Writing Challenge!

What a week it has been. I am intellectually exhausted and drained after the election on Tuesday, from doing my best to be level-headed and understanding, all the while trying to comprehend why social issues aren’t more important to everyone. But that is simply because they are so very important to me personally. And that is all I will say about that.

In other news, I’m doing a writing challenge for the month of November! NaNoWriMo was a bit daunting for me and then a fellow writing friend, Necole Ryse, popped up with a different challenge! So I am participating in that – 500 words per day! (You should definitely go check out Necole’s site and various social media accounts – and duh, her books!)

By participating, I’m really being faced with how much I let life get in the way of my writing goals. There have been a few days where I wrote nothing, and multiple where I wrote just over 200, or 400. I have gotten away from making writing a priority, and that simply sucks!

I’m doing my best to stay dedicated, though. I made up for some of it by writing over 800 words today and plan to do that for a few more days to try to make up for all of the slacking. I do have the rest of the month, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m just trying to nip the habit in the bud before it’s the end of the challenge and I’m CRAZY far behind!


Power of the Written Word

Back in the end of May/beginning of June the Stanford rape case was everywhere you looked. My Facebook page was full of articles discussing it, the mainstream news talked about it daily. People were outraged, with very good reason. I was one of those outraged people.

There is so much that can be said about this case and about rape culture in general. I could go on and on about it and have done so numerous times. But the one thing that I love about this particular situation, is that this survivor was brave enough to put her experience down in the written word and it was so powerful that it could not be ignored.

It was read in Congress, which according to an article I saw, is the first time such a letter/statement was read and added to Congressional Record. It was read on a news program by a reporter who got choked up and had a difficult time finishing the reading. When it was first on Buzzfeed and went viral it was read nearly 5 million times in one weekend.

As a writer, this fact has stuck with me since the entire thing first was publicized. This is what I love about writing. Sometimes it can be fun and entertaining and not really that important in the grand scheme of things. Other times, it can drive a powerful message home that is so often ignored. That girl poured her heart out in that statement, letting go of any fear or embarrassment. She wrote it down in a way that connected with people–people who have never experienced a situation like that before, who now have at least an idea of what it is like from the survivor’s perspective.

I would love to meet this woman, to congratulate her on her immense bravery and the impact she made when she wrote down those words. In spite of the turmoil she experienced, she managed to be strong enough to do something to make this world a little better and she should be incredibly proud of herself.

Notebooks & Books On Writing

Apparently I’ve been missing out, not knowing about this book. It seems that many high school English classes use it, but mine definitely did not. The book is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m already loving it. There are so many prompts and ideas and I’m finding it all to be quite inspiring. I read a chapter or two and I have to stop because there’s something that I want to write down before I forget!

I’ve also decided to follow in Natalie Goldberg’s footsteps and start using just plain, single subject, spiral-bound notebooks for my writing practice. I’m a little bit obsessed with office supplies, notebooks included, so I find myself constantly buying new ones, different ones. I’ll buy a large 300 page notebook and then before I’ve even filled 5 pages, I buy a pretty composition book style notebook. And another, and then a fun journal that I liked because it opened flat. Before I know it, I have 6 or 7 empty notebooks lying around, only 25% filled in total! It’s like I’m spending more time worrying about the notebooks and which one to write in than I am actually writing. And how silly is that?!

I figure that if I take the guesswork out of it and give myself that “routine” of using regular single subject notebooks, it will enable me to be more productive.

Basically, I should know by now that I work best with a routine set in place. At the very least, organized chaos. 🙂

Little Christmas Moments

I am getting a typewriter for Christmas! Thanks to the thoughtful boyfriend who knows I’ve wanted one for quite some time. 😀

At some point, I will take it to a typewriter repair shop and have them paint it pink for me, rather than blue. Because I am admittedly a bit obsessed with the color pink. It is a bright, fun, happy color–judge me if you’d like; I don’t care. HaHa!

I also have a slight obsession with Christmas. I’m sure largely due to my many happy memories of Christmas with my family as a kid. I am incredibly fortunate to have had the generally happy childhood that I did. We were by no means rolling in money, but we certainly didn’t live in poverty either. And what was more important than the actual gifts we would get was the overall feeling of Christmas–the decorations, the smell of the pine tree in the living room, the traditions that lived on every year (and still to this day).

My brother and I hiding candy canes and smaller ornaments deep in the branches of the tree, then celebrating when we would find each other’s stashed items. Mom reading us the pop-up “Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve and giving us our one Christmas Eve present which was always new pajamas.

The two of us (once we got older) would stay up, one of us sneaking across the hall into the other’s room, and we would try to spy as Mom wrapped up the final gifts. Then Christmas morning, my brother and I getting up and trying to wake up Mom & Dad at the crack of dawn. They made us wait a little while usually, but we at least got to go dig through our stockings while they roused themselves from bed and made a pot of coffee.

Mom would read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible before we could start tearing into our presents, and after we were finished opening everything my brother and I would spend the day playing with new items, calling our cousins and friends to see what they got, and we typically enjoyed a relaxing day at home together. Just watching t.v. and hanging out, sometimes convincing our parents to let us go to our cousins’ or allow them to come over to our house.

I thoroughly love those memories. 🙂 Nothing particularly Earth-shattering would ever happen… I remember some of the gifts specifically but for the most part I just remember all of those little moments.

An Encouraging Rejection

I have discussed previously how as writers we are often our own worst critics. There is a very real insecurity where our work is concerned, yet at the same time we obviously believe that our story is worth telling or we wouldn’t have written it. We are overly confident in the fact that we think our voice is special or should be heard, but there is always that voice saying, “Nope, nobody cares! Nobody wants to hear your story! Your writing is terrible and not special at all!”

At least, that is the case for me personally. Of course it won’t be the same for everyone, but I’ve heard an alarming number of other writers express the same thing.

Since I started sending out query letters to agents, my confidence has definitely taken some hits. It has been something of an uphill battle to keep believing in my own future success. I frequently remind myself that so many amazing writers were rejected dozens of times before finally getting that, “yes.” J.K. Rowling in particular was rejected something like 75 times, and she ended up writing one of the most successful, well-received book series ever!

Overall though, the rejection letters I have received have honestly been so polite and diplomatic that they haven’t been too difficult to swallow. Last week I received probably the most uplifting one yet. The agent stated, “I found your story to be very strong, and it drew me in right away. You have talent, but unfortunately, I didn’t fall completely in love with it. […] I do want you to know that it was very hard for me to pass on this project, and I’m certain that if it hasn’t already found a home, it will soon.”

How can I be that upset about such a “rejection”? 🙂 Of course I don’t require validation from others where my writing is concerned–even without it I would continue to write, because it is what I love to do and it fulfills my soul in a very unique way–but god it still feels great to read those words!

Characters Telling The Story (& a Short Excerpt)

I mentioned previously that I’m currently reading “Bird by Bird”, and the section I recently read was regarding letting your story kind of fall into place, rather than pre-planing the entire thing. The author was driving home the point that this is the most organic way to write a story, the way that will result in the most compelling writing and interesting characters.

Happily enough, that is exactly how my book unfolded. I began with the first sentence, not having ANY idea of what it meant or where it would go. But as soon as I started writing everything just fell into place. I could see my main character–her house, her family, and the street she lived on. I listened and she told me her story, bit by bit. 🙂 I legitimately didn’t know where it was going to end up until I was a solid 3/4 of the way through it.

When that happens, it feels like magic. I’ve written plenty of other stories and started other books that I gave up on after 10 pages. In those cases I was most likely trying to force the story, versus letting it just flow from my pen or keyboard. But this completed (save for some revisions I’m still working on!) book feels so special and personal to me, because I was able to get into that zone. I was able to listen to the characters and let them push the story along. I was able to get to the point where I write something and when re-reading think to myself, “No, she wouldn’t say it like that.” Or, “He wouldn’t react that way. It’s not his personality.”

It has been awhile since I put in an excerpt from said book, so I’ll put a short one in this post. This is the scene where the MC (Thana) meets Phoebe–her perky, happy coworker who ends up knowing far more than she lets on…

That day I had to work after school. Things were going well at the library. The peace and quiet was good for me. Nobody there knew that people were dropping around me like flies. Patrons came and went, smiling politely and occasionally making small talk. Nobody bothered me with questions or looked at me with dread. That day I came in to find a tiny blonde girl waiting at the punch-in clock, positively beaming at me.

“Hi! My name is Phoebe. Kristen hired me yesterday and told me to be here today to train! You must be Thana.”

“Uh, yeah. Kristen didn’t say anything to me about this…” Not that I was surprised. Kristen often left me with added responsibilities when she didn’t feel like handling her managerial position.

“She left a note by your desk, I think. That’s what she said she would do, anyway. My my, your eyes are certainly green, aren’t they? Quite striking and most interesting.” She smiled at me like she knew a secret.

“Oh, yeah, thank you.” I mumbled, feeling off-kilter from her whole demeanor. Her teeth still beamed at me perfectly. Her citrus yellow sun dress fit her torso like a glove, showing off her petite curvature; hugging her slender waist, falling effortlessly over her shapely hips to a flowing, girlish skirt. Her white, strappy shoes looked like they had a three-inch heel, and circled around her ankle daintily where the buckle shined nearly as much as she did.

Suddenly I felt quite frumpy in my slightly baggy, comfy jeans and plain grey crew-neck tee.

The note from Kristen was just where Phoebe said it would be. Thana—train the new girl. Thanks. –Kristen. Very helpful indeed.

An Unfortunate Incident Involving Handcuffs

I’m such a nerd sometimes. 🙂

I genuinely love learning something new about grammar/punctuation. When there is a particular concept that I’ve always just not quite understood the rules of, and then it suddenly clicks after reading up on it some more… that’s such a satisfying feeling!

My “Woe is I” book is one of my favorites. Very helpful and very straight-forward with the explanations. I’ve used it for those times when someone asks me a grammar question that I know the answer to, but I just can’t quite explain it myself.

I think I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that the education system fails us in this regard–I never fully learned the rules for grammar and punctuation in school. I simply learned what was correct via osmosis from reading so much! But this means I rarely know why something is correct, I just know that it is. Perhaps I just learn better via examples or from “doing.” Someone just telling me, “This is right. This is wrong,” over and over just doesn’t seem to do the trick!

I digress!

So I’ve been severely slacking with the daily writing for the October Writing Challenge. But last night I was reading from “Bird by Bird” (which I’m very much enjoying so far, thanks to my wonderfully sweet, thoughtful cousin/best friend who purchased it for me!) and I was suddenly inspired to write about a fairly hilarious memory that popped into my head. …..

Once upon a time, I locked a handcuff around a cat’s neck. My own cat, actually. This was not done when I was a small, silly child. No, I was 16 years old, a junior in high school. What, pray tell, would prompt me to do this? I can’t quite recall now, but I imagine boredom had a lot to do with it.

It is important to note that when I slid the handcuff around said cat’s neck, I was under the impression that the key to kitty’s freedom was nearby in my brother’s room.

For most of our childhood these handcuffs hung around our house. Where they came from, I have no idea. We played cops and robbers with them, or tried locking each other to furniture before running away with the key to torment one another, but either my dad or my brother always had the key. For years and years, we could easily unlock anyone from the handcuffs.

This particular evening, I was sitting in my room, probably watching a movie or something along those lines. Really, I can’t quite recall what I was doing, but it’s obvious I was bored. I certainly didn’t want to hurt Kobe (the featured, unfortunate critter), I imagine I was just curious about how he would react. So I closed the handcuff around his neck, quite loosely, and he didn’t really seem to mind his new neckwear. He was a bit confused, and I’m sure annoyed with my antics, but he mostly just sat there and kind of wiggled his little fuzzy, grey bobtail a bit. I went across the narrow hallway to my brother’s room to retrieve the key.

“Hey where are the handcuff keys?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? Weren’t they on your dresser?”

“Awhile ago. I think I lost them.”

“Are you serious?! I put the handcuffs on Kobe!”

“What?!” He cracked up. “Why?!”

“I don’t know, I was just dinkin’ around! Crap! Maybe Dad has them.”

We spent the next 10-15 minutes searching for the keys in any spot we could think of. No luck. Mom and Dad weren’t home at the time, but we called Dad to see if he knew where the keys were. He did not.

I can’t quite recall the following chain of events, but I know that my cousin, Daniel, ended up driving out to our house to pick me and the entrapped cat back to his house, to see if my Uncle Jeff could pick the lock somehow. Sitting in his car, holding Kobe in my lap, petting him and holding the handcuffs so they didn’t weigh down his neck, I could barely believe the predicament I’d gotten myself into. Daniel couldn’t stop laughing at me.

Uncle Jeff wasn’t able to pick the lock, and much laughter ensued. He was friends with one of the police officers in town, so he suggested I call over there to see if he was home and if he could help. If you’ve ever had to explain to a complete stranger the idiotic thing you did which defies all logic, you will understand how completely mortified I was in that moment, calling a police officer to see if he was at home so he could try to get a pair of handcuffs off my cat.

He was home, so Daniel and I went to his home where he and his family were just lounging around, enjoying a nice evening together. I’m sure they never could have guessed how their evening would end up. I sat on his couch while he sequestered his dogs to another room, while Kobe meowed and fidgeted, clearly in a tizzy about all of the activity he was experiencing.

Unfortunately, the police officer didn’t have any luck either. No key he had would fit, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Back to Uncle Jeff we went. I was beginning to think we would just have to use some kind of tool to break the metal ring off and hoping that my dad had something that would work and that my cat wouldn’t completely freak out.

Finally, Uncle Jeff was able to pick the lock. I can’t recall what tool he used, but I know that Kobe was finally free. I also knew I would never live down the moment of pure idiocy.

Sometimes years go by without this memory popping into my consciousness. Then something will trigger it and I will bust out laughing to myself all over again thinking, “I freaking handcuffed my cat.”

Lesson learned: do not play with handcuffs unless the key is in viewing range.