Saturday, April 28, 2012

Young Adult Novel

Currently, I am working on one of a total of four young adult novels that my muse decided to hit me over the head with. This one I am featuring here is turning into a trilogy. I will be curious to see where the others go when I finally get back to them. I thought I would share a tidbit of what I am currently working on for this the second to last day of our A-Z challenge:

       I feel the forest breathing with me. The crunch of the forest floor under my feet, as I make my way through the giant redwoods, their branches tower above me. Droplets of rain land on my wool ivory hat and I can hear the birds chatter. The setting sun trickles through the branches and I see the break in the trees. Talia is waiting for me by the railing overlooking the cliffs. She wanted me to meet with her before I met everyone else. My steamer trunks had already arrived ahead of me and were placed in my new room. I am half awake from the journey here.
      "It was required," she told me when I had tried to argue.
      My story had to be perfect. No one could guess I was going anywhere other than the prestigious school in Switzerland. That meant I had to actually go there and then be transported out of the country, secretly. It seemed messy to me, no one had to know I didn't actually catch the plane, I reasoned. It was just for my parents benefit anyway. Talia shook her midnight hair and lightly laughed, then was suddenly quiet. She looked me over, searching my eyes to make sure I was serious.
      "They are always watching, you know, Jollie" she said solemnly.
      "Who are they?" I had asked her this question before, as she walked with me to the terminal.
      "You will find out soon enough," she had answered smiling slightly, "that is what your classes are for."
      This time I was the one smiling. I was thankful to be here and far from the school that held so many moments I wish I could forget.


Source: nps.gov via Christine on Pinterest

Friday, April 27, 2012

Xenophobia


Source: bing.com via Janet on Pinterest
Xenophobia is defined as an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. Who defines what is unreasonable? That is always my first question when I see terms like this being mixed into the cultural discourse of our lives.

Pseudo-intellectuals love to wield terms like this as a weapon when attempting to ascribe racism to certain actions. As if they have any idea what that might say about the person they are describing. It is a term that has begun to lose meaning because of using it in every situation, whether that is a valid assessment or not.

What is reasonable when a person feels they are losing their identity and feels the need to push back against the tide of animosity toward them. They have not acted violently or even used hateful words to create this contradicting argument. Yet, they are vilified by a majority that says to retain their identity is, by it's very nature, unreasonable. These individuals or groups are suddenly moved into the xenophobia tent without so much as a thought as to why this is a dangerous assumption.

In the United States of America we have a rule of law that is based on the rights of the individual to be protected from the mob mentality. However, this is being usurped daily by a media that chooses to prop individuals up in the court of public opinion with the flimsiest, if not downright fabricated, evidence. Tried and convicted before the angry mob they are virtually hung without anyone looking at the case against them as one of actually having values, or, as in George Zimmerman's case, actually defending himself.

Now, perhaps you think I am joking, or have now labeled me a racist for using George Zimmerman as an example, however, that is exactly what I am saying. Everyone has the right to an opinion. You may not like it, but it does not invalidate that voice.

As for my example, poor George Zimmerman, have you heard this guy's story? He only bought a gun as a last resort weapon because members of his family (wife & mother) were getting chased by pit bulls in their neighborhood. He was actually told by the police this was his best option. He and his wife had both completed training for the gun. He was by no means an experienced gun owner, though. From evidence that is coming out he was fighting for his life when the fatal shot was fired, and no one believes him. He is now in hiding because the media has made a spectacle of this situation. That poor man.

What happened to innocence until proven guilty, have we reverted back to the 1700s when one witness and an angry mob could whip a man or, worse, shoot him in cold blood without a trial?

There are reasons we have the laws we do, because those who made them witnessed the corruption and lawlessness of a time before they were enacted-- when a man could be whipped for crimes that were fabricated. He could be taken out into the street and hung. We have a bill of rights for a reason and we had better learn what those reasons were. We are at a crossroads and one way leads to freedom and the other leads to destruction.

If we don't figure out which one we are really following one day we may wake to find it is too late to change our course.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Words of Wisdom

Words of wisdom come from many sources, but for me, I love quotes and what some may call "old wives tales" as there are usually pearls of truth that can help us. Even in our technology inhabited lifestyles we have much to learn from the masters of language and life, whether we realize it or not.

                                                                                   
I am learning so much about history in my American Literature class that stems simply from looking at the literature of the period between 1865-present and the literary figures that created it. Our history is tied to our words and to the voices of the past that tell of their experiences or those fictionalized histories they have created from those experiences. 

The writers voice is the tool to create worlds through words and it is a magical place. For the writer, it is about bringing to life an experience and for the American writers from 1865 to the early twentieth century they wrote about their fates and fortunes through their personal essays on non-fictional events and creative fictions through historicized realism.

When it comes time for folks to say nice things about me, because I have left the world, I would like to know that the world is at least a little brighter for my having been
in it.

What this illuminates more than anything for me is the need to create the essays and fiction that will not only entertain, but will lend a voice to to my generation and whisper into the ears of the next--reaching the minds of generations to come.

Just as happiness is to the soul as sunshine is to the trees, food for growth, so writing can be a source of inspiration.























Voices of Victory

[Okay, so today is going to be a double header as I was too exhausted at 12:30 AM and still didn't have my post together. Although, I did have a ton of ideas swirling around my brain, including the fancy title you see above.]

Voices surround us from all areas: the voices of our parents, our teachers, our friends, the newscasters, the radio DJs, celebrities, politicians, and all of the other voices of history that come to us through literature. These voices are the complexities that make up our experiences, they create the foundations of our personalities and opinions. What would we be without these viewpoints? How can we believe what we believe without a foundation? There is no way. People do not grow in a vacuum, it takes a catalyst, an idea. The question then becomes: what ideas are we receiving?




We all have the voices of victory or those which rally in our defeat. A deception is created when we confuse the two. Not all voices of victory sound victorious and not all voices of defeat sound sullen. Many times they will sound the same and only when we closely analyze the meanings of the words and how they are meant to affect us will we have a clue as to which they really are. In my life, I have had friends and family who would give me advice that was wonderful and sincere, however, if I had followed it I would have found only heartache and defeat. I know because some advice I did follow, only to realize years later it was devastation.


Source: facebook.com via Emily on Pinterest
There is only one voice that will truly lead to victory and that is the still small voice of God. This voice resides in every person if they will only let him in and listen. Do not be fooled as I was, though. There is deception, mostly, it is in the form of things we want to hear. The things we tell ourselves, and when we listen to other voices around us without thinking clearly about what their conclusions lead to. Logic seems to be becoming a lost art, but it doesn't have to be. It begins with asking questions of ourselves and why we believe what we believe.

We are wonderful at deluding ourselves. At least I was. I really thought I had an open mind to see through delusions. The truth is, I was simply fabricating reality from what I wanted it to be based on my own experiences--without looking at what was actually happening around me. To create a dream board is one thing, but to ignore the reality, not factoring it into our logic, we fail to account for it and this leads to delusional behaviors and ideas.

There are those people who will act as a voice of victory, these are the tough love words of true friends and uplifting family. The words of advice from the trusted pastor who speaks truth when we don't want to hear it. The dose of reality from the professor who is trying to get us to think about ourselves or a controversial topic. These examples, along with many others too numerous to list, are the voices that really want to help us succeed. They value us not as pawns, but as human beings and seek to help us to see the truth of a situation even if it hurts us momentarily. They would rather have us hurt for a moment than see our lives shattered for years, or even a lifetime. This is victory.




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Un from Unbrage

Un

Willing.

Un

Able.

Un

Inspired.

Un

Likely.

Un

Finished.

Light in Time


  
Source: google.com via Linda on Pinterest

     I had just set out with my wooden ladder over my left shoulder and my brightly lit red lantern swaying back and forth with my right hand. The other guys and I had set out in all directions, each of us on our own separate route, along the tree-lined avenues with their leaves like fire in yellows, reds, and orange colors. We were enjoying the weather, we were cracking jokes at the warehouse where we meet up every evening to collect our ladders and lanterns. We were even whistling as we left the station. It isn't always like this, the summers are hot and muggy, the winter is bitter cold, spring is rainy. However, nothing compares to an evening in New York in the Autumn. It is like no other, and as lamplighters we get to enjoy them every evening. This night was the exception.
      I am halfway through my route and halfway down my ladder, having just lit another lamp along this narrow stretch of avenue, when I hear an argument brewing between a fashionably dressed older man and a beautiful young girl across the street near an alley. When I had first arrived they were walking down the avenue. The boss tells all new lamplighters to mind your business and stay out of trouble so I was pointedly ignoring them and busy with my work. They are getting louder, though, so it is getting harder to do. Then, right when I glance over I could have sworn I see him trying to grab her. Honestly, I still was going to pretend I hadn't noticed, but that is when she screamed.
      That was all I needed, something was definitely not right with the situation and now this fashionable girl had literally screamed at the top of her lungs on the near empty street. I raced down my ladder with my lantern in my hand. I quickly raced across the street taking my ladder along, too. The girl and the guy had disappeared into the alley as I yelled to them to stop. It was getting dark, but the lamps I had just lit were shining and the fading light of dusk was still lingering. I held my lantern up high to see further into the alleyway. I didn't hear them at all, not a murmur. The footprints there looked like my couples, but I couldn't be certain. I wondered to myself that I didn't see them. I tried to explain away the unexplainable, not the first and, in this city, it wouldn't be the last. They had simply vanished and I had a job to finish. Other girls were depending on me to light up the darkness.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Silence is Deafening


By the time students fully grasp the knowledge that is at their fingertips they have usually already graduated. Many undergraduates and graduates alike have not used, or, worse, are completely ignorant of what wealth of resources are available to them. They have a staff of individuals that are waiting to be of service, whether it is their professors, reference librarians, or the writing center these people are there to help ease the sometimes arduous task of creating the superior work professors would like to read.  

The one goal all of these entities have in common, and strive for, is to get the writer thinking. 

 The truth of the matter is our words begin with our thoughts. Our ideas give life to our prose. Interacting with another human being, whether live or through a written text, to generate these ideas in-depth is another evolution in the process of writing. 
 
The Writing Center is a fantastic way to achieve the results students are seeking, because it is a live experience and allows the writer to explain their ideas to someone who will give them honest feedback. One of the more important aspects of this interaction, though, is the aspect of questioning the writer. This questioning allows the author to look at the assumptions they have made and formulate new ideas. 

I know within my own experiences, both as a writer and reviewer, asking questions is what I do. I ask the person I am seeking a review from what they see working in my writing and what can be improved. As a reviewer, I write comments that are usually in the form of questions to help the author think through what they have written and see if they can take the work to another level to add depth to the piece. I completely see how this is the most helpful part of talking through your work, asking questions and getting feedback.

Feedback is a touchy subject with me, as I witness the death of conversation. As we zoom along on the "information super-highway" at speeds no humans were really meant to withstand, I see where our entire society is slowly reaching the point of not conversing. With our fancy machines it is easier to whip up a text rather than actually call someone. An email will suffice for the lengthy conversation. I find myself falling into this trap of truly anti-social behavior. Why should I call when I have a million and one things to do? But this line of thinking is dangerous on two levels. For one, it  is is self-centered and second, when greater ideas are generated through conversations we miss the opportunity for growth.

The pendulum is swinging toward the point of no return, where we don't talk about the subjects that really matter. There is just something about a good conversation that stirs up the creative forces. Driving the foundation of new horizons of thought, these conversations can change the course of civilizations.Which is one of the reasons I appreciate school so much, it is much harder to escape serious conversation in the university environment and, what's more: I enjoy it.
 
This is also one of the reasons that the Writing Center, blogs, and writing communities have become even more important, as we fail to sit and analyze with others on serious issues, we need  dedicated spaces where we can still do this. I was just thinking the other day how writers used to sit and talk with other writers regarding their ideas and conclusions, receiving much needed feedback from their peers. The blogging community is a great resource forth this.

As writers, we have to have the interaction or we will become stagnant. We have to have the inquiry into our work and help others have the same, as we generate new ideas and pathways to explore. We need to enjoy the questions, working with them and creating the cultural discourse that will swing the pendulum back in the other direction. I just hope this happens before we are past the point of no return. As writers, we can lead the way.




Friday, April 20, 2012

Reveal Thyself


I have to admit I am a language purist. When I see words being bandied about, I see where people are trying to talk their way around actually saying something of any real use.

 It really doesn't matter what you say if no one can understand what you are attempting to communicate

Orwell was right about buzz words, our language is filled with them. This seems like a case of "weasel words" (sheisty ambiguous words) taking a front seat by folks who are either being purposefully vague or those who have no idea what to say. Instead, they use a string of big words to make themselves seem knowledgeable--about what we can't be sure, because they didn't really say anything.

Personal branding is a part of the problem. It is a buzzword war world with everyone trying to find their own catchy slogan. I admit I was in the middle of this, as well. I have been working on building my own brand. It is not really easy and can seem daunting at first glance. It really is a facade, though. We can try to sum up a person in a phrase, or worse a word, but this diminishes a whole person--we are not to be summed up in one, or in a few words. Unlike the major brands we are more than hollow corporate logos with a catchy slogan that attempts to endear them to us. We are complex individuals with a myriad of different skills, interests, and attributes that aren't defined in a small box of five words.

When we all become commodities then something is seriously wrong in our society. However, this seems to be the direction we are heading. "How do you market yourself?" this is what the "getting hired" books ask and lead to the direction of personal branding. Everything in writing from your Facebook page to your blog becomes your image, your personal brand. I know from experience that everything I post is subject to personal liability and can hurt my business. Sometimes I don't care and post it anyway, but it is a distinction that is always on my mind. Written words are powerful because they stay with you and your clarity makes it unambiguous as to what you are saying. Perhaps that is why there is so much muddled writing, a lack of wanting to reveal what you think and how you really feel about a subject.

I hope that we don't get to a place where people feel that have to hide behind the complication of hazy writing in all areas of life. This may explain some of the writing I have seen more recently, though. Fear is an interesting emotion for the writer, as it doesn't allow the writer to really write what is on her mind. I admit I went through this and then I decided:

 I didn't care

And, that is when I began to create my best writing, when I stopped caring so much about what I was revealing about myself. To be a writer you have to reveal yourself and it can be tricky, but it doesn't have to be scary.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Question

"Question the answers" is one of my favorite phrases. As a scholar you are supposed to question what the world is saying and propose differing views culminating in a dissertation. Bottom line is you have to look at the premise of whatever you are researching.

Why did that writer write what they wrote? 

What was the underlying premise for that opinion to be formulated?

These are the questions that not only scholars, but all writers should incorporate. Even in fiction why is your character doing what they are doing, saying what they are saying, or, in general, described the way they are? This is fundamental to good writing, digging up why the character is doing what they are doing and are in the situation they are in.

In Theatre, we call this motivation.

You will hear it bandied about by acting teachers, what is your motivation? Why is your character saying what they are saying? Why are they doing what they are doing? These are fundamental questions to build characters and every writer should know this as they build both rich characters and interesting settings. And, an intriguing plot, as a bonus.

Asking these questions should be like breathing.

If this questioning doesn't permeate into the rest of our life we are probably not going deep enough with our thinking and this may spill into our writing. Remember, practice makes perfect. No, perfect practice makes perfect, which is a perfect example of not looking deeper at the premise.

Everything is up to debate, really. As writers we have a particular obligation to ask these questions as we are expanding the boundaries of our imagination by doing so. We must uncover the mask of ourselves, our characters, and our lives--only by asking the questions are the masks revealed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poppycock

Poppycock is such a great word and has gone out of fashion. Unfortunately, I have had a very  long day and feeling quite sleepy so this is going to be a very short post.

Look a clever distraction!

Sunset in the high desert.

Own-errous Ownership

As we come once again to that dreaded day where millions of U.S.Citizens must file their taxes, we see how owned we really are.

What exactly do our taxes buy us: Servitude. 

Or to put it bluntly, Slavery. 

Our precious time, the only commodity we have left, is squandered in the cubicle plantations of our masters. 

We are no longer a nation of free citizens, we are slaves to bankers. These bankers are nothing more than pawns of the ruling elite who own them. Even if we are lucky to do what we love, there is always the master saying, "you better pay your due, you sharecropper."

No longer Sovereign Citizens, having given up that freedom for the illusion of security and comfort, we became a nation of beggars. "Please master, can I have a little more food for my family?" or "Can you not hurt us so much?" not realizing we are asking for something that is already ours in the first place. Had we not sold it for 30 pieces of silver, that is.

As we adopted the lazy man's ways we gave away our property. In the process we lost our future and our freedom. All in the name of the "Greater Good," or so we were told.

Really, it is all manipulation:

 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Nothing

When I look around I feel like the Rock Biter on the Never-ending Story. I see the people I love and the other people around me taken up by the Nothing. And sometimes I think there is nothing I can do about it. At least, that is how I feel.

The Nothing.

It is an emptiness of the soul, not that the soul is gone it is more like a zombie state of numbness. The soul is low and it is missing the light that it once had. Now, I know that times seem tough, but there have been tougher.

Simply ask someone who lived through the Great Depression. Do you have a roof over your head, food to eat, and clothes to wear? Yep, I bet you even have a car and a cell phone.

The real question becomes how this Nothing took over. Fear is something I have been talking about often and that is what we are talking about here. People are fearing for the future, not knowing what the future is going to be like for their children and their grandchildren. I know we are scared and we have every right to question.

However, we need to not let it take over our minds and eat it's way into our hearts.

You will attract what you dwell on, it is a fact. If you are afraid of losing something you can bet it will only be a matter of time before it is gone. If you are afraid you won't have enough money, you can mark it on your calendar that you won't. It is The Nothing that would love for us to dwell on the negative and forget all of the blessings that surround us. Sure, we have problems, but when in the history of the world have there not been problems. Even in the garden of Eden there was that pesky snake!

You are not a victim, you are a child of the Most High God!

He is waiting for you to realize it. Wake-up to the realization that you are in the light and darkness can try it's hardest, but it cannot overtake you without your consent. It is very true, the tale of the vampire, that he must be invited in. This is the lesson: do not be deceived. Do not invite in the demons to have dinner.

Resist The Nothing by reclaiming your joy!

The best thing we can do is be joyful. I am not kidding. It is not about our circumstances, but how we react to them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Moments

Life is a set of moments, some beautiful and some not so beautiful. 

Our choices, along with our attitude toward them, can change everything.

One of the surest ways to realize this, and set ourselves free in the process, is to live in the present. Deeply concentrating on the right now, seriously paying attention to processing each moment, and really observing ourselves can show us what we are creating, as we make the choices which will ultimately create our future moments. This realization can be life transforming. 

A moment can change our lives.

What would we give to change just one moment? What about several? There is no way to really do this, but we can change the present and that means becoming hyper-aware of what we are doing at the present time.The Buddhists call it mindfulness, the yogis call it being centered, and I call it being fully awake. If we mindlessly go through life one day we will turn around and realize we don't know why we made the choices that we did. That moment hurts and can be anything except beautiful.

It may be eye-opening, perhaps even inspiring as it motivates us to change, but it is an uncomfortable realization to have. Hopefully, we find out sooner rather than later if we have been walking around in a mind numbing stupor. Nothing like realizing you've been a zombie for many years. This can happen for many reasons, becoming a shell of a person. However, trauma is the biggest cause.

A traumatic moment changes us forever.

It is one of the reasons that moments are so important. One traumatic moment you may get over eventually, a string of them can deal a deathblow to our ego and to our life. One of the ways this happens is through a series of traumatic moments

These may be personal or global in scale.

Take for instance the 9/11 attacks, this would be an example of global series of traumatic moments. Leaving everyone who witnessed it, whether in person or on the television in a state of shock. Assassination of Presidents and other leaders, Pearl Harbor, and the sinking of the Titanic are all other examples of global scale traumatic moments. I'm certain I could come up with numerous more examples.

Our attitude toward these moments is just as important as what happened, if not more so.


Our outlook about the moments that surround us will make all the difference in our lives. When we begin to see that we are in control of our emotions and begin to see every moment for what it is--an opportunity to change our lives--and begin to be mindful of our thoughts toward these moments, then we become a master of our own destiny. 

We begin to steer the ship and let go of our fears.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Lost Worlds & Wind Swept Days

Today was a completely stormy wind-swept and wet day.

I loved it!


Unfortunately, my husband didn't, he is solar powered and when the sun hides he gets sleepy and grouchy. I find I have to bribe him into happiness with biscuits, cookies, or some other baked goodies. It plays a dual role of soothing the bear and warming the house.

I am currently in the beginning of another quarter at the University and plodding away at my Master's in English goal. It's funny how life can throw you curve balls, I found out by talking with a classmate that I really should have taken women writers (how did I miss this? It sounds so fun!) for my diversity requirement, as opposed to Native American Literature (which I find really boring). This is the second quarter where my trying to conserve gas money has led me to a class that I am less than content with. 


Fortunately, I have a wonderful class called Science Fiction to make up for all that the other class lacks. We are reading Lost World by Michael Crichton, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I couldn't help it, I had to finish it and the stormy day was perfect for making tea and reading a book. As the wind, rain, and hail swept through, which had me feeling much like we stepped into the TARDIS and had been transported to Wales. I read about chaos theory, dinosaurs, and the scientists who love them. Crichton can truly spin an excellent tale, he really does his homework. He shows us glimpses of cutting edge theory and tells us how arrogant we are, but in a way that is more like your loving uncle rather than your scolding mother.

One of the contexts we are using is what our relationship to nature really is and how Crichton actually gives a voice to nature. Some of the old assumptions are changing, for example, some animals are more similar in their behaviors to humans than scientists had previously thought. On the other side, some scientists are ruthless and the natural world has become nothing but a stomping ground to capture nature, they have a looters mentality. This makes for an interesting lenses in which to read and analyze the text.

All in all a successful, if rather soggy, day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Known Knowledge


 You don't know what you don't know.

This seems pretty obvious on the face of it, however, upon closer inspection we can see the trouble that is inherent in this statement. There is knowledge that you may never know that will not matter to you in the slightest, it won't effect your life even an infinitesimal bit. Then there is the other knowledge, the things we all take for granted, that affects our lives deeply--we don't know only because we never thought about it. 

  The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”--R.D. Laing, British psychiatrist

We are taught not to question very much and given knowledge presented as absolutes. These are never questioned, but should always be tested. Much of this known knowledge is in reality simply theory. Tested theories, in many cases, yes, but theories nonetheless. Ask the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, even Galileo, about theories and consensus. Scientists are very good at this, or I should say rather, very good scientists know this and use it. That we have to question the answers:

 "...only when we truly realize and accept that we cannot actually know what we cannot see, that we can begin to remove the blinders that this creates. This paradox of embracing the blindness in order to gain sight, is of crucial importance. Yet this insight comes with a price. It is characterized by tireless skepticism and testing. It is themed by such questions as, “what do you base that on?”, and “why?” This state of mind is uncomfortable, difficult to maintain and exhausting, especially in times of stress... Due to all of this difficulty we humans are therefore easily seduced by untested assumptions that promise a wealth of certainty, yet may well end up being the next Ponzi scheme. We are suckers for this. We are human." --J. Michael Bone, Ph.D.

You don't know what you don't know, so you didn't even think to ask. We just assume that what someone is telling us is accurate--or what we read or watch, for that matter. If it is reported, suddenly, it is the truth, when in actuality it is no more factual than shadows on the cave wall:



We are the people in the cave when we let people give us easy answers. When we will not look for ourselves we fall into the trap. Nothing in life, that is worth anything, is easy. It takes courage to take our shackles off and step outside the cave. It can even hurt. Yet, freedom always has a price and, even more importantly, we must see that we are in chains in order to realize we need to free yourself.

If we can begin to free our minds...the rest of us will follow.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Just Write

The most effective way to cure writer's block is to write. The first thought that springs to mind after hearing this is: how to do this when you have it, isn't it a catch 22? 

Yes, but mostly--no.

Here is why. If you can just start writing your mind will begin engaging in ways you really hadn't thought possible. You will begin to write and some of it will be garbage, granted. However, much of it will either be exactly what you were looking for or it will be fodder for some other project. Either way you win.

You will have successfully beaten the writer's block and if you can continue to do so you will be free from this affliction. Sometimes (in rather strange circles) this virus is mistakenly referred to as a social disease, as it seems to strike when a writer has been invited to go out with their friends. If you find you really are stuck, perhaps try going out with your friends and come back refreshed from taking time to live. 

Another strategy, if you just simply feel too guilty about not writing to go out, is to live vicariously though other characters. Read a good book that you have been putting off reading because you really needed to write those next few pages. Yet, you are staring at a blank page and nothing is what springs to mind. This is your inner five year old wanting a story told to him or her. Oblige the little bookworm so you can get back to doing what you do best, being creative.

Some writers are so full of words they will not face writer's block, or least they claim they haven't. Don't let them fool you, they just kept writing and maybe most of it was gobbledygook. No matter. They still win. Once you can get past the empty page you can start getting back into the rhythm of really writing and, just as muscles remember after they have done something in repetition, your writing muscles will engage.


These are some keys on the writers craft I have picked up along the way, they all boil down to one rule--just write.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Progress

[Talking about "In Progress" works, this is a short story beginning]

How to Live

      You wake up and pretend you weren't just in the funeral home yesterday viewing your grandpa lying there with make-up on, in a casket. You throw the covers back and step into the bright morning sun as it streams in through the bedroom window on your side. You try to not wake-up fully, you look down, at your feet next to you are your white bunny slippers. You remember your grandpa gave them to you last year and you thought you were too old for them. You reluctantly faked a smile. You knew he could tell.
      You head down the hall to the bathroom in your bunny slippers and you lock the door out of habit. You look at yourself in the oval mirror. Your bloodshot eyes and red nose make you look like you have been all night binge. You know you wouldn't touch a drink, haven't in years. You won't touch one now. You also know you were crying more than a few times yesterday and into last night. You will dab cold water on your face and you will try to smile at the way your hair is spiraling in yellow ringlets like haystacks around your head. You will then think better of it and start the shower.
      You will let your tears run with the water as it releases the tension you weren't aware you were holding in your shoulders. You will wash your hair with your favorite blackberry scented shampoo
to hold on to the safe and the familiar. You will take your time knowing you don't want to go downstairs to the empty farmhouse kitchen. The kitchen that your grandparents raised you in.
      You will try not to remember the phone call Grandpa Jack took in that kitchen telling you your life was over at age ten. Your Mom, Dad, little brother, Jimmy, and Grandma Lily had been hit head on by a drunk driver and no one survived. You won't remember that you thought your Grandpa was strong and you were not. You remember Grandpa making the arrangements: talking with the funeral home, settling the insurance claims, selling your parents house, and all of the other mundane details. You remember Aunt Cheryl, your Dad's sister, flying in from Tokyo where she worked as a teacher. How she only stayed a week and was gone.
      You will remember Grandpa had stayed with you that night because you were sick. You will also remember him tucking you in at night and helping you with your homework. You will remember sneaking downstairs. He never realized you traveled downstairs sometimes. You won't remember that you realized he wasn't that strong one evening, two years ago. When you heard him crying, you quietly went back upstairs. You will remember the first time you realized that your Grandpa wasn't well and how you had held his hands and prayed with him at the sturdy wooden kitchen table. You will remember he called them “chest pains”.
      Before the shower runs lukewarm, and before it turns cold, get out. You will need to wrap one towel around your wet head and dry off with another. Apply your eye cream, you need it. Your robe is hanging on the back of the door where you leave it most days. You can wear it while deciding on real clothes. You go back to your room and it is brighter as the sun rises fully. You open your closet door and realize you don't need to dress up, the funeral is over. You decide on your broken in jeans and a long sleeve cotton red shirt. Red to cheer yourself up. The one thing you know, and you learned it a long time ago, we are not promised tomorrow. You will grab some stripey socks from your dresser drawer, slip into your clogs, and make yourself go downstairs to the kitchen, you know you need breakfast.
      Follow the same morning routine, as usual, you need the comfort of the ritual. You will get your tea kettle, already full of water boiling, pull a blueberry mug from the cupboard, and open the tin marked 'Earl Grey'. You will pour the water over the tea bag in your mug and grab the Silk creamer from the fridge. The same fridge Grandma Lily had for fifty years, the Coldspot, the coldest fridge in the free world. “It is really energy-efficient, too,” you remember your Grandpa reminding you. Your Grandpa tested it with a volt meter about six years ago when you, freshman in high school, suggested it needed replacing. You will half-smile at the memory.
      You open a box of raisin bran and get a bowl from the cabinet. Opening the drawer to your right you grab a spoon. Opening the Coldspot again your take out the milk. Combining all of these you create the perfect after a funeral breakfast. You sit down at the kitchen table. The problem with sitting and not doing is the time to ruminate over loose ends and definites. That is what funerals do, though, they create a sense of urgency to life. Grief transforms your simple breakfast into a journey into your own mortality. All the people you haven't called because you were too busy. All of items on your bucket list unchecked before you kick it. All of the dreams just within your reach, yet, unattained.
      You know you can't continue sinking in memory, loss, and regret. You pick up the cell phone where you left it on the table yesterday, after hanging up with Aunt Cheryl who could only stay for two days before the funeral and had to leave right out on an evening flight the day of. Your Aunt had said her good-byes, quickly, and rushed to the airport, calling later to apologize to you for not being able to stay. A year before she had met a businessman in Tokyo who was from Australia, he owned a large ranch and they had fallen hard for each other. The wedding actually took place there and you had gone. It was your first trip out of the country.
      Cheryl had invited you to come with her on this trip back, offered to buy you a ticket. You had insisted you had so much to do still. Although, you had handled everything possible to do without the death certificate, to keep yourself from thinking of the funeral. You had been named executor of the estate, not your Aunt. She had been the one to insist, actually, that you be named beneficiary, as well. You had to handle all of the insurance claims and the paperwork for the bank. You had much to do once you had the paper, however, the Corner had said it would be at minimum three weeks to process the death certificate. There was a rush on death, he had joked. You didn't laugh. Corner humor, he apologized.
      You really need to talk to a friend. Your first thought is of Anton. You spoke with him yesterday, but he said to call again. You push the glowing blue number two button on your phone. You hear the tone of ringing. Halfway through the second ring you hear the familiar, “Hello beautiful.” in Anton's sleepy welsh accent. You will not tell him how much you miss him. 
     You will not tell him how much you enjoyed spending time with him two months ago, the month before your birthday, when he was close to your place while working on a project .You will not tell him you need him, how much you love him. You won't tell him how much you wish he was here and how hard it is to be here alone. You will let him talk you into dropping everything and leaving. You will listen as he slips and reveals a bit of his plan to have you in his life.
      You are going to Heathrow on the red-eye with the ticket you purchase this evening. Anton will pick you up. If today is all there is, you are going to live it to the fullest.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Home Again

I think we all have heard the expression, "You can't go home again," and we thought we knew what that meant when we heard it, maybe.

I am coming full circle with my life and I feel this expression, I don't just know it. It was seventeen years ago that I attended my first university, Cal State San Bernardino. I was there a total of one year and began my university career. It was my start to what has become a Masters degree and a college teaching assignment.

The school I ran to, HSU. and the man I found when I returned.
I learned so many things about life in that first year at CSUSB. It is easy to be a big fish in a small pond, not the other way around. People break promises and your heart. Don't assume you have something until you do. Paganism and journalism--not my thing. This too shall pass. Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. Your friends are a reflection of you, choose them wisely.

That year taught me many things about myself that I didn't really want to look at, but nothing could really teach me what going back years later would.  

You really can't go home again.

Maybe I was having a mid-life crisis. I don't know. I just know I had to go back to school and I wanted to forget how much I had made unwise decisions. How I had shut too many people out of my life and how I was feeling about that. I was in the California budget crunch and my job was obsolete. I decided to change careers rather than continue to fight a bad situation.

So much had been added, new buildings and roads. Expansions on different buildings and movement of offices. My favorite teacher, Roland Barnes, had died and the theater building was named after him. I felt like a stranger in a familiar land, only now, what was once familiar, was foreign.  I realized the expression that best described this feeling and I knew why instantly--you can't go home again. It is not the just the land that changed, what had changed was me.

I had changed.

And it made all the difference.






Saturday, April 07, 2012

Gratitude

Gratitude is a decidedly wonderful gift to give and to receive. We all want to be appreciated for our efforts and show appreciation to others for theirs. (At least, I hope so!)

Beyond that sense of being grateful, however, is the overwhelming attitude of gratitude that comes about when you face the world and realize how lucky blessed you really are. This video really explains vividly what I mean:

 

I have to remind myself to be grateful for all the blessings I have and I urge every one of us to continue to look at all of the wealth that surrounds us. Not simply the material possessions, but the sense of security, the movement of our bodies and brains, and all of the other priceless good stuff. 

We really do have a wonderful life.

"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner."--Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

Friday, April 06, 2012

Fraglie Ego, Fearful Heart

I have been a writer since I was four and a half. I know this only because my mother reminded me of it so often, especially when I would come to her with my "woe is me" stories of not being able to write.

This process of my fragile ego and my mothers wise words continued throughout my high school and college days. She would assure me that, indeed, I could write because I was meant to be a writer. She would describe me, age almost five, coming to her with pencil in hand with something I had written down and was wanting to perform for her.

I lacked any self-esteem in the area, though, so I gave up hope of the professional writing career. I went into acting instead.  
Acting at Southern CA Renaissance Pleasure Faire

What an unwise decision.

Here I am, years later, knowing that no matter what happens I have to write.

I have to write, much like this person who is quoted in the article I had to read for English, "Shitty First Drafts" by Anne Lamott:

"It's not like you don't have a choice , because you do--you can type, or kill yourself." 

I could try to skirt around the issue and say it is not that extreme, but I would be lying. Writing is in my blood and there will be no excising it. The only blood-letting here will be my thoughts on the page. Which brings up the question of why I waited so long to pursue this passion. 

There is only one answer... fear

I had a heart full of fear.

My biggest fear was always, "I am a lousy writer" and what I have learned is, it is a skill to be mastered.

And, if I can handle rejection in the acting community, I can surely handle it within the writing community. When this realization hit me, along with four huge novel ideas, I went back to school to learn how to write correctly better. 

I really appreciated the article for drawing attention to a common misconception of writers: that they just sit down and the words flow perfectly (and the angels rejoice!).

Nope. It usually doesn't work like that.

Sometimes you just sit there.
and look at the keys...




 ....and you look at it some more.




The article hit home in so many ways, as do many other pieces I have been reading regarding the process of writing. The more I glean from other writers and their process the more I realize I am a writer.

My stories aren't any worse than what I have seen on the best-seller list (and some may even be better). I realize it is mastering a skill and like mastering anything I have to work at it, it doesn't just magically happen.

The fear that was there is a natural response and the more I write and gain critiques from other writers the more I learn. At least, this is my process.

In the end, the best that you can say about the process is that it is your own. Everyone has their own style and if they are smart that style will improve by learning from other writers, like Lamott and others, who are working successfully in the writing field. As for me, I know I have a lot to learn and always will.

Someone always has something of value to teach you, even if it is simply what not to do.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Easter EEE!!-ffects

I have stolen my husband's phrase, the "EEEEE!!" that is high pitched and quite funny.  I exclaim it when something startles me and it always makes me laugh. I wonder sometimes how I pick up things, certain habits, mannerisms, or phrases. As an actress I see where this comes from within myself, but it is also a basic human characteristic to mimic something we like--that makes us laugh, for instance.

"Imitation is the highest form of flattery" or so they say. I would like to imitate someone who has made more of an impact on me than anyone or anything and has literally saved my life. 

This person is Jesus. 

Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes, "how cliche" you may be thinking to yourself. Hear me out, though. I am talking about a radical notion. Not just a simple gesture, but a life-altering change in my complete being. I want to draw closer to the Living God and I want to be someone who he allows to do that. My thoughts and actions will show my heart.

Are my thoughts and actions worthy?

Do my thoughts and actions show a heart after God's own heart: Do I spurn the poor or do I try to help them? Do I respect my parents, elders, and others? Do I love my enemies? (How am I supposed to do that!?) 

Ultimately, do I have the heart of the sinner or of the saved? 

Every thought is a choice. 

Every action is further evidence of my faith or lack thereof.

Caution: Mind blowing thoughts ahead.

This life is the illusion where every moment is reality, because it effects eternity--forever. Like ripples on water, every thought and action ripples throughout space and time never ending as the effects go on without ceasing. This is why our thoughts are so very important and our actions sit beside them, they are equals in eternal and infinite ramifications.

There is an interconnectedness to everything and much of our lives is about the spiritual side of life. Even though we don't register it consciously with our five senses. It is summed up best in scripture:

 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

-Ephesians 6:12 (1769 Oxford King James Bible)



I may do battle everyday in my own mind and I must never forget why Jesus had to come to save us. There are powers that would like us to be wicked that we cannot even comprehend in the blindness of this life.


Jesus came to take the blind-folds off and give us life.




Just remember, we are all in a battle and it begins in our own minds. 

Have a happy Easter!



Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Destination

The roughest road has the lightest traffic.

You may have a map and still not know where you are.

Two distances may not be equal or shorter, but one will be better.

Don't forget to grab your towel and stick out your thumb, if it's the end of the world.

When the world is leading, don't follow--worlds have a way of leading astray.

Asking for directions is good only if the locals like you.

Be friendly. Be sincere.

Help is always near.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Constant Comment

The more I look at the world of social media the more I feel like I am in a world of constant comment. It seems no matter the subject everyone wants to add their two cents, including me. This shouldn't be a bad thing, until you realize that you are in a constant state of expectancy. Or maybe this is just me.

I admit it, I feel like I have to know stuff. What I don't know I feel like I have to research. This is a constant state of activity and, as a Christian, I am neglecting my first duty and that is to take some time out for God. I am the worst at feeling like I have to set the record straight. I have to get the bottom of the situation. I am like an information bloodhound and I feel it is my responsibility to post the truth, which means I am constantly digging up information and not taking a time out to breathe.

This seems like a confession, but I have a feeling I am not the only one. There is a reason we all feel like we have no time in our days and are constantly on the run. Perhaps it is lack of organization, overcommitment, or just too much on our plates. However, I think many of us fall into the the constant comment box. Or maybe it is just me.

Constantly feeling the need to respond creates another sort of stress. People can't wait to call or text someone back-- even when they are driving. 

It can wait. Really

Think about this: just thirty years ago, there were no portable cell phones. You had to wait to talk to someone usually face to face, sometimes over the landline. This gave you freedom. You could wait to formulate a good answer, enjoy the sunset,  the sun through the leaves, the hawk flying overhead, or you could just relax and enjoy the moment.

You had time just to be you.

As we all rush about, chained to our desire to communicate, we need to take the time to count the cost. Are we really living the good life with all of our technology, or is it really controlling us? Times may change, but people don't. We all need actual now moments and if we don't have them we will begin to feel it. Overwhelmed, stressed, and simply frazzled are just some of the symptoms of too much constant commenting 

 It may be time to turn that cell phone off--or at least leave it on silent.

Constant comments are meant for tea, not people. *grin*





Monday, April 02, 2012

Boom!

As I placed my tea in it's home next to me in front of the computer and I was peacefully sailing the waves of the internet. Suddenly, I was struck by the realization that I had forgotten something outrageously important.

Boom!

My peaceful day quickly shattered by panic, dread, and that feeling of "you dummy, why didn't you double check your dates?"
Brain spews forth the news that I had better check my school schedule and sure enough there it is--the first day of classes. I already missed my first class!

I sprint to the shower, on my way I grab my phone and call my husband. He has the car and there is no answer on the other end. I shower rapidly and make another attempt to reach him as I head to my room. Finally, he is on the phone.

What an interestingly awkward beginning to Spring Quarter.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

All, Always, and Almost

All anyone asks as an artist and an author: attainment at above average articulation, acing allegory actions, and awakening all.

Always, almost, appeared an apathetic anomaly. As aptly applying altogether aging and angsty appendages as an awfully artistic A-Z application appeared. Although, ascertaining appearances as assuring acceptance admits an altogether askew assumption.

Almost assigned an amalgam as an assurance. Attention adamantly attained, arbors all--alight anybody as an apple, aglow at acute angles as angels amend.

All attended, anything amended, again aloft among allusions. Allusions all adrift as atonement, answering away avenging angels.

Always Avonlea awaits. Alluding all, always aghast as angry and angst-ridden April's approximate apes.

Almost alarmed at an abrupt and appalling...end.

Emily's books

Mutant Message Down Under
5 of 5 stars
Sometimes things aren't what they seem and can be amazing
The Alchemist
5 of 5 stars
A journey that helps to enlighten one and takes the rest of us along for the ride
Anahita's woven riddle
5 of 5 stars
This is classified young adult but is one of the most fantastic stories and shows what life was like before the Shaw was overthrown in Iran.
Think and Grow Rich
5 of 5 stars
must read for those who enjoy prosperity

goodreads.com