How to Navigate This Blog...

This blog will contain my writing assignments, as well as journaling about my thoughts on writing and reading. How can you find what you want to read? Here's a list of the labels (actual label words I use are in bold font) I will be using and what they refer to. Labels can be found at the end of each post itself.


Fiction Assignment: refers to assignments from the book “Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises From Today’s Best Writers”
 Subcategories (refers to the section of the book): Get Writing; Point Of View; Character Development; Dialogue; Plot and Pacing; Setting and Description; Craft; Revision

Nonfiction Assignment: refers to assignments from the book “Now Write! Nonfiction”
 Subcategories (refers to the section of the book): Get Writing; Truth in Nonfiction; Memories and Inspiration; Characterization; Place; Voice, Dialogue, and Sound; Craft; Revision

Personal Writing: refers to writing that I’ve done simply for my own pleasure, not an assignment
 Subcategories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry


Journal Entry
Reading: to my thoughts on something I’m currently reading.
Writing: my thoughts on writing in general.
Writing Assignment: my thoughts on writing assignments from either of the books. I may be stuck or trying to explain or work out something I’m writing in these entries.
General: pretty much anything else.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I've entered a writing contest... you can help me win!

I entered WAHumor’s Guest Post With the Most guest blogging contest this week and I need comments and tweets on my post in order to win.

My article is called “Social Media Marketing Is A Bit Like Being A Superhero, But Without The Tights!” It’s a humerous look at some of the qualities superheroes can teach those of us working from home.

If you aren’t sure how to leave a comment on a blog post, I’ve actually written an article explaining exactly how to do it… click here to learn how.

Then head over to my WAHumor blog contest entry by clicking here and leave me a comment. You will have my heartfelt thanks and gratitude… and, after a short time… a reply… because I always respond to my commenters!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Interesting Dilema

I don't keep a "diary"... at least, not exactly.  I haven't kept a real diary since 7th grade.  You see in 7th grade someone managed to get a hold of my diary and spread all of my little rants and rages throughout the school.  I was so humiliated and embarassed... I vowed that it would NEVER happen again!  Kids can be very cruel at that age age and I learned a very harsh lesson.  I didn't write like that again for a very long time!

However, I love to write.  I especially love to write when I'm moody, or upset, or trying to figure something out.  I am constantly amazed by human interaction and reaction and I love to write about those things.  I have always dreamt of one day writing a screen play or a novel and in order to do that one has to write... constantly.  So, I do keep a journal now and have for many years.  It's similar to a diary in it's form and format.  The only difference is that, while based on my life experiences, it is 90% fiction!  According to my journals, I have been married at least 7 times, killed 3 people (one with my bare hands and one twice!) and had random affairs with all sorts of people.  I have travelled to exotic lands, met, and conversed with, fascinating people from history (who happen to be dead), and have done some truly amazing things.  I have used these writings to explore different aspects of life.  The thing is, while I may write about something as horrfying as murder in my fictional journal, I have no intentions of doing anything like that in real life... ever.  It's a great way to get out frustrations when I'm mad, figure out solutions when I'm confused, or explore potentially exciting futures when I'm happy.... without judgement or risk.  It's not necessarily anything I want to happen outside the pages of that journal and most of it is pure fiction.

As I've gotten older, the lines between fact and fiction in my journals are increasingly blurred.  It's hard to pull out of them what is fact and what is fiction.  Sometimes it is blatantly obvious, but other times it just can't be discerned.  Although, since I'm an honest person, I figure anyone who really knows me well would certainly know enough about who I am and what I'm about to know that the entries are fake, should they ever stumble across my writing.  I figured I was safe writing like this.  I'm an adult, living in my own home... I shouldn't have to make notes throughout my journals stating that they are fiction, based just barely on fact.  I'm the only one who's ever going to read them... right?!?!

Now for the dilema... someone very close to me picked up one of my journals and read it... accidentally.  They percieved it to be fact... a logical conclusion based on what they read and how it was written... and assumed that I actually had acted on all those thoughts and ideas.  Then, they waited several years before telling me about it and in a way, throwing it in my face as a huge character flaw.  Now how can I possibly defend my character against that?  In a sense, those are my thoughts and ideas, but they aren't exactly real.  I explored potention outcomes and exaggerations about everyday occurances that, in and of themselves, were actually rather boring and uneventful.  By exploring to those fictional depths of character, I was able to make better decisions in reality and learn some new things about human interaction.  It never occured to me while writing that they might be construed as fact and used against me.

Yet, at the same time, I can't say they aren't real.  They were thoughts contained somewhere in my head.  They didn't just come out of nowhere.  So while I may never have acted on any of them, I did think them... sort of.  They have a distinct flavor of me flowing between the lines.  They paint a partial picture of how I might have seen a situation play out differently than it really did.  Not that I would have wanted the situation to play out that way, but just another potential outcome.  Well, it turns out adults can be just as cruel as kids.  I should have learned a better lesson the first time!

So now, the best I can do is apologize profusely for what I wrote (and the hurt it caused) and hope that my real strength of character is enough to overcome the fictional character flaws illustrated in my journal.  That's quite a challenge, but I suppose it will be worth it in the long run.  It's an even harder lesson to learn the second time around!  I have burned all of my old writing and will never keep anything remotely resembling a personal diary or journal again... lesson learned at last!

I read a fabulous blog post today called "7 Reason to be Grateful You're a Writer".   While I agree with most of these... number 5 had a particular sting, in light of recent events...
5. You are not your fiction. When you create a fictional world, you are multiplying your experience of life. You get to be someone else, living another reality, and at the same time still be you. The more times you multiply your life, the more living you can do in this brief handful of years you have been allotted. But the real you, in your real life. . .that’s the one that counts. And no matter what happens in your fiction, you will always have that. 
I guess that's not always entirely true!

If, unlike me, you still intend to keep a journal, here are a couple of my favorites.  My all-time favorites are the moleskine ones... sigh...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My thoughts on intelligence and writing...

In my efforts to improve my writing, I have connected with many other authors, both online and offline and I've been amazed by the amount of insecurity that being an author causes.  I listen to authors who's work I adore reading belittle themselves because someone they know or have read writes something they believe to be more intelligent... in fact, usually borderline genius.  This troubles me a lot.  As a writer I understand this dilema, but I can also see it from the angle of the reader.  As a reader, I enjoy intellecual writing... I'm fascinated by those who can take the english language and bend or manipulate it in such a way that I am reminded of the great works of authors I was forced to read in high school.  It is amazing to me tht people can write like this and I have a deep appreciation for their work.  However, ninety percent of the time I read something, I really just want to be entertained.

When reading, I look for authors who's work is written in a voice I enjoy and can relate to.  I'm not so concerned with the intellectual level of the work, but with whether or not it resonates with me and adds value or entertainment to my existence.  In short... it's not about the brilliance, it's all about speaking to me... the reader.  Now if your goal is to write something on the level of The Lord of the Rings, by all means, strive for the intelligent voice and the sheer brilliance of the words, phrases and dialogue on the page.  If you are like most of us, trying to tell a story or teach others about something you know... write in a real voice that entertains, engages, and draws the reader in.  It's hard to be a brilliant writer who's work will be analyzed and discussed in schools throughout the world years from now, but it is not nearly as hard to write something that will entertain your audience.

I wonder what other authors I have not yet met think of this subject?  I wonder if they strive for intellecual writing or just write to entertain.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter... please comment below.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guest Blog - Humor

I decided to try my hand at humorous writing when a friend was looking for a humorous article for her organizing blog.  She wanted something upbeat and fun about the pitfalls of being disorganized.  My post is now live and you can read it on Green Apple Organising's blog...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Westmont Writer's Group - Mystery Bag Assignment

Last Thursday I went for the first time to a meeting of local writers at our library.  It was a neat experience to be in the room with others who love to write and I really enjoyed myself.  One of the things they do often is have writing exercises.  Last week's exercise was the mystery bag.  We each had to put our hand into a brown paper bag and feel what was inside... no peeking allowed.  We then had 5 minutes (and ONLY 5 minutes) to write something about it.   Note... the picture at the bottom is not the actual object from the bag, but close to what I envisioned.

When I reached in the bag I felt a large iron bell.  This reminded me of the kind of bell that used to be used as a doorbell before the horrid elecronic versions.  I imagined a house in a small village long ago and the bell as a family heirloom....

The constant knocking on the door was beginning to drive Bianca insane.  Where could the bell possibly have gotten to and how could it have gone missing on such an important day?  Her sister Josie's engagement party had officially begun over 30 minutes ago, but guests were still arriving in droves.  Bianca missed the melodic tones of the iron bell and remembered how the two sisters had sat at the top of the stairs when they were younger waiting for hours just to hear it ring once.

Oh well, she thought, there's simply no time to look for it today.

She slouched back to the party just in time to see her sister opening a gloriously wrapped purple box with fancy ribbon that she knew was from their mother and watched her sister pull out the bell.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What are you listening to?

When I write I like to have a wide variety of music playlists at the ready.  A turn of the wheel and click of a button and my iPod delivers exactly what I need to stay focused on the writing task at hand.  I've set these playlists up in advance so I can be ready when the mood hits.  So what do I listen to?  Here are a few of the many selection I use to help you get your own list started. 

If I'm writing in general (like now) I tend to listen to music that fits easily into the background and doesn't distract my focus.  My playlist includes...

The Ghost Composer - piano music by Quentin Fielding
Falling Water - piano music by Michael Strening Jr.
The Very Best Of Enya - along with music from several other Enya Cds
Come Away with Me - relaxing jazz by Norah Jones
Jim Brickman: Beautiful World - more relaxing piano music

If I have to write something a bit on the dark side, I opt for some pretty heavy classical stuff...

Mozart - Requiem / AugĂ©r, Bartoli, Cole, Pape, Wiener Phil., Solti - you can never go wrong with Mozart
Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring Cycle) / Sir Georg Solti - The Ring is one of the most amazing pieces of music... this particular playlist has only some of the darker movements.

If I am angry and venting I've gotta go for the metal hair bands and monster rock of the 80's...

Monster Ballads: Platinum Edition
Monster Ballads, Vol. 2

If I'm just plain moody, then I've got a playlist completely comprised of my favorite band (The Cure) to get me out of my funk and help me write more clearly...

Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978-2001 - a great compilation of The Cure songs

If I'm writing about strange subjects or sci fi, then I've gotta go with psychadelic rock.  Pink Floyd is the obvious here, but my playlist also includes King Crimson...

Discipline - King Crimson

If my writing needs to be more spiritual in nature, I will listen to rhythmic drumming...

Drum Circle - Spiral Rhythm

Of course, I have about 50 different playlists for writing.  If you've got an iPod full of music, why not create a few mood enhancing playlists of your own to listen to while you write?  Let me know what you're listening to... it just might make it on to one of my lists as well.

Assignment: Through the Senses - Part 1 of 7

All 7 parts of this assignment require that I use no abstraction, no generalization, no summary, no analysis, and no interpretation.  I am simply to write from the senses in the present.  In part one I have awoken in a room in my home other than the bedroom, full of anxiety over an illusive anxious dream.

The stark late afternoon sunlight almost blinds me as it streams directly through my sleepy eyelids from the open window.  The sickening sweet smell of perfumes that are not meant to be combined tingles my nose hairs.  The garrish hot pink bedspread is definately not mine.  Where am I?  The sleeping pitbull on the bed next to me farts loudly, momentarily replacing the horrid perfume smell with a distinct pungent aroma.  My brain feels fuzzy and my eyes have trouble focusing on the things around me.  I hear construction noises and children playing through the open window.  There is undescernable chatter coming from somewhere else in the house beyond the closed door.  Scattered across every table in the room are open makeup containers and jewelry.  My eyes begin to gain focus and I observe brightly colored rubber bracelets in every hue of the color spectrum, tangled silver necklaces tossed aside in frustration, single earings, and black hair bands everywhere.  The off white vanity is losing it's battle with age and it's paint crackles and is missing in places.  Areas of the vanity are coated with brightly colored eye shadows and blushes from hurried applications earlier in the day.  I feel a tingling sensation creeping up the base of my neck as I try to focus on earlier events, but my mind doesn't seem to be functioning well enough to remember yet.  As I rise to leave the room, my head spins and I find myself looking down at a lone patch of carpet, barely visible through the piles of stuffed animals and dirty clothes.  The smells in the room are making me even more dizzy and I am forced to sit down on the bed again.  There are shelves full of dusty knick knacks, photos tilted at absurd angles in their mismatched frames, and posters full of blood red writing I can't seem to make out covering most of the upper wall space.  A spider web grows menacingly in the corner above the closet, which seems to have suffered some kind of recent explosion, it's contents spilling out on to the already cluttered piles on the floor.  I reach up to run a hand through my hair and find a chunk of it missing, replaced by a large mound of some sort.  That worries me a little.  I know I am at home, but can't seem to place where.  An anxious feeling fills me as pieces of a dream float just beyond my mental grasp.  I lay back down and close my eyes, with the hope that this is just part of the elusive dream and when I wake again the world will have righted itself, but sleep doesn't want to come.  The construction noise from outside grows louder.  Is it getting closer?  The voices byond the door are yelling now, but the words are still undiscernable through the wooden barrier.  The still sleeping dog snorts then chases something in his sleep, scratching my arm with his claws.  I open my eyes and scan the room again.  There must be something to trigger a memory, something I have overlooked.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gone to happy place... be back soon!

This post-it used to be one of my profile picture options on Facebook and MySpace.  Everytime I was leaving the computer behind for the weekend I would replace my picture with this graphic.  I felt as if it was some kind of courtesy to my friends to let them know I wasn't available to comment on their various forms of distress at the moment, but I would be back to commisurate with them in a few days.  I soon realized that no one cared.  Everyone continuted to live their lives and comment freely in cyberspace whether I posted humorous, sarcastic, insightful and sometimes silly responses or not.  At that point in time I wasn't online a lot, but I was really happiest offline and away from the glaring lights of the computer screen.  I don't think that has changed much, although I find myself in front of the screen much more often now. 

I haven't posted the happy place note in a while, but I am resurrecting it to use on this blog for just a little while.  You see, as much as I am enjoying expanding my writing skills through the exercises in the two books, I have decided to take on a much larger writing goal and complete a book.  Originally I was planning on finishing the assignments before taking on this very scary task, but I realized that I need to strike now... while the iron is hot.  I have come to terms with the fact that my book will not compare with Shakespere or Tolkien and am finally ok with that.  I don't expect to be a brilliant writer at first, but I have good ideas that need to make their way out of my head and hopefully into the heads of others.  I think getting the informaton out there is a better use of my time at this moment than striving for perfection.  If Microsoft can sell a functional but imperfect product and offer subsequent upgrades, why can't I?

This is a huge struggle for me because I am a closet perfectionist.  It keeps me from getting things done quite a bit, but I'm working really hard on just getting over it and getting moving.  I will occasionally compelte an assignment here during my book writing process.  I imagine it will be a very useful way to overcome writer's block, but the posts will be a bit more infrequent for a while.  Writing is a happy place for me.  I never really realized how much before.  I love the process of formulating an idea in my head, molding it and tinkering with it until I know exactly how I want it to come out and then spewing it out into the blank computer screen.  I don't want to stop the blog, but I no longer want to delay the book.  If I could write 24-hours a day and give you both the book and the blog I would probably do it... but a girl has to sleep sometime and the laundry fairies have not visited my house for a very long time.

So, this is not farewell.  I am simply going to my happy place and I will be back to share with all of you soon.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Assignment: Three Things That Stopped Me in My Tracks - Part 4 of 4

In the last part of this assignment, I'm supposed to look back at the previous 3 seemingly unrelated posts and find some thread connecting them.  Then I'm supposed to write a couple paragraphs on how and why they are connected.

The attack of the glitter fairy, conspiracy of the Chicago train system to thwart my poster delivery and Illinois Blizzquake 2010 may seem like completely random events in the life of one individual... me.  The fact that they are all part of the web of my life is the main thread that connects them, however there are other, more subtle strands as well.

Each of these events could have sent any individual into a state of utter annoyance.  Can you imagine having to clean up all of that glitter?  What about sitting in your car, wasting gas as a train decides to stop directly across your path when you're in a hurry?  And imagine being forced to endure the grumblings of mother nature and being woken up at 4am to do so!  I don't get frustrated by small hiccups like this in life though.  These are the moments in which I shine.  I love the opportunity to turn a tale of my own misfortune into sarcastic and witty entertainment for others.  This is an incredibly important part of who I am and one of the reasons I've obtained the nickname "Smartass".  Many people would consider a nickname like that an insult.  They try hard to be what society wants, live a polite existence, and never offend others.  I just want to have fun and I want those around me to have fun too.  I try not to hurt others when I'm attempting to inject humor into a situation, but past that point, I really don't care at all what people think of me.  If some people are offended, there are likely many more who are amused.  So the first strands of the web created by these three events are humor and the notion of being yourself.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff--and it's all small stuff (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Series)Although annoying, these three events are not very big in the grand scheme of life.  No one died or was even hurt by any of them... with the possible exception of a few sore backs of Illinois residents who had to shovel up all that snow.  This brings to mind the book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff".  In life many people like to make a big deal out of the small stuff.   It makes them somehow feel important and gives their lives a deeper meaning.  These are the drama queens who will tell you their terrifying tale of how everything in their life has gone wrong one day and be raving about life on cloud nine the next.  The fact is, real life is not based on the National Inquirer or the hottest soap opera.  We spend the majority of our time in the grey area between the ultimately exciting and the terribly devastating and that's ok.  There's nothing wrong with being boring and finding humor in the completely mundane.  People seem to be looking for something to catapult them to levels of greatness and acclaim in search of happiness, when they should be striving to find it in the simple pleasure of daily existence.  The next strands of the web of these events now becomes finding enjoyment and humor in the small stuff of life.

Finally, these events all occured within a 3 block radius.  There's a saying in real estate that location is everything.  That may be true when looking for a house, but not in finding fulfilment in your life.  You don't have to travel to Haiti and help earthquake victims there in order to live a meaningful existence... although it would be a very humanitarian thing to do.  The fact is that opportunities for growth and life understanding occur right in your neighborhood every day.  You simply need to open your eyes and find them.  We each live a completely unique experience on this earth.  We may share someone else's experiences some of the time, but the majority of the time we are on our own.  You get to choose what you bring into your life, what knowledge you gain from it and what you choose to share with others.  Many people complain about things happening to them, but it's much more productive to decide to be proactive and bring the experiences into your life that will facilitate your own growth.  This brings us to the last strand of the web I will be addressing.  Sometimes you have to make the difficult decision to let worn out relationships die out, use outside-the-box thinking to solve potential problems before they occur and look for opportunities that are already in your life instead of always looking for another person to provide them for you.

So what's the spider that creates this web?  The interconnectedness of life and these three seemingly unrelated tales leads me to believe that I am the spider.  I like to use real life events to weave a beautiful web with which I can help others realize things about living a better life that they might not have otherwise seen.  If you only look at the spider or one of the strands you miss the beauty of the whole web.

Assignment: Three Things That Stopped Me in My Tracks - Part 3 of 4

I haven't been able to escape it all day.  The earthquake in Illinois.  Between the reports on the local news, the conversations with everyone I ran into today, and the "relief" groups springing up on Facebook, one would think a serious tragedy of monolithic proportions had occured.  As with any tragedy, everyone now has a story of where they and their loved ones were and what they were all doing when this terror struck our fair state.  Here's mine...

Last night, after an entire day of blizzard conditions resulting in a foot of snow, I put my kids to bed and settled into a nice warm bath.  After my bath I read a little, set the coffe for the morning, turned out the lights and fell into a deep sleep.  A moment before 4am, I woke groggily to a grumbling sound and a little shaking.  I thought briefly to myself, "Darn snow plows!  Why can't they wait until later to clean the street?".  I then noted my cat sleeping soundly beside me and the sounds of snoring coming from the kids' rooms before falling immediately back to sleep.  The kids went off to school (apparently the blizzard and shaky ground were not enough to justify a snow day off from classes).  Upon waking from a very restful night's sleep I had a brief morning phone conversation with my boyfriend and turned on the news.  That's when I realized that I had been right in the midst of a terrible tragedy and apparently slept right through it.  

If you haven't yet turned on your TV, I'll share the horrifying news.  Apparently, an earthquake originating from just outside the town of Sycamore in northern Illinois rocked the state last night.  Cats and dogs all over Illinois (and even some of their owners) were awakened at 3:59am by a slight tremor that registered a mere 3.8 on the Richtor scale.  News reporters quickly jumped into their vans, cameras and all, to report from every gas station in which nothing more than a bag of chips was knocked to the floor.  Even the normally well-respected CNN had to have their take on this tragic event and reminded us all that Illinois is on a major fault line and this could have been as bad as the recent quake in Haiti.  All day I watched as friends started groups on Facebook to rally support for Illinois victims who now had to find some way to replace a cracked picture frame or injured their back when they had to pick something up off the floor.  There was talk of telethons, celebrity visits to draw attention to the plight of Illinois residents and refugee camps being set up in local bars. 

I laughed today like I have not laughed in a very long time.  Although the newscasters were completely serious in their reporting of this event, everyone else seemed to have a sarcastic wit in the face of this sheer terror.  Despite the fact that our nation's economy is tanking, people can't find work, and that a real earthquake recently occured in Haiti, people were joking and laughing at our shared oh-so-serious earth burp (as I will likely refer to it from now on).  The humor was clever, cynical, and smartassy and I laughed at all of it.  The funniest part of my day was talking to my folks about the earthquake/burp as we watched my son's basketball game this afternoon.  They turned to me and in all seriousness said, "Well, we always said you could sleep through a World War."   Now, apparently, I have faced true devestation and slept through it all, living to tell you about it.  I guess they must have been right.