Otherwhere: May 9th

pencil_notebook_writing_237689_lI have a veritable cornucopia of links for you today, so let’s dive right in. Here goes:

Writing

Finish that novel already! (I know, it’s not that easy.)

Writing historical fiction

For the love of it

Write great YA fiction

How to become a ghostwriter

Writing setting (a topic dear to my heart since I wrote my MFA critical thesis on landscape as character).

How to make comments and use track changes in Word.

Reading

The late science fiction writer Octavia Butler was a genius in many ways. Here’s a quote about how she read.

Travel

France porn. (We still have a spot left in our France retreat!)

Food

I’d much rather write than cook, but every day the same need arises: figure out something to fix for dinner. Here are some imminently makeable but not-necessarily-good-for-you ideas.

That’s it! That’s all I’ve got! What have you been browsing through lately?

 

Otherwhere: Phew!

Your DIY writing retreat here?
Your DIY writing retreat here?

What a great weekend.  Debbie and I did our publishing workshop with a terrific group of writers and on Sunday I met with my cousin and his wife to discuss fun projects.  And today, Monday, I’ve heard from my agent that the rewrite I submitted last week is off to the editor and long-lost students are returning, and it feels like things are happening again.

I’ve got some good links for you, too.  Such as:

Write your novel fast.  As discussed at our publishing workshop this weekend, if you write 1,000 words a day (which is not a particularly fast pace), at the end of two months you’ll have 60,000 words, which is a novel in many genres. Another month, and you’ve got 90,000 which is women’s fiction/literary fiction range.  See? You can do it speedily, if you set a steady pace.

Need to check your grammar? Try this.

Indie authors, do you hire help or do it yourself?

Seven things your mystery novel needs.

Literary or commercial?

DIY writer’s retreat.  (Or, if you want a retreat/workshop in France that’s not DIY, try this.)

Writing your first novel.

How to write a short story.

I’m more of an Instagram fan myself, but this article convinced me I need to return to my Pinterest boards.

That’s what I’ve been reading.  How about you?

Photo by mterraza.

Last Minute Gifts for Writers

Today is December 15th, which may qualify as last minute for some of you but not for me. I have not bought a single present.  But that’s okay, because A. my family has very much cut back on the over-the-top gift giving and B. I am a dedicated online shopper.

So as far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of time for Christmas shopping.  And here are some ideas you might want to share with your beloved families or significant others in case they, like me, need some writerly gift ideas.  Here goes:

  1.  An online class.  James Patterson, famous (infamous?) as the most best-selling author of all time, has a class on novel writing that is actually pretty good, especially for the first-time novelist. (The lovely folks at Master Class gave me a copy of the class and I’ve not made it all the way through, but I have watched some.) It is worth checking out, and you can see a video preview right here.  (Also, this is where you should envision a cool photo of Patterson surrounded by all his books.  For some reason, it is not coming through when I publish. Weird.)
  2. How about springing for Scrivener? I have so far not mastered the software enough to claim myself as a fan but so many other writers love it so much that I have to include it.  You may covet it for yourself, or know another writer who longs for it.
  3. You can’t go wrong with a book. Duh. They are my favorite things to give and to get. Run to your local independent bookseller and buy up a batch, or if you find yourself stranded on a desert island, did you know you can gift Ebooks on Amazon? It’s kind of cool.
  4. Office supplies.  Never met a writer yet who didn’t love them as much as I do. Spirals, pens, fancy journals, plain journals, binders, notebook paper.  I’d be thrilled with a gift certificate that would allow me to run wild at Office Depot. (One of the best things about my grandchildren is that they both love sitting in my office playing with post-it notes, pens, paper clips and other odd bits.)
  5. Speaking of pens, how about a lovely fountain pen? Levenger, the more upscale version of Office Depot (by far) has some lovely ones.  There’s just something about writing with a fountain pen that can’t be beat.
  6. How about a coaching package? Really, there’s no better way to jump start your writing and if 2016 is the year you vow to really get it going, this would be a wonderful thing to put on your list. My prices are going up January 1st, so tell Santa to buy a package now and you can use the sessions any time.
  7. A tablet to read on. I have a long, tortuous history of trying to find the perfect tablet to read Ebooks on, starting with the cheapest most basic version of the Kindle, moving through the mini Ipad and the Surface and even a freebie Dell that I bought with my computer last summer (I love my computer but the tablet was a piece of you-know-what). So now I have my eye on the $50 Amazon Fire tablet.  At that price-point, you might put it on your list, too.
  8. A stand-up desk. I got this nifty number from Target early last year and I’m working very hard at taking my computer to it part of every hour.  Which reminds me, its about time to do that. I couldn’t find the Target link, but it is worth looking for, because I got it very inexpensively there, with free shipping. If you Google stand-up desks, you’ll find a ton of options.
  9. Coloring books.  Yeah, they are all the thing right now, but with good reason because they are stress-relievers. I also think they are excellent for brief breaks from writing, for when you need to think.  I like this one, for knitters, because I am one, or this line, too.
  10. And finally….the grandest present of them all. How about the gift of time and knowledge? Ask for the tuition to our writing retreat in France.  We have only a couple spots left, people, so now is the time to decide! We will be in my most favorite town of them all, Ceret.  See you there!

Okay, so those are my ideas.  What’s on your list? Please share any and all ideas in the comments.

Five on Friday: What’s Going On

Brown_pebbles_stone_251353_lWhat Who I'm in Love With: My new grandson, Owen Lewis Hopman, born October 13, thus becoming the 9th Libra among our extended family and friends.  He was two weeks overdue, and I'm convinced that he just wanted to make certain he had his very own birthday, rather than sharing it with a grandfather, grandmother, father or uncle (two of them), because he wasn't a big baby–7 pounds 6 ounces. 

What I'm Writing: My next novel, the one I started in France.  I'm the kind of writer who doesn't like to talk much about a book until it is done so I'll leave you guessing.  But I was struggling a little bit with the story, so this week I had a plot session with Cathy Yardley, in which she asked me a lot of questions about the story so far.  By the end of the hour, I had designated the inciting incident, plot points, pinch points, and my main character's goals, motivations and conflicts.  Since I no longer belong to a critique group, I really needed someone to bounce ideas off, and she delivered in a huge way.  Highly recommended.

What I'm Reading:  A silly Christmas/knitting novel set in a small English village, which I can't even remember the name of. It reads like a first draft, self published novel that has not been edited, and yet it was put out by a major house.  Of course, I'm still reading it–and I'm the queen of ditching books–so maybe that's why.  Up next is Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by Beth Howard, (research!) and the sequel to Me Before You, the blockbuster-ish novel by Jojo Moyes, which I enjoyed a lot and we used as a teaching book in the 2014 France workshop.  And I still have the gazillion novels I downloaded on my Kindle before I went to France to read.

What I'm Obsessing About:  Knitting and needlework.  I just don't have enough time for all I want to do, possibly because I spend so much time drooling over blogs like Fringe Association, Mason-Dixon Knitting, Alabama Chanin, and Kate Davies, to name only a few. And let us not forget my Instagram feed which is crammed full of delightful feeds.

What's Going On:  You may have noticed that I've not been blogging as much lately.  I got out of the habit while in France and haven't recovered my momentum yet.  But I will.  This here blog has been around for eight years and counting, and its not going anywhere.  One of the problems is that I hate the current design, which looks the way it does only so it works on mobile devices.  Getting the design I want is going to require moving from Typepad to WordPress.  I've been twiddling my thumbs over what to do, mainly because of those eight years of content, which is a bit onerous to transfer from Typepad to WordPress.  But I think I'm coming up with some feasible solutions, so stay tuned.

What's Coming up:  Okay this makes Six Things on Friday, but oh well. We will be announcing the topic and location of our 2016 France workshop (hint: Ceret, Ceret, Ceret, my most favorite town in the south of France).  AND rumor has it there might be another European destination in the works for the spring.  I'll keep you posted!

Okay, that's it for me.  This weekend I'm going to finally finish setting up my office, which I moved from upstairs to downstairs right before I left for France, and catch up on work.  What's up for you these days?

Photo by Henkster.

5 Things on Friday: I’m Baaaaack Edition

Peyrlower3Where I've Been: Europe. Spain and France, to be specific. I was there for our annual Let's Go Write workshop, which this year focused on structure and was a grand success.  This year it was held in Collioure,  a lovely seaside town in the south of France.  And guess what? Despite a busy teaching, sight-seeing, and cavorting schedule, I wrote a whole chapter–5,000 words–while in Collioure.  So to those of you who have asked if we really get any writing done, the answer is yes.

What I Saw: An Asian couple falling prey to scammers near Notre Dame, houseboats I want to live in on the Seine, a huge un-neutered pit bull at a sidewalk Tapas bar in Barcelona (apparently neutering male dogs is not a thing over there), stone steps up the side of the hill in Collioure and another beastly set leading to an ancient castle ruin, a fascinating medieval cloister with old stone carvings, one of the most beautiful villages in France, the amazing Sagrada Familia, heated towel racks, a precious little needlework stor  in Paris, and more, much, much more. (I took tons of photos throughout the trip, and you can see them all on my Instagram feed.)

What I Ate and Drank: Orangina by the quart (funny–I don't drink pop here at all, ever);  red wine by the gallon (the wines of the Languedoc region are superb and cheap); a divine confit du canard (duck) our last night in Paris, tomato toast at every Tapas bar (they don't call it that but I do),so much entrecote and frites (steak and fries) I finally got sick of it, tons of pate, cheese, and excellent French bread.  Also amazing butter, tomatoes, radishes, and melon.  Oh! And the jamon (ham) and sausage in Spain.  J'adore.

What I Read/Watched:  I only read one book while gone–Splinters of Light by Rachael Herron.  I love her books but this one was my least favorite.  One reason I didn't get a lot of reading done was because I've learned that watching movies on the loooooong (11 hour) plane trip makes the time go faster.  Sort of.  On the trip from Atlanta to Barcelona, I watched Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, which I highly recommend, and True Story, which was a meh for me.  On the flight from Paris to Salt Lake City, I watched: Finding Vivian Maier, Before Sunrise, The Rewrite, and Still Alice.  I liked all of them.  And I think every writer should watch The Rewrite–its about a failing screenwriter, who, in desperation, takes a teaching gig at a small New York college.  And plus, its Hugh Grant! 

I am currently reading Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse, a book I bought at the gift shop at Perpeyteuse, and Big Magic, Elizabethe Gilbert's book on creativity.

What I'm Excited About: The CNN app on my phone.  I can stream news live while I cook! I watched coverage of the Pope in America as I made an Ina Garten Tri-Berry Crumble for my husband's birthday.  Its as good as having a TV in the kitchen.  And, most especially, meeting the new member of our family, who is not here yet.  My daughter is due to deliver her second boy any day now.

I'm also excited about fun, creative events coming up this fall, like a day-and-a-half publishing workshop Debbie and I will be putting on in November (dates TBA soon, we've had to change them rather abruptly), my novel-writing class, and more juiciness to come!

Image of Peyrepeteuse, home of the beastly stone steps,  from this site.

While She Was Out

PrintshopI grew up partially in my Dad's printing plant.  One of the many things I loved about that was hanging out in the front office, which was cleaner and more organized than the rest of the shop, but not by much.  And one of the best things about the office was the office supplies.  I particularly loved the pads of paper headlined "While You Were Out" with handy pre-printed lines to write the message on. I LOVED those pads.  

Alas, they did not survive.  But check out the photo to the left of some simple scratch pads that did. The business itself did not survive the onset on computerized printing in the eighties, and went bankrupt.  Tough times.  But I digress.

Because the point is that I will be out.  Overseas. Across the pond. Gone fishing.  Whatever.  It is time for the annual Let's Go Write workshop in France, this year in Collioure.  Last year, I think I actually managed to post once or twice, but maybe I just made that up.  It might well happen this year, too.  

But I have also made provisions for while I am out.  I have lined up a couple of fun oldie but goodie posts from the archives, written and scheduled a couple of new ones, and also created a couple of link posts that I think you'll like, drawing on the eight years of content (and 1266 posts) from this blog. So there you have it.  All will not be lost.  There will be a dim shadow of a Charlotte here.

But, alas, I've put the Inventive Writing Prompt blog and weekly posts on hiatus until I get back. But don't despair.  As of this writing, there are 392 prompts there, so that ought to keep you busy for awhile.

One more thing–don't forget that my Get Your Novel Written Now class starts in October, and I've extended the early bird registration until I get back so go SIGN UP NOW.

Five Things on Friday: July 10, 2015

CaptainwithLieutenant

The tub wads, back when they were young, thin, and innocent

This series (we'll see how long it lasts) is my summertime whimsy.   I started it last week, with the inaugural Five Things on Friday post.  Here's this week's obsessions passions:

What I'm Reading.  Just yesterday, I started Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, who is a New York Times best-selling writer.  I'll be honest, I've tried to read her books before and not been impressed.  But I was intrigued by the subject matter of this one, elephants, and put it on hold at the library.  After a long wait, it finally came.  It's been sitting in a stack for a week or so, and finally I started it.  Have to say, I'm hooked.  

I'm also reading Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller's second terrific Africa memoir.  I liked the first one (Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight) better, I must say.  This one is quite episodic and is mostly based on conversations with her mother, who is quoted heavily throughout, which makes for an odd flow.  But I'm still enjoying it.  

Brief aside: can I just vent for a minute?  Because I consulted the Google for her website to link to, and all she has is a listing of her agent for speaking requests.  I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but honestly, could she not deign to have a website?  (The link I provided above is Wikipedia.) 

What I'm Thinking About.  Structure.  As in, novel structure.  It looms large at the moment for a couple of reasons.  One, because I'm embarking on writing my next novel and so far totally at sea about how the plot is going to come together.  And two, because structure is the topic of my upcoming France retreat.  I swear I've at least glanced at every book and website ever written on the topic.  But if you have a favorite one, please share it.

What I'm Listening To.  This goofy track from Tom Bird.  It is free to download and it supposedly has subliminal messages embedded in it, urging one to write.  In some weird way I don't understand, I swear it works.  Of course, those messages could be convincing me to do something unrelated to writing…excuse me, I must now go dance naked in the park.

What I'm Complaining About.  Besides authors who don't have websites, cats.  Two fat tabbies, to be exact.  My tub wads have taken to doing their business in inappropriate places, like the bathroom and kitchen.  We have no idea why.  Their kitty litter is pristine.  Maybe they are mad about the heat?  If anybody has any suggestions as to what their little feline brains might be thinking, please share.

What I'm Loving.  Qi Gong.  I've started practicing this ancient Chinese form off and on through the years.  Lately I've been doing the Spring Forest Qi Gong from Chunyi Lin and it is amazing. Soothing, energizing, focusing and I swear it is also helping all my stupid aches and pains heal.

What's on your mind this Friday?

So Long, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen Goodnight to 2014

(In case you don't know–what, you've lived under a rock for the last umpteen years? Kidding, just kidding–my title is a take-off of a song from The Sound of Music, the best musical of ALL TIME, and no I'm not talking about the stupid rip-off live version with Carrie Underwood in it.)

The-sound-of-music-1920x1080This is the last time you will hear from me this year.  And I thought it might be fun to look back at what inspired me, perhaps inspiring you to think about what inspired you this past year and what might inspire you in 2015.  I've been doing a lot of work with goals (there is nothing I love more than planning and pondering) for the new year, and an important part of that is looking back to see what happened in the last year.

I've had a few disappointments, goals that didn't get accomplished and progress not made in certain areas.  But I really prefer to dwell on the positive, and besides I have it on good authority (I read it in two, count them, two different places on the interwebs and we all know how reliable that source is)that 2014 has been a year of discovering what it is you truly want while 2015 will be all about accomplishing it.  

Here we go with my inspirations (in no particular order except for the way they came out of my brain):

1.  Indie publishing.  As the year began, everyone, all over the webs, was talking about making it as an indie writer.  All you had to do was throw shit up on Amazon and it sold and made you a millionaire!  I was intrigued.  Then, in March I went to AWP in Seattle and heard Hugh Howey, the poster child for indie publishing speak.  More enthusiasm! Much excitement! He made $150K in one month with his books!

I was intrigued enough to experiment with putting a wee bit of effort out, and posting a story for sale.  While I didn't get rich selling it, I do like to think that it has introduced some new readers to me.  Maybe.  Not sure.  

Now, as we head towards 2015, I hear much less noise about how easy it is to make tons o' bucks on Amazon and I think they may be due to their Kindle Unlimited option.  I don't know the exact details but it is something to do with customers getting all the Ebook downloads they want for free with a Prime membership.  Yeah, that might put a crimp in author's royalties.  Ya think?

However, I still applaud the indie publishing movement.  It's going to continue to be fascinating to watch the battle between Ebook and print, and indie versus traditional publishers as the future rolls along.  And I am planning to publish my MFA novel myself, because it is sitting on my computer, so why not?

2. France.  'nough said.  No, wait.  Not really.  Because, France.  And Paris.  And writing with a group of like-minded people.  It really is the best.  Getting away from your regular routine and devoting yourself to writing in an exotic location rocks.  That's all there is to it.  (You can still join us–3 spots left.)

3. Family.  Always and forever.  I am blessed, no doubt about it.

4. Splashy Success.  Not mine, not yet, but as the year ends I've got people like Cheryl Strayed on my mind. She is, of course, the author of the memoir Wild, which burst splashily upon the world when Oprah reinstituted her book club in order to feature it.  And then Reese Witherspoon made a movie of it, which premiered recently.  I saw the movie a couple of days ago and I liked it.  The film is about courage–the courage to confront the demons of your past and put one foot in front of the other over and over again while you do so.  

By all accounts, Strayed, who is a Portland resident, is a woman who went from so-broke-she-couldn't-buy-Christmas presents to millionaire status seemingly overnight and has maintained a lovely even keel throughout.  

5. Writing Fast.  The class I took about it was a bust, but never mind.  More and more I'm seeing that writing fast without thinking too much is the way to go.  Because, rewriting.  Once you get the words on the page, then they are there for you.  As Henry, my 3-year-old grandson would say, of course.  But we so easily forget that of course and allow our writing to stall as we stare out the window at the 27-degree morning because we don't know what words to put on the page.  These days, when I catch myself stopping to think, I force my fingers to fly across the keys.  There's nothing more satisfying to a writer than toting up a massive word count for the day!

I'm in the midst of rewriting my novel at the moment, (on page 209 of 305 and I'm aiming to complete this rewrite by the end of January) so I'm not actively writing a rough draft, though every so often I do write 1K words or so on a new idea I have.  (New ideas are one of my tragic flaws. Bright shiny object!  Let's abandon this WIP and start a new one! I really have to be careful with this tendency.)  But, in September, when I took the above-mentioned class that really was more like a support group, I batted out 24, 280 words in the first two weeks of September.  Then I got on a plane to France and that was the end of that.  However, the novel is waiting for me on my computer and when I complete the current rewriting project I shall return to it.  The story needs a lot of work, and I've had ideas that will take it in a new direction, but again, all those words are sitting there waiting for me.  Woot woot!

6.  Breathing.  I'm going to brag here for a minute, so avert your eyes if that bothers you.  But, many, many years ago now I bore two children.  And I brought each of them into the world without one bit of anesthetic.  Completely natural births (though I did have to have Pitocin the second time through, because he got stuck and it turned into an emergency, but that's another story).  And how did I accomplish this?  Through breathing, of course.

So I find it ironic that all these years later I have realized how often I constrict my breathing.  I just did it as I wrote that sentence!  I hold my breath at the throat as I write and I'm not sure why I've developed this habit.  Anyway, I've been working on becoming aware of it and changing and also just taking deep breaths throughout the day whenever I think about it.  The results are quite wonderful, though I confess to backsliding a bit during the holidays.  It is something I will continue to work on in 2015.  (I wrote about it earlier in the fall, too.)

That's it.  I know there's a lot more that inspired me, but those are the things on my mind as the clock ticks toward a glorious new year.  I wish you all the very best for next year and I thank you for reading my blog.  Why not take a minute and share–what inspired you in 2014?

A couple of quick notes:

–Don't forget to download my book of free writing prompts!  There's one for every day in January. Fun, fun, fun.  (And it will help you with writing fast.) Go here.  It is free, free, free.

–And for anybody who lives in Portland, I'm having a signing next week!  My Twitter friend (and guest poster here) Tam Holland and I will be signing books, drinking coffee, and chatting with "fans" as the wonderful coffeeshop owner calls them on Wednesday, January 7, at 4 PM.  The location is the Rain or Shine coffee shop on SE 60th and Division.  Come meet us!

A Wednesday List

Punkins

Punkins, ready for the big night

So, I've had this idea lately. 

What might that idea be, you ask?

I shall tell you.  It's that maybe, once in awhile, more often than a blue moon, maybe even weekly, I'm not sure yet, it likely depends on you all react, I shall write a post that is more personal in nature.  In case you hadn't noticed, I just about always find a way to relate my posts to writing. 

Like, always.

Mostly because it is my firm belief that when you are a writer, everything does relate back to writing. But, still.  There are other aspects of my life that might be fun to comment on once in awhile.  

Thus beginneth the idea of the Wednesday List, with today's post being the first one.  Consider it a glimpse into my world beyond writing. Are you ready? Here we go.

1.  I'm cooking a lot.  Ha, news flash!  To some of you, this might not seem like much, but I am a Lazy Ass Cook Extraordinaire.  As in, buying something to throw on the grill and a prepared salad at Whole Foods.  Or even better, convincing my husband we need to go out.  (This generally does not take much work.)  But in France, I appreciated sun eggs (that's what they called them) so fresh they didn't need to be refrigerated, and tomatoes that tasted like they used to, back in the dark ages.  And so I vowed to cook more when I returned, and I have.  Mostly soups and quick breads so far, but still. And I have purchased two pieces of cooking equipment–a gigantic crock pot and a Madeleine pan. Haven't actually baked any Madeleines yet, but I will.  Maybe this weekend.  I shall report.

2. A story about how knitting saved my writing.  I am a knitter from way back, like birth, even. And yet I don't have much to show for myself, because I, um, tend not to finish things.  It's the idea of the finished object I like, apparently, and the process.  I am trying to change this, but in the meantime, I was recently reminded of how beneficial a knitting project can be.  Because I am trying diligently to finish my projects, I had my most recent one, a sweater made from lovely heathery blue/purple yarn sitting out within easy reach.  Thinking I was procrastinating, I sat down to knit.  I was procrastinating because I was stuck in the writing of my novel, trying to figure out how to fit in a couple of new scenes.  I shall think, I told myself, in order to justify the procrastination.  And guess what?  It worked! Within minutes, I had it all set in my mind.  So then, of course, I didn't get much done on the sweater.  Julia Cameron advocates repetitive activity as a creativity booster in the Artist's Way but I hadn't experienced its benefits in quite some time.

3.  My crazy Tub Wad cats.  They are two tabby brothers we rescued from the Humane Society

TubWad

Lieutenant, the fattest Tub Wad, in his favorite position

several years ago and they are fat.  I mean fat. (See photo for proof.) I used to tell people they were just big-boned, and they are, but I have to admit that even factoring that in, they are fat. And they love to eat.  Their evening feeding time is 5 PM, and long about 2, they start complaining that they are hungry.  But the other day, they were both happily asleep on the couch at that hour and I couldn't figure out what was going on.  Then I remembered the strange noises coming from the room we grandiosely call the library (if you could see it now you would laugh because it is serving as a storage and junk room) where their food was stored in a gigantic plasticized bag.  (We have to buy special food from the vet for them.)  I had secured the top of the bag with a clip, but Captain and Lieutenant made quick work of that.  Turns out they were helping themselves to food at all hours of the day and night. I'm pretty sure it was Captain who figured it out.  He's the smart one.  I always say he's studying to be a human in his next incarnation because he's constantly observing, with his ears perked up so you know he's listening to every word.

4.  Halloween.  I love it.  And its this Friday.  Yay.  But I'm not even sure why I like it so much.  I don't eat the candy, preferring dark chocolate or something more dessert-ish.  And I loathe dressing up in costume.  I think it is the fall color that I like, and the feeling of the crisp air, and all that (though this year our color here in Portland is the worst I've seen in years).  I even like–wait for it–the time change, so that it gets dark early.  Blame it on my Danish heritage, but the dark days of late fall are my favorite time of year.  This year, as always, I'll make my famous chili with the secret ingredient that makes it the best chili you've ever eaten, and my family will come over and the grandbabies will go out trick or treating (maybe–they are still a bit young) and there will also be wine, and beer for the men.  And fat Tub Wad cats lying in the middle of everything.

5.  Overwhelm.  I've been in it since I returned from France.  And I realize I do not handle it well. When I'm overwhelmed, I procrastinate.  Since I'm having problems getting things done, why not make it worse by not doing anything?  Yeah, it works real well, let me tell you.  I'm starting to climb out of it, with only two manuscripts left to read this week (and don't get me wrong, I love reading my client's work) and some forward progress on the rewrite of my novel.  Part of the reason I get overwhelmed is that I have a busy social life, with obligations to family and friends.  Obligations, ha! It's pure pleasure and I know it.  But every once in awhile I have to call enough and quit saying yes to things.

Owlies6.  I got a tattoo.  You can see by the accompanying photo that is it the best thing ever.  Owls are the family symbol because my Mom collected them for years, long before they enjoyed their current moment.  My daughter got a huge, complicated tattoo on her upper arm featuring an owl, and my sister is getting one in December (she had to get an old tattoo removed first). My tattoo is in honor of my grandchildren, with the symbols of their astrological signs in the body of each owl.  And guess what?  It didn't hurt much at all.  I was lying on the table squeezing my eyes shut, telling the tattoo artist to be sure and warn me when he was going to start, certain I was going to flinch and ruin it all. And then when he began I said, "Is that all there is to it?"  Now I'm ready to get another one.

Okay, so a whole novel later, that's what's going on in my life at the moment.  What's up with you, writing or otherwise?  Please leave a comment!

 

12 Ways for Writers to Celebrate Autumn

Marquette_Sugarloaf_beautiful_249786_lYay! It's autumn, my favorite season.  There's something about this time of year that I just love–the crisp days and fall color, the nummy seasonal food (apples and butternut squash, anyone?) and, of course, Halloween.

I always feel a sense of personal renewal at this time of year, stretching on through the dark days of December.  It's because for so many years I returned to school come September, going back to a whole new slate of things to learn.  

And now, with the cooler temperatures here at last, there's no better time for writers.  So, herewith are my suggestions for celebrating autumn.

1.  Sit by a roaring fire and write.  Okay, you don't even have to do the fire part–just write.  Gone are the distractions of summer and it is likely raining or cold outside.  Sit your butt down and write.

2.  Curl up in bed and read a good book.   Pile on the comforters and duvets and pull out your Kindle or your book.  There's no better time than a autumn day to get lost in a book.  And one of the best things about being a writer is that reading is a big part of the job description!

3.  Drink a pumpkin spice latte.  If that doesn't get you going, nothing well.  (Actually, when I was in the Salt Lake City airport on my way home from Paris I got a pumpkin spice latte from Seattle's Best Coffee.  Um, they put pumpkin spice in the whipped cream, people!  It's fantastic!)

4.  Take a long walk and scuff through fallen leaves.  Julia Cameron says that walking is one of the best things for creativity and I agree–it clears your mind and allows new thoughts to enter.

5.  Conquer stress at last.  Stress is the cause of most, if not all of our ailments, including, I would venture to say, writer's block.  So let's slay that dragon this fall, shall we?  My dear friend Sandra Pawula offers a wonderful home study course to do just that.  Click on the Living With Ease button to the right and check it out!

6.  Make leaf placemats.  There's a myth afoot that taking time for creative projects other than writing will just take you away from your WIP.  But the opposite is true–creativity breeds creativity. So here's a fun project (especially good if you have tiny humans around, but they aren't strictly necessary): Collect a variety if colorful leaves and lay them on one sheet of wax paper, cut to the size you want your placemat.  Then place shavings and bits of crayons around the paper.  Cover it with another sheet of wax paper, and using a sheet or something to protect the iron, press together.  Voila! Leaf placemats.

7.  Commit to a new project.  Nanowrimo is coming up in just a couple of weeks.  Who wants to write a novel in November?  You've got just enough time to dream up some characters, plan the plot, create a world, before starting writing on November 1.

8.  Finish a current project.  As I write this, it is Mercury Retrograde, the perfect time to return to unfinished projects.  Most writers I know have a story or two or twelve languishing unfinished on their computers.  Pull them out and polish them off!

9.  Watch a movie.  Watching movies (and TV shows) can help you understand structure and dialogue and scenes.  To me, there is something positively decadent about taking time for a movie on a week-day afternoon.  So I give you permission to do it.

10.  Start a journal.  I'm a big fan of journaling, in all its permutations.  I am off and on with it, going stretches without setting pen to diary, but then suddenly I will feel like I absolutely must write in a journal again.  (This happened to me most recently in France.)  Regular journal entries help you create flow in your writing and are good for noting all the things you want to incorporate in your work.

11. Take a nap.  Dreaming is good for writing–and the soul.

12.  Bake an apple pie.  Or an apple crisp.  Or a pear crisp. Or a crumble.  The apples and pears are so delicious right now and there's nothing more satisfying then assembling a nummy dessert.  Then you can eat a piece while doing #1, #2, or #3.

Well, I could go on, but you'd likely get tired of me raving about all things autumn.  (I didn't even get to Halloween, my second favorite holiday!)  So I will just turn the floor over to you–what are your favorite autumn activities?  Please comment!