan is to start building a new blog site tonight. I want to write about the stories I'm uncovering in West Michigan -- stories on development and growth, stories that promote the state, stories that mix my love of God and the love of West Michigan, stories that push back on the negativity in the news. I report good news every week -- in fact, I have so much of it that my desk is overflowing with stories of growth, jobs, investment, and all of it about growth that doesn't promote urban sprawl, promotes green and sustainable building, and works to provide income and spur the economy.

The people who are making the growth happen are beating down my door (or at least my telephone and my email) to tell me their stories because other media is giving it cursory coverage, or none at all.

Having said all that... here are a couple more shots of Maine, and then I'm off to create my new blog site. I need a catchy name for it -- something about "urban" or "growth" or "life in the not-so-big city." Any ideas?

These fish mongers set up shop alongside the road everywhere. The owner of this one said he had 11 licenses to do business by the roadside.

Below is a shot of Mason Bay (my son's name is Mason, so I couldn't come home without a photo of "his" bay, the one I didn't know existed until yesterday).


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Take a number, please

Today's Mood: Harried. Today's Music: Matchbox 20-More than you think you are. Today's Writing: blog. Today's Quote:
"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."-Sylvia Plath (compliments of SJW)
I need to learn how to be a pushy broad. Seriously, one of the parts of writing and trying to get published that I dislike is the need to keep putting myself out there. Again and again. I sent my Black Dragon manuscript to a publisher almost 8 months ago. I finally, just 2 days ago, sent out a letter inquiring as to the status of the manuscript. And I was tempted to let it go even longer (because I always feel like I'm nagging), but I want to send it to the Delacorte Press First YA Novel Contest and it can't be out to anyone else at that time. The deadline is coming up (Dec. 31) and I need to trim it down to 224 pages. Definitely doable--but it means I am no longer revising Free Lunch; now I'm revising Black Dragon.

And of course what I really want to be writing right now is IFFY. Or a second Mary Monologue. (after all, Christmas is coming up.) Sigh. Oh well. I'll finish the Black Dragon rewrite by Dec. 31, then I'll aim for finishing the Free Lunch rewrite by Spring Break. THEN I can work on IFFY. The Mary Monologue, well, maybe I can squeeze that in there somewhere. And I've got a poem I'm working on--but that comes whenever I'm stuck.

How do you decide what to work on when? And how do professional writers manage to keep it all straight in their heads? I mean, they have to be working on several things at once, what with rewrites, line-edits, and new stuff. How the heck do they do it?

Oh, and did any of you manage to take a break from family and get something written this Thanksgiving? Not me. I really wanted to, but somehow the time slipped away with family and cleaning and kids. It was fun, but now I feel like I need a vacation just for me. Ha ha. That's funny, trust me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Color Research

Today's Mood: Tired. Today's Music: The Verve Pipe. Today's Writing: Chapter 14 of Free Lunch. Today's Quote:
"I'm long on ideas, but short on time." Thomas Edison.

Amazon is a dangerous thing for people like me. Putting a librarian (and writer) in front of a computer with unlimited access to all kinds of new and used books is like putting a fat lady in a candy store. I have no will power, no restraint. Unfortunately I bought all the books on my Christmas list--and then some. Still, I got great deals! The only thing I need to work out is where to store all these books.

I've been reading books on color therapy, color psychology, and reading auras. I can't say I'm getting any better at seeing auras, but I've learned a lot about how we see color, and how color affects us in all kinds of ways that we often don't realize. All this reading is my way of letting IFFY perk up there in my head. Keep adding things to the pot and eventually something will come out. (Now if I can just finish this Free Lunch rewrite!)

I've also been reading about how to draw the human figure--and even how to draw people clothed! And despite the fact that you seldom get to (or have to, depending on the person) see naked people walking around, there is way more books on how to draw naked figures than people wearing clothes.

I just wish there was more time to read, and write, and study naked figures--I mean draw! Seriously, life is grand. So much to learn, so much to do--including raking way too many leaves. (I went to take off my coat today and almost got stuck because, evidently, writing doesn't do much for one's triceps, but raking does.)

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for all of you wonderful writers out there that make my life so interesting and enlightening. Go you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Red Hot Chili Peppers (Storm in a teacup) Today's Writing: Revising chapter 11-Free Lunch. Today's Quote:
"Clear your mind of can't." -Solon

Funny thing how everyone sees things differently. I was all in a stew last night over what to bring to group. I had several chapters and even two poems written, but didn't really want to bring any of them. I settled for bringing the start of chapter 11 in Free Lunch Program. I was hating it as I read it out loud. I don't know if it was the fact that it dealt with some touchy issues, or if it was because it was a revision and I'd gone over it so many times that I was bored with it, but it was difficult to read. There is a lot of internal action (flashback memories) but little physical action. It seemed to drag. I wished I had brought something else.

I sat back with relief, and waited to hear the inevitable: I'm not sure this information is necessary. The flashbacks are confusing. The pace seemed to drag. But a weird thing happened. They liked it. It kept my interest and drew me along. I felt like I understood the character and why she was so devastated by what happened.

I listened, and part of me kept saying they were just being nice. I had to keep reminding myself that we all made a commitment to tell the truth. We are writers; we bring our words expecting to hear the truth about what works, and what doesn't. And we promise to be honest in turn.

So why is it hard for me to believe my group when they tell me it works for them? Undoubtedly there is some deep personality flaw that allows me to believe the negative much faster than the positive. I'll have to work at that.

In the meantime, I feel better about the story. At least it's working for two people!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Today's Mood: fair to middling. Today's Music: Tori Amos. Today's Writing: chapter 12 of Free Lunch (Yes! I am off the dreaded chapter nine! I spent all Friday writing, 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and managed to work through that chapter and beyond.) Today's Quote:
"He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; he who dares not is
a slave." -William Drummond

Most of you have probably not read the books in His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman, but you might have heard that the movie The Golden Compass is coming out around Christmas. Now, I read all three books and really liked them. I did know the author was/is a vocal atheist, but the story was interesting, unique, fast paced. Therefore I found it interesting that the Catholic church is coming out in favor of boycotting the movie (check it out here)--because it will lead to people buying and reading the books. Which is probably true. However, it is also true that banning books and movies makes people want to read and see them. So, in my opinion, they'll probably only break even.

Snopes has an article on the controversy, and if you read all the way to the last paragraph, it talks about how Pullman's criticism of organized religion is more anti-authoritarian and anti-ascetic than anti-doctrinal.

What I'm thinking is, what is wrong with people actually TALKING to their children about what they believe and why? Then maybe we wouldn't all have to be so scared of new/different ideas. Just because I liked the books doesn't mean they changed my view of the world. And kids aren't stupid. Sooner or later they'll figure out that people believe different things, and then wouldn't it be nice if parents had developed the trust necessary to have the kids come talk to them about things?

Okay, I'm done with my rant. If you want to disagree with me--go right ahead. You'll be wrong, but I'll listen respectfully. : )

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Fun

Today's Mood: Amused. Today's Music: Coldplay. Today's Writing: a poem. Today's Quote:

"Good writing is not a spectator sport; both the writer and the reader participate." Patricia O'Conner


I used to love Halloween. Chocolate, change in identity--what's not to love? But now I have to come up with costumes for kids (and they always want to be horrible things like Hannah Montana or Gabriella from High School Musical or some other cookie-cutter pop star who shows very little creativity), and then I have to get the little darlings in bed after they have consumed mass quantities of sugar. This year Marisa settled on being an Angel (although I must note that on the very first night of trying on her costume, when my friend had the audacity to look up the stairs before Marisa was ready to "show" her costume, and the little "angel" had a complete melt-down. She suddenly looked a lot more like a two-year-old having a lay-down kick and scream tantrum), while Shanna is a black cat. Her tail is attached via white elastic and consequently is often not anywhere near where a normal cat has its tail attached. But she loves it and is very cute in her ears and collar with bells on it. I did have to sew the bells on it again after her sister--the angel, remember--tied it on so tight it was choking the poor cat, and efforts to get it back off succeeded in popping the bells off the collar as well.

Anyway, due to all this excitement, I was going to pass on dressing up this year. But while I was drying Marisa's hair before bed, I got this great idea to dress up as a stereotypical librarian. Now, I have to be honest and tell you I have NEVER met a stereotypical librarian. All the librarians I know are loud, funny, rather liberal, and are more inclined to yell than to shush. Not very many of them wear sensible shoes either. But there you have it.

I had a fairly difficult time finding a skirt that was long enough. In fact, several of my librarian friends told me my skirt was too short, but it was the best I could do on short notice. The shoes are perfect, although it makes me cry to think I actually paid money for them. A lot of money. Which is why I still have them even though I never wear them. I might be able to use them for snow shoes--they certainly look big enough.

And though, in truth, I am often the one being shushed in the library (middle school students have no respect), I think I've got that shushing action down pat. (I studied my librarian action figure with an automatic shushing motion).

Unfortunately, the saddest part of my day was when I went over to the high school library, and no one recognized that I was "in costume". One staff member asked if I got new glasses. Hmm, I guess I'd better weed out my wardrobe again.

Next year, I'm going as a punk librarian. Smash those stereotypes completely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mental gymnastics

Today's Mood: Restless. Today's Music: Alison Moyet-Alf (at the moment) Today's Writing: Sigh. Chapter 9 of Free Lunch. Today's Quote:
"Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work." Gallagher

I'm writing. I'm writing. I'm writing! See? I can do it! This morning I made myself sit down and write. No drawing. No stalling. Writing. That's it. One word at a time. I can do it. I have this weird mental game going. If I work on Free lunch for my small group (which meets, incidentally, tonight) then I can "play" and work on IFFY. I know it is all a game, because if I'm really honest with myself (which I try to do now and then--when it's not too scary), then I have to admit that I "talk" it this way so that the pressure is off my writing of IFFY. If I say that is what I am working on, then it makes it official and scary and then it has to be good and all that shit. But if I say I'm just playing, then who cares if it is all shit. See? Mental gymnastics. If I can just fool myself and work around my own brain. No wonder why this all tires me out so much.

I'm also going to try something new (yes, it may fall under the same heading of mental gymnastics cause it might just be another way to pretend I'm not really writing). I bought a digital voice recorder (think mini tape recorder without the tape) to record my thoughts while driving or whenever I have time to think. It doesn't happen as often as you might think. But every once and a while I get a great scene going in my head but I don't have time to write, so I'm going high-tech and trying to record that scene audibly so that when I do have time to write, I can play back and type it up. See? Again, writing but not. I'll let you know what I think of it when I get it. I bought it on Amazon.

Isn't it a wonder I get anything done?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fantastic ways to waste time

Today's Mood: Contemplative. Today's Music: My Morning Jacket. Today's Writing: drawing characters from IFFY. Today's Quote:
"A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad
novel tells us the truth about its author."G. K. Chesterton
I got so sick of being on chapter nine of Free Lunch that I am boycotting it this week. I've been spending my writing time drawing pictures of my characters for IFFY. I felt like I was hammering away at that chapter and not even making a dent. So I'm hoping that time away (a week) will knock something loose and when I sit down next Monday, it will come a little easier--or at least I won't be so sick of it. If the front door is locked, go try the back door. Who knows?

At least I'm getting a better and better feel for my IFFY characters. And maybe I'm even getting better at drawing. I feel like a one year old learning to walk. I can picture what I want to draw in my head, but my body--hands--don't quite do what I want. Very frustrating. But, I tell myself, that's what erasers are for.
What have you all been up to? Any writing going on?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Open microphone

Today's Mood: Good. (think clean 800-thread-count sheets, steak dinner, and a glass (or 2) of light but full-bodied red wine good), Today's Music: Sarah McLachlan--Fumbling Toward Ecstasy. Today's writing: only this blog. Today's Quote:
"Why is the dash the mark a la mode? Because it is so easy to use, perhaps; and because it is hard to use wrongly; but also because it is, simply, easy to see." -Eats, Shoots & Leaves Calendar Oct. 14, 2007
On Friday I dragged my friend (my oh-so-patient and non-writing friend) along with me to an open mic. deal for poetry and prose sponsored by the Word Weavers Writing Circle (say that five times fast!). I think she was a little worried. I was a lot worried. Okay, downright scared. So why the heck did I do it? Because I'm a masochist.

I always laugh at the poor fools in movies who hear a noise down the basement and go down to investigate even though it is a horrible thunderstorm on Friday the 13th or Halloween (take your pick) and the lights don't work (of course). The idiots always take a candle, even though I tell them to find the heavy LED flashlight that Aunt Bertha gave them to fend off robbers, and then the candle blows out just when they see that horrible monster or corpse, which, of course, I told them would happen.

But now, oh-my-gosh, I think maybe, just maybe I might be that same kind of person! I mean, look, I didn't have to go to this open mic. with a whole bunch of strangers (who I didn't know!) and read a piece of my writing, which is a little like lifting my dress in front of strangers--who, by the way, I didn't know! But I went anyway. Without anyone holding a gun to my head.

And guess what? No one booed, or grabbed their pitchforks and ran after me. They did, however, clap. And afterward, they even came up and told me they liked what I read, and wondered if I ever did any story telling because I was such a good reader. And I talked about Peninsula Writers and Writing Passage and they talked about Word Weavers and it was pretty cool. I might even do it again. After all, isn't that what sequels are all about?

My friend, by the way, made the comment that poetry readings are so not like on TV. Not a single person was dressed in black, smoking a cigarette and looking snooty. So I promised I'd do better next time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Naming Characters

When you name characters, do you use very common names or one that's a bit unusual? I think of Robyn's Jullian--not common, but not wierd either. Do you start a time line, character profile, etc. before you start writing? For example, the original owner of our property, could have been in the Mexican-American War. His widow sold the property in 1862. Is it feasible that he could have been killed at Bull Run? To be believable, he would have to re-enlist as an officer. Or he could be killed in a logging accident.

Since I have the absract, my thoughts are to follow the land's disposition and write a story to follow. For example, at some point, a court ordered one of the survivor's claims to be thrown out. She stated the father had given a piece of the land to her, but apparently she had no documentation.

Someone sharecropped a vinyard with another owner. Conflict with the land, nature and the partners.

If nothing else, I'll learn a lot doing the research. Like what was the land like in the 1850s and did Indians occupy it at some point in time?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wrting for an Audience

Ar Glen Lake, Rick stated he always writes for his audience. In general, I'm aware of what group might read my piece, and assume my readers will be familiar with terms. My weaskness is in forgetting others, besides hunters and fishermen, might also read it. How much do you keep your audience in mind when writing? Or do you right for yourself, hoping others might like it? Is it different in writing a novel as compared to an essay or poem?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Grammar Question

Today's Mood: Relieved (It is Friday). Today's Music: Music Library on mix--Push by Matchbox 20 stuck in my head on an endless loop. Today's Writing: still revising, still chapter 9. Actually got 2 paragraphs written today--then erased. Then wrote one again. Today's Quote:
Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't. Mark Twain
(1835 - 1910)

Here's a grammar question for you: if I am writing in first person, past tense, and my MC (main character) is REMEMBERING something that happened, do I write that in past perfect? We had been in the weight room when ....?

I wrote a paragraph like that and it seemed so...cumbersome. Weak. So I switched it to past tense--but that didn't seem quite right. Although maybe I could do this as a flashback? With a white space above and below?

Or maybe I should just take that memory out and make it a separate scene and put it in the linear timeline? Then it would be past tense. Maybe this would make it more active?

And is there any benefit for having it one way or another? I mean, I've read stuff about mixing up the timeline to create an impact. But I guess I'd love to know what impact it is supposed to have.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Today's Mood: Negative. Today's Music: Matchbox 20: You or someone like you. Today's Writing: Revising chapter 9--well, writing another scene for ch. 9. Today's Quote: (Two for today since the last post didn't have one.)
In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
Johann von Neumann (1903 - 1957)

If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.
Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937)
I made the mistake yesterday of reading the paper. Sigh. After an article about this horrible killer who is due to get out of jail, I read another article about the new Michigan laws that have teachers paying more of their health insurance as well as opening up MESSA (group insurance) documentation so that other health insurance companies can "cherry pick" the districts with healthier clients and offer lower rates. That leaves the rest of the districts paying more for their health insurance. There is something to be said for ignorance is bliss, at least it is up until you get slammed (or as another cliche would say: until the shit hits the fan.)

And now I'm sitting here watching a student teach his young brother? son? how to play a game on the computer in which a gun man (bank robber it looks like) shoots children. The children are supposed to try to tackle the gunman. What's up with that? I want to go over there and tell him little kids shouldn't be playing games like that. That there has to be a game on the computer that has some value. Something worth spending time learning.

Ah, if only the world ran according to me. Of course, then it would be all my fault when the whole thing blew up. So forget that idea.

And the final damper to my mood was when I read one of my favorite author blogs and found her dissing another author. The blog was going on about how that author wrote every stupid thing the characters said to each other. Every detail. And how utterly boring that was to read. And then of course I get thinking--bad thing that thinking stuff can be. I've got to quit that. Maybe there is a program out there to help me quit thinking. A seven step thing. It probably starts with "watch television during the mid afternoon when there is nothing but soap operas and kids shows on." Anyway, I get thinking about how sucky my writing is. I hate it when I feel that way.

Oh well. Hopefully tonight I get to work on my novel and try to make sure I only have the characters say important things. Shit.

So what's bugging you today?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Home again, home again

Today's Mood: Peaceful. Today's Music: Robert Pollard: Not in my air force. Today's writing: revising chapter 9 (I was writing until 2:00 a.m.--haven't been since) Today's Quote: sorry, don't have one yet. I'll add one in a bit.
Going up to Glen Lake to write always creates a quiet space within me. I write from that place. I'm not saying I need it quiet to write; in fact, I usually listen to music as I write. Or I have it playing anyway. I don't suppose I'm always really listening. But anyway, I'm talking about the quiet that comes when the shoulds disappear. When the running commentary in my mind is silenced. No longer do I hear, the laundry needs to be done or the girls won't have anything to wear tomorrow. That small voice does not whisper, the house is a total mess and we are almost out of milk. Also in that quiet there is a lack of voices from my children. No Mom, she hit me, or I'm hungry. What are we having for dinner?

The trick now is how to keep that quiet space inside. How to nurture it, and feed it. Having a set time to write every day helps. In that 45 minutes of time, all I have to do is be a writer; it's all I have to be. That helps the world quiet down for awhile.

Here's hoping you find and hold a quiet space inside this week. Tell the world to shut up, and then sit down and write.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Today's Mood: Tired. Today's Music: Matchbox 20--Mad Season. Today's Writing: STILL working on revising chapter 3. Today's quote:

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas A. Edison (1847 - 1931)

Today is crazy busy with me playing shuttle service for my daughters and all, but nonetheless I'm so excited to be packing for Glen Lake! I always end out hauling along all kinds of things, just in case I need them. I figure I'll be working on Free Lunch, but WHAT IF I feel like working on IFFY? Better bring that along. And then I get thinking WHAT IF I want to work on that camping essay that I jotted notes about in a journal some time ago? Better bring the journal. And oh, I need my dictionary of cliches. And my thesaurus. Then there is the music factor. I've got my mp3 player, but I need to bring CDs so that I can share with Robyn.

The list grows. I even throw in some food, figuring that maybe I'd better eat something in between writing. And I can't go without my pillows. Two of them. The memory foam kind. My husband drew the line at me bringing my memory-foam mattress topper. Probably a good thing since Gloria is riding with me and already I don't know where her stuff is going to go. Maybe if we tie it on the roof.

I did manage to drag my sorry sack of a body out of bed this morning in time to get a little bit of writing in. But boy, oh boy, am I looking forward to writing tomorrow until all the lights in the other cottages go out and I'm yawning fit to split my face and I can't even thread two words together. Then one of my crazy roommates will see fit to rise at the crack of dawn and I'll pull the pillow over my head, swearing that it's an insane hour of the morning to get up. But my mind will start turning over, first with a dry cough like a car battery in the dead of winter, but then with increasing frequency, and after a few minutes I have to get up and head over to my computer, eyes half-shut and hair all wild and scary, and that computer will chime Hel-lo and I'll be off again, away in a different world, a different reality where I am just the manual laborer, pushing down keys that will tell some one's story--and maybe I'll even find out it is my story.

Whoa, boy! Do I need some sleep or what? Sheesh. Keep writing all of you slackers out there. Sit! Butt in chair! Now write.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Rob Thomas--Something to be. Today's Writing: revising Free Lunch--I'm working on chapter 3. Today's Quote:

"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult." Rita Rudner (I know--it doesn't have anything to do with writing. I just liked it.)


Does anyone know any good sites (or books for that matter) for cliches, their origins and what they mean? I am using cliches in the novel I'm working on and I wanted to find the origin of with friends like that, who needs enemies? I've got the The Facts on File Dictionary of Cliches--but it doesn't have that particular saying.

Revising reminds me of putting a puzzle together. I have the work in front of me, but now I need to figure out how it should be put together. So I'm shuffling words and sentences here, and then there, and all the while having great fun. Writing is different--still wonderful, but more agonizing, like I'm drawing the words out of my guts rather than rearranging them on the page (or in my brain for that matter).

Oh my, I can't wait for Glen Lake and time to write, write, write and eat and breath and sleep and dream writing! I want to talk to other writers, and more than anything else I want to let that part of me--that writer part--be. Just be. Without excuses. Without doubts.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Revision or Rewriting?

Today's Mood: Grateful. Today's Music: The Muse--Black Holes and Revelations. Today's Writing: Finished revising (re-writing?) chapter one of Free Lunch. Today's Quote:
There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. -W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965)

What is the difference between revising and plain, old re-writing? Is there like a percentage or something? Like, if you change more than half the characters/plot then it is re-writing? Or are they the same thing?

I've read through my manuscript and, of course, thought it needed massive amounts of changing to make it acceptable. So I started revising. But you know, essentially I'm writing a different story. I mean, there are a million ways to tell a story. How do I know which one is best? And what's best anyway? Most likely to get published, most acceptable to Mom? In the end I'm trying to go with writing the one I am most satisfied with. The story I want to tell.

And to do that I have to change a number of things. Bam things up a bit (as Emmeril would say.) Exaggerate some of the things that are already there in order to draw them out.

All I can say is, it's getting me out of bed at 5:30 a.m. Excited to go write (even if I'm not excited to get up--and, for that matter, even if I'm not really awake yet.) And for me, that's the way writing should be. Something to be looked forward to (except for when it's not : 0)

I'm looking forward to the fall conference at Glen Lake. Of course, I had hoped to be done revising and on to working on that 3rd manuscript. Ha. Not bloody likely. Oh well. It will all be done in it's own time. At the moment, it's all good.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Writing in between lives

Today's Mood: Slap-happy. Today's Music: Rob Thomas--Something To Be. Today's writing: reading (beg. to end) Free Lunch. I'm on page 131 and trying to pretend it is someone else's manuscript. Today's Quote:
Sometimes [writing] comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it's like drilling
rock and blasting it out with charges. -Ernest Hemingway

It is so hot in this library that I am dehydrating as we speak. The sweat is running down my backbone and front....whatever in rivers, not trickles. And I've got a sore throat from teaching--with one more class to go. I'm in my pilot's outfit--I am, after all, a pilot to other worlds here in the library--so that makes me extra hot (temperature wise anyway.)

I've been reading a lot in the last three days--and it's great except that I get so many ideas and characters swirling around in my head that it is hard to keep track of it all.

Writing Magic
by Gail Carson Levine is absolutely excellent for teaching writing to kids--probably middle school thorough high school--because it is concrete, has good examples, and has interesting, exciting writing exercises. I read The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen (this was so awesome because it was first person-past tense and the majority of the conflict was internal--like Free Lunch.), Jinx by Meg Cabot (another good first person-past tense.), Quantum by... I forgot but a good Science Fiction (which is what IFFY is), Just in case Meg Rosoff (in which Kismet--or Fate--has a voice) , and Demonkeeper by Royce Buckingham.

My frustration right now is having a day job. I love it--what more proof do you need than the picture above?--but I would LOVE to have more time to write. And my second day job is loved as well--but is equally demanding. I have been getting up at 5:30 and going to bed at 12:00. Last night I got in bed before midnight, but then I remembered the tooth under Shanna's pillow, and I thought I'd better make sure the tooth fairy didn't forget to exchange it for money. When the tooth fairy went in her room, however, she was sleeping with her hands under the pillow on top of the plastic baggie with the tooth. The tooth fairy tried again in the morning--but couldn't find the baggie (which quite possibly slipped down between the bed and wall) and had just shoved the money under the pillow when Shanna woke up. The fairy assured Shanna in hushed mother-like tones that all was well and that she was just making sure Shanna was covered by blankets. Whew!

Does anyone else wish they had more time to just write? And think about writing? I don't even feel like I can think half the time. Maybe the perfect day job for a writer would be one that involved a repetitive, non-thinking task--like dishwasher or something. Of job connects me with kids, and that's vital. Sigh. I just need to give up something. I can't go without showers because that is where my best ideas come. Maybe eating. If I give up any more sleep who knows what I'll say, do, or write!

Oh well, it's been a long, hot Friday and I'm going home. Take care and happy writing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Writing and Reading

Blog Voice: Deborah
Mood: Frustrated
Music: the clicking of my keyboard
Writing: Journalism work stuff, and this blog

Hi All,

First of all, Outdoorwriter, yes, definitely read more. I saw that in one of your comments to Sarah. I started Native Son, a novel about growing up black in America in the 30s and it was too depressing, so I set it aside for a while. Then I went to Schuler's and bought a fantasy book my daughter-in-law recommended, Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams, one of my favorite authors. This is first in a trilogy--Yay!--and the book is really good so far. Only 732 more pages to go!

I also picked up Grand Rapids in Stereographs 1860-1900. Because I write so much about GR buildings, parks, and places, this book is fascinating to me. I've been poring over the stereographs like a loony woman! I even bought a magnifying glass so I can get every detail. I'm such a dork.

Then, of course, there was a sale on classics, so I got Jane Eyre, Leaves of Grass, and The Scarlet Letter, none of which I have ever read (OK, I've read bits and pieces of Leaves.). Guess that comes from attending a small school--if you didn't get in lit class the one and only semester it was offered each year, you just didn't get in it ever. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

As for writing, I wrote 10 articles this week, but nothing else. I'll do my 30 minutes of prime time tomorrow.

I was a little down when I left Susan's cottage and the wild women writers last week. I think the stuff I shared in our group was shared before I was really ready to do it. I was doing a personal essay of sorts, and was really using the writing to explore an inner call I have and trying to understand it. While the stuff I brought to group was first draft (always the best for me sharing-wise), and the feedback was definitely helpful, thoughtful, and gave me tons of ideas, the spiritual side of me wasn't ready to let go of the piece and let it be "out there."

But, hey, I knew that about me going in and could have taken something else for group. It was good to be reminded that I DO get attached to some of my work, and that I need to give it enough time before sharing it.

So, I'm off to get my laptop fixed. It just went Pffft! last week. My tech guy says he thinks the motherboard is fried. I'm taking it back to the guy who built it, and we'll see what he says. It's past the warranty time, but he said he's willing to work with me on that part (unlike Sarah's tech guy!), so we'll see what gives. In the meantime, it's nice to know that Dell is having a lot of back-to-school sales right now...

Later, you keyboard tappin' geniuses, later!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Today's Mood: Content. Today's Music: Classical--on NPR. Today's writing: chapter whatever of IFFY (I went to Panera before my inservice--great house latte!) Today's Quote:
My only real, hard piece of advice about the writing process is this: if anyone tells you that there is just one method or a correct way of getting it done (few people would, but there's always someone), they're wrong. If you want to revise your book completely backwards, while hanging upside down covered in bees . . . feel free. Choose your teachers carefully. In the end, you'll teach yourself anyway.--Maureen Johnson


It's amazing how quickly vomit can kill the muse. I got home from my wild women's writers retreat all fired up and ready to write. In fact, I was going to get up EARLY on Saturday just because I couldn't wait to continue the chapter I was working on. But when I got out of the shower Friday night, my five-year-old walked in covered in puke. And all that night I did laundry because not once did she manage to make it to the bucket or the toilet. And I'm talking a dish pan here not one of those pathetically tiny crescent shaped things they give you in the hospital! That did it. I didn't write even one word all weekend.

But then came Monday. Donna, my wonderful reader, got together with me to go over my second manuscript, Free Lunch Program. After chatting for over an hour, I was all fired up to get going on revisions. Sort of. Problem is, I'm already working on this other novel. And I don't really want to give that up. But I don't have time (or brain cells) to do both. What to do, what to do.

Gloria, one of my small group members, suggested that I revise and work toward getting it done before the Fall retreat so that I could then have those few days to sink back into the new novel. I like that--a deadline to get the revision done and out to wonderful reader Donna for feedback, and a big chunk of writing time to get immersed into IFFY again. It's all good--I hope.

Check it out. Meg Cabot talks about revision being hell and Maureen Johnson tells how to revise a book here. Don't I just wish I was making revisions based on an Editor's remarks!

So what is everybody up to in their writing?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Change in tense

Today's Mood: happy (of course, considering the amount of wine I consumed in the last two days...) Today's Music: believe it or not, I was listening to old tapes (yes, those old cassette tape things. Not as old as records but getting there) of Dire Straits and Peter Gabriel. Today's Writing: Chapter--I think it is 9 or 10 of IFFY. Today's Quote:
"That's just your [writing] gremlins talking"--Tricia and the other wild writer women of Whitefish Lake

I changed to past tense in my current manuscript. BUT, I didn't start over. I was tempted to, but Tricia talked me into starting from where I was at in the manuscript--and making a note of it in my notebook so I know where I made the change. From the things Tricia has read, there is research that shows present tense to be the hardest to write AND read. I find that interesting because writing in present tense is my instinctive way to write--and I've written two novels in present tense already. In fact, I found the switch to past tense challenging. For some reason I have the tendency to want to use a lot of being verbs. I have to really think about how I can write past tense and use active, vivid verbs.

As for being hard to read--or more tiring--I can honestly say that I haven't notice it--IF the writing is good. Reading poor writing whether it be present or past is always tiring. But really, if the story is great and the writing is good, I often couldn't even tell you without looking if that book was written in past or present.

So why did I switch? Because I'm hoping it helps me with transitions. I get stuck in a scene or conversation and don't know how to get my character out of the room. She has to continue to see, smell, taste, hear, and say everything. I have a difficult time skipping over the unimportant parts without it sounding choppy. This wasn't a problem in my first two manuscripts because they are more journal format. But this story doesn't fit that style. Hence the attempt at past tense and a more storytelling voice. I'll let you know if it works. For right now, at least it is good practice for me.

Two more things. One is that boy, oh boy are the writing gremlins (those little voices in every writer's head that say that she/he is no good. They say this in all different ways--mine do go on about tense--and they are very insidious.) loud after such a long period with no [regular] writing. I needed my writing buddies to remind me that I am not a crap writer, or a piss-poor writer, and yes they WOULD let me know if I thought a piece was publishable and it really wasn't ready, and yes--if they tell me I am a good writer they are NOT lying..... Those gremlins! I really need some duct tape to put over their mouths.

Second thing. We--the wild writer women at Whitefish lake--saw the most gorgeous sunset. The pinks, salmons, oranges, and golds contrasted with the blues, indigo, and purples in spectacular patterns. And the fact that the tornado in Montcalm country was north of where we were in Montcalm county was also a good thing. I wouldn't go in that pump house if I saw the dang twister heading right for me! It looked exactly like a mausoleum. No joke. I decided I'd take my chances in the bathtub--but thankfully that was unnecessary as well.

I can't wait to get back to my writing and my writing schedule on Monday! Happy weekend. Happy writing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Polishing stones

Today's Mood: Productive. Today's Music: a mix of Sarah McLachlan, Maroon 5, Coldplay, and Collective Soul. Today's Writing: some pre-writing for a camping essay. Today's Quote:
"Sorry--if I had any advice to give I'd take it myself." -John Steinbeck
The new issue of Writer's Digest came in the mail today. I haven't had time to read it, but I did page through it. An article titled Keep the Commission caught my eye and I skim read. It's about being your own agent, and hitting the small presses. Best of all it has a whole page of small press listings. I've only sent off a query to one small press so far. Still haven't heard back. Of course, it said it could take up to 12 months to respond to a query letter. But it's been almost 13 months. I supposed I need to look at sending out more queries. Of course, right now all I want to do is get writing again on a regular basis.

I also spent some time yesterday browsing the blogs, and came across an interesting post about Point of View. Check it out--it's August 20's post. (I thought Diana's storyboard thing--August 21 post--was interesting too. I wonder if that would help me with plotting as well--especially the whole sub-plot part) Right now I'm not stressing over POV so much as whether or not I should use past or present tense. Hmmm. I thought I'd give it a go in past--not that I want to bother rewriting anything right now, but if I can nail the voice, then maybe the writing will go a little easier. Wishful thinking at 11:13 (and after 2 glasses of wine. I didn't ask for the second, but my principal poured it anyway.)

And check out her Good Writing Advice Gone Bad--I can relate to some of this, can you?

This Is My 30 Minutes!

Voice of the Blogger: Deborah
Mood: Contented
Music: Tree toads, again. And crickets.
Writing: This is it!

Hi All,

I just finished four articles for the publication, and have seven more to write tomorrow. A couple more interviews tomorrow, too. It's going to be a very long day.

I'm so bored with my articles. The people (interviewees) are interesting, the subjects are interesting (at least to me), but I'm so bored with my writing. The same words, same phrases, same ways of manipulating sentences so they aren't passive.

My editor says that keeping things fresh is the challenge of all writers who write regular beats, and who write to a deadline. Writing similar news items week after week, and writing to a timeline that normally doesn't allow much pondering of phrases or phrasing, can sap the writer and the writing.

Yup. That's where I'm at. (Sentence-ending prepositions be damned!)

I know one solution for me is to read other journalists' articles. My pub has three sister pubs (in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and SE Michigan), and usually when I start getting bored with my stuff I read the articles written by the other editors who have my job at those pubs.

Should have done that today, but didn't even think of it until now. Guess that's what I'm going to do first thing in the AM. I also guess that's what writing--blog or otherwise--does for me: helps me clear my head, focus my thoughts, and come up with something to write--which is usually the thing that's currently on my brain, the thought that needs de-fogging. You know, like being bored with my writing and deducing through writing that I need to read to get inspired.

So let that be a lesson to me! When I'm bored with my own writing, write! (Doesn't work for cooking, though.)

Well, it's 1 AM and my pillow is calling. Or maybe that's a tree toad...


Nope. It's my pillow. Better go see what it wants. I bet it's something good.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scotland, Maine, and all manner of the unexplained!

Voice of the Blogger: Deborah
Mood: Reflective, wishful
Music: Tree toads on the wind, dishwasher on the wash cycle
Writing: Scotland, Maine, Colcannon, and generational memories

OK, folks, I sat down with the blank screen on my lap, in my sunroom (or, today, gloomroom, since there's only a misty-gray sky), and started typing. The goal: 30 minutes. The result: 60 minutes, 688 words, very little editing-while-writing, and a trip through the foggy waters of what I call Generational Memory--those memories, urges, desires, and sentimentalities that have been part of my soul forever, that I believe have been passed through my bloodlines from my Scots ancestors, and stir my soul like nothing else can.

I feel like I've started a great exploration in writing. A clarification of things unexplained (my urge to go to Maine--I've never been there--in the winter and stay in a cottage on the beach for six weeks, alone, with just a bottomless pot of coffee and a laptop and the dark waters on the horizon), a sorting-out of feelings (my sense of kinship to the high, black cliffs of northern Scotland--and I've never been there), and wishful thinking (getting whiskey-drunk--it would only take one shot--in a pub in Scotland and singing Celtic songs in fluent Gaelic with distant relatives I'm not sure even exist, and who, I find out after the songfest, are gifted poets and lyricists). Discovering a possible answer to the "why?" I keep asking myself about these memories of place and language and music and culture that aren't my memories, and aren't even memories at all.

The personal journey begun today is one I can't wait to return to, to continue the ride with words, nuance, and simile (the writing of which, for me, is like trying to catch a butterfly without a net).

To find joy in the practice, and desire in the gift.

And now to the store for leeks and potatoes to complement my first-ever organically-grown cabbage from my first-ever garden. The result? Heavenly, aromatic, Scots-created colcannon (how's that for a segue?).

Wish you were here!

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Blogger: Deborah
Mood: all over the place
Music: just the conversation in my head
Writing: back yard observations

Mike Stratton, the writing challenge is ON!!!! I did 45 minutes today! Finally. I took advantage of the quiet morning and experimented with writing my observations of the first rays of sunlight peeking over the fence and playing along lengths of spider threads, glistening bursts of greens and golds. It amazes me that a creature I find so abhorrent, and am, quite frankly, nearly terrified of, a creature that appears bulky and clunky and bulbous (I hate bulbous), can create something so beautiful, so strong, and yet so fragile. In an hour, the angle of the sun's rays will no longer illuminate those shining threads, and the arching vines in my garden will hang slack in the heat.

Some days I feel like those threads and vines: bright and shiny at the beginning of the day, full of strength as I face the sun; wilted and blended into the background after bucking the heat of my day. But today, this beautifully cool pre-autumn morning, I observed and wrote and reveled in words and sentences and thoughts strung across the page like glistening threads.

Happy writing to all!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blogger: Deborah
Mood: Rebellious
Listening: NPR's This American Life
Writing: this blog

Well, I'm supposed to be cleaning my totally trashed bedroom so the hub and I can find the bed, find our shoes, find our clean clothes, and find some rest. But I'm here instead.

The goal was to get my butt out of bed this morning (Saturday) and spend 30 minutes writing. But no! I FORGOT!! Can you believe that? I FORGOT! And now it's well into the day, and I have to sacrifice the writing to do the things that make my space calm and peaceful.

I guess because writing daily isn't a habit yet, it's just not foremost in my mind. Maybe that's why I forgot. I just rolled into the old habits of trying to get a bit of extra sleep, and then feeling guilty because I haven't cleaned the bedroom in so long we can write our names in the dust on the bureau (Hey! At least I'd be writing!!). So the guilt of being slovenly overtakes the pleasure of writing.

OK. Tomorrow, Sunday, I'm devoting 30 minutes to writing something, and not this blog. Something else. I don't know what. Maybe a cruise to the big lake will be the inspiration. Maybe sitting in my sunroom will be. Maybe lying in my clean bed in my clean bedroom, gazing at the freshly dusted and shined ceiling fan will bring the muse. Or maybe I'll just write.

However I do it, the goal is 30 minutes. No word minimum. No word maximum. No perfection needed on the page. Just write, dammit! Write!

To inspiration, from whence it may come!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Blogger: Deborah
Mood: Upbeat
Music: The lyric melodies of my interviewees' voices over the wires
Writing: none, but gathering that good ol' background

Well my day off yesterday did me some good. My date with Jean Luc went well, and I'm chipper, alert, and have already conducted two interviews with two more on today's docket. Then this afternoon I hope to get all those interviews translated into articles.

Speaking of interviews, they are pretty basic to writing a good story, and I'm sort of burning out on what to ask--I'm tired of asking the same things over and over and over. And while I do follow strings of consciousness that my interviewees bring up, and thereby get some interesting tidbits for my articles, the interviews are pretty much the same.

Anyone know of a good article, blog, or book on interview techniques?

How about research techniques for articles? I don't do a whole lot of research, because it's often not needed for what I write, but sometimes I'd like to delve into a topic a bit more and I'm sort of lost on where to find info (besides the Internet).

Anyone know of any good articles that have been written about urban development? I'd like to read another writer's stuff so I can learn from them. New techniques to infuse my work would be great.

Hey! I'm also going to the fall retreat. Can't wait!!!!! Hope to see you there.

Larry, when are you coming to a retreat again? We've never met, and the group, while always talented and interesting, could use your perspective on life. This fall would be a great time to re-join us, don'cha think?

Mike? You, too? Coming up to join us?

Hey, Sarah. We should talk about some ideas I have for promoting the blog.

Later, all.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day Off

Mood: Lazy (is that a mood?) Music: Tim O'Brien Fiddler's Green Today's Writing: Nothing!

Hey everybody! It's not Sarah. It's Deborah. Surprise!!!

Today I took a day off from interviewing for articles and writing those articles, and spent the whole day lying on the couch watching HGTV. I'm feeling a big punky now, after not doing a thing today, but man, it was great! I soooooo needed to not look at a computer screen or think about anything. Vegging out has its moments, let me just tell ya.

I put in a 40-hour workweek just on M, T, & W for the publication I work for ( -- shameless plug), and when I got up today I didn't want to interview one more person or write one more "work" word I also didn't want to write any other kind of words, work-related or not, until now.

I love doing what I love for a living -- writing -- but there are nights when I go to bed with my thoughts whirling, whirling, whirling with the 10 or 12 interviews I did that week and the pressure of hitting a deadline week after week. Last night was one of those nights. I was so overly tired I couldn't get to sleep, and when I did, I slept until 10 AM today, something I haven't done in months. Plus the hub and I just expanded our cable TV selections, so what's a gal to do? Lie on the couch all day and stare at HGTV, that's what!

After coming back from the summer Glen Lake conference I've been following a pretty good routine of getting up early, having breakfast, getting ready for the day, and spending a while spiffing up the place before walking the 10 steps into my office for the day. That routine has been great for me. I feel like my life is so much more balanced--even though the "balancer" is just a bit of housework or laundry. It has helped me so much--I don't feel overwhelmed like I was feeling for months (because I was overwhelmed) and my house feels better, so it's a happier place for me to be--and I'm here all day, so I need to be happy with my "spot."

So... the next goal: continue with that routine, and add 30 minutes of writing my own stuff. Even if it's just blogging. I'll let you know how the new routine goes, and what wonderful things I write.

I also want to get my old blog started again. I have new fodder for the "presses." It seems that after a year of reporting on West Michigan haps I am forming a few opinions about urban development, land use, and water pollution. Go figure!

Well, I've gotta go and get some supper. Then I have to watch some more TV because I taped a bunch of stuff that I need to watch (I had to practice with my new DVR)-- and I don't want to keep Jean Luc waiting!


Friday, August 3, 2007

Moving forward

Today's Mood: Comfortable. Today's Music: U2--The Joshua Tree. Today's Writing: Chapter seven of IFFY. Today's Quote:
"I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." -Peter de Vries, quoted in The Writer, June 1994

I read a good book yesterday--The Looking Glass Wars. It is the true story of Alyss in Wonderland, and it celebrates the power of imagination--both for good and for bad. Besides being an entertaining book, it made me excited to get working on my own story. I've had a hard time maintaining a scheduled writing time this summer, and too many days off makes it hard for me to get into the story when I do finally sit down to write. Of course, all that will change in a few weeks when school starts again--and with it a scheduled writing time. But for those of you facing the same difficulty, I read a great blog post on how to overcome writer's block on Diana Peterfund's blog. Check it out here, and if you have tried any of these or other methods and found them useful, let us know.

Hope you have all been writing.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Today's Mood: Celebratory. Today's Music: Robert Pollard--From a Compound Eye. Today's Writing: Nothing until now. Today's Quote:
On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp. -from The Road by Cormac McCarthy p.32
Uh-huh...oh yeah...that's right...I'm dancing...oh yeah! I'm going to the fall retreat. I finished the last Harry Potter. I have a laptop computer that works--and has all my information on it! Ya-hoooooooooo! I'm so excited to be writing this on my own computer. Finally! Granted, I now have an antique computer that I've paid more for than a new MacBook-but hey, it works. And I've got my sign up sheet all set to go for the fall retreat. (just need a stamp) Yessssss! I'm dancing*, oh yeah. Come on everybody--dance with me! What are you celebrating?

Oh, and tomorrow my kids go to daycare so I can WRITE! Which is a good thing because I got nothin' for Monday's small group. But I will.

Since I wasn't writing I was reading. I did finish Harry Potter and thought my small group would tell the author that the book really should have ended before the Epilogue-but hey, she's the millionaire. I also read The Road. The writing is poetic, lyrical. Of course, hard to say I loved it since it is apocalyptic literature and therefore rather depressing. But it was still an awesome book. Inspired me to write--again.
*And no, I'm not dancing naked (see previous post here) because the air conditioning is on too high.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Being ready for inspiration

Today's Mood: More settled than of late. Today's Music: Maroon 5 (can you tell this group is new for me? Nothing like wearing it out!) Today's Writing: Journaling (prewriting for an essay I want to write) and looking over comments from my small group on Chapter ? (I think it's 6 but I've been out of touch) of IFFY. Today's Quote:
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." -C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)
What weird things do you do to be ready for inspiration when it hits at odd moments? I've heard of people (yes, Robin, I'm talking about you) who have crayons in the shower so that if an idea strikes at that moment when the hair is full of shampoo, she can preserve it on the shower wall. I take a notebook in my purse so I can write down ideas that occur to me while I'm at the oil change place (I got through a whole chapter the last time I was there. Nothing like a little enforced butt in chair to break down internal barriers!), or in church (it's amazing how sitting quietly gets my mind working. I've been tempted to that the pastor for the great writing time--but I suppose that could (quite unintentionally) imply that his sermon was less than riveting.).

Anyway, two nights ago I woke up around 3:40 a.m. and in an effort to get my mind off this whole laptop crap, I started to think about this camping essay I want to write. Crap. I really should write this down, I thought after coming up with a few good phrases. Otherwise I'll never remember it in the morning. So, I reach over and open the drawer to my bedside table, haul out a journal, turn it to the last page so I'm for sure not writing on top of anything else, scrabble around on the bottom of the drawer for a pen and then finally, blindly write a
few phrases on the page--just enough to spark my memory in the morning.

In the morning, Shanna comes in and wakes me up and I groggily stumble out of bed to make her some breakfast (she was starving, of course) and get me some cappuccino. It wasn't until later when I was making the bed that I remembered writing stuff down the night before. But when I looked at the page, it was completely blank. The pen didn't work. Thankfully, by holding it up to the light, I could see the indentations from the pen on the page. I've seen this thing on CSI--just kidding--but really, I did rub a pencil lightly over the page and I could read everything I'd written. Most of it was crap too, but hey, I did get one good analogy out of it--and what more can you expect for the middle of the night?

Today I put two more pens on my bedside table. I even checked to make sure they work. Who knows when the next great idea/image/word will strike?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The uneducated shall pay

Today's Mood: Grim. Today's Music: ummm... I listened to Sarah Maclachan in the car today. Today's Writing: comments on the MacRumors forum. ('s Quote: "Honestly, $350 is more than your ibook is even worth. I shudder to think of what you may have paid for it 4 months ago. Whatever you paid, it wasn't a good purchase. No warranty (3 months is NO warranty), no support, no help, only a guy who wants to repeatedly take advantage of you." -GTiPhone on MacRumors Forum 7/23/07


I decided to educate myself before buying or repairing my laptop. I can't say I like what I find. In fact, I find out that I've been taken advantage of--and it's really my fault for being an uneducated, trusting consumer. Sigh. I do so like to believe people are being fair. I mean, I expect to pay for a laptop. I know the guy needs to make a living. But when I go on the internet and do some reading, I find out most places give a year warranty for a refurbished machine--not 3 months. And I find that most people think $350 dollars to replace a hard drive is pretty expensive.

(Two days later)
I've just come back from a confrontation with the Mac Exchange guy. He doesn't feel like he has taken advantage of me. He says he has never lied to me. And technically, he hasn't. But I still feel you can lie by omission. His higher prices he justifies by saying that he has given me all kinds of udated software. Of course, he never asked if I even wanted it--so some of it just sits on my computer and I never even use it.

He said he'd put in a new hard drive for $150. And I agreed. My husband is mad that I'm giving the guy another chance and more money--and I'm not totally sure I made the right decision, but I guess there is a part of me that wants to end things neatly. Because this will be the end. I will not go to him again, nor will I recommend him to anyone.

I have a headache and I haven't written (other than Mac Forum stuff) for days. I just want a computer that works. Is that too much to ask?