Friday Five: The Five Books I am Currently Reading

How many of you are avid readers?

If so, do you read only one book at a time? Or, are you like me and have a stack of books with dog-eared pages somewhere in the middle.2015-07-30 22.41.05

My nightstand is a constant reminder to read. I am often too tired, still, each night I go to bed and this is the last thing that I see.

Today’s Friday Five is my list of the books I am currently reading, in no particular order:

1. Maya Angelou: Poems

2. the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo

3. The Frequency of Souls by Mary Kay Zuravleff

4. Narrative Design by Madison Smartt Bell

5. People over Profit by Dale Partridge

As I look over my list, I am struck by the realization that only one of these books is fiction. My how things have changed. In the past, the majority of my reading was fiction. I miss the stories and may have to remedy this.

I am slowly making my way through this list and learning what I can. This may not even be my entire list but the five I am most likely to pick up when I have some time.

Reading is still one of my favorite pastimes.

Challenge: Comment with what you are currently reading, whether it is a single book or, perhaps, a top five.

Is The Writer Ready?

writer-605764_1280I’ve been writing for a while now. Outside of this blog, little of the writing I have done has reached any audience. I’ve just been putting words on the page. This writing practice has been good for me.

The only publishing I have done is through this blog, which means I have complete control over the content of each page. This control can be good and bad.

Writing and publishing blog posts is a good way to gain experience in putting my work “out there” for the world to see. Well, at least my little corner of it anyway. My anxiety about having others read my work is much lower than it has been.

Or, at least I thought it was.

I have a bunch of stories that I’ve written in the past several months, some are good and some not so much. I have thought a few of the stories could be publishable with a bit of work. However, I seldom go back and do that work. I have a pile of unfinished work which for the most part I am content to let be.

The issue is that I want to be a writer who is published. I do mean published in an actual place, not just my blog. In order to be published, I truly must send out my work and therein lies the problem.

I have little experience sending out work. I’ve sent some things out and have gotten rejections on all of it, deservedly so. Writing is one of those things that seems to need to “percolate” in order to reach that required level of doneness for the world to see. While some were good, I haven’t felt the stories were ready to be sent out.

Perhaps the writing isn’t the only issue. Perhaps the other question we need to ask is: Is the writer ready?

Recently I’ve been working with Katey Schultz, of Writer@Large on my flash fiction stories. Katey writes flash fiction among other things. Her book Flashes of War, a Military Writers Society of America 2013 Book of the Year, is a fantastic read.

For the month of July, each week has brought a new prompt with some fabulous feedback. I’ve enjoyed the experience of going outside my comfort zone with my writing.

This week, when I received my feedback from Katey I read what every writer wants to hear: “with a few changes this is ready to be sent out.” Thank you, Katey.

I appreciated these words because every writer needs the affirmations. However, these words have had unintended consequences; my anxiety has risen nearly to the point of paralysis.

I seem to have a block when it comes to the idea of sending my work out. I have gone so far as to begin looking for a market, but I haven’t completed the edits. The edits must be completed before I can do anything.

There is so much information out there about sending work in one hardly knows where to begin.

I don’t just send my work out. I like to take my time and do research. It doesn’t matter what topic I am discussing, my first step is to learn what I can about something. This is also my downfall. I can spend so much time reading that I never stop and do whatever it is I am learning about.

It’s time.

My goal is to send this piece out within a month. Please feel free to drop me a line to check up on this goal. Without accountability, I may never reach this one.

I am ready.

We Went to the Zoo

Our daughter and grandchildren live about three hours away and getting to see them very often can be difficult. We have long visits when we can, but it isn’t always feasible. We decided on a meeting in the middle to have a fun day trip.

About halfway between is the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw, Michigan. It’s not a large zoo and can be seen in just a couple of hours. They are a combination zoo of hands on and exhibits with a focus on preservation. It’s a good time for little ones with very short attention spans.

The zoo has a train and a carousel with a variety of animals, everything from local wildlife and farm animals to more exotic creatures like emu’s and kangaroos. Don’t forget the butterfly exhibit.

Feeding the Penguins

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African Tortoise

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“I’m just chillin, Memaw!”

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The goats like to be scratched behind their ears.

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“I like my new ride.”

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Love the eagle!

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My first Carousel ride!

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Pure joy!

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I would highly recommend a trip to the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square if you are in the middle of Michigan and need something to do for the day.  It’s inexpensive, close to home and can be done in a few hours. We finished up with lunch before heading back home.

Fabulous Day!!!!

 

Friday Five: Distractions in the Writing Life

For the past week, I’ve struggled to stay up with my writing schedule. I’ve noticed that besides my decidedly strange mood, there have been distractions that have hindered my writing goals. Though I haven’t stopped, it is most definitely a struggle.

IMG_01641. This Little Black Beast – Her name is Pippa, and she is now about 9ish weeks old. She showed up on my doorstep early one morning and stayed. It was time for a kitten. She is so dark that taking pictures is problematic, not to mention she nearly always in motion.

2. Summer, Just Summer – The days are long and have become hot. There are millions of things to do and often the last thing I want is to be sitting at my computer, writing. Except that writing is what I want to do. This battle is a distraction.

3. The Call of the Water – I haven’t been in my kayak yet this year – life is busy. But I can hear the call of the water and seek it out when I can. I have a friend with a small cabin on a tiny lake and some of my favorite times are spent watching the sun go behind the trees at the lake. I can write but mostly prefer to sit and enjoy the water.

4. Ordinary Life – Life doesn’t stop because summer is here. There is always work, dishes and laundry. Oh, and then there is grocery shopping because, well, you still have to eat, even though it is a million degrees and the last thing you want to do is cook.

5. Changes at Home – My husband and I have recently purchased a piece of property adjacent to our current home.  For the past two weeks, we’ve talked of little else. Will the deal happen? Yes, it finally did. What will we do with the one building on the land? What color to paint? Where are we planting the willow trees? My husband has been excited about this, and that is distracting because he wants to talk about it. He has been exceptionally chatty. Though it is fun to see, I still have work to do.

These are my top 5 distractions of the summer. What are yours?

Writing Groups: Good or Bad

writer-605764_1280I belong to a writer’s group and have since, I think, about 2007. I haven’t always been an active member, but I knew I had a place to meet with writers. I knew I could get honest feedback from the other members and if my skin was thick enough, even encouragement.

When it comes to writing groups, they are often either good or bad. Bad groups are places where good writing and writers go to die. While this analogy may be a bit melodramatic, there is some truth in this.

Good writing groups provide feedback and encouragement along with comradely. Friendships build along with the gaining of experience. My writing group falls into this category. It’s why I keep going back.

Lessons abound all the time if one is open to them. When I began writing seriously, I had no idea of what my life would be like. I’ve since decided that it is the pressure. I love writing and the creative process but along with it comes pressure if you want to take your writing somewhere. The pressure to produce and submit work, the pressure to always do more and be better. And, if you are like me, pressure to learn and grow. Not to mention there is the pressure of deadlines.

The problem is I’ve done this to myself. I choose to have a blog and write novels. Well, I have one done with ideas for a couple more. I choose to write flash fiction, which is the pressure of a condensed story. I wouldn’t give any of these things up.

But, I find myself longing for something simpler, with much less pressure. I’ve had an idea for a writing group that only writes, no critiquing. A place where ideas are thrown into a hat pulled out with a generous time limit given, and everyone just puts pen to paper. The only reason for timed writings is so we know when to stop and share.

We would share our work with only positive comments given. This space would be a place of comfort and peace where ritual would be as important as the words. This dream group would be a place to let go of deadlines and works in progress. And friendships can grow without the sting of competition.

I am fortunate that I have a circle of friends who are going to help me realize this dream, at least for an evening. My friends aren’t writers but we tend to be an adventurous group, so this isn’t outside our normal. I am looking forward to this evening. So much so, I can barely contain my excitement. We will contribute words and ideas to a basket, and then we will write. I don’t know if this will go further, but for one evening, I will participate in both of the things I love, friendship and writing.

I often wonder if I have time in my schedule to create a writing group like this. My friends are kind enough to help me experiment with the idea of creating this group. Perhaps, this is a possibility.

Successful Blogging in a Crowded Field

blackboard-620314_1280Recently I read a blog post written by Jon Morrow of boostblogtraffic.com about why some bloggers are more successful than others. Mr. Morrow’s theory is that some bloggers are “dumb” or rather more successful bloggers approach their craft from a different, smarter way.

This idea is that bloggers who are successful are those who seek information all the time,  both in their niche and many others areas. They read widely on a variety of topics. The author of this particular blog post had a schedule of study. Between listening to audio books, reading nonfiction and fiction and paying attention to the world around him, he was able to approach his blogging smartly. Here is a link to the article.

I took this as a challenge. I realize that no matter how smart I am I can enhance my body of knowledge. Often, reading is the last thing on my list. I have also been known to avoid newspapers, especially local ones, because of much of the negativity that accompanies the local news. However, this keeps me unaware of what is happening in my world. I want to change this.

The last thing I read were some of Virginia Woolf’s short stories. I was able to finish these because they were short stories. Sometimes, I have the problem of beginning books or articles and never finishing them.

Here is my plan:

– To be more open to the information around me. That means reading newspapers and reading different types of blogs. I do realize that I need to be discerning but closing myself off won’t help me be more aware of the world around me.

-To read more. And my more I mean, both fiction and nonfiction, in my area of study and outside my immediate interests.

-To finish what I’ve begun whenever possible.

This challenge seems like a lot but, for me, it is part of being successful. And, since I enjoy reading it shouldn’t be too painful.

Challenge: What are you reading now?

Four Lesson’s Learned in Grief

dandelion-415237_1280One of my great uncles died recently and I had the opportunity to attend his visitation. I’m not sure what it is called in other areas, but visitation is before the funeral where the deceased is on display. It’s a time for reconnection with family and old friends as many traveled from far away to attend.

As I grow older, there are things I am learning things about my family that I didn’t know.

1. Families often have a “look”. I overheard someone say that my brother’s have the look of the family. This is a lesson I learned after observing both my family and my husband’s. Is it in the hairline or perhaps the set of the shoulders? I’m not sure. But I can often recognize it.
2. Though a family death is a sad occasion, there is still cause for joy in the shared memories and reconnection.
3. All families grieve differently. My family’s end of life traditions are very different from my husbands. One isn’t better than the other, just different.
4. For some, this season of grieving is not complete without a bit of a party. My family certainly agrees with this.

My Uncle Paul enjoyed a beer or two, so the family grieved in the only way they could, by sharing a cold beer as the sun began to set. Family members who hadn’t seen each other in years got caught up. Old and new generations intermingled while struggling to remember aged faces and just when did Great-grandpa die. For me, this is all part of my family and traditions.

It was good seeing my brothers, aunts, uncles, Grandma and my dad. This reminded me that we don’t take the time to see each other often enough. I’ve often thought that funerals shouldn’t be mistaken for family reunions though it often seems the case. I believe it is important to reconnect as we are able.

What kind of traditions does your family have for the end of life?

Lazy Sundays

dandelion-698673_1280Sometimes I think Sundays are my favorite day of the week, at least until about 6:00 pm. It is then I remember that I have to work in the morning. Up until then, here are some of my favorite things about Sunday.

First of all, it’s the last day to sleep in before the normal work week begins. If you are like me and 7:30 am is sleeping in then so be it. When my normal wake up time is 5:00 then, I am sleeping in.

Unless there are plans, it’s a stay at home day for me and I try hard to not have plans. These days that means unlimited writing time. The question I often ask myself is do I really want to write or just be lazy.

Sunday is often the day I use for gearing up for the week. Organization and clean up are usually on my list of things to do … if I get to them. For the most part, I do the minimum of what must be done.

IMG_0136Probably my favorite part of Sundays is the ability to hang out a load of laundry to dry in the open air. Tonight I get to sleep on clean, sun-kissed sheets. I miss this in the middle of winter.

Though I head back to work tomorrow, I am glad I enjoyed this day. I hope you did too.

Learning From the Masters

chalkboard-620316_1280I am on a continual quest to improve my writing. Those first million words are the hardest.

One thing I’ve discovered is that many author’s want to give back. One way they do this is by offering services in their area’s. During my writing retreat in June, I met with a couple of writers who have been published that offer teaching and feedback for your writing.

Katey Schultz is one such writer. She writes and teaches flash fiction and is currently working on her first novel. She’s written a book of short pieces called Flashes of War, which won the Military Writers Society of America’s 2013 book of the year. This book is a fantastic read no matter if you enjoy short or long pieces. She also has a blog entitled, Katey Schultz Writer at Large. Check it out if you have some time.

This summer, Katey has offered a service called Flashy July. This involves weekly prompts, short-short stories and feedback. It is a good opportunity to expand writing skills.

There is an unexpected side effect of this type of challenge. When I signed up, I was very excited about the prospect of someone in my genre seeing my work and giving feedback. But since the beginning of the month, I have been paralyzed in my writing. The first story is due tomorrow and I am so not ready for it. I have a story but it is most definitely not in submission form.

My goal tonight is to do a rewrite of the story just to clean it up. Tomorrow I will actually finished the edits as I don’t think the story is due until midnight. Regardless of how nervous I am about this process, I am excited to get the feedback from someone who writes flash.

This is my first experience with this type of feedback process. I hope to give updates, whether good or bad as we go along. I believe each experience has something to teach as long as I am open to learning.

Wish me luck.

Unexpected Connections

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I had a unexpected connection today. An old roommate, whom I haven’t spoken to in over 25 years, tracked me down at my place of work. Apparently, this is a very small world and relatively easy to find people, if said person is addicted to social media (we won’t name names).

I believe that I was at her wedding in 1990 and outside of a weekend visit after that, we’ve had no contact. We lived together for several months and spent about a year staying connected. Then life got busy for the both of us and we drifted apart.

This picture was taken during the latter part of her wedding. I don’t remember what the drink was but it looks like I had a lot of it. I do vaguely remember having lots of fun. Ah, the memories. Or not.

Scan 5Learning about other peoples lives is fun for me but I learned something about myself. Once we understood that we’d both been married twice with no children, and that we each have a lot of years at our employment, there was little else to talk about. I realized that I don’t know how to make small talk very well.

Being a bit of an introvert makes small talk nearly painful for me. After I get to know someone, I have few problems with conversation but that initial interaction is awful. In fact, as long as I stay within my comfort circle, I show few signs of being an introvert. And I have learned a lot about how to be social over the years. Sometimes, I simply choose not to.

This talk about being an introvert can be a bit unbelievable when I have this blog that I post three times each week. But in my defense, writing a blog post is easier than having a conversation. Pushing a button to schedule a post is easy. And unless I get some comments, which I appreciate by the way, there is little in the way of conversation. This part is easy.

Face to face is more difficult for me, which again is funny because I talk to people, strangers for the most part, as a way to make a living. I can’t explain this difficulty, though it is real.

On the other hand, I guess I can accept that my friend and I didn’t have much in common then and even less now, which makes finding topics to talk about difficult to find. It is what it is.

I wonder what my life would have been like if I had made different choices at that moment. I’m not sure I’d change a thing. Well, maybe one or two but there are few regrets.

If you could, who would you like to be in touch with, regardless of how long it has been?