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Monday, August 30, 2010

Love Your Darlings Before You Kill Them

I’ve been thinking a lot about first drafts lately. See, I’ve been working on the first draft of my first book for awhile now. I know the story. I like the story. I know the people in it and the beginning and the end and most of the stuff that comes between. But I’m having the darndest time just getting the draft done. Why? Because I’m a perfectionist. I’m not happy unless every word comes out perfect the first time. Sound crazy? Yeah, I know. I have issues.

Maybe I need my attitude tweaked a bit. Instead of always focusing on the stuff that bugs me, I should start loving all those little (or big) imperfections that pop up in my first drafts. Stories are kind of like children. They may come out with pimples and snaggle teeth and a million cowlicks, but we love them anyway, because they’re ours.

I’m slowly learning to love my spoiled, bratty, impudent first drafts who roll their eyes at me and refuse to clean their rooms. They’re mine. They could only have come from me. Braces, noxzema, boot camp – that’s what revision is for. Until then, let those first drafts come the way they are. Let them just be.

Originally posted August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rainy days with Russo



While I was out shopping, I saw a double rainbow. A sign of good things to come. Too bad, that seconds later, I knocked over yet another display with my freaking-big purse.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So It Takes Steel Clad Pantyhose and a Putty Knife to Look the Way I Used To. Your Point Is?

A remarkable thing happened to me today. I experienced a transformation the speed of which, if captured and stored, could power some of the larger U.S. cities. I helped my daughter move into her dorm room, and found myself morphing from a Young Chickie-Babe into an Old Hennie-Wench. There, surrounded by hordes of young, nubile, tight-limbed girls, all with their futures spread before them like so much peanut-butter and jelly, I felt my age wrap around me the way support hose do varicose veins.

Odd, really. College has always sat right at the surface of my memory. I was just there, running from class to class, flopping myself and my books onto the grass of the quad to catch some sun and avoid reading, going to football games and having tortillas--the unruly-crowd missile of choice at that time--hit me in the back of the head, waiting for my test scores from the hideously noisy ink-jet printer (which got noisier when it found incorrect answers) in the testing center, eating at the campus food-trough, and flirting with boys in social dance classes, a mere ten minutes ago. It has always felt like yesterday.

And it's a little trick of time that helps me go into denial when I look into a mirror now and am shocked by what I see. I think about college, and wuhBAM! The years melt away and I am . . . well, if not nubile, at least youthful again. It also helps that my brain hasn't aged a lot, despite a boatload of experience. (Read: I'm still immature, even though I have stretch marks that could wrap around the world twice.)

So, I figure today's little reality check was just a hiccup. One that will smooth itself out the minute I get home and flip through some old college pictures, and programs from shows I was in. I could make all that time disappear in the merest flash. 

Or, I could just bask in the years it took for my daughter to become the marvelous young adult she is today, and throw away the putty knife and support hose. I've got a good thing going with that kid, and I want everyone to know she's mine. I guess I can embrace my inner (Read: outer) Hennie-Wench.

Friday, August 27, 2010

So, You're Saying I LIKE My Kid?

I was looking at my daughter the other day and suddenly it was all I could do not to burst into strains of "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof.  "Is this the little girl I carried?/ Is this the little girl at play?" Clearly, I have "My-Child-Is-Leaving-Me-To-Go-Off-To-College-And-I-Don't-Know-If-I-Did-Enough-Or-Taught-Her-Enough-And-I'm-Not-Ready-And-I'm-Not-Sure-She-Knows-How-To-Properly-Separate-Her-Laundry-And-Who-Am-I-Going-To-Hang -With-When-I-Have-Empty-Evenings" Syndrome. It's that last bit that pulled me up short, though. "Who am I going to hang with?" When did my teenager and I become friends?

I think our relationship has been pretty normal. It went from caring for adorable helpless infant, to helping toddler learn to take care of self, to helping adolescent grasp the world, to EXCUSE ME, I AM ALMOST AN ADULT AND I DISAGREE WITH MOST OF THE RULES AROUND HERE AND I AM INDEPENDENT AND DON'T NEED YOU AND BY THE WAY COULD YOU HOLD MY HAND WHILE I DEAL WITH ALL THIS ADULT STUFF? PLUS I NEED ICE CREAM NOW! in about the normal amount of time.

I think, however, that I spent most of that time bracing myself for everything I'd ever heard about teenagers to hit me. And, you know, we had our disagreements. But by and large, my child - and my other teens, while we're at it - was a pretty cool individual. Fun to know. Fun to be with. Fun to watch as she grew and figured things out. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it was flat-out scary (learner's permit, first dates, and wondering whether or not college was in the offing come to mind). But by and large, I've got nothing to complain about. I can stop bracing myself. I think not bracing ourselves for things in general and just enjoying them will make for more of these types of experiences in our lives.

So. Go off into the world my child, and slay your dragons.  I'm so excited to see where you go and what you do. And I'm right behind you. At a respectable distance.

(P.S. - This child is probably why I write for Young Adults.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

U.S Army Ranger

According to the U.S. Army website, a Ranger is a highly trained soldier. A Ranger's specialized skills enable him to be employed in the most dire of situations. You wanna make your dream happen? You gotta fight like a Ranger. The road to your dream will be exhausting. You need people at your side to support you. In training, a Ranger is told to always look after your buddy. Find your support system. There's gonna be pain and self doubt when pursuing a goal. You've gotta push through the exhaustion. At Ranger school, there are days when the soldier will get only 3 hours of rest. Sometimes their bodies and mind are pushed so hard, they fall asleep while standing up. Ranger's call that 'droning.' There's no droning when fighting for your dream. When in the battlefield, not giving up is a matter of life and death. You cannot worry about tomorrow. If you do, you won't make it. Just focus on today. Work hard, like a Ranger.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Demon Moth of Cardiff


First, many thanks to the lovely, hilarious, freakishly-wise-beyond-her-years Lizz, who covered for me whilst I was across the pond, and to Janiel, who covered for both of us when Lizz was ravaged by a cold and I by jet-lag. I feel certain we'll see more from Lizz in the future.

Ah, Wales - land of song and demon moths. That's right. Demon. Moths. One of them decided to camp out in my room. If I had any foresight whatsoever, I'd have snapped a pic of that moth. But trust me: it was big, it was black, and it was hairy. And it was perched in the shades of my window. Maybe I could stand to sleep with that thing over my head. If I left it alone, it would do the same for me, right?

Nah.

I'll challenge gnomes, but I'm no good at moth wrangling. Fortunately, the guy down the hall was. Ron used a broom to herd the moth, which fluttered up into the attic, while I dashed downstairs to hide. But when he shut my door to keep the moth out, it locked automatically from the inside. Did I mention my bedroom was on the second floor?

The three of us in the house stood at the side door, staring at the rock wall surrounding our non-existent backyard. Someone was going to have to climb up. I've mentioned my severe lack of coordination, which extends to climbing. The wall wasn't close enough to the house to reach the roof. Not even a rickety coffee table topped with a folding chair would do.

Enter Anders. Once we called him, he had no trouble stepping onto the bathroom window sill from the outside and climbing up through the tree branches that brushed the roof (which, I was convinced, housed a whole colony of demon moths). He had the door unlocked in no time. Problem solved.

Until I shut my door. And it locked again.

Anders was gone by then. Now we stared at my door. We'd managed to separate the frame from the wall during our first attempts to get the door open. Could someone reach the lock by snaking an arm through the opening? Susan tried first, while Ron braced the door so it wouldn't squash her. Then I tried, wishing I had an extra joint between my elbow and my wrist, while Susan braced the door.

"I have a brick you can use," Ron called from down the hall.

Me: "To bang my head against?"
Susan: "To throw at the door?"
Me: "To squish the moth?"

Actually, optimistic Ron meant we could use the brick as a doorstop once we got the door open. After ten minutes of some impressive contortionist movements with my arm, the lock clicked. The door swung open, and Susan helped unpin my arm from the door frame. (Ron later nailed the frame back into place - "good as newish".) I had a wicked scratch on my arm, and even left evidence behind. No, I didn't murder anyone, although I wanted to by then. That's my blood on the wall.



So there you have it. It only took four of us to conquer the locked door. And the moth? I heard Ron encountered it again the next day. Only this time, he sent it to meet its maker.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let It Go. If it Comes Back, You Didn't Let Go Hard Enough.

I've got a psyche-kicking sensei who, each time I see him, says something that makes me realign my life-approach-lenses. And not only that but the dude knows his Seattle restaurants. Last time I went up there to visit and sing with him (and my brother) I came back filled with excellent Greek food (there were these bacon-wrapped dates . . . ) and a desire to do good in the world. To just generally cheer the whole place up.

Then "The Routine" broke loose all over me, and in between piles of laundry, running kids everywhere, trying to write a book and post on several blogs, getting child #1 ready to head off to college and trying not to weep all over her every time we experienced her Last-Road-Trip-With-The-Family, Last-Meal-Out-With-The-Family, Last-Sock-Folding-Marathon-With-The-Family, I realized I couldn't tell if I was making any difference at all. Except with the laundry. I said so on my Facebook wall (also sometimes known as the "Wailing Wall.") I wondered if the doing mattered more than the results. And this is what dear Sensei said back:

"The doing is ALL we can do. Where the result lies is in the hands of a far greater force. If we are satisfied with the doing, the results stand a better chance of being positive. Plant the seed and water it. The rest is not up to you. Sing the song with all your heart as if you will never get to sing again. The hearing is not for your ears."-- Mark Andersen

Ahhh. And Grasshopper experienced much peace. So we put it out there with the intent to do good, and we let the greater forces - whatever we believe in, be it God, Karma, the Universe or the Muse - take it and run with it. Or take it and walk with it. Or take it and think about it. And it's okay.

Now if I can just release my death-grip on it all - including my oldest child - it might just have a chance to get out there and grow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

3 cheers for Melissa

Our dear writing friend, Melissa Hernandez Seron Richardson has been entered into a photo contest~ We are so excited for her as this pic is the shiz nit.

Go vote for her 'cuz in Melissa's words, "Discovery Gateway brings joy to kids of all ages."

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=147879665222844

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How poker skills help you acheive your dreams

When writing, we are spending our life and energy on a gamble. We're essentially gambling on ourselves. Every day I wonder, will I succeed or won't I? And the fact of the matter is, you can't listen to the random (negative) musings of the mind. To succeed, you have to go all in. You can't hold anything back-the pain, money, swollen fingers, tears. As a dreamer, you have to believe you are worth it. You have to go all in on your goal. If you don't take yourself seriously as a champion, who will? Go all in. ~Make it or Break it~

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Death of Percival P. Prickums. Or At Least, His Long Retirement

We regret to inform our readers that our scheduled substitute blogger, Lizz -- daughter and gnomeslayer extraordinaire of Janiel -- has exhausted herself in her triumphant fight against Sir Percival, and is in bed with a headache and a sore throat. She is waving her gnomeslaying sword in defiance, but nevertheless is needing her snuggie and a good snooze. While we celebrate her smashing of Fanxiety's cousin, Pride, we regret the illness it brought upon her and wish her a speedy recovery.

In the meantime, check out the things one can accomplish when one is not fighting the gnome of Pride - which we're pretty sure is the thing that is actually behind self-doubt, anxiety, fear, and . . . not so sure about Bad Karma. We think Karma can be Bad all by itself. Pride - at least the vain kind Sir Percival is famous for - can make us more worried about what others think of us than what we are doing for others. Which we believe then leads us to un-fun things like: worrying we can't do well enough, or being fearful about the results of our efforts, or being anxious that others won't care, or like it, or approve, or fillintheblank. Pretty sure that if we let go of what others think and just get out there and DO, there'll be a whole lot more of this going on in our lives:



























































With love and warm wishes for lives of great gnomeless-ness,

The Gnomeslayers
Images courtesy of freepixels.com

Friday, August 13, 2010

Et Tu, Communiqué?

So I am all excited because I get a Facebook account, and I am finding all these old friends, and OMGosh! They want to be my friend too! And oooh! Look how popular I am. And myself-esteem takes a leap because I have, like, 60 friends! And then I go and look at some of my friends’ walls and they have . . . 260 . . . 280 . . . 345 . . . 524  . .  . Um. Wow. But, that’s okay. I’m just starting. I’ll find more people. They’ll find me. And, dude, I am writing on walls like I grew up all inner city. And I’m clever and pithy and . . . there’s like this big lull in people returning my comments. And my friend requests are dropping to a trickle. So, okay, I finally get up over a hundred. But a LOT of the people I thought were good, you know, FRIENDS, are not responding to my posts. And my self-esteem starts to get a chin-tremble.

And then I think, Twitter! That’s it! I’ll start tweeting, and I’ll be so witty yet meaningful everyone will want to follow my Twits! Tweets! So, I create a Twitter account. Two of them in fact. And I start tweeting. Tweet, tweet, tweet. And then I sit on my little twitter-twig and wait. And you know what? I get followers! I mean, it ain’t that many because, you know, I’m just starting out, but I am IMMEDIATELY getting followed. So I must be good, right?

And then I do a little research into my followers, and I realize that, while I am sure they are all very nice people, a lot of them aren’t writers, and aren’t mothers, and aren’t interested in the same things I am. And I think they are doing what I am doing: trying to get followers. Which is fine. But they’re not there because I’m brilliant. As for Facebook, I realize that most of my friends have lives and aren’t counting on Facebook for their social fulfillment.

Which makes me realize that there is a life outside of the computer. A real one. And while I use my MacBook a great deal for my writing and connecting, it is just a tool. Not a source of security.

I feel so much better after these realizations. Or I will, as soon as I recover from the embarrassment of the whole affair. One thing I know, I am never scrutinizing chocolate like this. Our friendship is tight.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Conquering Pernicious Lies

Good Day! Miss Lizz, Nepotistic daughter of Janiel, is back! Hope y’all enjoyed the break. ☺ Now, straight to business.

Today we shall tackle the “Pernicious Lies” mentioned by Sir Percival P. Prickums in his forward of Pride Pricking and its Profits 101. (As a refresher, Sir Percival P. Prickums is my least favorite, though frequently courted, gnome; cousin of Fangxiety, author of Pride Pricking 101 and hater of cupcakes everywhere).

Pernicious Lies come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are lies which others tell you, sometimes they are the lies airbrushes and Media tell you, sometime they are the lies the scale tells you, and sometimes, most perfidiously, they are the lies you tell yourself.

Ponder the words a wonderfully wise woman once said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure...It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”—Marianne Williamson

So, who are you? What makes you think you have this amazing reserve of “un-special-ness” that means you’re any less important than everyone else?! Huh? Speak up now! There’s no excuse. You’re wonderful and that’s really all there is to it. Sir Prickums would have you poking and pricking at your self-esteem with the following:

Persistently Puncturing Positive Postulates
o This includes any negative thoughts about who you are, and any comparisons you make to anyone, AbSoLuTeLy Anyone—even Barney!
No matter where you are in life’s journey, you are indescribably, iridescently, incredibly, inspiringly YOU! And YOU are all that’s needed!
Permanently Prohibiting Progress Par Precluding Pardoning
o Forgiveness. It’s an interesting and completely selfless notion. Or so it appears. In all reality it’s a double-edged sword. When you decide to forgive, you’re really just making your own life easier! So if this works when you forgive other people and finally let go, think how bodacious it would be to Forgive Yourself! You’d get like double points! Two Times Forgiven!

Dear Whole Wide World, there it is. These are some suggestions relevant to how to thwart the threats posed by evil gnomes like Sir Percival P. Prickums; these solutions have been formulated based on the convenient battle plan laid out by the enemy.

And remember, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear (and pride), our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson.

Let’s start a revolution. Let us liberate and be liberated from fear, pride, negativity, evil gnomes, and any reluctance to eat delicious cupcakes. If we do this, we will conquer the gnome! ☺

Sunday, August 8, 2010

No Inspiration. Just Desperation.

It is Sunday. A time to relax, be with family, meditate. Or SHAMELESSLY PROMOTE YOUR NEW BLOG!

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, yesterday marked the launching of my blog titled: Creative Thinkery. I've got stuff hanging out on three different blogs right now (Challenging the Gnome, Smashing Stories, and Mormonmomma) and I decided it is time for consolidation. So I launched creativethinkery.blogspot.com. There will be posts original to that blog, recipes, and anything else I can think of. And perhaps, if I manage to finish my book, get an agent, and, dare I hope, publish the thing, Thinkery will become my author's blog.

So. Thank you for listening. Please feel free to drop by, and for heaven's sake, FOLLOW me. My family, my one friend, and I are getting lonely over there.

Thanks, and much love to all you intrepid gnomeslayers,

Janiel

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dear Diary,

I am not jealous of Maegan. No I am not. And it is not interfering with my work to think of her over in Wales, gallivanting around in her rain-proof wellies, eating crumpets, and writing to the music of Celtic bands in Welsh pubs. I don’t lose a moment wondering about what her train ride to Edinburgh was like. And whether or not she might see JK Rowling as she wanders through the cobblestone streets snacking on haggis. And wondering if what they say about men wearing kilts is true.

No.

I shall be grateful for my writing desk. In my basement. Next to the window with the broken shade so I can’t see the sunshine. And I shall be grateful for my friend Russo. Who is working a double shift. And who had to cancel dinner with me at the little Trying-To-Be-Charming soup and salad joint because of it. We’re all fine here.

But we’ll be better when Maegan gets back.

Sincerely, and without bitterness,

Janiel

Friday, August 6, 2010

So This is Writing a Novel

August Challenge: Writing a Novel

1. Interior – TeamMobile - Underground

We are inside our Superheroes’ transport. It is burrowing through rock. We see Ropegirl sitting in a chair in front of the console. She is braiding her luxuriant hair. She seems relaxed but we can see that she is deep in thought. Flashgirl is tapping the Villain-Viewer with a manicured nail. She is clearly agitated. She cannot find their arch-enemy, The Egypt-Sissy, on any of her screens.

I’ve never been one for long journeys. Don’t get me wrong, my life has sometimes read like a Eugene O’Neal play. But largely, if I can avoid a long trip, if there’s a short-cut to be taken, I’m on it. Which is probably why I started my writing career with a superhero comic strip (see outline above). It was created in conjunction with my best childhood friend once her dad had been transferred to Iceland and mine to Germany. We sent each other episodes in the mail, each writing the next. As one of the few Americans in my village, I lived for those letters. And this was in the era when it took anywhere from two weeks to a month to receive mail from overseas.

The two of us were so devoted to Ropegirl and Flashgirl (heroes with the ability to grow their hair and run like a flash, respectively, and who were also beautiful, extremely resourceful, and clever beyond reason) that I think we hardly slept at all as we waited for each other’s letters to cross the ocean.

After our brief, yet magnificent, foray into the world of comics, we graduated to novels, and proceeded to create an utterly original science-fiction book titled “Phoebus,” complete with illustrations.  Any similarity to “Star Wars” or the original “Battlestar Galactica” was purely intentional. We loved writing our stories. We loved receiving each other’s episodes in the mail. It kept the stresses of adolescence and teenage-hood at bay and made them bearable for another two weeks. It also meant that neither of us had to do an inordinate amount of work on the stories. Writing was easy!

Flash-forward to now. I have been married twenty-four years and am raising my four children. I am coming off of a long, self-imposed creative hiatus. It took every single one of my brain-cells to raise my kids, so I had to stop writing. Now I am learning to do it again, and am finding in it more joy than when I was doing it decades ago. It was easier to write shorter serial stories back then. In fact, I’ve been shocked by how much harder it is to plan and write a complete novel. It involves focus, thought, and persistence, and above all, time-management. It is a surprising struggle. But oh, what a good one! I find that after the long journeys of life I’ve been on since childhood, I’m much more willing to take this one now.

Thanks Flashgirl, Ropegirl, Princess Janilene and Colonel Capricia. Thanks as well to Lord Argon and the Egypt-Sissy. You got me started.  (I’ll work on character names next.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So This is Writing a Novel

August Challenge: Writing a novel

Ten years ago, I saw myself as a fashion buyer. Shopping for a living? In my mind, there couldn't be a better career. First step was my internship with Disney. I nailed my interview. A summer in Florida, so there.

But then life happened. I fell in a hole while hiking with my sister and snapped my foot in half. My brother joked that if you touched even an inch of the skin my foot would jiggle like jello.

So began my road to writing. Although, I didn't see the path forming yet.

I had to have a metal screw placed in my foot to hold the bones together. Nine months later, I had yet another surgury. This time on a hernia.

I wish I could say that I handled the trials well. But I didn't. I fell into a heavy depression. The one thing that saved me was writing. What's so funny is that I am the girl that always fell asleep in English class. But now, words are my lifesaver.

Most days, I am content to sit at the computer and edit my story to Death. The journey more often than not is a joy to me. Oh, who the world am I kidding? Lately, I have been peeved at my story. To the point where I just stare at the closed laptop. I know where the plot is going, I see it like a movie in my head. But lately I have been too riddled with fear to care.

Yes, I realize that my voice is a gift. One that I don't take lightly. I know that my manuscript will one day be on a bookshelf--right next to Janiel's and Maegan's novel. Okay, maybe not right next because paranormal romance is in its own wacked-out section of the book store.

When that day happens, I understand that I will need to give back and big-time. Because writing saved my life. Literally.

Monday, August 2, 2010

So This Is Writing a Novel . . .

August Challenge: Writing a Book

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who thrive on long, drawn-out projects, and those who like having something done. I am in the second group. Research papers drove me nuts in college. They were an opportunity for Fangxiety to have a field day with me. But I always finished because, A) I was a good student, and B) I have a pathological compulsion to finish everything I start.

My current magnum opus began as a short story for a creative writing class. I was a biology major, but I had reached a point where I needed to give my brain something else to do. I remember vividly the night I thought of the main character for this short story. Man, was she ever a piece of work. As it turned out, my classmates loved reading about her. I kinda liked the story too. But I had other stuff going on, so I filed it away to languish in hard copy limbo.

Cut to three years later. I'd decided that I didn't want to go to vet school, even though I'd gotten my degree (there's that pathological need to finish again), and was trying to decide what else I could do with my life. Writing floated to the top of the list. I started taking a local workshop class, the very one where I met my fellow Gnome Slayers. One night, I didn't have anything new to take, so I printed the old pages, dusted them off, and threw them to the sharks. Once again, the response skewed towards the positive. And the most common piece of feedback: "You must turn this into a book."

I have now been working on that book forever. Okay, maybe not that long, but longer than I care to admit. Here's what I've learned so far about novel writing: it's waaaay hard. I'm incredibly slow at it. I've wanted to quit before. I have quit for months at a time. But every time I do, the weirdest thing happens. The story won't die; the people inside my head go on living and talking to each other and even to me. So I'm still plugging away. Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Open Yourself to the Possibilities


One of my children recently informed me that when he grows up he would like to be either a doctor, a fireman, or a crossing guard.

He's flexible like that.