Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good quote

When a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists.
~Paul Auster in his novel Brooklyn Follies Best Blogger Tips

Bye Bye October

On this last day of the month, I thought I'd revisit the October to-do list I posted ealier, and see what I actually got done.

Tasks I completed
Finished one of the baby sweaters I'm making for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's babies, in time for the baby shower and the baby's birth! I also ordered the yarn I needed to finish the other baby sweater.

Got the short short "Marriages Mysteries" revised. Waiting for a friend's comments and then will send out.

Got the longer short story "Trying" revised and sent it out.

Sent out my body image essay (still need to get this out to more mags)

Wrote a pitch for the Coupling column of the Boston Globe

Didn't get to:
Write a pitch for an article on simultaneous submissions and find some writing mags where it might find a home.

Write a pitch for Utube's first literary journal, Shape of a Box. (Though I did brainstorm about this and plan to go back to it.)

Extra writing I did that wasn't on my list
Worked on a story titled Obit Artist. It's based on something I started last fall, but then left simmering on the back burner until now. I plan to work on it a bit today in hopes of having a first draft done before WriMo begins tomorrow.

On a personal note, I'm not doing too much for Halloween this year, and I am just fine with that. We'll hand out candy and then head to B's aunt's and uncle's to hang outside with a fire pit and some drinks, watching the kiddies run around. I will leave you with a picture of the pumpkins we and some friends carved earlier in the season:

Also, I grew my very own pumpkin in the yard this year! Picture of the cutey to come... Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 30, 2009

2010: A Publishing Odyssey, Part II

I plan to listen to Part I of this conference call this weekend (via the download feature on the website). Assuming I like it, I'll call in for Part II on November 4. The calls are supposed to cover the changing world of publishing, so I thought some of my readers might be interested too.

2010: A Publishing Odyssey, Part II

Posted using ShareThis Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo, and also MeMo

As some of you may have gathered from reading this blog or knowing me in real life, I have the teensiest problem handling stress. It's not that I can't keep cool in a stressful situation--those I'm generally fine with. It's that I can't relax when stress levels are at normal, everyday levels. So, basically, I'm stressed whenever I'm not in crisis mode or lying on a beach somewhere. I'm only slightly exaggerating.

I mention this now because I've decided to give myself a lifestyle makeover that includes lots of relaxation in November. What better time, right? Since I'll be trying to write 50,000 words that month? Wait...

This does make sense, I swear. I want to set up a daily or almost daily meditation routine (MeMo= Meditation Month). What has kept me from successfully doing this in the past is finding a dedicated time to fit it in. Most people suggest first thing in the morning, but clearly those people don't realize that if I sit on a cushion with my eyes closed directly after getting out of bed, I will fall asleep. And that's if I make it out of bed on time in the first place.

So my thinking is that for NaNo, I have to say no to lots of the things that normally keep me away from my house until late in the evening. Therefore, I theoretically should be able to set aside an hour before I go to bed to meditate. See, makes sense, right? I even bought a meditation cushion today.

Three more days until I officially break it in... and start NaNo! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some NaNoWriMo inspired math

Writing 50,000 words (the definition of a novel, according to NaNoWriMo) over the course of a month = writing 1,666.67 words a day.

250 words = a typical type-written, double-spaced page.

Therefore, writing a novel in a month = writing 6.67 pages a day.

Doesn't sound so tough when you break it down, does it? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Words of Wisdom on Writing

Just in time for NaNoWriMo:

"Writing a novel--actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs--is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV's so good and the Internet is an endless forest of ditraction, it's damn near impossible."
Steve Hely, in his novel How I Became a Famous Novelist

[As an aside, I didn't like this book. In fact, I stopped reading it half way. The constact stream of ironic humor kept me at a distance from the narrator, so I never started caring about what happened to him. That said, Brian loved the book, so clearly the voice appeals to some...just not me!] Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Break time

I just love this video, which talks about the benefits of sabbaticals. How nice would it be to take a year-long break from all your responsibilities every 7 years or so? Imagine what your mind and body would feel like--during that year, and then for the years after. I feel the tension in my shoulders draining just thinking about it.

I doubt I'll ever have the opportunity to take multiple year-long sabbaticals, but I am hoping to work shorter sabbaticals into my life through writers' retreats/colonies. I will surely show this to my boss(es) when I try to convince them to let me take some extended time off.

Best Blogger Tips

Best laid plans... (once again)

OK, whoever created that schedule must have thought she was working with a super human who doesn't need to sleep, or any down time. As if yesterday, I could really: Go to work, commute home, let out the dogs and feed them, go to a 2 hour meeting for the Cultural Council, and then come home and write. Aside from the fact that I left myself no time for dinner, there's no way my little brain could focus on writing after a day like that.

So, my new plan is to write for a few hours tonight, and to write for a few hours each on Saturday and Sunday. Much simpler. Much more pleasant. Much more doable.

When I made this decision this morning (while writing my Artist-Way inspired morning pages), I felt an instant calm wash over me. I enjoyed my writing/reading time on the train for the first time all week. I enjoyed my walk from the train to my office. I felt like I could breath. Is there any better indication of a decision well made? I think not. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 19, 2009

Libraries and e-books

After reading this NY Times article on libraries buying and loaning e-books, I'm left with two clashing views. I love libraries. I borrow books just about every week. I read a ton, and if I were to buy every book I read, I'd be broke and have a house that was condemnable due to clutter. And in a broader sense, I think it's only right that literature be available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay for it. In this vein, I don't see why libraries shouldn't buy the rights to e-books and lend them out like they do traditional books.

That said, I know how much work goes into creating a book. Writers deserve to be paid for that work (much more than most published writers are currently paid). I hope to publish a book some day soon. I hope to make money off that book so I can devote more of my time to writing. So I'm sympathetic to the worries of publishers and authors that no one will buy an e-book if they can get it for free from their library. This argument doesn't apply in the same way to print books--when you buy a print book, you get something you can keep on your shelf and lend to a friend. The same is not true when you buy an e-book. So while I sometimes go out and buy books that I read in the library and really loved and want to own, I can't imagine the same would be true for something I read on my computer/Ipod/whatever other devise one might have.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this debate. Please comment away! Best Blogger Tips

This week's schedule

[Edited on Tuesday: I realize now that this plan is a wee bit too ambitious. I learned this when my body would not get out of bed this morning, which means no spin class for me. I will edit this post throughout the week and add bracketed notes describing how much of the schedule I actually stuck to. This is an important part of learning one's limits--another lesson I seem to need to learn again and again.]

October is slipping away too quickly! (I won't even talk about the fact that it SNOWED here this weekend, making it feel much more like March than October.) It's been a good month, filled with lots of fun social engagements. But, and this seems to be the story of my life, when my social calendar is full, my writing book is empty. Balancing these two needs--the need to feel connected to others and the need to write--is going to be my life's work, it seems. (If only I could ditch the need to work and the need to fulfill what can be lots of other obligations, I'd be all set.)

So, as I always do when life feels too hectic to get a handle on, I need to make a schedule. (I'm also tracking my exercise here, because that's another thing I can't live without if I want to stay sane.)Here goes:

Exercise: Yoga-pilates class
Writing: Journaling on train in the morning/Revising on computer in the evening
(Also have to fit a PT appointment in the evening, which I go to for chronic headaches)
[Got all of these items done. Whoo!]

Exercise: Spin class
Writing: I have a Cultural Council meeting in the evening. Will probably need to prep for that on the train ride in to work. I plan to go to Starbucks after the meeting to get my journaling/revising time in.
[No spin class, slept late instead.]

Exercise: Run, hopefully before work outside with Rufus (the dog) if the weather is nice.
Writing: Brian has class on Wednesday night, so I plan to take this time alone at home to really pound out some revisions. I'll journal on the train ride into work.

Exercise: Nothing formal, some walking to and from the train/various out-of-the-office meetings.
Writing: Journaling on the way into work. Nothing else.
Evening: Volunteer ESL teaching at Unity Church

Exercise: Yoga class
Writing: Plan to head to a coffee shop to write before meeting some friends for dinner and this Bill Maher show (!).

Exercise: Hike with Brian and the dogs
Writing: Will journal post-hike while B studies. Then we'll head to the Boston Book Festival.

Exercise: Yoga class in the morning. Then errands. Then I'll head into Boston to work on writing in a coffee shop until book club at 5.

This feels like a good balance of writing and socializing. Let's see if I can pull it off...Wish me luck! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Easton's Cultural Corner

As part of my role on the Cultural Council, I pitched a column to our local newspaper, The Easton Journal, covering cultural issues. They bit, and my first one was printed on Thursday. Check it out here! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poetry Wheel

A while back, I read somewhere about a poet who rented a booth at a fair and charged a dollar for a poem written on the spot, using a theme or words that the customer offered. Years later, I ran into a similar concept in a NYC subway station--a guy was sitting behind a table with a big sign that read "POEMS". For a donation, he would type up a poem on the spot on his typewriter and give it to you. I participated, and though I can't find the poem he wrote at the moment, I remember it was about a girl in a red coat (the color of coat that I was wearing).

When the Easton Cultural Council (which I am the publicity director for) wanted to come up with an activity we could bring to the town's Fall Festival, those two experiences came to mind. I googled around a bit, and voila! I found a kid-friendly poetry activity: The Poetry Wheel.

Luckily, a friend of one of the Council members had a wheel he made for carnival games at his temple. We borrowed it, and I made some word tags using words I cut out from magazines.

When I first suggested the poetry wheel concept, some members seemed a little hesitant: Would kids really want to write poems at a fair? Wouldn't it be too much like school?

We figured out the answer when, during the first hour of the fair, we got more kids than the three adults manning the booth could handle. We had a line! (Granted, we did offer them candy as a prize after they completed their poem. But even still, 9 out of 10 kids seemed to enjoy the writing part as much as the candy part.)

I just hope one of these budding poets will look back on the Poetry Wheel as one of the things during their childhood that inspired and excited them about writing.

(We also decorated the booth using lanterns made out of soda bottles and tissue paper. We're hoping to bring a lantern walk to Easton, similar to the lantern walk Brian and I participated in in Jamaica Plain for 10+ years.)

Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More on saying no

If I believed in the universe sending me messages, I would take getting this article in my email box about the freedom that comes from being able to say no as a sign. Especially since it comes on the heals of my post about setting limits.

Along those lines, my friend Shannon just wrote about fitting creative pursuits into her life in a beautifully titled post, Row by Row.

Even if I don't believe the "universe" is sending me this message, I'm picking up on it none the less. Must. Say. No. Best Blogger Tips

30 and Below? Not any more...

I think of myself as someone who's not overly concerned about aging. But I'm starting to wonder if that's just because I'm still relatively young! A few things conspired to make me think about aging: I spent time with four generations of family this weekend, I was incredibly excited when I got carded at my cousins wedding, on the plane ride home I learned that I am not that much younger than People Magazine, and, most relevant to this blog's topic of creative living, I came across this contest for young writers. I clicked on the link announcing the contest and realized I'm too old to participate! Talk about a reality check... Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Writerbug regrets that it is impossible, under any circumstances, for her to...

I recently learned of a writing/poetry blog I really like, Book of Kells. Kelli has a post about productivity that I found especially relevent to me and to many of my friends, who are trying to accomplish much--and succeeding, though sometimes at the price of their happiness and sanity.

The post talks about a writer called Edmund Wilson, a very influential book critic in the 1920s. Here's how he dealt with being asked to do too many things: One, he didn't worry about trying to please everyone, which of course is impossible and only distracts you from the things that are important to YOU. And two, he used the following form letters to decline requests:

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him without compensation to:

read manuscripts
contribute to books or periodicals
do editorial work
judge literary contests
deliver lectures
address meetings
make after-dinner speeches

Under any circumstances to:

contribute to or take part in symposiums
take part in chain-poems or other collective compositions
contribute manuscripts for sales
donate copies of his books to libraries
autograph books for strangers
supply personal information about himself
supply photographs of himself
allow his name to be used on letter-heads
receive unknown persons who have no apparent business with him.

Pretty awesome, no? What would your list look like, if you had the balls to hand it out?

My list of things I won't do would include:
Stop to hear your schpeel/sign your petition when I am exiting the grocery store

Plan office parties/buy going away presents even if it means that no one else is going to think to do it

Say yes to social engagements that I am not 100% excited about going to. (This already feels impossible, even in my imaginary life. I will ammend to say: "Say yes to social engagements that I am not 100% excited about unless the guilt regarding saying no feels too great." God I'm weak.)

Feel the need to keep friendships going when they don't seem to be nourishing either party

If I could implement these things, I bet my life would feel much more balanced, especially in terms of getting to spend time with the people who really do nourish my soul. At the moment I seem to have many many more friends who I see every few months, than friends I get to see on a regular basis, as often and as much as I would like to.

That said, my priority at the moment is my writing, so some of that is my own doing. (Well, actually, my priority at this very moment is getting over this awful, awful cold, which has pretty much floored me.)

Looking forward to seeing your list! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Dear Diary

As I mentioned previously, I went to see a show called Mortified recently, where people read from their teenage diaries. As expected, it was hysterically funny. It was also poignant.. The readers--men and women, people my age and much older--all wrote and read in different styles and different voices, but so much of the content was the same. It involved boyfriend/girlfriend drama, friends being mean to each other or leaving one another out, people and relationships changing with time... It struck me that adolescence is a time when we all feel so alone, yet in reality, we are all going through the same things.

When I was thinking about writing this post, I realized that that fact isn't just true of adolescence--as life goes by, many of the problems we face are things that feel so isolated, yet that many people face. I don't think there's much of a solution for this. Heartbreak and difficulties seem to inherently make you feel alone, no matter if you know that others are dealing with, or have dealt with, the same thing. But maybe keeping that thought in mind can help getting through that loneliness a little easier. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 02, 2009

October To Dos, and NaNoWriMo

October has a special feeling to it now that I'm committed to doing NaNoWriMo again**. I feel like I imagine a mother might feel in the last month of pregnancy, when she's scrambling to get a bunch of things done before she has to devote all her time to her baby. (More on the parallels between writing and motherhood another day.)

So here are the writing/creative things I want to get done in October, pre-NaNo:

+ Finish the two baby sweaters I'm making for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's babies.

+ Get the short short "Marriages Mysteries" revised and send it out.

+ Get the longer short story "Trying" revised and send it out.

+ Send out my body image essay

+ Write a pitch for the Coupling column of the Boston Globe

+ Write a pitch for an article on simultaneous submissions and find some writing mags where it might find a home.

+ Write a pitch for Utube's first literary journal, Shape of a Box. (Love the concept!)

I'm slightly tired from just typing this all, but I think it can get done.

**I am not going to follow the NaNo rules 100%, as I did last year. I am in the process of completely rewriting my NaNo manuscript from last year. Basically I'm using the idea and the characters that came out of all that writing, but I'm not using the actual writing at all. I don't want to interrupt that process to start on another novel. So I'm going to continue working on my second draft of that first novel, with the goal of getting 50,000 words of it (re)written in November. In any case, November is going to be completed devoted to writing, and that's the point of NaNo, right? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What a difference a year makes

I'm dashing this off before running to meet a friend to see Mortified, a hilarious-sounding piece of performance art where people read from their teenage diaries. I'm feeling a little anxious about going--this is a new friend and I'm realizing more and more what an introvert I'm becoming and how these acts of reaching out unnerve me. That's the reason I'm taking the time to write this now, since writing is one of the things that reliably centers me (walking is the other).

Last year this time was the hardest time of my life. For reasons too personal to share here, last fall was a time filled with darkness and depression for me. I'm reminded so heavily of that time now, as the anniversary of this dismal period is upon me. For example, last year this time, I could not get up the energy or initiative to start up a NaNoWriMo group in Easton, even though I wanted so badly to learn more about the writing and arts scene in our new town. I remember hating myself for not having the focus to do that. (Luckily, Brian stepped up and did this without my help.) This year, on the other hand, I am so excited to welcome NaNo into my life, and I will be contacting our library soon to see about hosting some write ins.

There are other "fun" things, like hosting a French cooking class at my house and having my family over for Thanksgiving, that I look back on and realize how much energy they took up--so much more so than usual because pretending to be OK and happy sucks out whatever little life there is in you when you're depressed.

I know a few friends who are going through some tough times right now. Divorces. Difficult pregnancies. Stresses of kids and working. So I'm posting this now to say, Hang in there. This fall might be truly awful. But in a year, you might look back on this and say, "Phew. So glad that's over and I'm happy again." I hope you can. Best Blogger Tips