Mysterious?

While I don’t know that “mysterious” is an adjective I’d use to describe myself, many thanks to the lovely and talented Jean Lee for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award!
mysteryBloggerAward (1)

“According to Okoto Enigma, ‘Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.’ ”

The rules 

  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog.

Again, my thanks to Jean Lee, whose adventures as a writing mom and information on her upcoming book (so exciting!!!) can be found at https://jeanleesworld.com/.

  • Tell your readers three things about yourself.

Hmm. What can I share that’s not in my bio….

1. I have terrible eyesight. I’ve had glasses since I was eight.

2. I love flowers and plants, but tend to get distracted after planting them, so only the hardiest survive. The cacti on my kitchen windowsill are doing very well.

3. After five years as a stay-at-home mom, I’m going to be stepping back into daily teaching this year (though still only part-time) and taking on 7th and 8th grade reading. I’m excited- I love planning and doing novel studies!- but apprehensive about finding balance between family, teaching, and writing.

  • Nominate bloggers you feel deserve the award.

This is a hard one. I don’t actually follow many bloggers, because I want to make certain that I can keep up with the ones I follow. If I’ve followed someone, it’s because something in their blog has really captured my attention.

But, since I can’t choose everyone, I would like to nominate:

JPC Allen, who shares stories of her writing journey along with interesting prompts and ideas.

Rick Long (aka cape cod curmudgeon :)) for his “Today in History” blog, which is always full of interesting historical tidbits.

Ari Meghlen for her helpful writing blog which covers a bit of everything, from craft to marketing.

  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice with one weird or funny one.

My questions for my nominees:

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. If there is one thing you’d like your readers to take away from your blog, what would it be?
  3. What is your biggest distraction from writing? (Whether a pleasant distraction, or an inconvenient one 🙂 )
  4. What is one book that has inspired or encouraged you?
  5. (Oh dear, I have to think of something weird or funny?) If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.

Will do.

  • Answer questions from the person who nominated you.

Here are the questions Jean Lee put to me.

1.Think back to the first story you ever wrote/drew. What was it about?

My cousin and I would come up with stories together. I’d illustrate, and she’d write. I still have some of them tucked away, riveting tales like Dog City,which was a detective story about a city full of dogs instead of people, and Rainbow Route, a tale of winged colorful horses living over the rainbow (probably more than a little influenced by My Little Pony!)

 

2. Does your creativity spread into other skills?

I enjoy painting, especially acrylic and watercolor, pencil and charcoal drawing, and all sorts of arts and crafts. I occasionally dive into stained glass – making it, I mean, not literally – and then I remember how fussy the measurements are and give it a break for a few years. I’ve managed to crochet one very crooked blanket. Sometimes my cooking gets creative, with mixed results.

skunk cupcakes
For instance, the skunk cupcakes were a little messy, but delicious.

3. If there’s one book you wish you could UN-read, which would it be?

The Lovely Bones. I bought it on a recommendation, not really knowing what it was about. Especially since becoming a parent, I just don’t do well with stories of children being hurt or abused.

4. Favorite tea or wine? (I’m always looking for recommendations)

Coffee.

Spicy, cinnamony tea is acceptable in a pinch, and for wine I’ll drink a Riesling from time to time, but when friends who know wine start talking in technical terms about it’s nose or elbows or whatever, I glaze over. If we buy wine it’s usually based on criterion like, “Oooh, it’s on sale, AND it has a sea otter on the label!”

5. If you could visit one location on this lovely earth to study it for a story’s setting, which would it be?

Oh dear – everywhere! I’ve read so much in the UK, I’d love to get over there and see the history I’ve been reading about. And then I could just pop over to Europe and see my ancestral countries…and then over to Egypt and see the pyramids…and visit Zambia, where my friend grew up…then Asia’s not that far… then there’s Alaska…

WHEW! I think that completes my assignment! Now that you probably know more about me than you ever wanted to, I’ll close saying many thanks for visiting, and have a wonderful weekend!

Advertisements

Today’s Post Is Somewhere Else

Blogger, speculative fiction author, and long-time friend of mine, Jon Mast, invited me to do a guest post on his new writing site. At “Wanted: One New Earth,” Jon takes an unusual perspective to discuss the writers’ life.

I enjoyed the chance to write something a bit outside of my norm- I hope you can stop by and check it out at One Earth: Slightly Used!

Anzio soldiers
© IWM (NA 15298)

Purple Hedgehogs Can Be Villains Too

DSCN2448
Is THIS the face of a super villain?

Can Father’s Day be next weekend already? Last year I wrote this post to tell the story of the writing project my children and I always embark on for the holiday, and to share some thoughts on creativity. I thought I’d share it again, as we will be off on this same journey this week. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve just completed my annual collaborative writing project.

For the past five years, my children and I have assembled a comic book to present to their daddy for Father’s Day. They are the stars, acting as themselves and their alter egos, “The Super Kids!”

It’s been a journey.

It all started with one little 3 year old, who improvised a superhero costume and stood where I told her to. I took photos of her and the baby, and used Publisher to add some speech bubbles.

This year’s production included pictures taken ‘on location’ at a local park, and all three heroes:  Gargantu-Baby, Skater Girl and Skunky. (Yes. Skunky.)

As my kids have grown, so have their opinions, and their desire to direct the production. I try to keep it moving in plausible directions- no, honey, we can’t actually have you fly- but they do most of the creative work.

And it certainly is creative…

I wouldn’t have thought of a small stuffed rabbit being a ninja in disguise who secretly tries to trap us.

I would NEVER have thought of a giant, purple, spike-shooting hedgehog as a villain.

Nor would I have named my son “Skunky” and given him the power of shooting skunks out of his hands.

skunky
“Skunky” attacks the dragon.

It’s a joy and adventure to see just what happens when imaginations run wild.

Creativity can be a scary thing as we leave childhood. It means taking risks. It may mean writing outside of our comfort zones. It’s all too easy to lose creativity when we get caught in thoughts like the following.

“This is what my genre demands!”

“This is what agents want!

“That article said that the way I started my story is all rubbish! It’s OVER!!!!”

I’m not suggesting that all writing advice be thrown out. Still, I’ve found that becoming too fixated on ‘the rules’ rather than on the joy of creating a story can be crippling.

Writing would be much more fun if I approached it like my kids do. Just tell a story. Think of a fun plot, and go for it, even if it’s unconventional. Try a crazy idea, even if it’s not currently popular.

The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work, I had some fun, and I can move on to something else. And, if all else fails, I can just ask the littles for help. They have PLENTY of ideas.

What roadblocks to creativity have you encountered? How do you get past them?

Many thanks for visiting!

 

Six-Word Story Challenge Update

writing picture
Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden via Unsplash.com

Hello all! A few weeks ago, I posted about microfiction and Nicola Auckland’s Six Word Story Challenge. Since then, Nicola has decided to step back from blogging.

However, another blogger is planning to keep the challenge going on her site. If you would like to check it out, the following link is the place to go! https://kirstwrites.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Nicola for her time as hostess, and to the voters this week who awarded first to my last six-word story on her site.

winner,six word story challenge,six word story,blog challenge,writing prompt,

The last theme was ‘Thankful.’  My story: Trembling arms pull my newborn close.

Thanks for visiting!

Profile of Word Weaver Writing Contest 2nd PLACE WINNER Anne Clare, “Dark Corners” — Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

cropped-img_2326_edit.jpg

What goes on inside the writerly mind? Let’s sit down with Word Weaver Writing Contest 2nd place winner Anne Clare and find out. Anne Clare lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she spends her time chasing her three children, reading, writing, teaching, serving as a church organist and choir director, […]

via Profile of Word Weaver Writing Contest 2nd PLACE WINNER Anne Clare, “Dark Corners” — Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

The Joys of Being a Parent AND a Writer

DSCN2332

Writing while parenting small children is hard.

Honestly? Simpler tasks that require no creativity, like showering, are hard.

Sometimes I catch myself focusing on the negatives of the journey- the sleepless nights, my disaster area of a living room, another diaper going through the wash, the day’s plans out the window because someone’s sick again.

The joy gets buried in the details.

Not today.

Today, I’d like to share some of the joys I’ve found in the balancing act of being a writing parent.

1. Treasuring Time

“I’m so busy!” I thought, back when I was single and childless.

Oh, if only I’d known the truth….

Granted, during those days when I ran on actual sleep vs. coffee, I bounced endlessly between teaching, music, volunteering and everything else.  My schedule was full to overflowing.

This is the difference between then and now: I had control over my level of busyness.

When I didn’t get something done, (barring emergencies) it was because I chose to make something else a priority.

Once there was a baby on the scene, that semblance of control evaporated.

Oh, she was cute, a joy and a blessing that we treasured.

I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the fact that newborns eat every two hours.

EVERY. TWO. HOURS.

And between feedings are the diapers… and the housework…and maybe we should try to sleep…

I won’t go through the whole ‘learning to parent without going insane’ journey, but a journey it was, and it taught me a valuable lesson.

I learned to use my time.

Time with my baby was precious, and I wouldn’t give up those hours for anything.

However, when a spare minute materialized- she’s asleep! And I’m not holding her!- I learned to seize it and make it count. (Of course, then we went and had two more babies…worth it. 🙂 )

Those spare minutes gave me the title for my blog. I rekindled my passion for the written word during those stolen moments- moments that might have slipped by me if caring for my children hadn’t reminded me just how important and valuable they are.

2. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas!

On dull, gray, uncreative days, all I have to do is listen to my children play.

Elaborate plots and adventures full of twists and turns fill our living room, and I’m reminded of the excitement of story.

I’ve written before about the stories the kids and I create each year for Father’s Day. While I am the one who keeps some semblance of a plot,  they’re the ones that keep the storytelling fun.

They keep me generating ideas and telling stories in another way too. I’ve found that one of the easiest means to stop sibling spats starts with the words, “Once upon a time…”

 

Scan_20171031 (2)
Part of the story my eldest and I made up to help her learn her Kindergarten sight words.

3. Reduced Risk of Over-Exposure to the Computer

There are all sorts of health risks associated with spending too much time on the computer.

Go ahead and take a moment to look them up on your favorite search engine if you don’t believe me.  I’ll wait.

….

Ok, now that you’ve done my research FOR me (clever, huh?) I can tell you that being a writer who’s also a mom, my risk of all of those maladies is seriously reduced.

After all, the littles only let me stay online so long, and I’m a firm believer in the need for children to get outside and to make a mess somewhere that’s not in my house.

I’m forced to leave the screen behind, to play or move or find a new park for us to explore and get some exercise.

Parenting ALSO gives me the added bonus that I have a three year old chaperone to ‘force’ me to try out the swings and slides at the playground.

Breaking away from the screen for adventures rests, refreshes, and sometimes provides needed inspiration!

4. The Built-In Fan Club

My kids haven’t read any of the novel I’m querying, or any stories that I’ve written except for the Creative Writing pieces my class ‘published’ in 7th grade. (My grammar, at least, has improved a bit since then.)

Still, my eldest doesn’t miss much, and she was very aware of when I entered my novel in a contest in the fall of 2016. She watched me checking my e-mails, and occasionally, out of the blue, she’d tell me, “I hope you win!”

When I didn’t, and she found out, she was upset, even angry, for my sake.

It was a great teaching moment

We talked about how yes, I lost, but it was ok. I’d gotten feedback, and would make my story better. Someone else had just done a better job and won. (Modelling gracious loosing for my little girl was good for me too- it kept me from the temptation to wallow!)

She’s seen me keep at it, and, unknowingly, gave me some of the best encouragement the other day.

“Mommy, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.”

“Really?” I quelled the temptation to tell her that, at 7, she’s not really running behind on this decision. “What are you going to be?”

“A teacher, AND an author.”

“Wow. Those sound like great choices.”

 

Yes, writing while parenting small children is hard some days, but then, most good things are.

There are many other joys, but I’ve rambled enough! Do you have any to add? 

Many thanks for visiting!

 

 

 

Writing Microfiction: The Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge

I won a writing contest today!Six word story, 6 word story, writing challenge, writing promptI had never attempted writing microfiction before this year, but when I started looking around for other writing blogs on WordPress, I found Nicola Auckland’s “Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge.”

A one-word prompt is uploaded to the site every Saturday. The challenge is self-explanatory. Write a story, based on the prompt, using only six words.

Yep. Six words.

The challenge page includes a link on ‘How to write the best Six Word Stories,’ which gives the author’s rationale for the six word story, as well as some helpful tips.

Anyone can enter, and the contest is ‘just for fun,’ but the winner DOES get to post the fabulous picture above on their blog!

While I don’t imagine microfiction will ever be my go-to writing style, I’ve found the contest to be a fun exercise which forces me to be concise.

As to my award-winning story 😉 , this week’s prompt was COMPLICATED.

 

My story entry was : No! Cut yellow wire, THEN red!

 

Just think, you can now say you read an entire story today, in about two seconds!

For more information, visit About the Six Word Story Challenge.

Writers- do you have other contests or sites that provide writing ideas that you’d recommend?

Many thanks for visiting!

 

Abraham Maslow and Mutant Wombats

toolbox

My toolbox is woefully inadequate. I’ve got the basics- hammer, a Phillips head and…the other type of screwdriver. There may also be a pliers.

I’d pretend to regret this, but I know myself. Last time I tried to fix the plumbing…well, I don’t really try to fix the plumbing anymore. We’ll leave it at that.

I try to keep my writing ‘tool box’ better stocked. Knowledge of vocabulary, grammar rules, styles of writing, history, random cooking facts- it can look like a jumble, and I don’t use every tool for every job, but having a broad base of information to choose from makes writing easier.

We’ve had good neighbors, willing to share the tools we don’t have on hand.

In the same spirit, I’ve been considering what writing tools I might have on hand that you might find useful.

Today, I’m working on patching up gaps in characters’ motivations.

I’ll warn you up front: I’m no more a psychology expert than I am a plumber.

I took the one (required) Educational Psychology course in college. The theories my professor presented contained a fair amount of common sense, some interesting revelations, and a few things that I took with a grain of salt. (Sometimes several grains…)

Though I can still spout names like “Piaget” and “Vygotsky” and “Erikson” and give a passable summary of their ideas, the one I remember the best (and who has earned a spot in my ‘toolbox’) is Abraham Maslow.

Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” looks something like this:

Scan_20171125

The basic idea: People have needs. Some needs are more essential than others. If these foundational needs are not met, people can’t move up to try to meet their ‘higher-level’ needs.

For instance, a student is not working up to his potential. He also doesn’t have a safe home environment and is coming to school with an empty stomach. His ‘physiological’ and ‘safety’ needs aren’t being met, so it’s not a surprise that school work (which would likely fit into ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualization’) isn’t a high priority.

OR

Your heroine nurses a passionate desire to design fancy mosaic belt buckles. However, her society has strict limitations on hiring belt-buckle designers. Being blonde (rather than the preferred brunette) she faces serious hurdles in achieving ‘esteem’ in belt-buckle accomplishments, and ‘self-actualization’ in using her creative gifts.

What if her need for ‘safety’ is also threatened by an impending invasion of her city-state by an army of mutant wombats? If you follow Maslow’s theory, the conflict- being upset about her belt-buckle failures- becomes implausible. She has bigger needs to deal with first. Creativity takes a back seat to rampaging marsupials.

wombat
GRRRRRRR! (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tastysnaks/6915532423/)

Let’s go a step further.

What if your character is also currently living in a gutter taking care of her younger siblings, starving and most certainly belt-buckle-less? With her basic physical needs unmet, the idea that her main life-goal is centered on fashion design becomes even more unlikely.

Of course, every theory has its exceptions.

Perhaps your character had almost reached her goal before the imminent invasion. Perhaps she was one interview away from securing her longed-for position, when the belt buckle factory was transformed into an armament factory to prepare for the wombat hordes. Perhaps those belt buckles have come to symbolize everything your character has lost.

Or, to go another direction, perhaps her desire to be an artisan has more to do with meeting her basic needs- providing food for her family, and the security of holding a good job- is driving her more than higher level cravings.

In short, I’m not suggesting that we need to tie ourselves to a psychological theory in order to write.

I AM proposing that it is worth keeping ideas like Maslow’s Hierarchy in our writer’s toolbox, ready to hand.

After all, it might be the key to determining our characters’ driving needs, and bringing them to life.

 

Are there any writing tools you’ve found handy of late?

 

Roll the Dice and Hope for the Best

 

cards and dice
Photo courtesy of “Alan” at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaptainkobold/

 

Does anyone else feel a twinge of guilt when they read an article detailing someone else’s carefully crafted ‘writing routine?’

I feel that I must confess: I don’t currently have a set daily time to write.

I don’t have any more written on my second novel-in-progress than I had last week.

I don’t even have the notes lined up for the article on the WW2 ‘elephant company’ that I’ve been meaning to write for…how many months has it been now? (Though I DO have another overdue fee on the book…sigh.)

What I do have is the responsibility of raising three very small humans.

And let me tell you, while I wouldn’t trade that job for a dozen published novels, it has been a wild ride of late.

It feels a bit like one of the board games our family likes to play, except the ‘bank’ would have vouchers for free time rather than fake money, and the cards would look something like the following. (Note: I tried to make them look more like cards- then the youngest tried to use me for a jungle-gym and I gave up.)

You Shall Not Pass

The children have taken every toy they own and covered the floor. Give up one hour free time to supervise clean up. 

 

“Cat’s In the Cradle”

As you prepare to write, your child asks you to play with them. You are unable to resist. Give up one hour free time.

 

Vomit

Roll the dice. 

A 1 or 2 means that your child only vomited on himself. Give up 1 hour of free time. You may still have time to write while he naps.

A 3 or 4 means that it is projectile. Give up 3 hours of free time and get on that laundry.

A 5 or 6 means that it is a bug. Give up 24 hours of free time and hope you don’t catch it.

 

Nightmare

Your child awakes in the night, frightened. Roll the dice.

The number rolled indicates how many times they wake you up. If it is 3 or more, give up 24 hours of free time, as you will be too tired to be creative.

 

Doctor’s Visit

Give up 2 hours free time. 

Roll once for each additional child. A 1 or 2 means that they picked up an additional illness from the waiting room. Give up 2 more hours for each additional doctor’s visit.

 

School Event

Give up two hours free time to participate.

You may give up an additional hour to provide the baked goods that the teacher requested. 

 

Babysitter

Roll the dice

A 1,2 or 3 means the babysitter can make it! Gain 3 hours free time.

A 4,5 or 6 means she cancels. Too bad.

 

Shower

Your aroma is showing that you haven’t had much time for personal grooming. You may choose to give up 1 hour free time to shower, OR gain one extra hour free time and just ignore it.

AND, the grand finale…

Anniversary

Roll the dice.

A 1 or 2 means that you can’t get a sitter. Try to watch a movie after the kids are in bed. Fall asleep on the couch. No gain or loss of ‘free time.’

A 3 or 4 means you manage a date night. You are so relaxed and happy from time with your spouse that you are extra productive. Gain one hour ‘free time.’

A 5 or 6 means that you manage a night away. A month later, SURPRISE! Your family is growing. Give up all free time for the next 2 years. 

What cards would you add?

As for me, I’m going to go give my kids a hug and I’m going to enjoy the blessings of these crazy years while they last…

…and maybe, just maybe they’ll sleep tonight, and I can WRITE!

Phantom Otter

A flash of movement, a lithe, furry body rolling over in the shadows of the stream bank, a glimpse of a webbed foot- I stared, unbelieving. Then, I reacted like any dignified adult would.DSCN2494

“LOOK, KIDS! AN OTTER! A RIVER OTTER!”

Yes, yes, I know. It was exactly the wrong reaction when spying a wild animal at close quarters. (There may have also been some jumping up and down.)

My only excuse is surprise. We’d come to watch the salmon making their mass migration upstream. The huge fish were impressive enough- I wasn’t expecting bonus wildlife.

The reasons didn’t matter. The one glimpse was all I got.

DSCN2491
My attempt at a salmon photo. Completely otter-free. Sigh.

My ‘otter incident’ sums up my writing experience lately. Ideas surface, tantalizing ideas, good ideas.

I just can’t quite catch them.

Part of it has been timing. My site’s title is fast becoming a misnomer. ‘Naptime’ has nearly vanished from our house, and with it my one regular span of ‘alone time.’

Scores of ideas, sometimes even fully-developed articles and stories, swim through my mind while I’m driving the kids back and forth or fighting the never-ending battle to keep my kitchen counters visible.

By the time I sit down to write, they’ve swum right away again.

I’ve tried starting a little journal- when ideas come I can jot them down quickly. I have a respectable list of history and writing topics already.

The problem is, the ideas don’t seem quite as ‘shiny’ after they’ve sat a while.

Again, it’s like my otter encounter. Only a few hours later, I’m wondering if I actually saw him. After all, the salmon are close to the right size. They were rolling about through the waves, struggling to climb the fish ladder. Yes, the creature looked furry, but then some of the fish are looking a little rough around the edges by this point in their quest for a little fishy-style lovin’ before becoming food or fertilizer.

Maybe my amazing viewing…wasn’t. *

I find myself staring at the list in my little journal. Maybe my writing ideas aren’t either.

It’s easy to doubt. After all, my novel queries have only resulted in polite rejections- maybe I wasn’t as ready as I though I was. Family illness and friends’ struggles weigh heavily on top of my other obligations, and it’s hard to find words under that weight.

But…

Salmon do not have webbed feet. Otters do.

Some of my ideas aren’t going to go anywhere. Giving up means none of them will.

Life is heavy just now, but this is a season. Seasons change.

Writers, keep plugging away. Something wonderful might be swimming just below the surface, waiting for you to write it into being!

otter

What about you? Have you found any methods that help you keep creativity moving through the busy or difficult seasons?

Thanks, as always, for visiting!

 

*Amazing? Yeah, spotting new wildlife definitely fits into my definition of ‘amazing experience.’ I suppose it comes from the hours…and hours…and hours I spent in the car with my family driving around the old logging roads of northern Minnesota searching for moose or bear. (After a few hours, even the common white-tail deer were reasonably exciting!) We like our wildlife sightings 🙂