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.

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.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Assignment: Three Things That Stopped Me in My Tracks - Part 2 of 4

This morning at 9:40 I got a text from my daughter... a plea for help.  She had forgetten a poster she'd made of the element Flourine that she needed for her 8th grade science class today and wanted me to drop it off at the school.  Now I had a decision to make.... do I take the poster to school or not? I had to think for a moment.  For one thing, I want my kids to learn to responsibility and for another she is not allowed to have her cell phone at school.   I allow each of my kids one moment of forgetfulness each school year and she hadn't had an incident like this in over 2 years, but there was still the cell phone issue.  I decided to take the poster to school and deal with the cell phone later.

I got dressed, trudged out to the car and set off for the school.  This is normally about a 10 minute drive, so I thought I had plenty of time leaving the house at 10:10.  I wanted to get to school at the same time she would be checking the office for her poster so I could take the phone home with me.  Then it happened, I got stopped in my tracks by not one, but two freight trains.  The first was moving at a slow but livable speed, but the second was inching along as if it were losing a race with a snail.  At 10:26, it finally came to a stop right in front of me.  Panic set in and I texted my daughter that I was on my way, but stopped by a couple crazy trains.  As soon as I sent the text message, the train began to move again... ever so slowly.  As it crept by one car at a time, I watched the ticking clock.  I know this doesn't help any, but at least I felt as if I was doing something.  Finally the train passed and I sprinted down the road (if you can call 25 mph sprinting) to get the poster to the school no more than 10 mintues late.  I brought it into the office at exactly 10:39.  My daughter had given up on me and headed to class by then.  When I left, the office assured me they would page her over the intercom so she could come retrieve the bright orange monstrocity.

All ended well.  My daughter did get the poster from the school office in time for her presentation and her grades were saved (and, since I'd forgotten all about it, got to keep the cell phone all day too), no thanks to a couple slow trains that got in the way.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Poem: The Wonder Cat

I wrote this quickly one night while watching my playful kitten.  Her name is Gizmo (after the creature in the movie Gremlins), but we often call her Gizzy.

The Wonder Cat (August 2009)

Green-eyed Gizzy
The wonder cat
Who wonders at this
And wonders at that

She wonders what’s happening
Right over there
And pounces at nothing
And flies through the air

She bats at your hair
And chases a light
Then tries to ignore you
With all of her might

She wonders at sights
Outside the closed door
Then chases some foil
Balled up on the floor

She purrs like a lawnmower
Loud as can be
Then catches a fly
And then sets it free

She teases the dog
And chases his tail
Then dashes and hides
Without leaving a trail

Then slowly she peeks
From under the bed
Then wondering still
She cocks her small head

She’s queen of her castle
And rules her lair
And happiest only
When people are there

But when the day’s done
And the wondering’s through
Her favorite thing
Is to snuggle with you

After flicking her tongue
On the tip of your nose
She wonders again
And away Gizzy goes

Assignment: Three Things That Stopped Me in My Tracks - Part 1 of 4

This is a 4 part assignment.  Each part is supposed to be done about 2-3 days apart.  I'm supposed to describe the specifics of something that happened and why I think it caught my attention.

Baths relax me.  After a long day there is nothing I enjoy more than slipping into a steamy tub with a good book and a cold drink at the ready.  If I'm really in the mood to treat myself, I'll add Lush bath bombs or melts to the tub.  They come in many varieties with different scents, colors and purposes.  I've tried just about all of them, but there was one particular bath melt that really captured my attention... the Karma bath melt!
Karma is one of Lush's signature scents and one of my favorites.  It's deliciously seductive scent combines just the right amounts of patchouli, orange, lemongrass, lavender and pine.  The bath melt combines this long lingering scent with skin-softening cocoa butter, almond oil and (according to their advertising) a hint of glitter.  This sounded like heaven in the shape of small pyramid and I decided to give it a try.

My Karma bath sparkled with a golden glow, inviting me to lounge in its warm, shimmery depths for an eternity... or at least an hour.  With the sultry sounds of Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" playing softly in the background, I slipped into the tub and opened my book.  An hour (ok... maybe two) later, it was time for me to leave my glorious bath and get some sleep.  My muscles had relaxed and I was feeling on top of the world.  I blew out the candles that had surrounded my tub, hit the lights and gasped! 

Holy glitter fairy Batman!  I was covered head-to-toe with golden glitter.  Not just a little glitter either; I looked like a cross between an Oscar statue and a vampire from the Twilight books who'd stumbled into the sun.  "Oh well," I thought to myself, "it will brush off me when I dry off."  I then turned to face my tub... now looking as though it had been dipped in a golden pond.  This was definately more than a "hint" of glitter.  After drying off, I began to notice that there was glitter everywhere... the tub, the towel, the cat who had inadvertently rubbed against my leg, the floor, the walls and well... just everywhere! 

The household glitter explosion lasted for months.  When I tried to wash it off, it got on my body wash pouf.  When I wore clothes it coated every outfit.  Gold sparkly glitter ended up in the food I cooked, the carpet, and even on the tires of my car!  There was shockingly a never-ending supply of glitter in places I couldn't see.  All I can say is, it's a good thing I didn't have to visit my gynocologist for a while... he might have thought I was trying a little too hard to impress him.  I was afraid to have sex, for fear that afterwards my boyfriend would be forced to stand next to another man in a public bathroom with a glittery golden penis!

You might think that all this glitter would cause me avoid that particular bath melt like the plague, however... when I'm feeling down in the dumps and in the mood to brighten up my life... I know just how to make it all sparkle.  I just add a little Karma!

Write that book...

Are you like me?  Do you love to write?  Think you've got a book, play, etc. in you?  Get some help from Mark Victor Hansen, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Check out his Wealthy Writer's Wisom program.