Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where I write

Check it out, I'm featured on the NaNoWriMo blog! (Along with my cat, Boom Boom)

[34 days until NaNoWriMo 2009!] Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Writers' Group Feedback

As I posted on Friday, I had my first meeting with a novel writing group this week. I got great feedback on the first chapter of my novel (3rd+ draft of said chapter...). I thought I would record some of the edits want to make in the next draft here. I want to move ahead and get the 3rd draft of chapter two finished, so this post will serve as a reminder of what I took away from my groups' comments when I get back to chapter 1.

Opening: Move the section where Emily swings on the ledge of the balcony up, and the part about listening to the party noise below it.

Throughout: Watch the mentions of the rain. A bit heavy handed/seemingly metaphorical.

Scene with Hugh: Make it more distinct from scene with David. Maybe Hugh gets mad that she didn't tell him about her sister's death. He definitely should be aggressive and push her toward contacting Colin. Then the chapter will end with her not quite deciding what to do yet.

typ Things to do
I want to end with a short list of things I hope to get done this week:

**Finish typing up long-hand version of chapter 2; then go back and write out longhand the end of that chapter.

**Apply to the two writers' residencies I flagged

**Revise Darfur and Marriages' Mysteries Best Blogger Tips

How to: Make a Journal

I recently discovered that I love writing in small, spiral notebooks. I find them easy to carry, I like the thickness of the lines, and for whatever reason, I found myself more compelled to write in it than the pretty journal I bought.

That said, I wanted to pretty it up a bit. So I went to my old staple of a craft, collaging.

Brian and I happened to be at the dollar store earlier that day, and I found a book of vintage images there for, you guessed it, a dollar--originally priced $25!

I chose this image to serve as my background:

In my mind, the key to collaging is not using regular old glue. It leaves too many lumpy bumps. So instead, I water the glue down. I pour a puddle of glue into a disposable cup (this one recycled from Brian's breakfast), and add water until the glue is about the consistency of pea soup. I stir the concoction with a straw or coffee stirrer.

This time, I painted the glue onto the notebook cover using a corner of a sponge because I couldn't find a paintbrush.

Next I looked through my image book and cut out anything that spoke to me and added it to the background:

I added an envelope to the inside front cover to hold any random images/words I find inspiring and cut out from magazines or other media. Of course, I couldn't leave that envelope plain, so I collaged that with some of said inspiring words:

And tah-dah! A functional, interesting journal that I can't help smiling every time I write in.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Random thoughts on a fall Friday

I met with a new writing group last night. It's made up mostly of people who were in the novel writing class I took last fall at the Harvard Extension School, along with someone from my MFA program and a friend of one of my classmates. This is the first time I'm in a group that focuses solely on novel writing. We're meeting once a month, discussing half the groups' chapters at a time. I'm looking forward to giving and getting feedback about my novel from people who are reading it a chapter at a time, like any reader would. Plus, since most of us came from the same class, we have a similar style/vocabulary around workshopping, which made it feel like a comfortable fit from the get go.


My BCAE writers' retreat class was canceled due to low enrollment. While I am disappointed, I'm also grateful to have an unexpected chunk of time free. I plan to walk with the dogs in the woods near my house, go on a bike ride with Brian, and organize my shed into a gardening shed, instead of a holder-of-random-crap shed.

I think the low enrollment has to do with the cost of the class--they charge $90 for a 4 hour workshop, which seems like a lot, especially in this economy. I'm going to talk to them about changing the price, and also about altering the time/day from Saturday morning to a weeknight class that meets for 3 hours instead of 4.


I have a lot of photos of some creative projects I've worked on recently--a journal I collaged a cover for, a lantern I made, and a shawl I knit. Hoping to post some photos/how-tos this weekend.

I just stumbled across this wonderful bookstore, located in Western Mass, Montague Bookmill. It's described as:
"a used bookstore housed in an 1842 gristmill, set on the banks of the Sawmill River,a few miles north of Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts. The mill building is also home to a unique cafe, a gourmet restaurant, an antique shop, and an artists studio."

I think I have to make a trip west to check this place out!

Lastly, I learned about this awesome website,, where gardeners can post if they have too much of one crop and want to trade it for another home-grown plant. That way if you get way too many cucumbers, instead of letting them go to waste, you can trade them for tomatoes or something else.
It seems to just be getting started, and the more people who use it, the better it will be. So spread the word, please!


Have a good weekend, all! Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book lovers unite!

Who knew there was such a thing as Book Blogger Appreciation Week? (Poetmom, that's who!) It's a week to "recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading." A lifestyle of reading. I like that!

In honor of BBAW, I'm completing this meme. (Mostly its because I love talking, writing, blogging about books.) Let me know if you do, too!

You and Your Reading Habits

1. Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? Sure. I snack all the time. No particular favorites though at the moment I'm addicted to cheese Pirate's Booty. (Getting a craving as I type...)

2. Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? I only mark certain books, like how-to books. Sometimes I will underline in fiction books if I feel the book has a lot to teach me about story telling. For example, I just bought a second copy of Ann Patchett's Magician's Assistant so I could underline how she shows the main character's emotions without telling the reader what she is feeling. I couldn't write in my first copy because Ann Patchett signed it, and writing in that copy would be sacrilege!

3. How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? Usually bookmarked with random paper, like ATM receipts.

4. Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? My first love is fiction, but I throw in poetry and non-fiction from time to time.

5. Hard copy or audiobooks? Both. There's nothing better than knitting and listening to a good audiobook by the fire on a cold evening.

6. Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? I read to the end of chapters.

7. If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? No. I try to remember to do so when I'm by my computer/dictionary, though.

8. What are you currently reading? One Secret Thing, poems by Sharon Olds (Another shout out to PoetMom for suggesting this wonderful collection)

9. What is the last book you bought? Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. (I read a library copy first, and then bought it so I can underline and savor it.)

10. Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? I almost always have a few books going at the same time. Some are better commute reads, some at-home reads, etc.

11. Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? Any time I can. I do cherish my commuter train reading time.

12. Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? Stand alone.

13. Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? Ann Patchett, Timetraveler's wife, Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

14. How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) I guess by subject...Fiction books are generally all together, then how-to books, etc. But in general, I'm not very organized with my collection. I like the juxtaposition of serious books with funny ones, poetry with classical fiction. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, September 11, 2009

To Dos

As readers of this blog know, I am an avid list-maker. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, and so I am hoping that making and posting this list of things to do will calm me down/organize me. Here goes:

* Promote the writing retreat I'm leading at the Boston Center for Adult Ed next Saturday. (Speaking of which, please check it out, dear readers!

*Look at some old stories to see if they are ready to submit: Rest of June, Darfur, Marriages Mysteries (by end of the month)

*Type up the notes from chapter 2 (of my novel). Continue writing it. I would love to have a draft by mid-October.

*Submit, submit, submit.

And in the spirit of patting myself on the back, here are some "recently dones"

* Organize lists of journals to submit to, and journals I have submitted to and been rejected from (wah.)

* Send first chapter of revised novel to writer's group

* Send essay on body image to MFA friends for review

Hope everyone has a nice (if rainy, in New England at least) weekend! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fall time

I've been thinking about time a lot this past week. The change of season prompted some of this. In the summer, time seems both very limited and in abundance. The days are so long, giving me the feeling of, why rush? There will be light for hours still. On the other hand, though, there are so many things I want to pack into each warm-weather day, knowing as I do that they are in short supply. So in that way, time feels very short.

Of course, when time is short, I feel rushed and overwhelmed, feelings I just don't deal with well. And one of the thing that often suffers from my lack of time is my writing. I was careful not to let this happen too much this summer, but I definitely didn't get as much work done on my novel as I hoped.

And so, as we enter fall, I'm left with the feeling of, will I ever get this novel done?? Part of the solution is to learn some patience. Another part is to use the shorter, cooler days of fall to hibernate a bit more, saying no to some social activities to make more time for my writing.

As these things go, once I started thinking about my time problem, I started noticing lots of other mentions to other people's time issues. Here's a paragraph from an article on that I particularly liked:
"You may not feel ready to do something that is necessary. You do not control the timetable. This is evident when people die, are born, get married, move away, are fired, hired, change their minds: You are not ready for what the changes in the world around you require you to do. Nonetheless, you deal.
You don't have a lot of time. You don't get a lot of chances. People get ready, there's a train a-coming. Don't need no ticket, you just get on board."

I also realized that I've posted a number of times on time issues, so clearly this is a theme in my life.

Lastly, I came across this lovely quote regarding how to use time. I love it in that it applies to so much, not just farming and crops.
"It will not always be summer. Build barns."

Happy fall! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Umbrella art

I'm heading away for the weekend, but I leave you with a picture of an art installation project that I found very interesting and inspiring. Amazing what you can do with everyday objects.

Click for more umbrella art. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, September 03, 2009

braiding story lines

While I was away, I took the time to catch up on lots of issues of Writer's Digest. One of the articles I read talked about how, when writing a novel,you need three stories lines that run throughout the book. These story lines should be interwoven, just like the strands of a braid.

I found that to be a useful concept when thinking about my novel. I decided that the three story lines are:
1- What happened to Carrie (the main character's sister) that made her commit suicide.
2- Emily (main character) and David's relationship. Will they open up to one another and take a chance on love?
3- The sisters' family and early life, and the current relationships Emily has with her parents(or lack thereof).

Anyway, this video also reminded me of the idea of braiding, though it only uses two strands, and it's more of a study in contrasts and similarities than a true interweaving. In any case, I think it will be helpful to those of us thinking about story telling. And it's funny and about the Red Sox to boot.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Canadian Writers Retreat: In Photos, Part 1

One of the first things Tavi, Tracy, and I did when we got to the beautiful Haliburton, Canada, (no relation to that evil Haliburton company) was take a stroll through the Haliburton Sclupture Park. It was beautiful, and even the sculptures we didn't like very much were entertaining (see the beaver/lamppost picture).

Here's a slideshow of some of my favorites photos from that day. I'll try to make another slideshow soon that shows how we spent most of the week--writing by the lake. Here's Slide Show, part 1:

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