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London is so Diverting…

9 Nov

…as many an Austen character might tell you, but, apparently, so is the blogosphere. I sat down with Muriel (my trusty laptop) about an hour ago intending to whip up a witty and entertaining October Review including, but not limited to, Halloween pics of the munchkins, a book review or two, and a mad-dash recap of some of our recent homeschooling adventures. Through the seemingly innocent act of checking my email first, however, I ended up downloading a cute new dress pattern, checking out Tula Pink’s new fabric line (LUV IT), taking a Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You quiz (link in the sidebar), and reading a (an?) hilarious fictional interview with Emma Thompson on Austenacious.com. (I’m Elinor Dashwood, by the way. Hooray! No surprises there.) I kept telling myself I could stop anytime I wanted to… but one link led to the next and I just kept reading and clicking… and now it’s time to tuck the kids in bed and write (serious novel writing, not blog writing) so the Halloween pics will just have to wait.

I am easily distracted by metaphorical shiny objects (good books, impressive craft projects, vintage objects of curious origin, random scientific facts) , I know. And when I’m seething in frustration that it has taken my children 30 minutes to brush their teeth because they keep getting distracted by the rhythm of the dripping water or the double funny face reflections they can make in the beveled part of the mirror (so cool)  I know it’s my own fault. They got that from me.  It’s a miracle I ever wrote a novel, I tell you what, because every time I toggled over to Google to check a thesaurus or a French term of endearment or I entered the realm of Wikipedia to check a (an?) historical fact I could have easily gotten lost in absorption-of-information mode. And sometimes I did. But ultimately I did not want to be that girl who’s Always a Jeopardy Champion, Never a Published Author, so I clicked the red X and persevered. Yeah, Wikipedia and I are frenemies.

And see? Here I am still rambling when I should be reading the bedtime stories and setting to work on editing and revising said finished novel. So I’m going now.

Just one more thing.

I normally wouldn’t recommend this type of blog post because of the, ummm… adult language involved, but if you are a Project Runway fan at all, and you’ve watched season 8, and you know the story of the Gretchen drama, then you need to read this. Hi-lar-i-ous. Seriously. This one diverted my attention when I should have been balancing the checkbook.

Love,

AM

Aren’t They Beautiful?

6 Nov

I have two sisters- one older, one younger- who have been on my mind a lot in recent days. Maybe because I came across these lovely pics that I hadn’t seen in for-ev-er.

They both live far far away. And our lives are so different from each others’ that sometimes the distance seems amplified. But when I see the things my sisters create, the little bits of freshness and beauty and love they put into this crazy world, the miles disappear and we are sitting, the three of us, side by side on the hearth of an old stone fireplace in a living room with red shag carpet playing When I Grow Up.

Little Sis (always certain): When I grow up I want to be an artist.

Middle Sis (I went through stages): When I grown up I want to be a writer…or maybe a teacher…or maybe an artist…and a mom.   Definitely a mom.

Big Sis (she dreamed big): When I grow up I want to be a fashion designer/ rock star.

And now Little Sis is a student at the prestigious San Francisco Academy of Art University. Middle Sis is, well, you read about my life here, and I’m living all my dreams in my own way. And Big Sis lives in Hollywood, doing a lot of creative things that I don’t entirely understand that all have a lot to do with fashion and design and rock stars. And I am so beyond eXcItEd to be going to CA to see them both in just one month’s time. I miss sitting on that hearth and believing in everything we said we’d be. But I believe in us still. And I’m so proud to call these two women my sisters. Aren’t they beautiful?

Check out Big Sis’s new fashion blog: Full-Time Fancy.

On a completely different note, you faithful readers (all 2 of you)  may have noticed that I’ve been messing with my blog’s theme lately, trying out a few new looks. I like what I’ve got now- all except for the headline font at the top. It’s much too Extra Extra Read All About It for my tastes. But I can’t figure out how to change it. I’ve been reading all kinds of tips and articles on designing a custom blog background, but none of them seem to apply to wordpress blogs. I’m seriously considering going back to blogger… Of the three blog hosting services I’ve used (blogger, wordpress, and typepad), it seems the most user-friendly as far as customizing things. Advice, anyone?

Keep Soaring,

AM

Old Window, Old Poem, New Art

6 Oct

I’ve had this old window for a couple of years…just sitting around…waiting to be used for something fabulous, but I was never quite sure what. Until last night. Then this idea hit me. It’s just a Sharpie, a little Dickinson, and an old piece of glass, but I love it! And hope is the thing with feathers, isn’t it? I think so.

Love, AM

For the *Write* Reasons

23 Sep

Yesterday the kids and I dilly-dallied our way back to Montana after spending three weeks in Blackfoot, Idaho, where B has been living and working since July and where we will soon be moving. Yeah, I know I haven’t mentioned that before now; probably because it has been a real struggle for me to A.) be, essentially, a single parent for the last two months, and B.) come to terms with leaving Missoula once again.  I love Missoula. But there it is. That’s not what this post is about, however, so I’ll save further musings on that subject for later.

The last weekend of our vacay we actually spent in Salt Lake City, where B and the kids had some quality time with Gma, Gpa, and Great Gma, while I attended the League of Utah Writers’ annual conference, known, unfortunately, as ‘Roundup.’ Can I get a yeehaw? Despite the cheesiness of its name, however, this was an excellent conference with a really good variety of workshops, speakers, panels and opportunities to meet other writers. If you write, or aspire to write, and you’ve never been to a writing conference, I highly recommend the experience. I came away feeling recommitted to my craft, encouraged, inspired, and most importantly, not so alone.

So, a quick rundown of the classes, speakers, etc. Of course, I didn’t get to attend every class, but I left more than satisfied with all those that I did attend.

The conference opened Friday night with a meet -and- greet dinner, and a performance by Cherie Call, who talked about writing from a songwriter’s perspective. She was great. A true story teller and a gifted musician as well.

I knew absolutely no one there; the LUW chapter that I was in for almost a year when we lived in Cedar City had no members attending. So I scanned the banquet room for anyone else who looked like they might be alone. I spotted a table with one only one lady sitting at it, no jackets or purses saving other seats, so I asked if I could join her. She said yes, and after introductions, we kind of hit it off. We don’t write the same sort of stuff at all, but she had an openness and  unaffected humility about her that made her easy to talk to and easy to like. And, after learning a bit more about her, I’d have to say she’s probably one of the most courageous women I’ve ever met. Her name is Diony George, and you can check out her first book here.

Saturday morning: workshops. I started off with James Dashner’s “My Writing Process.” The Dashner Dude got a little sidetracked and ended up filling the entire 50 min class with what was meant to be his introduction, a short bio of himself and the story of how he got where he is today (a NY Times Bestselling Author), but the tangents and departures actually contained some pretty valuable information. I can read all about his particular writing process on his blog, anyway. And so can you, by the way. Just click on his name above, then go to the Q&A’s in the right sidebar.

After Dashner’s class I headed off to my appointment with an editor from Desert Book, whose national market imprint, Shadow Mountain Publishing, I would really like to work with someday. These fifteen- minute, arranged meeting with editors or literary agents are common happenings at writers’ conferences, but this was the first time I had ever engaged in one. Did it go well? I think so, but I also think it’s too soon to say. Did he take my pages? Yes. Did he ask for a follow-up email? Yes. Did I receive an email letting me know my pages were being reviewed? Yes. I have confidence in my talent and in the story that I pitched, but really, in the publishing industry, all those yeses could end up meaning anything from ‘we’d like to see the rest of the manuscript,’ to ‘we like your style but this project’s not for us, got anything else?’, to another rejection letter to add to my growing collection (and I’m not being self-deprecating; every writer has this collection). Only time will tell.

Anyway… after my one-on-one, I sneaked in late to a jam-packed panel discussion with several agents and editors including Katie Grimm, Blair Hewes, Cory Maxwell of Deseret Book, and author John Gilstrap. Sidenote: I have a bit of a talent for finding a seat when the house is full. Other people who’d been standing in the back for a while gave me the stink-eye. But it’s a gift. What can I say? Anyhow, a few blips I  frantically scribbled down from the wisdom if the panelists (not word for word):

Cory Maxwell- Willingness to speak publicly, make appearances, blog, twitter, etc. is crucial for national market authors.

Katie Grimm- All published books were acquired at least two years ago, so what is on the shelf now does not necessarily reflect upcoming market trends. To truly follow the market you must track acquisitions as they happen.

– Half our clients come to us through the straight query process, the other half through referrals. Always mention in the query letter if you know the agent, heard them speak, know one of their clients, etc.

As another random side note, Katie Grimm looks so much like Reese Witherspoon in A Far Off Place that I kept expecting to turn and see Ethan Embry sitting beside me.

Anyway… Lunch. Keynote speaker, the amazingly successful, confident, and surprisingly personable John Gilstrap. Somehow I ended up at his table and had a pretty good conversation with him about his writing process before he got up to give his speech. I cannot emphasize how much I enjoyed John Gilstrap’s address. He’s one of those speakers who uses no notes, no cards, and stays focused, never loses his train of thought, but at the same time seems so natural and so confident that you’re almost convinced he’s improvising the whole thing. Until he hits the point. Until he drives it home. And then you realize how extremely well-planned and calculated the performance was, and you never forget it.  Some scribbled notes (again, paraphrased):

-If you pursue your passion, success will come, but it is a fool’s errand to define success up front; to define what will make you happy and what won’t.

-Don’t let anyone talk you out of believing in your passion. Never allow yourself to be talked out of who you are.

-Why is it that we live in a time when great human achievements are all around us, human achievements that were born in the minds of those who dream, yet when we meet someone with creativity and imagination we call them a dreamer, as though that’s a bad thing? Why do we tell our children they will need to get a ‘real job’ when our world is literally built on dreams?

-Don’t point out the negative. Don’t point to the failures. People who point to the negative are making excuses for their own failures.

After lunch I went to a less motivating, more technical, but still useful class on self-editing taught by Heather Moore, then on to John Gilstrap’s ‘Broken Bones, Ballistics, and Backdrafts: Technical Stuff Writers Should Get Right. While I absolutely appreciated Mr. Gilstrap’s level of expertise, and this workshop was helpful for a couple of fight scenes I’m working on, both Diony and I had to leave the class halfway through in order to keep our lunches down. Gory with a capital G. I won’t even go into my notes, which, suffice it to say, include the phrases ‘flesh wound,’ ‘compressed brain tissue,’ and ‘open bleeders.’

Blech.

We moved on to what turned out to be my fave class of the day: ‘How to Write a Killer Query Letter’ with Elana Johnson (I cannot wait to read her first book– it sounds so good!). Now, I think I write a pretty mean query letter myself, but I loved that Elana broke down the letter into four very simple but very necessary parts, and I love that she said, out loud, in front of people, what so many writers will not say: If you do not have the courage to query, then you know somewhere deep inside that either you or your manuscript are not ready for the world of publication. Writers may write in their own little corner until they die, but you’ll never be an author unless you have the guts to put your work out there to be loved or hated, accepted or rejected. And rejected. And rejected again. You must query. Anyway, the four steps she uses are awesome, but I’m not sure what the protocol is for revealing them here or not… I know she has written an e-book on the same subject, so I think I’d better check with her before reprinting her methods. But her class was informative and fun.

The conference wrapped up with dinner Saturday night and keynote speaker Anita Stansfield. I have to admit that I was not that thrilled when I heard that the concluding speaker of the conference would be Anita Stansfield. I am not a big romance reader so I just thought that I would probably not hear anything that would be of use to me. I don’t know why I thought this, given that I’m not a big thriller reader either and yet I learned more from John Gilstrap than possibly any other presenter at the conference, but I did. And I was wrong.  Ms. Stansfield was nothing like I expected her to be, and her message is still, four days later, at the forefront of my thoughts. Notes:

-Why do you write? If you write because you love it, because it honors something inside of you, it means something to you, then you will always love it and it will always give you joy. If you write because you want to make money or be recognized, then know that if you are not happy before you are a published author, you will not be happy after.

-“I was no better a writer the day after I was published than I was the day before.”

-Write for the right reasons. Don’t compare yourself to others. With patience and kindness and love, help your loved ones understand why this is important to you.

-“I set a goal that my children would never resent my writing, but that they would always respect my writing.” (This is exactly how I feel!!)

-Decide where you will draw the line. How much will you commit? “There’s no way that anyone outside my direct circle of family and friends could ever understand the price.”

-Many talented people never succeed because of the lack of hard work.

-When you write, write from the heart. Writing is emotional. Don’t hold back. But also write with the possibility in mind of making a difference in the world.

And that was it. The conference ended and I kept thinking, so why do I write? The answer is because, as Ms. Stansfield put it, writing honors something inside me. I love to write. And I hope to be able to call myself an author one day.

What is your dream?

Love, AM

And a poem…

20 Jul

I meant to add this to the last post, but I forgot and now it gets its own. I think it’s deserving.

June Evening

The quilt upon the grass is laid, and, not

Unwrinkled by the tread of naked feet

Or resting heads of flaxen fairy silk

Which crown fair, dimpled faces, left to meet

The ants and beetles trafficking their crumbs,

No finger’s flick to send them soon away,

For fading golden light has bid us dance

And dream, but sleep not, though ‘tis ending day.

When rolling lawn, our emerald sea, doth spread

Before us in and out the maple’s shade

We cannot help but bathe in garden’s dew

Our beds’ appointments pleasantly delayed.

The quilt will have us back again before

Apollo to his sister light concedes

And there we’ll read and let the pages burn

Into our minds a path which twists and leads

To hazy regions ne’er before explored,

Familiar still in some forgotten way

Where until morning light in peace we’ll dwell

While stars our laughter silently replay.

If quilt, if feet are henceforth summer stained,

Their tint aglow ‘neath waning Strawb’rry Moon,

These scars’ rich complement will draw our minds

To this midsummer dance, this eve, this June.

Love, AM

A Poem for My Birthday

7 Jun

I’m 30 today

(it can’t be spelled out to soften its edge)

I found the city of  the bronze fish

swimming in the grass

that I dreamed of when I was eleven or twelve.

In the dream they carried me, the fish carried me

up a blue staircase

and into a shop with crystal doors where,

behind the gray-bottomed curtain in back,

I beat all the boys at pinball, again and again

(while bright white light – such a white light!- shone through the grimy window from the alley).

When I woke I found the city,

my city of rivers,

one dandelion,

and the bronze fish carried me again.

I loved it like my mother loved San Francisco

(maybe even more, only she can know).

Down the blue staircase have come husband

friends and children (were they the bright light?)

and flowing in the dandelion river have gone the years.

And I have left my bronze fish city

and come back again and again

(behind the gray-bottomed curtain, but the bright light still shines).

It lives in me, and I in it

still with room for more.

After all, it is only 30.

I am only half-formed.

Sweet Cheese-filled Pastries. She’s Posting. (For Kim)

8 May

I really have been meaning to do this for a while. I even sat down two weeks ago to upload and post pictures of a fun day we spent at Lake Como,  but then discovered that, for some reason, the driver that makes my computer talk to my camera is missing. . . and the software is in a box in the garage somewhere.  Now I know that that’s really no excuse to not post anything, but that’s what I did. And that’s that.

But I’m here now, posting. And will perhaps return at more regular intervals in the future. One can only hope.Onto my thoughts for today and maybe a long overdue smidgen of Free Unsolicited Advice.

My lovely little family and I ventured out to the Farmer’s Market bright and early this morning, as we do almost every Saturday from May to October. When we’re living in Missoula, that is. We rode the trolley down to the end of Higgins, and hopped off, market basket in hand, bright-eyed and ready for a breakfast pastry in the fresh morning air, only to be slapped in the face by a stinging Hellgate canyon wind that- I swear- made the temperature about twenty degrees colder downtown than up on the hill.  We grabbed galettes from the nearest vendor and huddled against the old train station wall while we ate, then made a quick tour of the market stalls, decided we had enough vegetables at home where it’s warm, and hopped back on the trolley.

I don’t know about anyone else, but even a brief outing on a blustery day like today makes me more tired than if I had walked all the way to the market and back on a warm day (trust me, I’ve done this), so when we got home each of the four of us sought out our own snuggle-down, cuddle-up blustery day activities. Pillows, blankets, books, sketch pads. . . ooh, I think we’ll have soup for lunch today. Anyway, I went looking for a sketch of a dress I had drawn last night, thinking maybe I’d sew a bit, when I happened upon one of the many notebooks I keep laying about. I flipped through- nope, not the sketches I’m looking for- but there’s that story I started a while ago. . . and there are some encouraging thoughts on motherhood I wrote to myself. There’s a to-do list from a random day many months ago, and a first draft a Christmas letter I never got around to sending out. Hmm… a homeschool lesson plan, a  to- sew sketch of Laurelei’s Easter dress and some scribbles courtesy of Riley.

And that’s when it hit me (that’s right, now she’s getting there): this notebook, and the dozen or so others I have like it, are invaluable to me. Brian and I were talking with our friends a week or so ago about the journals/slash diaries we kept as kids and how we would never want our children or our grandchildren reading some of the stupid, shallow things we wrote about. And it’s true. My seventh-grade diary entry about my favorite shade of eyeshadow and the cute new boy in school? Not really anything for the future generations there. But my scribbled, hurried, here-a-little there-a-little, list-filled notebooks? I’m on those pages. As a mother and wife and writer and artist and friend. . . I’m all over them. Those are the pages I’d want my children and grandchildren to read. And maybe my blogs.

So, Free Unsolicited Advice: Write it down, sketch it out, make a list, and then keep it. It’s a little piece of who you are.

Happening in my home right now: Riley is desperately trying to order “double french fries” at Laurelei’s tea party. “Sorry, we only have banana bread. Don’t forget to use your fork,” she says.

Love, AM