NanoWrimo is here! #IWSG

The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Every month there is a new question which you answer on your own blog or use it as a springboard to share your thoughts on your writing journey. Talk about your doubts, fears you have conquered, struggles and triumphs. After posting, visit the master list and visit and comment on twelve new blogs. This is a safe haven for writers to connect, share and encourage each other.

November 1 question – Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?


It’s that time of year! November 1 means one thing–NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. Each November gads of people from all over the world work towards a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by November 30th.

Two years ago, I joined the challenge and completed the goal. As a new writer, I learned the art of sitting my butt in the chair and write every day. What started out as a memoir morphed into a fiction story. I have always loved reading and escaping to new worlds. It was a magical experience watching my fingers create a world of my own imagination. While I’ve yet to try and do anything with my half memoir-half novel, the experience gave me confidence that I could write a novel. And I fell in love with writing.

Did I participate last year?

I didn’t. It came down to priorities. With a blog, other writing projects and two kids at home, I wasn’t willing to add another thing and become the obsessed mom who locked herself in her room frantically pounding out keystrokes while my peeps scrounged around the kitchen for scraps of bread only to find they were moldy.

Am I participating this year?

I want to. As November gets closer, I’m so tempted to. My kids aren’t home anymore. I love the idea of just pure writing. No editing. No thinking. I love the high from watching the slider move each day closer to the goal of 50k words.

But I’m not going to.

It’s about priorities—again. I am taking a Fiction Writing class that ends midway through November. I also recently joined Toastmasters and a writing group. Outside of writing, November will be busy with Thanksgiving and my daughter coming home from three months in Germany.

Because I have this insatiable need to complete everything I commit to, I would lose character if I tried to add NaNoWriMo to the list. Rest assured, I would have my speech prepared for Toastmasters, my homework done for my class, and my story written for the writing group–while completing 1667 words each day for Nano.

But it would be ugly.

I would be grumpy and stressed and just not too much fun to be around. I want to love my daughter and the rest of my family well. I want to bake and shop and laugh instead of rushing through a to-do list. This is a season I’m not willing to be absent from. So for this year, I will say no. Maybe next year.

 

Autumn

Green leaves
Firmly rooted to their branches
Frolic gaily blind to their coming fate.

Yellowing leaves cling to their lifeline
Fearing the next exhale of wind
May bring an end to their days.

Wrinkled and dried the brownish leaves
Loosened their grip
Today is the day.

Peacefully, graciously
They let go and flutter to the ground
Content at a life well lived.

Bob’s Last Party *Flash Fiction*

This is a flash fiction I wrote for microcosms. The prompt was to incorporate this sentence, “The guest didn’t move, having been dead for over an hour.” 300-word max.


Bob’s Last Party

Fran raised her glass, “Welcome to our 5th annual block party. I’m glad you could all make it.”

The party started off like any other party. In a few months, the evening would have faded in everyone’s mind if it had not been for Bob.

As dusk was turning to dark, Fran sat by the edge of the pool sipping her margarita and watching the lights sparkle on the water. She congratulated herself on a job well done. She loved to throw parties, especially this one because she could show off her newly remodeled kitchen.

“Is this seat taken?” Betty sat carefully on the folding chair. Her sensible shoes and stocking firmly in place. No chance she would be dipping her toes in the water tonight. “Great party, Fran. Thanks for inviting Bob and me.”

“Are you guys having a good time?”

“I certainly am. You know Bob though. He hasn’t moved off the couch all night. After 52 years of marriage, I do love Bob, but he can be so set in his ways. I tease him that I am going start dusting him when I dust the furniture because he’s always sitting in the same spot.”

“Well, let’s add some spunk to Bob’s life. I’ll get a game of cornhole going. He won’t be able to resist that!”

After twenty minutes of shooing everyone to the empty lot, Fran looked around for Bob wondering what was taking him so long.
“I’ll go drag his derriere off the couch before he becomes a permanent fixture,” Betty said.

Moments later a blood-curdling scream came from the house. As if in slow motion everyone ran in unison to find Betty stunned and pointed to Bob. Bob didn’t move, having been dead for almost an hour.

*Rewrite* Should you force a child to share

The next exercise was to rewrite the piece adding character details.  I’d love your feedback if you have thoughts.  Thanks!


“Ellie, share your toy with Susan. Good little girls share their toys.” Betsy watched her two-year-old little sister’s curls bob up and down as her face turn red and bottom lip stuck out in protest. At the same moment, her mom’s blue worn purse began vibrating. Betsy reached her hand to try and help by retrieving the phone.

“What do you think you are doing, Little Miss? You do not go in my purse.” Betsy backed away hurt and confused. She was just trying to help. She slumped in a corner with a library copy of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe wishing she could visit new worlds through a magical wardrobe.

“Betsy is usually such a good little girl—quiet, obedient and always with her nose in a book. What more could a mom ask for?” Betsy cringed at the word little. 11 years old is far from little! To say it when they were alone was one thing, but did she have to call her Little Miss in front of her aunt?

“You don’t just take a piece of pizza from the middle. That’s selfish of you to take the biggest piece. You take the next one in the circle.” Betsy drew her feet under her as her finger tapped rhythmically trying to stop the familiar spinning in her head as her field of vision grew smaller. The pizza she was looking forward to moments before felt like rocks in her mouth.

Her mom had come into her bedroom a half hour ago, “Come on, Betsy. Dad is surprising the family with pizza. Let’s go pick it up.” Betsy rose and followed her mom obediently to the car, never mentioning that she needed to finish studying for a quiz tomorrow.

Later that night she made her way to the top bunk unsure of what made the crunching noise under her feet. She couldn’t avoid stepping on her sister’s clothes, books and toys that covered every inch of the floor. As she climbed the ladder, the familiar dread that haunted her each night coursed through her body on cue. It would be hours before the sun went down and sleep would come. She remembered she hadn’t finished studying for the quiz. She would have to fake sick tomorrow during Geography rather than explain to the teacher why it wasn’t done. Even though it was only 7:30 pm, getting up wasn’t an option. She knew what was expected of her and she knew what would happen if she didn’t obey.

Across the hall she overhead her mom telling her dad about their day. “Ellie is nothing like Betsy. They don’t look or act alike. Betsy always shared her toys so well. She is such an easy, compliant child. Maybe Ellie instinctively knows she’s a cutie pie. She always seems so confident and knowing her mind. It is exhausting trying to squelch that before it got out of hand.”

Betsy tossed in her bed and tucked her opinions and needs deeper inside where they would remain safe. She would be a good girl. She wouldn’t argue or talk back. Stay invisible. See what they might want and give them that -then maybe they would like her.

 

Should you force a child to share? (#FLfiction)

This is a 500-word short story for a fiction class I am taking.  The prompt was to turn on the radio and use the first thing that comes on as a springboard for a story.  K-LOVE was talking about a post on Facebook, My child is not required to share with yours.  Adults have boundaries and don’t share everything with everyone.  Why do we insist our child share? Is it ever ok for a child not to share?  How do you give a child a heart to share?


“Ellie, share your toy with Susan. Good little girls share their toys.” Betsy watched her mom discipline her two-year-old little sister as she heard her mom’s cell phone ringing and reached for her purse to hand it to her.

“What do you think you are doing, Little Miss? You do not go in my purse.”

Betsy backed away hurt and confused and sat in a corner with her book. She overheard her mom commenting to her aunt at what a good girl Betsy was, quiet, obedient and always reading. Yes, reading was good. In books kids could run and play, they laughed, and their world was bright and safe.

“You don’t just take a piece of pizza from the middle. That’s selfish of you to take the biggest piece. You take the next one in the circle.” Betsy drew her feet under her as her finger tapped rhythmically trying to stop the familiar spinning in her head as her field of vision grew smaller. The pizza she was looking forward to moments before felt like rocks in her mouth.

Her mom had come in her bedroom a half hour ago, “Come on, Betsy. Dad is surprising the family with pizza. Let’s go pick it up.” Betsy rose and followed her mom obediently to the car, never mentioning that she was taking a quiz for her fifth-grade Geography class.

Later that night as she laid in bed she felt her throat tightening, and a sense of dread come over her that accompanied bedtime. It would be hours before the sun went down and sleep came. When she would walk from the bedroom door to her top bunk ladder, she was never sure of what made the crunching noise under her feet. Every inch of the floor was covered with her sister’s toys, books, and clothes. She remembered the unfinished quiz knowing she would have to fake sick tomorrow during Geography rather than explain to the teacher why it wasn’t done. Finishing it now was not an option. The thought of doing anything but laying there never crossed her mind. She knew what was expected of her and she knew what would happen if she didn’t obey.

Across the hall she overhead her mom telling her dad about her concerns with Ellie not sharing well. She is nothing like Betsy. Betsy always shared her toys so well. She is such an easy, compliant child. Ellie, on the other hand, seemed to know her mind. It is exhausting trying to squelch that before it got out of hand.

Betsy tossed her bed and stuffed her opinions and her needs deeper inside her where no one would suspect they existed. She was good. She didn’t argue or talk back. Stay invisible. See what they might want and give them that -then maybe they would like her.

 

The mouse in my cubbyhole

 

By Douglas P Perkins (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I am writing from a hotel room this week. The first thing I did when I got to my room was read every piece of literature they leave out on the desk.  I know where all the amenities are and what to do in case of a fire. I’m not worried about a fire, nor do I need to know where the closest ER is.  I’m just curious.  I enjoy the quest for knowledge from simple mundane things to deep philosophical ones.

Words are the key to knowledge

Long before I could string a row of letters together to form words, I remember sitting on my mom’s lap while she read stories to me.  We had two sets of encyclopedias.  One was a kid’s set. I spent hours looking at the pictures in the 12 hardbound books, each with a different bright colored cover.    The second was a grown-up set that my mom would take off the shelf and let me look at.  I remember being awed by all the words on the pages –rows and rows of beautiful words.

My love for words grew with my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Clifford. My favorite part of the day was when she read books to us in the front of the class while we colored at our desks.  We had rows of cubbyholes in the back of the classroom where we stored our lunch pails, coats, and books.  I began to write stories about a mouse that lived in my cubbyhole.  I don’t know what she said to me, but I remember she made me feel so proud of my words like I was a real author.

Throughout the rest of my school years, I found comfort, safety, and happiness in other worlds created by books.  I read on the bus, I read while doing dishes, I read when I should have been doing my homework.

My curiosity was insatiable.  I would beg my mom to drive me to the library, and I would make two trips to and from the car just to return the 50 book maximum allowed on my card and get 50 more.  When I wanted to learn about a topic, I would search the card catalog and get every book available.  I am so thankful for the internet these days!!

As I married and began a family, my love for reading never waned.  I began reading to my babies and continued to read to them through junior high.  In 1998 I was diagnosed with Degenerative Myopia.  By 2005 my vision had deteriorated, and I saw five images instead of one. The loss of being able to read well was one of the hardest challenges. I began to listen to audio books and practice typing with my eyes closed to train myself to type blind.  My world became small around me when  I could no longer read cereal boxes, billboards, or pill bottles.

In 2015 I became a candidate for femtosecond laser cataract surgery. This procedure was life-changing.  I now have double vision in the distance but can see, and function, especially in my two favorite things –creating new worlds or immerse myself in world’s others have created.


Thanks, Kelly for the writing prompt.  What about you? I’d love to hear about your writing journey.

 

The Illusion of Happiness (Microcosms Flash Fiction)

I have never heard of Rory’s Story Cubes before.  Apparently, you roll nine dice, each with an illustration.  The challenge was to use less than 300 words and tell a story with the nine cubes.  These are the way the nine cubes were rolled.

I wrote this piece while sitting on the beach inspired by a couple I saw when I looked up from my book.  To my delight, it won first runner-up.  The judge said, “Poignant and emotive writing at its best. The introspection of the narrator as she watches the elderly couple in the sort of loving relationship she could only dream about is heart-breaking.”

Lest anyone worry, this is just a story.  I love my husband and my life very much. 🙂


The Illusion of Happiness

It was the last day of vacation. The storms were clearing, and a rainbow spread across the deserted beach. Only a lone couple shuffled along. I watch as he stops and slowly, painfully, gets down on one knee. Like a school-aged child, she sticks out her right foot, balancing on her cane. Ever so gently he fumbles with the laces of her tennis shoe. My eyes well with tears. What tender love.

I had given the key to my heart away many years ago. If I had known what I know now, I would have kept it tucked safely away. Now I wear the masks of joy and happiness, the truth —the pain, hidden. I instinctively rubbed the newest bruise on my shoulder thinking of the excuses I would make.

Eager to keep walking, for the only option was to return to the cottage, I pull my flashlight out of my pocket, thankful for the way it illuminates my path. Little crabs scurry into the sand as my light shines on them. I’m still a little afraid of stepping on one! I fear it would hurt more than a bee sting!

The windows glow warmly across the beach, and my mind wanders back to the couple. Is one of those houses theirs? Will they return home to a bowl of ice cream and snuggles on the couch? Is there a happily ever after? Reaching down, I absently pick up a forgotten horseshoe and toss it onto the dunes. If I take a magnifying glass to anyone else’s life, would they have secrets like me? Do they wear masks like me?

Real Artists Don’t Starve (Book Review)

Real Artists Don't Starve Book Cover Real Artists Don't Starve
Jeff Goins
Business & Economics
HarperCollins Christian Publishing
June 6, 2017
Paperback
240

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins debunks the myth of the starving artist by unveiling the ideas that created it and replacing them with timeless strategies for thriving, including: steal from your influences (don’t wait for inspiration), collaborate with others (working alone is a surefire way to starve), take strategic risks (instead of reckless ones), make money in order to make more art (it’s not selling out), and apprentice under a master (a “lone genius” can never reach full potential).

Through inspiring anecdotes of successful creatives both past and present, Goins shows that living by these rules is not only doable but it’s also a fulfilling way to thrive. Creatives already know that no one is born an artist. Goins’ revolutionary rules celebrate the process of becoming an artist, a person who utilizes the imagination in fundamental ways. He reminds creatives that business and art are not mutually exclusive pursuits. In fact, success in business and in life flow from a healthy exercise of creativity.

My Thoughts

Four years ago, Jeff Goins wrote a book called You Are a Writer. I reviewed it last year and gave it a 3 star. You can tell Jeff practices what he preaches because his writing has improved by leaps and bounds.  He knocked this book out of the park.  The writing is tight and he has done his homework.

I have a small bookshelf and very few books make it onto it. This one will –right next to On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott.  My only regret is that I didn’t read the book with a highlighter in my hand.  I plan to share it with a few writer friends and then re-read it again early next year.

Jeff is a solid writer. I enjoyed the organization, the research, the structure, and the stories.  He is encouraging and motivational.  Sometimes I had to stop reading it before bed because I got so excited about writing that I couldn’t fall asleep.  It is rare that I give a book a 5 star, but Jeff earned this one.

I would recommend it to anyone considering pursuing their dream of writing.

Summarize the book in one sentence.  You don’t have to choose between a creative life and a prosperous one.

 

BookLook Bloggers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Evolution of Writing #IWSG

The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Every month there is a new question which you answer on your own blog or use it as a springboard to share your thoughts on your writing journey. Talk about your doubts, fears you have conquered, struggles and triumphs. After posting, visit the master list and visit and comment on twelve new blogs. This is a safe haven for writers to connect, share and encourage each other.


September 6 Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre, you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

I began blogging nonfiction, mostly devotionals four years ago. Recently my friend introduced me to flash fiction. It was love at first sight! To my surprise, I have gotten positive feedback and even won a couple of contests.

My blog Filled to Empty is a niche blog aimed to encourage women to care for themselves well so they can love others lavishly. Fiction doesn’t fit well into that theme. I purchased my name domain a few years ago and decided that now would be a great time to get it up and running so I could use it to explore other genres.

I have a degree in elementary education and have homeschooled my children for over a decade. This fall I am beginning a new season of my life as my children are beginning their own lives, away from home.  The words burn inside me, and whether written, spoken, fiction or non-fiction.  I am excited to set aside my teaching hat and move from squeezing writing into the spare seconds of my day to following the writing path wherever it takes me.

This is my first post for IWSG, and I’m excited to be here. Other things on my fall agenda are reworking two pieces into short ebooks, more flash fiction contests, joining Toastmasters and a course on writing fiction. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a blog post every day for a year. Jeff Goins recently talked about doing that and the lessons he learned.

 

Destination Wedding

My legs are stiff as I get out of bed and open the curtains. I push the doubts away. Edwin is eccentric, that’s all. Normal people can be obsessed with Dracula. I still can’t believe I agreed to host Crystal’s wedding here, at Bran Castle, the castle that inspired the book.

“Good morning, sweetheart.” My wife seems unaffected by my concerns about Edwin. “We must keep the curtains closed! You know how vampires are.” She winks. “How’s the speech coming?”

“Fine, almost finished.” I lie. I think to the two speeches in the breast pocket of my suit. No matter how many times I rewrite the first Father of the Bride speech, my doubt seems to seeps from every sentence. The second I’d printed after a quick CTRL-F search changed George’s name to Edwin’s. It was a good speech, after all. Everyone loved it when I gave it at Crystal’s first wedding.

It is decision time. Instinctively I crumple up the first speech and drop it into a nearby garbage can. Edwin and Crystal were married now —albeit a bit of a creepy ceremony. Glancing at the clock, I decided at this moment, 7:06 on October 31, 2016, I would believe the best about my new son-in-law.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I begin, holding a Dracula-faced goblet with its dark red liquid. I glance around at the guest’s; relief washes over me. No one seems to recognize the repurposed speech. The rest of the evening is magical, and I even relax and start to get into the whole Dracula scene. As the night is winding down, Crystal hugs me and our eyes lock; her face is radiant. She turns to walk away, and I felt my world fall out from under me. There on Crystal’s neck are two red puncture marks.


This was a flash fiction entry on Microcosms.  I had 300 words, 24 hours and the prompts of  Father/Transylvanian Castle/Memoir.