Tag Archives: Writing

The List Lady

I’m an odd amalgamation of free-spirited, crunchy-granola-earth mother and Type-A, follow-all-the-rules list maker. It makes for an interesting life. Lists relax me, they release some stress, and in many cases they’re actually pretty fun. So because I really need to start this week on a calm, relaxed note (Novel-writing and Thanksgiving baking in the same week? I shudder at the thought!), here are some of my fun lists.

Things I Miss About Autumn in the East:

  • The smell of wood smoke when I step outside.
  • Leaves in bright colors.
  • Hiking amongst said leaves.
  • Flannel sheets
  • Hot soup as a necessity to warmth.
  • Boots, gloves, hats, scarves.
  • Hay rides and bon fires.
  • S’mores at said bon fires.
  • Watching White Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis with my mom.
  • That cozy evening feeling when it’s cold and dark outside.
  • Watching Big Ten football with my dad.

Writing Necessities:

  • A hot beverage, preferably tea.
  • Candles
  • Solitude
  • White noise or calming music. (Damien Rice, various classical artists, Explosions in the Sky, and Norah Jones are among my favorites.)
  • A handy thesaurus, just in case.
  • Being totally ready: hair done, teeth brushed, dressed as though I were going to see people, etc. (I’m always more productive this way.)

Things I Miss About Being a Kid:

  • Getting lost in a book all day because I had nothing else to do or worry about.
  • Not caring about what other people thought.
  • Discovering amazing things, like science and literature and art, for the first time.
  • Halloween. It was so much better as a kid.
  • Being innocent to the world.
  • Visiting my grandparents.
  • The exhilaration of Christmas morning.
  • School. (Not even kidding!)
  • The comfort of having my parents in charge, not me.
  • Having my own room

Things I Liked as a Kid that Make Me Smile When I Remember Them:

  • Barbies; Beanie Babies; Doodle Bear; Polly Pockets; the game Trouble; jump rope and tag at recess; playing dress-up; running through the sprinkler; the Columbus Zoo; tea parties; finger painting
  • The Muppet Show; Reading Rainbow; Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood; Bill Nye the Science Guy; The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show; Letter People; Shelly Duvall’s Fairy Tale Theatre
  • Muppet Treasure Island; The Wizard of Oz; Pete’s Dragon; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Babes in Toyland; The Sound of Music; Mary Poppins; Brigadoon
  • Nancy Drew; The Wind in the Willows; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Rabbit Hill; Dusty Mole, Private Eye; Alice in Wonderland; Heidi; The Twenty-One Balloons; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH; From the Mixed-UP Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Things I’m Excited About:

  • Thanksgiving: parade, food, all of it!
  • Christmas!!!
  • The Hobbit movie
  • Getting a Christmas tree on Friday.
  • Colder weather
  • Skyping with my family this week.
  • Finishing this novel. NaNoWriMo, I am ready for you to be over!
  • My birthday
  • The bubble bath I’m taking tonight.
  • The book I’m reading. Deborah Harkness is just fantastic!
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NaNoWriMo is Eating My Brain

That sounds worse than it is.

I’m sorry I have been absent so long, but writing a whole novel in 30 days is, well…exhausting. I write for work, I write for NaNo, I listen to Christmas music and eat take-out while I write, and then I get really sleepy and watch TV until I fall asleep on the couch or Tyler makes me go to bed. I know all I’ve done for the past 14 days is sit at a desk and write, but I am one tired little lady.

This is what my life has devolved into this month. Leftovers, take out, laptop (which may as well be my third limb), and tea. Oh-so-much tea.

And I’m behind. Oh, heavens to Betsy am I behind. I had 99% of the story already in my head when I began this crazy venture, but filling in that skeleton is harder work than it seems, especially with a deadline. I almost wish I’d started with a story I didn’t care so much about, one I could never revisit after November 30th if I didn’t want to, but would have helped  me get my novel-writing mojo in place before I started this story that I’m invested in and care desperately about. But it’s too late for regrets, and I’m certainly NOT starting over. I am, however, working diligently. And I’ve decided that if I don’t finish by November 30th? That’s okay. I’ll aim to finish by New Years, and then I’ll start the mammoth work of editing and re-writing. And I’ll take my time about it, because I do care about this story so very much.

And I am enjoying it! I’m reminded every day how much I enjoy what I do, how blessed I am to have a husband and family who support my writing and think it;s a good idea for me to chase after my dreams. I could do so many other things, but would my soul be this satisfied? I remain unconvinced.

I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer than this right now. I have managed to read some, so I’ll try to squeeze out a few book reviews soon. Until then, I’m going to go take a nap, and here’s a short snippet of what I’ve been working on, just to hold you over. Nd while you read that, Im going to take a nap. At 5:38pm. No shame!

***

People of the Trees (Working Title)

Excerpt from Ch. 1: First Magic

Della was old, so old that her skin was as thinnest parchment, too stretched and sparse to hold the wrinkles that had once caressed her cheeks. When she pulled me onto her lap, it was with surprising strength and the firmness of touch that always communicates love from mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter, great-great-great grandmother to me.

We live long lives, we Healer women. We grow slowly, mature slowly, age slowly. But we learn quickly and forget never. We are a race in-between, not the humble humans we walk and live amongst and heal, not quite akin to the elevated Silva, the People of the Trees, those mysterious creatures who slipped in and out of our world like whispers in the wind. I think perhaps once one of their kind and a mortal must have fallen in love, and from that union came the Healers, but if that is true the tale is long-lost in time and the forgetfulness that enveloped us all in the years before the Tragedy. Strange, that the most defining moment of our age should be called nothing but the Tragedy, as if Mannix should be just the Deceiver, and Della just the Heroine.

But I get ahead of myself. On this day, when Della pulled me into her lap, wrapping me in her fragile arms like a house nestling in the limbs of a young tree, I did not know anything yet of our tragedy, of her bravery, of all the evil we had survived to get to this day, the day when I, the last Healer, would begin my education.

It is funny to think that I am the last. It was stranger to me then, but now I am old too, older even than Della. I have seen the lasts of many things, and the passing of a race does not seem so impossible now. I know it must seem odd to you as well, after all you are my granddaughter, and it would seem natural that you must be a healer too. But no, our powers are spent, the great price we paid to save the whole world, not just our people but all peoples, from a terrible fate that still, even now, sits on the cusp of the horizon, knowing it can never break through and yet salivating at the dream that someday, if it wishes hard enough, it might. Someday if vigilance lacks and our security lulls us again into foolishness, then maybe it will have a sliver of hope, a tiny opportunity to again devour us whole. I shudder to think of such a chance, but I am assured that Della’s magic was tight, that the trade was solid, that the wall will hold.

That wall is why you, my sweet plum, will never know the thrill of the first magic as it tingles through your fingers. It is why you will never feel your hands get hot on a babe’s forhead, why you will never gather mushrooms in the far glade to make the new year’s wine, why you will age almost normally, and why you now bear the sons that have been denied the Healer’s for so long. The magic is drained from us, denied you, child. In a few generations we will be all but human.

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Books, Dog Sweaters, Talented Sister-in-Laws, and a New Gig

Four things.

  1. Ermahgaad! I’m so excited, y’all! I stayed up half the night finally reading (under the covers with a flashlight, grade school style, so as not to wake Tyler)

    All the books I’m reading and plan to read soon, minus Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which I need to pick up from the bookstore. I need to get going!

    The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There. I am exactly half-way through, and though an official review will come in the next few days (duh), so far I love it every bit as much as the first. Also, I finally bought Shadow of Night, the second installment of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy. I need to hurry if I want to finish them both before NaNoWriMo starts a week from today. (Eeeek! One week! I’m excited and nervous and scared and thrilled and really unsure what to expect. And excited. Speaking of NaNowriMo, am I crazy to expect to get any reading during November? I’d like to read one of three books next month. Is that unrealistic?)

  2. Oscar got a sweater. The cuteness is overwhelming my soul!

    You’re welcome.

  3. I’ve meant to write about this for a while now. I have four sister-in-laws, ranging from my age to 9 years-old. I adore them all. They are smart and funny and creative, but today I want to talk about Charity. Charity is 16, and she’s a writer. A legitimate writer whose getting a story she wrote in a local magazine! She entered a local library writing contest, and won first place! This is fantastic by any standard, but I’m even more proud of her because she choose to submit a story that shared her faith even though New England isn’t exactly a bastion of Protestantism. She won anyway, and now a local Berkshires magazine will be printing her story this winter! So, yes, I am incredibly proud of Charity and her mad writing skills. But I more proud of her for being willing to share what she really believes through her writing, and there are many adults who need to take a leaf out of her book and do the same. writing truth, for the win! (And yes, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of the story, I will share!)
  4.  I have a new gig. A friend of mine recently started a life-style blog for 20-something women, and asked if I’d like to contribute. I said yes, of course! My first post on Miss Grown Up,  5 Tips for Writers, went live today, and we’d all be grateful for your support as we start this little blogging endeavor. I’ll be writing various articles about writing and marriage and other occasional whims, as well as book reviews that I’ll link to here.

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Filed under Books, Odds and Ends, Oscar

October Poetry, Day 10

There are so many poems inside these fingers,
but words are complicated
and a good pen is hard to come by. Someday I
shall peruse greatness, but
today the triumph is just getting the
words, a few small words,
onto paper
in order
without fear.

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Hello? Anybody There?

If you are still out there, then I am a: shocked, and b: grateful.  I’ve been gone a long time, but I needed to be gone for a long time. Sometimes those pesky little dark night’s of the soul pop up when least expected, and if you ignore them they get worse. Guess what I tried to do? If you said “ignore it,” you are very correct. And then it got worse, as I’m sure you’ve guessed. So I took a break from a lot of things: from reading, from writing, from blogging, from looking for a job, from beating myself up about it.  And I started spending a lot of time in prayer, and with my family and friends. I took a lot of time to focus on what matters and who matters, and tried to cut out the excess.

I love literature because it puts us face to face with truth, with reality, with the whole of humanity. But sometimes that hurts, and sometimes I need to look away. I’ve only really read the Bible and a few old favorites that are always good for my soul (Anne Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, Dr. Zhivago, A Wrinkle in Time, bits and pieces of The Chronicles of Narnia, and lots of Denise Levertov, Rumi, Rilke, Dickenson, and Frost.) That puts me hopelessly behind in my quest to read 104 books this year, but I just realized that some things are more important than reading, or even writing. I know most writers would balk at that statement. I’ve been admonished time and again that “We write because we must! Because it is our charge, our purpose, our calling! We write when it is painful because that is what it means to be a writer!” And sometimes we rest, because we are human, even those of us with calloused and ink stained fingers.

But there is a time and a season for everything. And this is the time and the season to crawl back into the light. Hello blog! I’ve missed you!Hello books on my bookshelf! You are dusty and beautiful, and I can’t wait for the adventures we are going to have! Hello pen and journal! I have so much to tell you! Hello story I was working on! I have so many ideas for your future! Hello great wide world! I am different now, but I think I’m better, and I’m ready to rejoin your dance!

I know I’m going to have to work pretty hard to build back up my readership, but it was worth it. I have started reading a thing or two in the past few weeks, so hopefully come Monday I’ll have a new review up. And since I have nothing else worth while to say to you right now, here is a brief photo update of the last two months of my life: (Warning, if you follow me on any social media, this is going to be a lot of repeats for you and thus probably a little boring. So sorry!)

Remember my favorite baby Josiah? I cuddled him a whole bunch.

I spent a lot of time at the beach…

…and I spent it with my best friend.

I got some good advice from a fortune cookie, and from some friends, though I didn’t take their pictures.

I took many gratuitous photos of Cambria, who did not mind.

We ran a 5K obstacle course challenge. Or rather, Tyler and a few of our faster friends ran, and I walk/ran it with a few of our less ambitious friends.

Tyler went to NYC for business, and I had to stay home. But I started this book, and he brought me back this huge mug, so it was okay.

And while he was gone I got to spend my afternoons with this adorable puppy, so that made it okay too.

Cambria found a new hiding/sleeping spot in the bathroom.

We celebrated friend’s birthdays, and Tyler got even more handsome, which I did not realize was possible. Look at that jaw line. Mmmhmm.

A friend found a left-over turkey in his freezer, so we all got together and had a feast. All I can say is the world needs more holidays with turkey, and also look at that amazing view!

We bought Cambria her very own castle, and now she insists we call her “Queen Cambria.” It’s mostly an honorary title since she makes no laws and really just sleeps up there like normal non-royal cats.

We went to our very first Polo match!

At the Polo match we dressed all fancy and drank champagne and pretended to be rich. We are not in actuality rich, but we did look fairly dapper.

I made the Queen cuddle with me a lot, because even Queens need love.

(Not pictured: I also ate a lot of ice cream, called my mom and/or dad almost every day, and spent a lot of time snuggled up with my man watching Dr. Who. It was, all-in-all a good respite for my soul.)

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Filed under Babies, Books, Cambria, Cats, Odds and Ends, San Diego, Tyler, writing

A Poetry Detour: Heaney, Rilke, and a Touch of Shelly

First, a very happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you, my friends! Éire go Brách! I can hear the sounds of our city’s festival from here, but it’s very rainy, so we’re not venturing out. Instead, this little Irish lass is enjoying a hot mug of Irish Breakfast tea and reading some of my favorite Irish poet, Seamus Heaney.

This is how poems help up live.
They match the meshes in the sieve
Life puts us though; they take and give
Our proper measure
And prove themselves most transitive
When they give pleasure.

If you’re never read Seamus Heaney’s poetry, or his book Finders Keepers, which is something of a poetry handbook and is incredibly useful to the aspiring poet or writer, then I highly recommend you check him out. He is well worth your time.

I don’t often talk about it, but poetry is my first love. Before I’d ever picked up Fitzgerald or Austen, I discovered Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Emily Dickinson in my neighborhood library during my eight grade year. I’m sure I’d read something of them, and other poets, before, but this is when they first captured me. I devoured Emily’s entire collection in a week, kept Tennyson’s Idles of the King on my bedside table, and was soon pluming the depths of Longfellow, Keats, Shelly, and the Brownings.

Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
from creation to decay.
Like the bubbles on a river-
sparkling, bursting, born away.
-Shelly

What breathing soul would not be captivated by such lushness? *Sigh* These poets inspired me to write for myself. What I penned, however, was not even a little inspiring, but rather an angst-riddled adolescent verse that the world was kind enough to label “poetry-ish.” (Though I dobelieve every writer has to get this angst-y, teenage nonsense out of their system before they can go on to write something that wont make them nauseated when they read it in ten years.)

"Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." -Rilke

Then, in college, I discovered the modern’s- Sandburg, Whitman, Plath, Dylan Thomas, Neruda, Milosz, Brodsky, Marianne Moore, and Denise Levertov, among others- who all made me feel the world in a newer way. I also started writing a few pieces that were passable, and I started realizing that this wasn’t just a hobby for me, it was a need. I needed to write. It was around this time I first discovered Rainer Maria Rilke, and truly, I feel in love.

I don’t think you have a choice about your poetic voice, I think it just comes up from the depths of who you are and how you see the world, and that is the voice you have. I found my voice in Denise Levertov, and I love her dearly, but if I could have chosen my voice, I would have wished to sound like Rilke. He’s so smooth and simple and reads so effortlessly. He’s one of the ones that makes poetry sound like anyone could do it, when you know in reality he sweated blood over those verses.

Rilke’s Letter’s to a Young Poet chronicles ten letters he wrote to an aspiring poet who admired Mr. Rilke greatly. I read a portion of these letters in a college Modern Poetry class, but I’d never read them in their entirety. Rilke is everything you expect from an eccentric poet- passionate, abounding in a slightly opaque wisdom, and sitting on the edge of a benevolent narcissism. He’s mesmerizing. At just 90 pages, this little treasure is well worth the afternoon it will take you to read on your own, but here are a few of the gems I collected from it:

  1. Never substitute irony for real creativity. Irony is only of real use when it springs from creativity, not when it takes it’s place. Writers who are purely ironic may last for a season, but the truly creative endure beyond. (Hipster poets, beware!)
  2. Everything is inspiration. Everything you’ve done, read, seen, said, thought, touched, tasted, or desired is all gestating in you. Poetry is an amalgamation; don’t discount anything.
  3. Poetry is hard. If you don’t feel from your inner core that it’s something you must do, it is perhaps better to find another enterprise.
  4. Poetry is hard because it is a preparation for life. The poet delves deeply and examines life so that it may be lived more fully. And what is life without love? Nothing. So if you’re not willing to take the time to learn to love well, you’re poetry will be stunted. To use Mr. Rilke’s own words, love is “the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
  5. If you want to write anything well, you’re going to have to get some time alone, and get it regularly. Solitude is the mother of reflection, and reflection is the mother of poetry.
  6. And, finally, this: patience will make or break you. Poetry is a marathon, not a sprint. My favorite quote from the whole book speaks to this:

“Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer….I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything.”

Amen.

And after swallowing all this richness, I just had to read more of his poetry. I read the entirety of my favorite Rilke collection, Rilke’s Book of Hours. Oh Rainer, how you slay me! I have no real review except this: if you’ve never read this particular collection, do it! It is a feast for your thoughts. I’ll share here two short selections, an old favorite and a new one.

Poem I, 2:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Poem II, 16:

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

Have you ever read a poet that just set your heart on fire? Let me know below, I’d love to check them out! If you’ve read Rilke before, do you love him, hate him, or fall somewhere in-between? What is your favorite Rilke poem?

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Poetry

Little Facts

1: For one reason or another, I frequently forget to eat breakfast. But today I remembered! Unfortunately, I ate ice cream instead of real food. Oooops.

2: I wish I has Zooey Deschanel’s hair. I would wish for her singing voice too, but then it gets a little Ursula the Sea Witch, and that’s just creepy. (On a related note, when I watch her new show, I realize why my husband cringes when I do/say things in public sometimes. Awkward people are…really awkward.)

3: I’m too neurotic to take part in NaNoWriMo. Last time I tried, I lost 10 pounds in two weeks and ended up passed out in a freezing cold shower because I kept forgetting to sleep. I can’t go to that place again.

 

(This is a meme from Rebecca with an R, and this is my first shot at it. I may be the only non-fashion related blog over there, but I think these ladies and their facts are really fun!)

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