Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Writer's Wednesday - #001

Cooking and writing both require the necessary ingredients, seasonings, the right temperature, a dash of luck, and as much skill as you can muster. 
A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L'Engle

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Monday, April 9, 2018

National Library Week, French press coffee, and Ray Bradbury

Good morning!

It's National Library Week! I hope you all have a wonderful, local library that you patronize often and a lot!! Savannah is rather small for a city and our libraries are all within a 10 mile radius of my house. It took me 3 1/2 years, but I finally found a branch that I really connected with. It's about 8 miles from my house (and in this city that's considered "far") but it's so worth it.

If you love your library, show some support this week. If you haven't been in a while, stop by and see what they have to offer. The library has always been a haven for me. I remember sitting in a quiet corner of the library in Conyers, where I grew up. I'd grab a stack of books and sit there while my mom and sister wandered around looking for something to read. I remember the quiet way people's feet padded on the carpet. I remember the whispers and the soft swish of the card catalog drawers as people hunted for interesting titles. Personally, I miss those big, old wooden cabinets filled with little white pieces of typewritten card stock. My idea of finding treasure would be to stumble upon one at a flea market, all the little cards sitting inside, and it not cost an arm and a leg. Don't know where I'd put it but - aaahhh....a book nerd's DREAM!

Anyway, go visit your library this week and tell them "THANK YOU" for being a haven of learning, information, education, and inspiration <3

One of my goals this year has been to read more short stories and I've made pretty good on that goal so far. The October Country is a collection of stories by Ray Bradbury and let's just say it's interesting. Bradbury is one of those geniuses that I read and I either erupt into marveled awe at his language and story...or I just don't get at all. Fahrenheit 451 is, in my opinion, the second greatest book ever written (following closely behind A Wrinkle in Time - please GOD tell me you've read that before the horrible movie came out). It's gorgeous, left me feeling like an autumn leaf floating, floating until I hit bottom and began running away from fires and televisions and strange, metallic beasts. It left me breathless and delirious and I love it.

Most of the stories in October Country are like that...but you've got to trudge through the first few before you get to the gems. The first couple of tales were just, well, not good. No offense to the great Bradbury. I just didn't like them. And not because of the subject matter. The most disturbing story in the bunch was exquisitely crafted and it still has me shuddering. No, these just left me feeling let down and confused. BUT after those, the stories SHINE! My favorites: "The Emissary", "There Was an Old Woman", and "The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone." As for the story I mentioned that was "most disturbing", that one's called "The Small Assassin." Ugh. Still creeping me out!

In other news, I made my first cup of French press coffee in about 5 years! Been lazy, just wanted to grind, punch the button, and get some joe. Yesterday, I let my coffee-scientist husband give me a quick crash-course in re-learning the French press and I did it all by my lonesome this morning. The verdict: throw out that coffee maker, kids. It'll clear up some much needed counter space and you'll sip happier. Bonus points for the mindfulness that comes with being very hands-on with your coffee making. Still, if you just want to press a button and have coffee, keep at it. Coffee should be what you need it to be.

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It's rainy here and stupid cold (again). Ugh. My bones and I are so ready for summer. Bring on the heat and humidity, I say! Today will find me working on some writing schedules and a few story outlines. More specifically, "Story Family Trees". I figured out that there are character connections between several of my stories - which makes me very happy. They aren't a series; they just have inter-looping threads that pull them together slightly, like a pair of comfortable, draw-string pants. Those stories where you get to a character or a place and go, "Oh, that sounds familiar...oh YEAH! It was in the author's last book!" Always fun to draw connections and make the reader feel a real part of a world. I love reading books that have nods to the author's other work. Makes me feel like I know a secret code :)

Have a wonderful Monday, Dear Reader! Enjoy your week. Go visit your library! Make some French press coffee, or stop by a cafe and have them do it for you. Your taste buds will thank you :D

Wander well,

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group - April 2018 Edition

Hi there!

It's April. Finally. Is it just me or did March seem to just hang on with fangs and refuse to let go?

Probably just me.

Gather round for another posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click on the link HERE to learn more about this fantastic group, our amazing leader, and how you, too, can air your insecurities and offer up encouragement once a month.

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Over here on the writing front, things have been a bit slow. March started out pretty good: I finished second drafts on a novella and first drafts on a short story. I started printing out my novel and had all the intentions in the world to start on another when my new responsibilities as work kicked in and I apparently forget the blog-verse existed!

Then, the week before Easter, my grandmother died. Talk about a gut-punch. I talked a little about this in my last post but I wanted to share more about her today. You see, Mawmaw is from whom I inherited the writing bug. She was a prolific poet and, about five years ago, self-published two volumes of her poems. Five years ago she was 91. There's a lesson there in "never too late".

Mawmaw was an anchor, one of those folks you just knew was going to be around forever. We all have them. Sadly, I've lost four of those precious forever people. It leaves you in a fog. You walk around, living life, and suddenly you remember they aren't there and everything goes insubstantial. You feel guilty for laughing. You start to cry at baseball games. You can't write for almost 8 years because your biggest fan is no longer an email away. You lose your singing voice for the same reason. 

This loss filled me with grief, yes, and sadness, but also with HOPE. No joke. I've been fired up and inspired because it hit me at her funeral that MAWMAW LEFT NOTHING UNDONE. Seriously. To this day I've never seen a half-written poem, a painting without a frame, a quilt without backing, or an article of clothing without some sort of stitched embellishment. That was the woman she was. She lived in the same house for 50+ years, never had a dishwasher and I swear her kitchen was never overrun with dirty spoons. 

It got me thinking: why am I being so lackadaisical about my own work? About my own life? About my own spoons (seriously, you should see my sink...). What am I waiting for? Mawmaw worked, had three children, was a housewife and a part-time school lunchroom employee. She was the superintendent for her church's Sunday School department for 59 years! She helped teach others and take care of 9 grandchildren and more great-grandchildren than I can honestly remember. The living room would be off limits because her quilt frame was all the chairs in her dining room with the fabric draped over them. Her back bedroom held a sewing machine and papers spread on the full sized bed, all drafts of her poems she typed on an old, manual typewriter. There were paintings on her wall that she painted and a few ceramic ducks floating on shelves. I won't even begin to get into the woodworking.

The point of all this reminiscing? I have no excuse NOT to do the things I want to do. No excuse. I work part time. My children have four feet and fur. My brain is filled to bursting with ideas for stories and art. My house is only 700 square feet and I can't seem to keep the kitchen clean.

Get out those projects. Drape fabric over chairs and scatter leaves of poetry to the wind just to see where they'll land. Pick up your paint brushes, dust off that sewing machine. Pull out your great aunt's recipe box and start baking. 

We aren't here forever, kids. But what we leave behind us can inspire someone else to live their dreams more fully. I can't take time for granted any more. And I know Mawmaw can keep an eye on me and cheer me on whenever I need her to.

Now excuse me while I go tackle those spoons...

Happy Wednesday,

Monday, April 2, 2018

I've got a lot of weeding to do

Good afternoon and Happy (belated) Easter! I hope your day was spent with friends and family or peacefully, by yourself, a nice pot of something hot and a good book or three.

March went by with nary a post save the one I did for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It was supposed to be a fresh start. A new beginning. Some other catchy, "ooh-ah" phrase to put me on the fast track to writing regularly.

Then, gosh darn if you'll believe it, life happened. March is supposed to come in like a lion and out like a lamb but ours seemed to hang on to that lion personification a bit longer than necessary.

New responsibilities at work found me staring at a computer for far more hours than I'd care to and by the time I got home, I didn't want to look at a screen. That - fingers crossed - should be tamed by now. I've got a better handle on what's needed, what's expected, and the when it all needs to be ready to go.

Then we had a bit of a family tragedy. My grandmother died at 96 years old. I suppose at that age, you can't really say it was "unexpected", but she'd been in assisted living for years and had gone in and out of hospice care for the past year. Seriously. Hospice care. Last year we thought it was the end and we drove up on her birthday to find her sitting in the bed eating chocolate and laughing at how old she was! But that was MawMaw - strong, funny, trying to feed us to the last.

I'll post more about that on Wednesday.

Right now, I'm sitting in my courtyard, listening to the birds sing, and letting the sun peep in and out and paint patterns on my arms. For as long as I can remember I've not liked Spring. All the pollen and pastels just ain't my thing. This year, Winter lasted a bit too long. This year, I found the cold creeping deep into my bones. This year I lost the warmth of someone who was supposed to "always" be here. Spring means more to me now. I've already re-potted three plants and my green thumb's itching to put more herbaceous babies into the rich earth.

Writing has come to look like a garden these days and I've got a lot of weeding to do. That, however, is my favorite part of the writing process, so no protests here. Well, except for the fact my printer won't talk to my computer anymore so I'm slowly printing out my novel at work, trying to use as little paper and ink as I can. I've vowed that should this novel get published, I'll buy a new toner cartridge and a ream of paper and gift it to the office with an autographed copy of the novel they helped bring to life!

That's all for now, folks. I've got some planning to do, some weeding, some leveling, some re-potting and planting. I got words raring to get sown and new plots waiting to be stitched together. Wherever you are, raise a glass with me of whatever you're drinking and let's toast to a bright, happy April.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Just checking in


Sorry I haven't been around lately. The extra work I took on has been more than I thought it would be. It's good; it's just taking me a bit longer to get into the swing of things and formulate a schedule.

Also, we had a bit of a family issue come up and I'll be out of town for a few days. I was hoping to get back here on Monday. We'll see how that goes, when I'll have to leave and what all that will entail. More on that later.

Thank you all for your comments from the Insecure Writer's Support Group! I think I've now responded to all of them. Forgive the ridiculously long time in answering them.

You're awesome.
No, really :D

~ J