Moments to Bloom

This year was tough on my garden. Due to the excessive rains and our clay-filled soil, my perennials experienced a lot of root rot, and I had to replace established plants in my flower beds. Then, I came home from up north over the Fourth of July weekend and found my hostas blooming. A peek in the Farmer’s Almanac supports my hostas’ proclamation via a forecasted mid-October snowfall. “Fall is right around the corner.

I hate shortened summers in part because I love flowers so much. My yard is filled with thousands of blooms in varying shades of pink, purple, blue and yellow. I try to mix perennials that bloom at different times and add in a healthy dose of annuals so I always have something flowering from spring through fall. When my iris die off, my lilies take over followed by an end show from my mums. Each plant takes its turn in the spotlight before making way for the next blossoms.

Some bloom longer than others. Some are brighter or more fragrant. Some appeal to niche gardeners while others seem more universal. Every garden, like every book store, has hybrids and purebreds, quick blooms or hardy evergreens.

Books and blooms. These are the things I live for. All of them have a special season. They challenge us, soothe us and keep us hopeful.

As my reading place will migrate from the deck to the fireplace, I wonder what new books will bloom in time for fall reading. I have my eye on a few that are yet to hit bookstores for the first time, as well as some tried and true classics I’d like to revisit.

In the book world, are you more partial to perennials that hang around year after year, or are you enticed by the newness of annuals? Which do you enjoy more, the ones “everybody” is reading or the offbeat gems that are kitche and unique? What’s blooming on your TBR list now?

Curious minds want to know.

P.S. For my writerly friends, I’ve got a post up over at From the Write Angle blog.

Invasion of the Trained Cyber Monkeys

I’m not sure whether to be amused or offended. After writing an email to my critique partner, I hit send.

Gmail: Did you forget to attach a document? You wrote “I attached” in your email.

Me: What the flippity flop is my email server doing reading my outgoing mail?

I never gave the trained gmail monkey permission to read my stuff. Yet there he was, pointing out that I am stupid. Or forgetful. Or whatever you want to call it.

Personally it makes me feel awkward. Like I don’t want to bring my technology into the bathroom, or the bedroom, or the office, or anywhere with me. I want a little privacy to make my own mistakes and my own decisions. And above all, I don’t want a computer program logging all of my cyber clicks, analyzing them and telling me what my next move should be.

Has Big Brother come home to roost, you tell me? In your opinion, has technology gone too far? Do you appreciate the friendly reminders and nudges and recommendations that the trained cyber monkeys send your way? Or, are you like me and seriously debating whether or not to turn off the invisible wires that connect you to things you don’t understand and never asked for?

Curious–and slightly offended–minds want to know.

Broken Record Call for Submissions

Okay, writing peeps, it’s now or never. If you want to help kids overcome the bullying in their lives, Elephant’s Bookshelf Press needs your short stories.

  • Who: anyone with a story to tell that will help kids 7-12 years old navigate the treacherous waters of bullying
  • What: a maximum of 2,500 words told by the bully, the bullied or the bystander, with a complete story arc and appropriate resolution
  • When: by February 15th
  • Where: send to catwoods.writer@gmail.com
  • How: write, edit, submit, wait to be accepted. Published authors will receive a byline, links and a free copy of the anthology.

It’s that easy.

Lessons from a Ten Pound Ruler

Stella HuntingMy mornings used to be kid-centric. Get up. Get ready. Go to school. Simple, as long as Middle would brush his teeth the first time around, Youngest wouldn’t throw a fit about wearing jackets in forty degree weather and Dear Daughter had her morning coffee. Thankfully Eldest is self-sufficient in college…though now that he’s no longer under my direct care, I often wonder if he’s brushing his teeth, wearing his jacket and eating right at all.

Then along came Stella.

Ten pounds of fluff has changed our morning household. I could describe all the cute things Stella does, but it would be worse than describing how wonderful my kids were when they were the cutest babies in the world. All four of them.

You see, we do that, parents and grandparents. We dote on the little things that only we find adorable while everyone else looks on with glazed eyes and gives us bobble-head affirmations.

But this little dog has a trait I admire. Every morning she rides along when I drop the kids off at school.

Big deal, you might say. And, normally I would agree. However, Stella does this despite hating car rides. She despises them so much she shakes the minute we step into the garage. It is clearly painful for her, yet she is compelled to see her kids off each and every day.

I don’t force her to come. I don’t even ask. I simply get my shoes on when it’s time to go, and she stands by my feet until I pick her up and carry her to the car. She refuses to let us leave without her.

She’s dedicated. She’s determined. She’s courageous. I don’t know where she gets the gumption to put herself through this trauma, but I admire it.

As a writer, as a mom, as a human being, I wouldn’t mind ten pounds of dedication, determination and courage to jumpstart my days.

How about you? What would you like in abundance every day to help you accomplish the things you need to get done?

Curious minds want to know.

Seemingly Small Changes Can Add Up BIG Time

I’m polishing up a short story for the middle grade anti-bullying anthology (details found in this post here), and just got feedback from a writer friend of mine.

“First person, maybe?”

Yeah, first person, definitely. It took him to point it out, but as soon as I started reworking my 2,500 words, I knew he was dead right. And so I started revising with a vengeance.

Katy I peered into her my lunchbox…

By the time I finished, I must have had a thousand and one changes. It was tedious. And I missed a lot the first time around. I still probably have some third person where it should read first.

This isn’t a simple matter of find/replace. Story telling is too nuanced for that. It requires a reread of every sentence–nay, every word–to keep the style, voice and story cohesive. The change, while seemingly minute, was actually huge.

In writing, there are a thousand and one minute changes that all add up to lots o’ work. It’s called editing. And if you don’t have patience for it, you will never be a writer. Getting that rough draft on paper is the easy part. Polishing it is a challenge worth accepting.

You never know, it could make the difference between seeing your words in print or lining the bottom of the bird cage.

Other things that add up big time:

  • The writer who pointed out my POV mistake? Steven Carmen. His debut novel, Battery Brothers is set to release in March. Steve has been a critique partner of mine on several projects and I value his opinion almost as much as I look forward to holding his baseball novel in my hands.
  • Battery Brothers shares the same publisher as Whispering Minds, a YA novel that Steve also critiqued. Currently, author A.T. O’Connor has teamed up with four other authors for a romantic novel giveaway just in time for Valentine’s Day. Giveaway details here.
  • A.T. O’Connor and I both have short stories published in the Season Series by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. The last one, Winter’s Regret, is due out any day!
  • Lastly, EBP has invested time and energy into a new anthology for middle grade readers. I alluded to it above and posted on it before, but in case you missed it, I am the acquisitions editor on the project and will be accepting short story submissions (2,500 words or less) for readers 7-11 on bullying to be told in the POV of the bully, the bullied or the bystander. Stories must have a clear resolution and must be emailed to me by February 15. So, what are you waiting for?

Hugs~

Spell Check Cracks Me Up

I love how clean my phone’s auto correct keeps me. In a particularly heated text I wrote how I had ducked up despite working my ads off.

Yeah, I’m not proud of writing those things in the first place, but it got me thinking about how easy it is to misinterpret things in oral conversation.

As a speech coach, I stress articulation, enunciation and pronunciation. Even how we say a word evokes different feelings from our listeners. Throw in a smirk on your face and your hands crossed over you chest and the words “You’re absolutely right” take on a whole new meaning. The spoken language can be tricky in all its nuances.

But so can writing. At least verbally, we can gauge a speaker’s true meaning by body language, facial expressions and vocal inflections. All of these are absent on paper. Which means that writers need to be hyper vigilant about how they present their information.

So, do me a favor, work your ads off and don’t duck up a great story with poor writing. Pay attention to whether your true message comes across to your readers the way you want it to, or whether you need a bit more clarification to make things rock!

Happy writing~

Does Writing From Home Affect Your Worth?

The other day, a fellow writer lamented that she’d been brushed aside at a social gathering simply because she was an author, not an employee. Not surprisingly, this sentiment is echoed by many Write at Home Moms.

WrAH Moms are given the hand wave, the shoulder shrug and the scrunched-in-disgust face by women who nine to five it off the homestead. They acutely feel the disdain of the working. As if being there for their kids while writing, editing and marketing a novel equates sitting on the couch watching Family Ties reruns while downing copious amounts of soda. As if their contribution to their families and to society is somehow inferior–less than–the work these other women do.

I suppose it comes from the idea that respect is tied to a paycheck, and that being home is as old-fashioned as June Cleaver’s hair-do.

“You just stay at home,” says the working mother of two with a cleaning lady, a nanny and her summers off.

Yep. Just.

Compounding this feeling of failure is the fickleness and speed (or lack thereof) of the publishing industry. Not every great manuscript gets published. In fact, many never find homes as publishers navigate the technology rush that has changed the face of book marketing. And even when novels earn a contract, it can take up to three years before they hit the bookshelves–cyber or otherwise. To the paycheck mentality who doesn’t understand the nuances of the literary world, this is a whole lot of wasted time and a lot of reruns.

So this post goes to my fellow WaH Moms. I believe in you. I understand what it’s like to be looked down upon for pursuing your passion. I get how hard it is to carve out time to write while balancing the volunteer activities you do, the families you raise, the business mind you must have to market yourself, the part time jobs you keep and the disdain you endure for doing most of it quietly behind the closed doors of your home–all for paychecks that might take years in the making.

Your time is worth something. Your words do matter. You are a viable thread in the tapestry of the world. Without you, picture books could not be shared between parent and child, schools would have no material with which to teach, vacationers would have no beach reads, scholars would have no way to enhance their learning and countless editors, marketers, publishers, illustrators, designers, carpenters, architects, store clerks, librarians, CEOs, janitors, teachers, etc, etc, etc, would be without jobs.

The written word has power. It can be responsible for cultural movements. It graces humanity with possibilities. It is vital to our society’s success. And you are a part of that–sitting on your couch, agonizing over word choices, disseminating fact from fiction, sharing your thoughts in only the way you can.

To hell with the naysayers and dust bunnies. Take pride in your work–and even more so, the process. Writing is some of the hardest work I have ever done.

If you have encountered similar situations, how do you handle them?