Five on Friday: May

We had two days of hot weather here this week and it reminded me of how much I love this month. May! Sunshine and soft air on my skin. Never mind that it is now raining again…

What I’m reading: Last weekend, I dropped my husband off at the barber and headed to the library, with the understanding that he’d walk over when he was finished. Turned out I nabbed my stack of books quickly.  And, the library was not busy. This never happens at our library–it is always bustling. So I took my books and found a table at the kid’s section (which was completely empty). And there I sat, quietly and happily perusing the titles I’d checked out. Is there anything more laden with possibility than a pile of books? I think not.

Here’s a terrific read called Let Go of Learning Baggage, about the need to allow ourselves time to delve deeply into things.  My short, sweet interlude in the library reminded me of all this.

A fun free thing: I got an email this week from the kind folks at Penguin Random House, telling me about this free writing guide. It’s about writing short stories, and has a variety of stellar contributors. Definitely worth a download.

What I’m watching: This video from Rachael Herron, on whom I have a writerly-girl crush, about her time at a writer’s retreat in Venice, one she was leading. I love the part where she says sometimes she is jealous of herself, which is how I feel when I am in France, leading a writer’s workshop/retreat. (Speaking of which, our two sessions are almost full, but we did have one cancellation, so let me know if you’re interested.)

What is amusing me: The notes I wrote myself as I completed the rough draft of my current novel.  Here’s a direct quote (I always write them in all caps): OH GOD THIS IS ALL SO BAD I CAN’T STAND IT. CARRY ON ANYWAY. And here’s the thing–the writing wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. Which is a lesson to us all.  The best thing to do is write that rough draft as fast as you can and trust that you are getting the good stuff on the page. Because you are.

What I’m excited about: My upcoming beta program called Do That Thing.  It is designed to get you doing your thing, whatever that thing may be.  I’ve been reading stuff about productivity, goals, how the brain works, etc., for years, but lately I’ve been cramming even more on these topics into my brain.  I love doing this, almost as much as I love writing.  And I’ve got two spaces left, but I get more sign-ups every time I send a newsletter out and my next issue goes out Sunday. So if you’re at all interested, sign up! I’m offering it at a ridiculously low price because it is a beta run and I want to reserved the right to make mistakes. I’d love to have you join me!

That’s it for me. What’s up with you?

Five on Friday: Sunshine Through my Window

Fingers crossed for a nice weekend!  Here’s what’s going on:

What I’m Reading: Same books as last week, which I can’t divulge, because I’m reading for a contest.  But I also have occasion to load up my Kindle with Ebooks because I read while baby George naps on my chest.  So I have been perusing You Are a Badass at Making Money.  Because I’m a sucker for self-help books and this series by Jen Sincero is far more entertaining than most.

What I’m Watching: Not much of anything. I’ve been out a lot at night.  Oh crap, I just looked at my calendar and I am out every night through next Wednesday. This is why I end up watching stupid sitcoms.  Because there’s not a lot of evening time for anything more taxing.

What I’m Excited About: The beta launch of my Do That Thing program. Couple of spots left–check it out here.

Where I’m Spending Time: Answering questions on Quora. I’m finding it mildly addictive.  Very fun.

What I Recommend:  One of my favorite blogs is Thekitchensgarden.    I read it first thing in the morning to find out what’s going on down on Cecilia’s farm.  A writer needs to let loose her inner farm girl once in a while.  Though I’d probably collapse in a quivering heap after one hour trailing Cecilia about.

That’s it for the end of this week. What’s going on with you?

Five on Friday: Good Friday Edition

What I’m writing: Draft Two of my first romance novel.  I am living proof that you can write a Really Shitty First Draft and make it into something.  With previous novels, I’ve known more about the plot and characters and thus had a more polished first draft (still crappy, though).  There are many places in this one where I write in all caps things like I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE, and I really didn’t.  There’s tons of boring narrative summary and endless paragraphs of characters thinking, thinking, thinking.  But I got the story down–and now I’m having a blast figuring out better ways to present it to the reader. I’m pretty happy with it.  So if you’re in the middle of a draft that you’re despairing over, take heart.  Oh and here’s a pertinent quote I found today:

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist.” Jane Smiley.

I love it. By the way, that photo to the left is of Horn Seven. He’s my new writing buddy, given to me (and named by) my grandson to sit by my computer. (Follow me on Instagram for lots of photos of the writing life. Well, my writing life anyway. IG is my current favorite social media.)

What I’m Reading: Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, and Dior or Die by Angela Sanders.  The first is a collection of short stories, one of which the movie Arrival was based on.  Chiang is the current darling of the sci-fi world and I waited months to get this book. And…I’m fascinated with it but it makes me feel dumb because I don’t always get the stories.  Sigh.  Dior or Die is another great mystery by my friend Angie. Go buy it and read it.

What I’m Watching: The current American Experience: The Great War, about World War I. I’m now fascinated with this era, thanks to the Maisie Dobbs books. (Book two in the series is next on my reading list. It will actually be the third one I’ve read, because the one I found that introduced me was way out of order.)  Anyway, it may or may not be true that I fell asleep on the couch watching American Experience, but still, it is worth mentioning.

What I’m Excited About: Nia, an exercise class. I wrote a whole thing about it in my newsletter that comes out this Sunday. If you’re not on my list to get it, you can subscribe from that banner up top. And you might want to, because I mentioned something exciting in it.

What I’m Excited About 2: Ordering groceries online. THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER.   A huge time saver for me. I’m not a human that likes going to the grocery store. At all. Ever. So this is a godsend.

Happy Good Friday and Easter, everyone. Hope you get some writing in even though its a holiday weekend!

PS. As I’ve mentioned, we are offering two sessions for the France workshop this year. But the first session is full (though we could accommodate you if your begged, or bribed us), and the second session is filling up fast.  So check it out!

Five on Saturday

Why I’m writing this post on Saturday: Because yesterday morning we had a big windstorm.  One minute it was a nice, calm Friday morning and the next it was so windy I thought the fir tree in the backyard was going to crash into my house.  And lots of trees did crash down all over the city. Turns out the combination of our very wet soil and everything in bloom was not a good match for high wind.  And so yeah, the power went out.  I had appointments all day, including on Skype, and nearly decamped to my son’s house. Luckily, it came back on quickly. But then it took a bit to get the internet working…and such distractions are murder on the schedule.

What I read: I finished the first Maisie Dobbs novel and am on my way to the library today to get #2. I know I’ve written about this series a lot, but I haven’t been this taken with a character in a long while.  It’s interesting, because in this first book there are some things that would normally drive me crazy and make me throw the book against the wall, like viewpoint shifts.  But the character and the setting–London between the two wars–keeps me so fascinated I don’t care.  I emerge after finishing the book and every other book I have on my to read shelf looks dull and boring by comparison.

What I’m writing: Perking along on the novel rewrite.  One thing I noticed in the Maisie Dobbs novel is what a great job she does of withholding information.  The reader may not learn the fate of a character for many pages.  Or, Winspear will hint at something in Maisie’s backstory and only later reveal it.  This is not a technique that is new to me, of course, but it is useful to see it in action. (This is why we read as writers.) And, I’ve been applying it to this novel rewrite with good result. (Or so I say. Nobody has yet read this thing but me.)

Most popular post on Instagram: The doll hospital.

What I did last night: Took a friend who is attending a conference for death and grief therapists here in town to an open house at The Dougy Center. I’ve driven by this place a million times–it’s on my route to my daughter’s house–but have never (thank God) had reason to go in.  The center is a non-profit that helps families cope with grief over the death or dying of a loved one.  In 2009, a huge arson fire destroyed their offices, located in an old home.  So they build a new place–and it is amazing, with myriad rooms devoted to various activities–talking, art, music, games, a theater and a mock-up of a hospital room. It is hard to express how incredible this place is–but it is a testament to rising literally from the ashes into something way better than the original.

That’s my report. What’s yours?

Five on Friday: Happy Places

What I did: Um…some fun things? A lot of work? This was one of those weeks when I was busy all the time and yet when I sit down to review what happened I can’t remember anything.  A possible explanation for that lies here.  I did make a lot of progress on my WIP, a rewrite of a romance novel.  I’m in that lovely place where the words are rolling. Or they were, until this morning, when I got stalled a bit on trying to get the order of scenes right. I’m commanding my subconscious to work it out for me while I do other things.

What I celebrated: The ten-year anniversary of this blog. Woot woot!  You can read my very first post when you click on the link!

What I’m excited about: Upcoming classes, including some online offerings I’m planning and my second teaching stint at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.  I taught at this magical place for the first time last year.  This year I’m offering Writing Wild, Bold and True, and registration is now open. I’d love it if your joined me!

What I’m Reading/Watched: Still finishing up books from last week, and watching the same things. Truth be told, I fell asleep in front of the TV every night more often than not.  If I weren’t going to be out tonight, I’d watch the final episode of Grimm. I’ve loved this series set in Portland, though I’ve not watched it much over the last year.

Where I went: To my Happy Place, Ikea. Don’t sneer. One of my favorite things to do is eat in their cafeteria. My five-year-old grandson loves it, too, because we sit by the window and look out over the vast parking lot.  Plus its near the airport, so: planes.  And meatballs.  And fries. C’mon, what’s not to like? Henry has promised that when I am very old and he is grown up he will bring me to Ikea for lunch.

Okay, so not the most exciting week in the world. But that’s a good thing. Because as Julia Cameron says, I’m putting the drama on the page, not my life.

What’s been up for you this week? How is your writing?

Images are of the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.

Five on Friday: Raining Again

What I’m Complaining About: The weather. Again. I’m sorry. It has been a really long winter here. My husband looked at the weather app on his phone this morning and said the forecast was for a clear day on April 9th. Sigh.

What I’m Watching: In the category of We’re Old and Clueless About Technology, we finally got our Amazon Fire stick working with the TV (thank you daughter-in-law, who fixed it in, oh, two seconds).  And wow, are there are a lot of great things being produced by Amazon.  We’ve watched three of four of Z: The Beginning of Everything, about Zelda Fitzgerald.  It stars Christina Ricci as Zelda, and if you thought of her mostly from The Addams Family, you’re in for a surprise, as I was.

What I’m Reading: Finishing up the Rachael Herron book from last week. I’ve been out several nights this week and haven’t had a lot of time to read. Also, I have this bad habit of reading magazines at lunchtime.   But I’m now reading as fast as I can because a crop of great books just came in for me at the library: the first Maisie Dobbs novel, The Underground Railroad, and Scratch, which is an anthology about writers and money. Speaking of which, I see library fines in my future because none of these are renewable. I consider my library fines my contribute to their existence. We have one of the best and busiest library systems in the country here, and I use it lavishly.

What I’m Doing This Weekend: Working on taxes.  It is going to rain all weekend anyway. This is a cheery post, isn’t it?

What I Re-learned This Week:  That when you stall on writing a story, and something is bugging you, there’s a reason for it.  If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.  Most often my experience is that the scene is set in the wrong location.  That was the case for me this week.  I was also wrestling with whether to set the scene in real time or backstory. Both have big disadvantages.  But finally this morning, as I was driving in my jammies home from dropping my husband at the light rail station, I thought of an entirely new place to set the scene–and that opened it all up. I’m happy now. The weekend may proceed.

What’s up with you? What are you reading, watching, working on?  Tell me interesting things.

Photo by Scott Robinson.

Five on Friday: Back From Retreat

What I did this week: I just got back from a three-day writing retreat in Astoria, Oregon.  Oh boy oh boy was it ever wonderful to have three days to focus on writing fiction.  I also remembered how great it is to enjoy the camaraderie of other writers. At night we drank wine and talked story, solving each other’s plot problems.  And then there were the tarot readings…Oh, and the apartment we stayed in was above a mortuary.  My sister was convinced there would be ghosts and she was right! The first night, the overhead lights clicked on without warning in the middle of the night, scaring the bejebus out of me.  (Cue Twilight Zone song.) Plus, Angie dreamed of ghosts all night. We were a bit nervous to go to sleep the next night but nothing happened, which was almost disappointing.

What I’m reading:  Blown Away by Clover Tate, aka Angela Sanders, who organized the writing retreat.  Also Rachael Herron’s latest Songbird romance.  I’m on her review team so I get to read it before it’s published.  This is a fabulous ideas for you authors out there: ask people on your list to join the reviewing team.  When you have a book coming out, send them the Ebook version for free and ask them to review it.  (Do some research on the correct language to use, as legally you can’t give a book away for a review.) When I’m ready to publish (soon!) I’ll be putting out a request for reviewers to my list. (Not on my list? It’s easy to join–just fill out the box to the right or at the top of the page.)

What I ate: I was desperately looking forward to eating some pan-fried oysters at Baked Alaska. I drove to Astoria for the day with a friend last October, and in my memory the oysters were the best I’d ever had. I couldn’t wait to eat them again. But when we go to the restaurant, those oysters were no longer on the menu.  Instead I got an uninspired Kobe beef burger. But the cheesy baked cauliflower, at least, was delicious.

What I’m excited about: My novel.   The truth is, it was such an undisciplined first draft I’d convinced myself that it was terrible all the way through. But re-reading it (which is what I spent most of the days doing) made me realize how much I like it.  Needs lots of work, sure, but it is tons of fun and I can’t wait to dig into it and get going on the second draft.

What I’m also excited about: I have an article in Magical Goddess magazine! The magazine is free, all you have to do is sign up on the site.  Check it out here. I love the way the article looks and I hope it has some helpful information in it.

What’s going on with you?

Five on Friday: Daylight Savings Time This Weekend

What I’m happy about: Daylight savings time coming this weekend. If daylight savings time is here, spring can’t be far, right? Can’t come soon enough around here. We’ve had rainy day after rainy day after rainy day. And that’s after so man snow and ice storms I can’t even count them.  Even I, the original rain lover, am ready for some sunshine.

What I’m happy about #2: My upcoming writing retreat to Astoria, an historic coastal Oregon town. I mentioned it briefly last week, too, because I’m excited! There’s just something so energizing to getting away with the express purpose to write.  I love it.  And I’m hoping to eat some luscious oysters from Netarts Bay here.

What I’m reading: Commonwealth, which finally came in at the library.  This novel by Ann Patchett has gotten mixed reviews but so far I like it. Though she writes in a very, for lack of a better word, deep style. She utilizes an incredibly close-in viewpoint, in which you are in the characters’ heads moment by moment, seeing the scene unfold step by step. It is intense, and fascinating, but I also feel like I have to read every word to follow it all.  Lots of characters in this one, too, which requires much flipping back to figure out who’s who.

I’m also planning to take the first Clover Tate mystery, written by my friend Angie, to the beach next week. Because, A. it is set at the beach, and B. I may need some lighter reading.

What I’m writing: Backstory scenes for the romance novel I’m about to rewrite. I didn’t quite understand some of the aspects of my two main characters and this is helping me enormously.

What I’m happy about #3: My office! It is clean and organized, full of all my little things that I look at from my desk. They make me happy. After years months of the space being in upheaval, I’m delighted it is organized at last.

Happy Friday! What’s going on with you?

Five on Friday, It’s March!

What I’m Reading: The Mapping of Love and Death, one of many novels in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. I love this book. It’s my kind of mystery–one where the sleuth’s story is almost as important as the mystery she is solving.  I’m planning to go back and start at the beginning of the series. These books are set in London between the two world wars, and Maisie is a plucky, deep heroine.

I just nabbed The Art of Character by David Corbett at the library (after a long wait) and so far I love it.

What I’m Loving: The way I rearranged my office so that I have a place to sit other than my computer desk. It’s a nice spot for journal writing, reading manuscripts, all the non-computer work that I love to do.

What I’m Watching: Riverdale. Okay, okay, I only watched a little bit of the first episode when I found it randomly the other night, but it looks like quite the great show and I plan to return to it. Because, I loved the Archie and Veronica comics eons ago.  And who among us remembers Katy Keene? That name just popped into my head.  Oh man, I loved her comic books. When I was a kid, I wanted to be either a writer or a fashion designer. And yeah, admitting the latter goal takes some guts, seeing as how I slink around in leggings and oversized tops most of the time these days. And sometimes I don’t get out of my jammies until…well, never mind. Clearly the goal to be a writer overtook the idea of becoming a fashion designer.

Oh, but we are going to try very, very hard to go see La La Land this weekend. Because, the last five minutes of the Oscars.

What I’m Reaffirming: The crazy conundrum that taking time makes time.  I get more done if I write in my journal in the morning, and I speed through my to-do list if I take time to meditate, read, and/or knit or stitch. It’s crazy, but its true.

What I’m Looking Forward To: A two-day writing retreat at the Oregon coast in mid-March.  Concentrated time to work on fiction, hooray!

Five on Friday: Almost Spring. Right? Am I Right?

By Photo: VOA - A. Phillips - VOA, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/arts/Poet-Embraces-Late-in-Life-Love-Tender-Sorrows-132785243.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17186104
Jane Hirshfield

What I’m Reading:  The Couple Next Door,  by Shari Lapena, a book I picked up on a whim from the “Lucky Day” shelf at the library. I started reading is Saturday evening after teaching all day, read after two small boys I babysat that night went to sleep, read with breakfast Sunday morning, and finished after church that afternoon. It is a page turner!

I’ve also been working a bit with Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science To Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. The author, Lisa Cron, had me at brain science. I love that stuff. But in truth, there’s not a whole lot if in there. I have mixed feelings about this book.  I love the first part of it, in which she has you dig deep into your protagonist’s inner journey.  But I get a little nervous when people tell me exactly how to structure scenes and plot.  I always welcome guidance on this, but I don’t want to follow any one system slavishly. There’s a lot of great stuff in this book, though, and it is well worth reading, if you complete her exercises or not.

What I’m Watching: Same stupid sitcoms from last week. However, I’m happy to report that many of you also watch them. I feel vindicated. And, in the Department of Confessing How Pedestrian My Tastes Are, next week my favorite show starts up again. That’s right, its time for The Voice.  One of the reasons I love this show is that it demonstrates what it takes to make it.

What I’m Loving: The Writer’s Almanac, which is a daily newsletter you can sign up to have delivered to your inbox. For the love of all that is good and holy, why haven’t I known about this before? It features a poem, and a quote about writing, and then a couple longish almanacky-type  articles about something of interest–a person born on that particular day, etc. Bonus: you can listen to Garrison Keillor read the whole thing. One newsletter this week featured the poem Recuerdo, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Again: why don’t I know about this kick-ass poet and the amazing life she led? (Okay, don’t answer that, it’s because I tend to ignore poets and poetry. To my detriment.)

Another Thing I’m Loving: This line, from the poem Sweater, by Jane Hirshfield:

Lucky the one who writes in a book of spiral-bound mornings

a future in ink, who writes hand unshaking, warmed by thick wool.

Yes, the Writer’s Almanac has done the impossible–gotten me reading poetry again. (And yeah, I go from the sublime (poetry) to the ridiculous (The Voice) not just here, but everywhere in my life.)

What I’m Happy About: Wonderful new clients on my roster who are doing good work. I love working with them! (If you are interested, book a connection call!)

What’s going on with you this week?

Photo from Wikipedia.