Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I've lost it!

No, not my mind ... yet.  After a hectic week, in which I have accomplished much in the arena of home improvements and zero in the progress of my second novel, I am left wondering, "Where did all my creativity go?"  Did I place in a box and accidentally stick it in the attic?  Did it get donated to Goodwill? Where can it be?  Oh no, I've lost it!

In trying to find my creativity, I have retraced my steps back to when I had finished writing the very rough first draft of Going Barefoot in Greener Grass.  I recall explaining my inspiration to write as following a dream.  My two very supportive sister-in-laws were among the first people I told about this dream.  "Oh, you're like Stephenie Meyer!"  They gushed, "She had a dream and that's where she got the idea for her books."  Well, no.  Not that kind of dream.  Although that would have been really cool.  I've been trying to write in my sleep lately ... with no luck.  But my sister-in-laws make a good point.  Stephenie Myer apparently unlocked her creativity when she was at rest and her mind was free to wander.  In the past, my writing has been done in the quiet moments while my children slept.  And before I tapped one computer key, my imagination had wandered freely.  Most times, I had felt more like a reporter describing a movie scene that I was watching in my mind.

Okay, so I need to declutter my brain to uncover my creativity.  But for some reason, I am hestitating.  Ever since I've been putting my work out there for agents and now Kindle consumers to read, I've been second guessing my every word.  So now that I know where my creativity is hiding I still can't get it into gear.  I look to my children.  They make Lego creations, mold Play-doh and scribble abstract art all the while never caring if the rest of the world thinks it's any good.  Like most children their age, they act creatively because it's fun.  Blank pages rarely deter them.  Rather it most likely appears familiar.   Most of a child's life seems to be a blank page waiting to be filled in with new experiences.  Maybe it's time I tap into a little of their untainted youthful enthusiasm.  While I'm at it, I ought to heed the advice I've since discovered: something about the first draft of a novel being written passionately.  Correcting mistakes, editing and refining should be shelved until the next several drafts.

As I look around my house, I think I have found where my creatvity has been hiding after all.  I've been using it and, in all probability, exhausting it, on paint colors, on furniture placement, on those new lamps I had to have especially since I got a great deal on them and on hanging my favorite pictures in new locations.  Perhaps, all I need to get back on track is a few quiet moments and a good night's sleep (hopefully I dream of a vampire and a regular girl ...  wait, that's been done).

 What fuels your creativity?  I'm up for suggestions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There's no place like ...

... home!  This week, I'm giving a shout out to Dorothy and her little dog, too, as a self-imposed tornado has sent my house spinning.  As I mentioned last week, my husband and I are making long overdue improvements to our home.  The carpets in which my children have abused beyond saving are being ripped out for more durable flooring.  Besides spilling juice and potty training accidents, recently they sealed the carpet's fate by rubbing blue colored glue stick into its fibers.  I laughed deliriously and my children thought I had lost my mind clearly confused over not being held accountable.

Actually, I am seriously questioning my sanity judging by the state of our home at this moment.  Choas reigns in the form of stacked furniture.  Once the changes are complete, I'm sure we'll be saying, "How did we ever stand it before?"  I think it has to do with getting stuck in a rut.  Sometimes keeping the status quo is so mindlessly easy, we overlook any unpleasantness that accompanies it.  It takes real effort, something like the sweeping force of a tornado, to escape the rut.

And so, in being sucked up by the winds of change, my children, our dog and I are saying, "We're not in Kansas anymore."  Actually, we're ten minutes away at my parents' house and still in Pennsylvania, but you get the point.  Being away, I find myself thinking a lot more about this place we call our home.

The notion of "home" has a universal appreciation.  Certainly from movies, such as The Wizard of Oz,  to literature to music and art, the theme of "home" has a powerful presence.  In my own writing, in Going Barefoot in Greener Grass, my characters'  homes on Orchard Lane begin the story, provide refuge as the drama unfolds and act as the setting for the final chapter.  I believe the reader gets a feeling of security to trust the twists and turns the author provides if the main character's home is defined and acknowledged.   Look at how The Wizard of Oz gets its emotional payoff by the audience relating to Dorothy's desire to return home.

"Home" can represent our roots and define who we are.  As adults, where we decide to call 'home" can be the way we define and express ourselves.   "Home", whether old or newly found, gives us our foundation for constructing the rest of our lives.  If our home is in disarray, so too goes our lives.  No matter how I had denied it, that old carpeting had been depressing to live upon.  I anticipate the new clean flooring will add a lightness to my mood.  Now, if only I had a pair of ruby red slippers to click together and complete the work!

No matter where it is or in what condition, it's difficult to object that there truly is "no place like home".     

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Surprise! Today's post is not all about me.  I mean, it can't always be all about me.   You know, all the time :) In the interest of "helping a writer sister out", I have included a description about a novel and first time author worth checking out.  One of the central themes of the novel centers around a surprise.  Whether a surprise is happy or disconcerting, it always makes for an exciting story twist or, for that matter, real life that much more interesting.  In the spirit of today's extra blog post, be on the lookout for surprises, hopefully of the pleasant and smaller scale kind.  I'll keep an eye out, too.  Perhaps it could be as simple as discovering a few more blooms appearing from the bulbs I planted last fall.  Who knows?  I'll just have to be surprised, that's half the fun.   

I wrote today's post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing Blanket Tour for
Letter from Home by Kristina McMorris (http://www.kristinamcmorris.com/). This debut
novel is the story of three young women during World War II and the identity
misunderstandings they and the men in their lives have. Ask yourself: Can a
soldier fall in love with a woman through letters? and What happens if the
woman writing the letters is different from the woman he met the might
before he shipped out, the woman he thought was writing the letters? Is it
still love or just a lie?
Like many authors, Kristina has had a wild selection of "real jobs"
everything from wedding planner to actress to publicist. She finally added
novelist to the list after  Kristina got a peek at the letters her
grandfather wrote to his sweetheart(a.k.a. Grandma Jean)while he was serving
in the Navy during World War II. That got her wondering how much two people
could truly know each other just from letter writing and became the nugget
of her novel.

In honor of her grandparents, and all the other families kept apart by
military service, Kristina is donating a portion of her book's profits to
United Through Reading, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed
U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories to their children. You can
learn more about the program at http://www.unitedthroughreading.org/
If you comment on today's post on this blog or any of the others
participating in Everybody's Talking About Surprises, you'll be entered to
win a special surprise prize! It includes an personalized copy of Letters
from Home, a Big Band CD, Victory Garden seeds, and more.  To read
Kristina's post about surprises and a list of other blogs participating in
Everybody's Talking about Surprises visit The Muffin.(we'll forward you the
link to the listing on the Muffin)


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Those Darn Walls

Maybe it's the paint fumes, but I have walls on the mind ... and floors and furniture placement and maybe we should move this picture over there and that one over here.  Start one home improvement project and it sets off a domino effect of other changes that must get done.  I told my husband, "Why not add a fresh coat of paint before we rip out these old rugs?"  He agreed.  Then I said, "And while we're at it, we could use new lamps for our bedroom and a new television and ... "  And here's where he stopped agreeing. 

There's a sort of momentum that occurs when making changes and I have a theory that it all begins with the color of the walls.  Here's one story as proof:  A fabulously awesome friend of mine once found her status to be unhappily single until she painted her walls the perfect shade of blue-gray-green and now she's engaged to be married this summer.

It's like that with everything.  I started this year by repainting a few invisible walls that had surrounded me.  I had been living quietly in my self-made box of "stay-at-home mom who used to teach and may go back to substituting after the kids get older".  It was safe and secure, but the wall representing my career needed a brighter shade.  So I took an anxiety filled leap, declared myself a writer to friends and family who hardly knew I had such an interest and "painted" that wall a lovely shade of grass green (in the form of my self-published novel on Kindle).  And now, a domino effect has been set in motion including this blog and a long daunting list of promotional ideas.  I am networking by recently joining She Writes.  I am devising a plan for a book trailer and dreaming of a warm sunny day in which to do it.  I am thinking about creating discussion topics and party ideas for book clubs.

And while on the subject of walls, it doesn't take much surfing on the web to find discussions and opinions on the downsizing and closing of brick and mortar stores.  The phrase, "Borders is going bankrupt", is being heralded all around the web like Paul Revere touting , "The British are coming!"  I have read several arguments that Amazon is glutting the industry with sub-par works therefore obscuring higher quality and noteworthy writing like needles in a haystack.  On the opposite side, the younger generation seems to encourage all and various forms of self expression within realms of virtual walls.  I feel both sides of the argument make solid points.  However, the bigger point may be that the walls in this decade seem to be changing color from a shade of solid brick to the ambiguous hue of a virtual wall.  And this change extends beyond the books made of paper at Borders and onto other areas of our world, such as education and the rise in on-line schooling options.  Like I said, changes take on a domino effect and I'm interested to see how it's all going to play out.

In this week of wearing o' the green and Irish luck, I wish everyone the best of luck whether you're painting the actual walls of your home, changing the tint of an invisible wall in your life or simply posting something interesting on a virtual wall.   

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Impossible

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination." Tommy Lasorda

Today, in honor of Fat Tuesday and that tomorrow will be Ash Wednesday, I am pulling inspiration for this post from my Catholic background.  Saints play an enormous role in the Catholic faith and this weekend, I happened upon a movie, The Rookie (2002) starring Dennis Quaid, that featured Saint Rita.  Known as the Patron Saint of Impossible Dreams, the movie referenced St. Rita twice.  The movie begins with the story of a man perhaps a century ago believing that oil could be found in the desert landscape of one small town in Texas.  His only financial backers were a pair of nuns who believed that they may have squandered their investment.  Instructed by their bishop's advice, these nuns set out to the oil man's site where they scattered rose petals and prayed to St. Rita.  The  nuns' investment in their faith and the man paid off.  The movie then moves onto its main story, that of Jim Morris.  It tells the true story of a man who thought his chances of pitching in the Major League were dashed by injury, but finds a second, unlikely chance to fulfill his dream in mid-life.

Inspired by this story of the impossible. I happened upon another example.  As I was cruising other blogs, trying to make connections and checking out how other people go about this business of blogging, I found a link to J. K. Rowling's speech she gave at Harvard's commencement nearly three years ago.  Rowling spoke to this class of achievers about the unexpected topic of failure.  In particular, her failure when she had hit, as she describes, rock bottom.  At that point in her life, not many people would have predicted her eventual success.  She explains how she had seen her greatest fears realized and survived; how she had her daughter, an old typewriter and an amazing idea.  The odds were against her, yet she went on to achieve the nearly impossible.  (This video is easy to find on You Tube and worth checking out for a moment of inspiration.)

I take heart in these stories of the impossible, especially as I note that this blog is one of over 126 million (according to Blog Pulse) and that my novel is currently ranked #139,541 on Amazon's best seller list.  Besides, success to me does not need to be on such a grand scale as the Major League or that of Rowling's. 

Back to those nuns in the movie scattering rose petals across the Texas dessert:  I learned that St. Rita of Cascia lived a full life, including a troubled marriage, being a mother to twin (!) boys and eventually entering a convent where she worked to bring peace to her war-torn homeland.  In the last years of her life, she was bedridden and asked of only one item.  She requested a rose from her family's estate.  But, as it was January at the time of her request, the task had seemed impossible.  A resident of St. Rita's hometown returned to the estate, nonetheless, and made a remarkable discovery.  You guessed it, there on the stark, leafless bush, grew a single rose.

May all your impossible dreams come true!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm no expert, but ...

I'm starting a regular series that I'll post once a month entitled, "I'm no expert, but ..."  Be sure to add your own "I'm no expert, but..." comments!

Before I begin, I'd like to welcome anyone visiting from Book Blogs.  For those not familiar with this site, it's an online community with members that "read books, blog books, write books and publicize books".

1. I'm no expert, but isn't today, March 1st, the unofficial start of SPRING!?!  Here's a picture taken in mid April to help you catch a healthy dose of Spring Fever:

2.  I'm no expert, but if you have children and you take a shower when they are awake, said children will find a way to break into the bathroom, create some kind of havoc that you can do nothing about in your incapacitated state and exit leaving the door wide open blasting you with cold air.

3.  I'm no expert, but it's difficult to impossible to get a signed copy of an e-book.  I used imagine myself  sitting in a book store with a pen in hand scribbling clever notes and my signature.  I doubt anyone would appreciate me taking a sharpie to their brand new Kindle or PC or phone or iPad. 

4. I'm no expert, but bubbly has less chance of being wasted if consumed as an appetizer rather than a dessert.  Also, claiming an entire bottle of bubbly as your own at an event such as your brother's wedding will cause a temporary case of Turrets. (Hey my much appreciated readers:  Bethany's toast was influenced by personal experience.  Thank the good Lord no one handed me a microphone!)

5. I'm no expert, but housework counts as exercise.  As the great Erma Bombeck once said, "Housework, if you do it right, will kill you."  Well, I'm not taking things that far but full-laudry-basket-squats and vacuuming- under-the-couch-push-ups go far in multi-tasking a workout with getting stuff done. 

6.  I'm no expert, but I can cook any box of Mac and Cheese in the microwave in less than eight minutes.  Take that Rachel Ray!  The secret is a cup and a half of water and stirring every two minutes.  Then add the cheese mix, butter and a little less of the milk.  Beats the stove top and drain method by almost ten minutes!  I realize that I could have called this entry, "I'm no health expert, but..." 

Lucky #7 seems like a fine place to pause this list.  So lastly,
7.  I'm no expert, but taking off your shoes on the one warm day in February will have you running barefoot through the mud, not the grass.  Just for fun, I found a small patch of green and snapped this picture of my foot and each of my kids' feet.

Think Spring!