New Orleans Revival

I finished the first draft of FORTITUDE last Tuesday, September 10, 2013. Cue the party horns!

It felt great and I immediately took a few days off from serious writing because I busted my fingers and brain the previous two weeks to get it done. Yes, even though it’s Laurie Halse Anderson’s annual WFMAD challenge this month, I played hooky. I’d planned on keeping away from FORTITUDE for a couple weeks to get the whole distance and perspective break most professionals suggest writers take before diving into revisions, but that didn’t happen.

What did happen was something like this:

DAY OUT WITH FRIENDS IN NEW ORLEANS

Last Thursday I drove Joyce, Lee Ann, and MeLeesa to the big sleazy for dinner and a concert at House of Blues. We bought tickets for the Hanson show at the beginning of summer but it happened to fall in place that we all had literary milestones to celebrate last week: fishing drafts, multi-book contracts, and waiting to hear back from NYC editors. It was—is—an exciting time and we all needed the change of pace to escape the writing cave and chill with those who understand.

(Yes, I did say Hanson and I’m not ashamed. My musical interests span genres and centuries and there’s a special place in my music library for the guys of Hanson. They rock, with a little Motown jive here and there, plus they’ve matured nicely.



Just to show a sampling of what I listen to, on the drive back I switched from Hanson to Mitch Malloy to Boston before settling on Helloween. The guitar chords got heavier as the night grew later because this driver needed to stay alert.)

What happened the day after was constant music playing in my head. Music inspires me—always has, always will—and by late afternoon I had to get back to FORTITUDE. Four days later I’ve finished a complete round of editing plus several scene rewrites/additions to the praises of my first beta reader. I think I’ve got something good here and I can’t wait to share it.

Writing, Everyday

Since it’s officially a long weekend here (Hello, Labor Day!) I’ve decided to labor over my WIP to get closer to finishing the never ending first draft.
I write slow, with a capital S.
After skipping work for three days at the beginning of the week, I’m making up for it by busting my fingers to get the words down. I’ve added for than 3,500 in the past forty-eight hours. FORTITUDE needs to be finished. This draft has to be complete so I can go over it multiple times with edits. I want this first draft to become a twelfth draft.

Always good with timing, the fabulous Laurie Halse Anderson is hosting her sixth annual Write Fifteen Minutes a Day this month. You can find the first post here. For those interested in writing or the workings of an author it’s a great series to follow.

I’ll update later this week, but for now, here’s to nurturing goals:
100_3456

What was I thinking?!

Yes, I used two, count them, TWO, punctuation marks because my situation is a question and an exclamatory. Read onto find out why.
If you’re a reader of this blog, know me personally, or even just hear about me from someone else, you probably know I’m a writer. People have paid me for my words, though not as often as I’d like, and my words have been read by possibly hundreds of thousands of people. (One of my articles appeared in a magazine with a circulation of over 500,000.)
And if you’ve been in contact with me in recent years, you’ve probably heard I’m working on a novel. My WIP. Corroded. My first long-term project in over a decade. It’s been slow, more often than not unsteady, progress.
Sure, I’ve got a list of prime excuses for being too busy to write, but the fact is, I could write a lot more than I do. I’m a procrastinator when it comes to things that make me nervous. Nervous energy and me are first cousins. I pace, which can be good because when I sit down, there are kids crawling on me within seconds. Typing with a kid hanging on your shoulders is difficult. Hand writing impossible. It makes me want Nathaniel Hawthorne’s desk in the third story writing tower he had built over his home in Concord. Besides being a floor above the noise of his household, he had a custom standing height desk. (Which is the perfect height for me—had a lovely daydream while standing at his desk and looking out on the forested hillside when I visited Wayside.) He stood while writing, so I’m thinking he was a pacer, too.
This past week I’ve been procrastinating my writing because I received an answer to my prayers—a literary dream come true. And that dream turned reality has caused anxiety.
A month ago there was a terrible tornado in Joplin, Mo. As with the response from the deadly tornadoes in northern Alabama not long before, several authors stepped up to personally donate money as well as hold fundraisers for relief efforts. One of my literary heroes, Laurie Halse Anderson, decided to give of herself to help the Joplin area.
Laurie Halse Anderson! If her name sounds familiar it’s because she’s one of the biggest young adult authors of the last decade (though she writers for younger readers, too.) Heard a bunch of smack talked about YA books in the press lately or about books being banned in school libraries? Read any blogs/articles where YA readers/authors of all ages defend teen books? More than half of those articles mention Laurie Halse Anderson’s books or quote her directly, both the pro and con. Tweet much? Try #YASAVES.
Several of my blogs over the past few years mention LHA. I’ve done her Write Fifteen Minute a Day (WFMAD) online writing boosts, taken her Blog Free February (BFF) to the highest level of commitment—no social media all month, and have traveled to New Orleans to meet her while she’s been on book tours—even made HER blog for that!
Back to the relief efforts… Laurie decided to auction/raffle a full manuscript critique in order to help raise money for the Joplin/Ozark area Red Cross. The requirements were for every $10 you donate, you get one entry into the raffle. I begged around to family and friends and a few people donated in my behalf to up the odds. And I prayed, as did others. And I won!
I need to get Corroded as polished as possible within the next few months in able to not waste LHA’s time and get the most help out of the critique. But that dream come true is looming like a thunderstorm over an outdoor graduation ceremony!
When I’m not pacing—or caring for kids or doing church work or planning writers guild events or any other number of worthy causes—I’m hiding within the pages of other people’s books.
Literally.
I was loaned this interesting adventure by one friend (who I let know not to loan me another book in a series until the WHOLE series is out. Must wait for the rest of the story…):

And then I FINALLY started reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I’m now on this borrowed copy from another friend:

I’m up into the wee hours of the morning reading. Too tired to wake up before the kids to exercise first thing. Without the physical conditioning my creativity and motivation is slumping. My brain is fried from the summer heat by the end of the day so all I want to do is lay in bed at night and read. Which leads to late nights with my book light and groggy mornings. Rinse and repeat.
Now, I’m breaking my silence and the cycle.
I will do some form of exercise daily, beginning today.
I will NOT open Catching Fire, or any other novel, until I have written at least 30 minutes.
I will set my alarm each morning and get out of bed in a timely fashion no matter how late I am up.
And I want you to hold me accountable. Send an e-mail, tweet, comment, or actually in person ask if I’m any closer to sending Corroded to Laurie Halse Anderson. Because that action now freaks me out.
Do I really want to know what a NYT best selling author thinks about my work?
Do I really want one of my literary heroes to tell me what is wrong with it? (And what’s good, but the negative always shouts louder in my head.)
Won’t rejection feel worse from someone I admire than a faceless agent or editor?
What was I thinking?!
That it would be an excellent opportunity to be read by someone whose work I admire.
That learning the strengths—and weaknesses—in the story will help me hone my writing/editing skills.
That a possible blurb from a NYT best selling author will be a great foot in the door to the publishing industry. And the bragging rights aren’t bad either.
There’s a motivational poster slogan that reads: You cannot fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all.
So, please, dare me to write. Dare me to finish Corroded and send it to Laurie Halse Anderson for critique. And then dare me to accept the advice and write on.

Turning a New Page in Life

My somber previous post has scared me away from blogging. But there’s now a (leaky) cap on the gushing BP oil well, so that’s a bit of an improvement. Enough said, there isn’t much Pollyanna in me about that issue. But here is a link to a haunting song by Mithril, inspired by the oil spill. The images on the video are all from better days gone by on local beaches. (My three kids each have a picture included.)

This week marks my first attempt at homeschooling my twelve-year-old son. He has a Neuro Immune Dysfunction, which causes autistic behaviors and has been receiving special services through the public school system since he was three. But there is no way I am going to send my sweet, innocent boy into the whirlwind of middle school. I’ve known I was going to homeschool him for the past year—and have been studying all I can on the subject and networking as much as possible for this socially awkward mother—but I spent most of my free time (amid numerous events and sick children) last week charting out an actual weekly planning page—a hybrid of a dozen I’ve looked at—and choosing the first week’s goals. And, I must admit, I also zoned out on Free Cell several times. I wrote absolutely nothing on my WIP and barely logged one journal entry in my notebook.
There is a time and a season for everything, and right now I need to restructure my day to fit it all in. I need to decide if I’ll write in the morning before the kids wake, which has been my exercise time, or attempt writing at night, when my mind is mostly mush, since quiet time might need to be used for one-on-one with the eldest. It’s a good thing Laurie Halse Anderson’s WFMAD is next month—I need some motivation!
Back to the homeschooling experience. Day One=Field trip! Community experiences at the post office, pediatrician’s office, pharmacy, and mall. Walking the mall was the fitness time for the day, too. At home, we took turns reading two books about farmers and pigs, and I let him flip through a third. Our unit study/theme is farms, which is something he loves. He copied twelve spelling words (taken from the farm books) three times and did thirty-five addition problems as part of a math review. And there were no meltdowns—success!
I praised him throughout the day and before bed I asked him if he liked doing work at home. He said yes and smiled. A warm fuzzy!
On a personal note, I’ve finally gotten around to some lighter–but deep–reading.


as well as

Still many more books on my library list and on my own shelves to read.
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee I’m closing with one of a series of five poems I wrote for a freshman high school report. Each poem had to be from a different character’s perspective. Give me a break, I was only fourteen….
Personal Guide
Watching you grow up, that’s what it’s all about. Teaching you, watching you learn. No matter what you do, I’ll always be here for you.
I was put on Earth to guide you. So come, little children, stay close to my side. It’s a wicked world and I don’t want to lose you to its powerful influence.
But don’t be afraid, I’ll help you.. If there is any doubt in your mind, just stay close, my child. That’s what I’m ere for; a parent is a guide.

Yarntastic

First, I’d like to shout out a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sister-in-law! You’re the bomb! My oldest was due on this day, one year ago, but she was over-cooked… like both my other turkeys.
It’s been a week of knitting. (I know I should have spent more time writing- I’m loosing the momentum I had last month with the WFMAD challenge- but cognitive therapy has taught me not to “should on myself” so I won’t regret my time spent with yarn.)
I actually completed one knitting project I’ve been working at for a a few weeks then started and finished a second AND third piece, and now I’ve began a fourth. They are all hats, children’s hats- including one preemie, so they’re small projects. But just the right size for a busy mom. After I finish this hat for my little princess I’ll start on projects for my friends’ children. E-mail your requests- I’d even do big people hats for my friends, too.
Almost two years ago I started knitting a blanket… a baby blanket, but the largest knitted project to date. I worked on that thing over a year- it took longer to create than my baby girl. It felt great to complete it but the dragging on without an end was an emotional beating. It’s satisfying to complete a hat in a few days. Heart-warming to see my girl toddle around while trying to pull her hat off and on and watch my preschooler shake his head around to giggle the jingle bell on his hat. (I’m not ignoring the oldest- he wants to keep his two hats that still fit him.)
So, more knitted projects around the bend. And hopefully more writing, too!
(Pictured is the hat I made last winter for my baby girl- too small now!)

Crisp Weather Inspires Me

Autumn is in the air, albeit for only a few days. Just enough to engage my senses, reminding me that my favorite season is only a month, or two… or three, away. Such is life on the Gulf Coast. Sometimes autumn comes in September, other years it’s just a few weeks in November. And don’t even get me started on winter! It doesn’t visit here as often as I’d like.
For the record I hope for an extended autumn (a minimum of two months) and at least a dozen hard freezes over the winter. (That’s the only thing that will reek havoc on the mosquitoes!) And snow… dare I even wish for snow?
The highlights of the past week consisted of a “happy face” for my oldest each day of school, registering my middle child for his “exercise class”, allowing my baby girl (a toddler now, as she weebles and wobbles and often falls down) to play outside for the first time, and getting out (by myself) to finally see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I barely accomplished listening five music CDs for homework this week. But I plan on continuing the music, as well as the WFMAD, challenge. I have written every day this month with the exception of Saturday. I spent several collective hours reading an on-line book, well 238 pages of it, and taking notes. Historical research for a story that’s on the back-burner of my mind. I found reference to the book In Freedom’s Birthplace: A Study of the Boston Negros by John Daniels (1914) in a short story collection I read for my book club.

Serendipity: historical tidbits when I least expect them! And my two typed pages of single spaced notes were all I could get out of my day but I think it was worth it.

WFMAD

I’m participating in a month long writing challenge hosted by Laurie Halse Anderson called “Write Fifteen Minutes a Day” (WFMAD). Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite authors–check out her latest book Wintergirls. She did WFMAD last summer as well and I wrote every day except twice and they were on Sundays. The Sabbath is suppose to be a day of rest so I didn’t feel guilty about missing those few days.
For last year’s WFMAD I was on a roll with a story. It’s one I started piecing together back in 2002. I had character bios/photos, maps, and about seven pages before I started WFMAD. By the end of the writing month last summer it had grown to about thirty-eight pages with lots of updates and tweaking of characters. Yes, I averaged a page a day. For a mom who hadn’t spent much time writing in the past decade that was HUGE!
I kept going a few days after the challenge ended but the document has been untouched since then- rotting away its forty pages.
Of course I have good excuses: about a month later I gave birth to baby number three and everything I’d established fell through the grates. Even that last month of pregnancy was void of any logical or creative thinking. I was on autopilot. Sorting and reorganizing baby clothes was about all I was good for, beyond caring for my boys of course. Excuses, in three varied sizes!
So here I sit, a year later, over a week into the WFMAD challenge and I still haven’t touched my manuscript. I don’t want to write anything until I reread it because that helps me get in the flow. And I’ve been avoiding reading it. But how do I find the flow without reading?
I can’t!
I’m off to read so I don’t have the excuse of not working on it. Plus, I’m giving myself homework… more on that next week.