The Great Olympic Feeling

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It’s that time again.

The Olympic games.

If you want me…I’ll be on my couch watching and trying to write.

Growing up, my mom always made a big deal of the Olympics. People from countries all over the world come together to compete peacefully, to do their best whether that means fame and medals or just being there, able to share the sport they love. Countries with one athlete. Countries with ten…fifty…or hundreds of athletes. So many languages. So many cultures, religions, and stories. Together. Smiling. Cheering.

Everyone speaks the language of a high-five or a hug.

Years of training, of hard work, of giving up so much to get to one moment.

At the bottom of the snow-covered hill, the end of the sled track of ice, the finish line, no matter the flag by the name, no matter the color of the uniform, no matter the language spoken, everyone is cheering.

Do we want our athletes to win? Sure.

Do we still smile and maybe cry happy tears for the winner if they aren’t from our country? You bet.

This is how the world should be. Everyone together. Everyone cheering. Everyone pushing others to do their best and celebrating the best they can do. Peaceful competition.

For those who have tried to cheat, to hurt, to ruin this celebration in the past…you lose. Every time. Because the feeling of the Olympics, the togetherness is stronger. Many more will cheer. Many more will give a smile or a hug. Many more will continue to work to make the world better.

The song Imagine was played at these opening ceremonies…I dare you not to cry.

The opening ceremony pulses with hope of moments to come, with all that is possible.

The closing ceremony sighs with memories made, with hills and ice conquered, with routines skated, with friends made, and dreams lived. Maybe a medal, maybe not. Maybe all that was important was to be at the Olympics.

So I will watch as the world comes together. I will smile for those who win and cry for those who fall.

Go team USA!

But more importantly…GO WORLD! Look how well we can live together. Look how great we can be. Imagine no borders. No countries. Just humanity. Just people.

Just being the best we can be.

 

 

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Thank an Editor Day is Today!

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Editors.

The writer’s best friend.

The writer’s saving grace.

They take our words, those piles of thoughts and descriptions, and help us form them into the best story it can be. From grammar to word choices to story development, from cutting scenes to adding scenes, editors push writers to dig deep, to make sure our characters grow, to make sure our story is told in the best possible way. Those gifted individuals inspect every word, delve into the story line and rearrange scenes, take a scalpel to our manuscripts and help us put them back together.

Without editors writers would be lost.

Jump on Twitter today and #thankaneditor. They do so much work and deserve thanks. Here’s a fun way to do it!

I’ve worked with a few editors. I have enjoyed it every time. We become a team, working together, passing ideas back and forth, and celebrating when we get it right.

Rarely do these fabulous people get praise or acknowledgement. Editors have a huge role in the journey of the creation of a book. These talented word whisperers are a gigantic support to authors.

Go thank an editor. Tell them how awesome they are. Make them smile. To all the editors out there who work so hard…

Have a wonderful wordy day.

 

Facing the Real Fear

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I’m not a believer in writer’s block, in some unseen force sent from another dimension that magically holds our creativity hostage.

I do believe that writers can block themselves.

No mystical energy is stopping the words. We are. The question is…why?

Why do we sit in front of the computer, in front of a blank notebook and stare? Why can’t we write words?

Did we forget how?

Nope.

Do we not want to?

Nope.

Is our well of story ideas empty?

Nope.

It’s no secret that I am struggling with the words. I know why.

Fear.

I have decided to query agents with this manuscript. An agent. My entire writing career has been me not querying agents because I firmly believe no agent will sign me. I’m not good enough.

So to have these specific plans for this book, pretty much destroys any self-confidence I ever had. Why finish it when I’m going to fail? It will never be good enough. I can’t create the perfect thing in my head on the page. If I can’t reach this perfection, I should just give up.

But let’s look at the real fear here. Because it’s not the thought of failure. Someone at my writers’ group uttered a phrase, one I’ve heard, one I believe, one I had forgotten.

People fear success. What do we have if we reach our dreams? Where do we go from there?

I fear this manuscript will be good enough. I fear an agent offering rep. I fear the world I don’t know, one where I am not searching for the path I want to tread, but am walking it.

A few years ago I signed a manuscript with a small press and with the excitement came panic. I don’t know how to be an author with a published book. I don’t know what that means. I still don’t, but I realize that not a lot of people do. We learn as we go.

Maybe that world isn’t so bad. Maybe I’ll find my way there.

Instead of fearing setting foot on the path I dreamed about for so long, instead of striving for a perfection that isn’t attainable, I am going to do my best. I’m not a terrible writer, I do okay. This book idea is pretty cool. If an agent doesn’t like it…I’ll carry on with another dream.

Though that isn’t the fear, is it? The failing, the rejections. It’s that offer that’s scary. It’s that I am good enough. It’s living in a world I don’t know.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to run from your dreams because of the fear.

Look it in the eye.

And write the words.

Memories are Magic

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A week ago I struggled with thoughts that I might have to put my oldest cat to sleep. On Tuesday I called the vet and said good-bye to Delphi.

It was a bad week.

As much as it hurt to let her go, it was the right thing to do.

The vet said something that stuck with me. As we decide what to do with these treasured floofs, we need to look at their lives, we need to remember what they loved. We need to look at how many of those things they have lost. And maybe leave them one of those happy things and let them go out on a good day. Don’t let them end with suffering.

As I look back on my cat’s life, I did that.

I found Delphi while at work at a nursery/landscape place while staking Delphiniums (hence her name). I brought her home when she was two months old in June of 1998. Yes, kids, she was with me for 19 and a half years. She was a few months shy of turning 20 years old. Not many cats make it that long. She had a good long life.

When I first got her, she really wanted to go outside, but living in a city, I fought hard to keep her in. I chased her many days.

She was feisty, a bit mean to any other pet I brought in the house. She loved my lap and to sleep by me at night.

Then her life was interrupted by kids.

She was never fond of the little devils. She would scratch and bite to keep those pesky kids away from her. My daughter learned a hard lesson to leave that cat alone. However, with me occupied with small children, Delphi learned that she could get outside and stay there. I had no time to chase her down. By this time we had moved to the county, a bit less traffic and a wooded area across the street and a field behind us for her to roam and hunt. Delphi became quite a hunter. So many dead animals were found on our sidewalk and yard.

Delphi loved to be outside, sleeping in the sun or stalking her prey. She lost that joy long ago, I can’t remember the last time she had been outside.

No more hunting, no more roaming the great outdoors, she stayed in and as the years passed she kept to the kitchen and living room. No more sleeping upstairs with me.

She had no interest in toys anymore. She would still take a swipe at the dog or other cat, but mostly she had little energy for that feistiness.

I’m not sure how well she could see. Her balance was gone. Her joints creaked and cracked. And she started peeing on the couch.

Over the last few years, you could find her curled up on the kitchen chair, on the arm of the couch, or on a lap. If you had a plate, she was more than willing to lick it clean. Mostly she fought for her space between me and my laptop.

She had laps at the end. And if you had a moment to rub her cheeks, she was happy.

As I said good-bye in that sterile vet office, I rubbed her cheeks and told her I would never forget her. She never had to know many trips to the doctor, needles, medication, or pain. She would remember love.

I will remember that tiny kitten I found at work that day, how I decided that if she was there when I got back from vacation I would take her home. I will remember how she would sit on my pregnant belly and look annoyed when the baby moved. I will remember her racing to get outside to begin an adventure. I will remember her asleep in my son’s crib. I will remember her furry self curled up on my lap…in the way of me trying to type. I will remember her purr as I pet her.

I will never forget my Delphi, my companion for 19 and a half years. Always there. Always glad to see me.

Good-bye, Delphi. I will see you again. And wherever you are, I hope there’s a warm lap. I will hold tight to my memories of you.

 

That Would be Me, Slogging Through the Mess

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Writing has become…difficult. I have reached the point in the process where I’m pretty sure I am not creating the story I want, I am not doing anything good with words. I am stuck in the middle of a story and I have no idea what I’m doing.

And however normal this is for me…I am panicking. I admit it. It took me a while to realize it, but a big ole chunk of fear and doubt has lodged in my head. Usually I just keep writing, see where it goes, but this time I stopped. I set it aside.

I got out a notebook and started brainstorming, certain I needed to work something out. I didn’t know everything I was supposed to know. Right?

Maybe…

Or maybe not.

I’m not even sure anymore.

Luckily, I had a few people ask me to read their manuscripts. DING DING DING! A way to escape/ignore my own words. So I am critiquing, aka burying my head in the words of others to avoid my own. Don’t get me wrong. I love critiquing. I love helping other writers.

It’s part of the job.

Let my mess of a manuscript sit for a minute. Let the jumbled storyline settle. Let my mind wander away from the frustration it has become. When I go back, hopefully, I’ll be able to let go of the overthinking and have fun with Ember and Nowhere. Back to slogging through, though we won’t call it slogging…right? Frolicking. Running amok through the words.

I rock at running amok.

And for the moment, I shall rock at making comments as a critique partn…

Oh wait…no…

I forgot. The author I am reading for now has dubbed his army of readers CRITIQUE AVENGERS. We are the elite fighting force, out looking for questionable word choices, places where there is no sense making, and the dreaded, hidden plot holes. So I shall do that for now.

But my words still haunt me.

So, yes, that’s me up to my hips in a story that might make no sense, that might be going nowhere, that might spontaneously combust…

That’s me.

And it’s okay.

 

Put the YOU in Routine

Routines are good. I believe in them. However, sometimes the routine becomes safe and comforting and bad habits can be the result. Sometimes the routine needs a bit of change. Shake things up. Throw out the habits that drag you down.

I have recently decided to do a little shaking in the daily routine. It’s exciting. So I decided. Yup. I thought of all the things I can change. I plotted out what I thought might be a good daily schedule, a great schedule, a schedule that will rocket me into the land of super productivity.

Then I struggled. Because I didn’t stick to the new plan. A plan I was certain would be THE BEST.

Or not.

So I panic. I am failing. I can’t even follow a plan! Geez, me.

But…

Maybe it isn’t me. Maybe it’s the plan. Maybe that schedule isn’t right for me. So I’m going to hold onto the parts of the plan I like, that make me feel good, that give me energy and motivation. But…planning never works for me, and I forget that. I have to be able to go with the flow. I have to be able to accept when my brain isn’t switched to the correct gear and do what I need to do in the moment.

If the routine causes stress, it’s no good. If the routine steals your happiness, it’s no good. Routines should help, should be comforting as well as get me off my butt. I am a procrastinator. I do need time for me to do nothing. I need to give myself room to change directions when my mind isn’t on the right track.

Know you. Know what you need. Be able to spot the things that don’t work and let them go without feeling like a failure.

As long as I listen to me, I will be on the right track. Shaking things up is good. But keep expectations realistic. Keep trying. Keep making those plans, those routines and stick to it. But when something is causing problems, is being more stress than help, let it go.

It’s not you. It’s the routine. Keep you in there. Your life doesn’t work without you.

And let’s be honest.

You. Are. Wonderful. Amazing. Awesome.

New Year, New…You?

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New year, new you!

I’ve heard this a lot. Every January 1st.

It’s a nice thought. That we can head into the new year and just…be someone else. Suddenly do things differently.

Though each year, I find that I am still the same old me. The same fears and doubts. The same bad habits. The same crazy, weirdness all wrapped up in moments of anxiety and depression and fun. The same girl living in a world asking it to love her…OMG I WENT ALL NOTTING HILL.

Save me.

I look back on last year and I guess I did stuff. I wrote stuff. I submitted stuff. I feel as though I was holding my breath. Did I accomplish every thing I wanted? Nope.

As I head into this year, I will write stuff. Maybe hear about the stuff I submitted. Still be the weird me who overthinks and forgets to just be. Maybe I will stop holding my breath. Maybe.

I will have moments where I AM DOING SO GOOD LOOK AT ME.

I will have moments where I SUCK AND I AM A FAILURE AND OMG WHAT AM I DOING WHO AM I.

New me? Nope. Just me. But being me is fine. I am working on making me better every day.

Resolutions? Goals?

Not really. They never work for me. They feel like weights around my neck, holding me down instead of setting me free. I want to remember to enjoy myself. I want to make me a bit better every day. And the days where I can’t? Those are okay.

One breath at a time.

I have things I want to do. I will do my best. And when I am pretty sure I am not doing my best, that I could do so much more if only this and I should that, I will remind myself that the ‘if only’s’ and ‘shoulds’ can go jump in a river. Those will hold me back. Those will steal my happiness.

Life is nothing without happy. Stress comes and goes. Fear is a liar. Happy is forever.

New year, new me?

New year…and me, along for the ride, ready to move forward however I can with my hands in the air and a smile on my face.

 

Middle Grade: My Happy Place

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If you remember, I have begun my first attempt at writing middle grade. A creepy little tale of being lost. Of the journey to find oneself and, maybe, helping others along the path.

It’s an idea I had years and years ago, an idea that finally solidified.

Can I write middle grade? Can I leave the young adult world of teen angst, of realizing there is more to the world than parents and school, of beginning to forget the magic of childhood? Can I write for those who still believe, who look to parents and teachers for guidance, who live in he small world of home and siblings and friends?

We’ll see.

I’ve always loved middle grade books. My kids were that old not too long ago and we read all sorts of things. Adventures! Magic! Friendships!

But since writing mine, I’ve dug deeper into the category. I want to know where my book will fit when finally it makes it onto a shelf. So I am reading all the middle grade I want!

And I discovered something.

I LOVE IT HERE!

This is my happy place. I have read a few REALLY good books. Books full of emotion. Books full of wonderful friendships. Of relationships between parents and kids, between siblings. Maybe it’s just me, but I am enjoying that fact that there is no expectation of who will fall in love, or lust, with who. I have enjoyed just good friendships and stronger sibling relationships. When you’re a kid, strangers are possible friends…though some kids are better at making them. When you’re a kid, parents aren’t trying to ruin your life. When you’re a kid, you might not be able to interpret all the emotions, but you feel them. Though kids know more than adults give them credit for.

Kids can handle a lot.

They know a lot.

They feel everything.

But most of all they love adventure! Magic! So I am trying to get all this in my manuscript.

And I will continue to read middle grade. Let me share with you some of my favorites.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle…soon to be a movie!

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Took by Mary Downing Hahn

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi

Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

And I just started… My Diary at the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson and I AM SO HOOKED ON THIS ONE!

My Nowhere series will fit nicely in there! When it’s done…when I find an agent…when it is published…ummm…yeah, I have work to do and a bit of luck to find.

When you find what you love, go with it.

 

Where the Road Ends…Choices

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A path. One cleared. One known. One loved.

Until it ends.

A giant chasm.

And no bridge. Possibly it’s under construction and there’s no completion date in sight. A project left under the control of others.

Standing at the edge of the cliff, staring at the darkness, yelling into the black hoping for an answer. But hearing only echoes.

The echoes are hollow. Meaningless. Easily crumbling into nothing. Leaving emptiness. Leaving hurt.

Why?

Why?

Why…

Standing. Waiting. An option, one that stabs, one that takes pieces of soul as payment.

Standing.

In frustrated silence.

Waiting.

In disappointed tears.

Or turning to the wilderness of tangled chaos, of fear, of unknown…

…of possibilities…

And forging a new road.

Stand. Easy. Easy to sit. Easy to let hope die.

Or fight.

Because of hope. Because of belief. Because of movement.

Into the fray.

The old path not forgotten, merely paused. The bridge will appear. Ready to be crossed. The adventure, one to be cherished.

But until then.

Until then.

New roads to find. Cutting through the mess of ideas and struggling to pave a trail. Frustration, one chosen. The hammer for building bridges in hand. The power of moving forward burning bright.

Stand at the end of the road.

Or fight.

Choose.

Warm Treasures to Hold

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I sit in my house all alone. It’s quiet. I never realize how giant my house is until these moments. My whole family came for Thanksgiving. A total of 14 people at my house for three days. It was wonderful. There was food. There was chatting. There was laughing.

And yesterday, everyone went home. Back to life. And here I sit.

Happy they all came. Happy for all the fun. But happy to have my house back, even if it feels a bit too big, a bit too silent.

The laundry is done, the sheets used by family clean and put away. The dishes are washed, sorted back into their positions. All traces of the visit tucked into the corners of my mind. Memories. Great ones.

Of cramming us all around my kitchen table for turkey and mashed potatoes. Of seeing Justice League together. Of gathering for an early Christmas for the kids. Of taking walks along my country road. Of playing with the dog and kitten. Of a basketball game to hear Ella play in the pep band. Of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. Of people filling every room with smiles. Of us being together. It doesn’t happen all the time with us spread across three states.

Treasured memories. More valuable than anything else. What I should remember when I start to stress about word counts and rejections, when I start to obsess over my weight, when I lose my mind over Christmas shopping, when I struggle to just be me.

A moment in time. One to keep, like a warm hug, when life is cold.

I hope everyone has moments like those to hold forever.