Thursday, September 15, 2011

Here's the Rub

The problem, at least for me, with submitting is that there are only so many no's and not-for-us's I can handle before my insecurity smothers my creativity.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Post Is Not About Writing

I am tired! Holy smokes! Who knew? Who knew that after 5 years of non-employment (because I wasn’t unemployed), adding 20 hours to my already 24/7 job as a mom would kick my rear?! And I’ve only worked 8¾ hours of my 20 this week!

But it’s wonderful. In a way that I want to take a nap now and then tell you about work later, but I’m going to go ahead and tell you now because I have mom things to do. We’re out of milk again.

My first day was Sunday. I didn’t even work 3 hours, and I was completely wiped out afterward. My job supports the Religious Ed program for youth at my church, and Sunday was the first day of RE for this year, and everybody needed something. Parents, teachers, visitors. The office was, several times, full of people in those 2¾ hours. Fortunately, there were 2 other people there helping. I guess they didn’t think they should leave me alone on my first day. I handled it, though. People came to me and said, “I need [this].” and “What do I do with [that]?” and “Where do I find [these]?” and “[This] is broken.” To which I responded, “I’ll bring [this] to you,” and “You can give [that] to me,” and “[These] are over here,” and “I will fix [this] and bring it back to you.” I was awesome!

Except I wore the wrong shoes. I knew there was a chance I’d be running all around and up and down stairs and in and out of doors so I wore my clunky Mary Janes, stable but still dressy. They were fine for running around in except for the fact that they’re HOT. So my feet didn’t get tired, but they sure weren’t comfortable. Next week, ballet flats!

It was Super Fun. I left that afternoon and left a to-do list on my desk, which included tasks from data entry to storytelling. I couldn’t wait to get back and do them. I’ve never had a job where I couldn’t wait to go in and tackle my to-do list. NEVER!

Yesterday I worked all day (ish, 6hrs). I knocked the data entry off my to-do list and added a different data entry to-do, was given a ton of new tasks (including posting the podcast! and creating a how-to manual and quick reference guide for my position). The part I was least comfortable with was covering the front desk while our fulltime admin went to lunch, but I managed. It helped that nothing happened while she was gone…

I love my job! What’s that quote about finding a job you love and never working again? That’s me!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Here’s Something You Don’t Think About Until It’s Done…

Listen, you guys. Keep this in mind, okay? You totally cannot UNDO sending your manuscript off for other people to read. I mean, I suppose you could follow up with a note saying, "Don't read that!" but that's probably discouraged, right?

Just wanted to warn you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stupid Cover Letter

Seriously, people! The body of my cover letter is literally 6 lines long. And that includes the blank lines in between the 1-line paragraphs!

Is this right?

Back to Writing! In a minute… After I do these other things…

School started, you know, 2 weeks ago. I was sooo looking forward to it for several reasons. First, I’m not an Automated Entertainment Machine with Super Fun Activities in my back pocket, just waiting for 5 or 9 year-olds to get bored; I’m sorry, but I’m not. Second, I do not enjoy refereeing the fistfights that ensue when 5 and 9 year-olds (girls!) are bored. That didn’t happen often, fortunately, but once is too many times.

And third, and this is the big one, with everyone gone to school and work, the house is quiet and nobody needs me and I can write! Also, edit. Or so I thought…

Turns out, now that everyone else is elsewhere, I’m also needed elsewhere. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve spent… Well, let’s just do the math.

14 days in 2 weeks minus 5 weekend/holiday days = 9 days for writing, right? Wrong. 9 writing days minus 5 days of volunteering at the school = 4 writing days (already down 10 days here…). But then, and this is all on me, I know, I spent 2 days doing churchy things. One day I had an interview for that job, and even though the actual interview, including driving time, was only an hour, the day was pretty much lost to anxiety and getting ready. The other day, yesterday, I spent volunteering at the church, doing work that would have been done by the person who left and made a job available. That was just the morning and early afternoon, but then I needed to go grocery shopping so my girls would have milk to drink and wouldn’t have to buy school lunch (ick!).

So: 14-5-5-2=2. Two days. I think I’ve been busier since school started than I was before.

And yet, now that I think about it, I’ve written and revised a poem, edited a chunk of the first chapter of my Tallulah MS, Googled picture book agents (anyone have any recommendations?), and journal-ed almost every day.

Never mind. Being busy is good for my writing, apparently.

(Quick addendum: I got the job. I start Sunday. It’s only part time and so will leave plenty of time for writing.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Query Letter

By any chance, is one of you a literary agent who represents picture book authors? If so, can we meet for coffee or something and I'll just hand you my manuscript and we can skip the whole query letter thing? I'll buy the coffee. I have a Starbucks gift card.

It would be helpful for you to handle early-reader chapter books, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So. Many. Words.

My book has too many words.

I think I mentioned that I turned Lulu’s adventure last fall into a children’s chapter book, didn’t I? I can’t find the post where I did. Hopefully I mentioned that I finished it. Sort of…

But it has WAAAY too many words. How can that be? Right? Words are good. Right? Except when you’re writing for young readers. You know.

And all those words? They’re intimidating! Especially when they’re all gathered together into one 62 page (!) document. It’s double spaced with annotations, but still. SIXTY-TWO PAGES! 17,386 words!!

You are going to be unimpressed with my solution to the problem of feeling overwhelmed by the word count. I have… and don’t say anything if this was obvious to you – I’m still recovering from the forced hiatus that was summer vacation… I have discovered that the best way to cut down the word count is to copy each paragraph, one at a time, into a blank document and edit it by itself and then copy it back into the original document. It feels way less immense to do it that way.

And then, once I’ve compressed each paragraph into something vastly more readable, then I can go back and make it all interesting.

I am hoping to have the first 3 chapters done by mid October so I can read them to Lulu’s class. Her teacher was intrigued when I mentioned my project. It would be fun to have a captive audience!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here’s a Poem

The Old Piano

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut. *
Dust swirls up from the broad slat floor.
It dances in streaks of dim sunlight
From clouded windows, twirling toward
The upright in the shadowy back corner,
Pulling me toward the upright in the back corner.

The keys are covered by the mahogany lid.
I write “PIANO” with my finger in the dust
Then erase it with my palm and regret it.
I wipe the grime from my palm onto my blue jeans,
Leaving a gray-tan streak, and uncover the keys.

Everyone plays middle-C; I choose A.
The hammer strikes the old string,
Which rings, twangs, groans, plunks.
The note pulses in my ears, through the piano,
Vibrating the other A strings,
Through the room, swirling with the dust.
I add C# but then play C instead.

I look around for a bench, a stool, a chair.
I see a 3-legged stool that should have 4.

My fingers find the notes I know in my head.
The honky-tonk tone of the neglected strings
Dissolves as the music surrounds me, fills the room.

I wish I could say that the music makes the dust clear
And the sun shine brighter through the windows.

When it’s finished, the last chord rings
Until it is muted, swallowed by the gloom.
I close the cover on the keys,
Letting it thud shut.

* The first 2 lines are from "Church Going," from The Less Deceived by Philip Larkin (Marvell Press, 1955)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

That’s Some Bad Hair, Harry

Have you ever gotten a bad haircut? The kind where you’re just miserable and want to hide from everyone until it grows out? It’s awful!

I had been wondering since that day mid-winter when the city had been shut down from snow/ice for 3 days and I cut my bangs in a frenzy of stir-craziness, whether I might want all of my hair short. So early his summer, I got my hair cut off. I didn’t do it right, though. I went to one of those places where the cuts cost $13, and… well… You get what you pay for…

I swear the stylist got bored or something in the middle of my cut and just gave up because my hair wasn’t remotely even anywhere on my head. There were places she clearly neglected to cut. But I didn’t know this while I was still there to tell her to fix it or to ask for another stylist. It was so different from what it had been and I mistakenly trusted that she knew what she was doing, and I left with what turned out to be a huge mistake. HG said I should go back and make her fix it, but I wasn’t letting her touch my hair again. I spent $45 getting it fixed by a stylist I trust, but even that wasn’t exactly right. He left it too long in the back and too short on the sides, all mullet-y and wrong. I found myself saying to people who complimented me on my new look, “Thanks. I’m growing it out.” Or something along those lines.

The worst part was, though, that I didn’t believe my hair looked good. It startled me every time I looked in a mirror, and being a Person of Very Small Self-esteem, I spent all my time trying to hide it or fix it and waiting for it to grow. It was awful. It was way more consuming than it should have been.

Then Pete decided she wanted a new do. She had cut her hair into a cute bob back in May for Locks for Love and wanted something more interesting. Having had the experience I had with the $13 stylist, I took her to my $45 stylist to get it done. If it was that bad for me, imagine how my poor 9 year-old would have handled a hatchet job! Since I was still wishing my hair was different, I made an appointment for me too and we went together. Before we went, we spent time looking at hairstyles and deciding what we really wanted. We printed pictures and took them with us so he could see. And when we got there, we looked at one of the hairstyle books he had and found even better choices.

The result was that he was able to finally fix my hair in a way that I really like it. It is still on its way to growing out. But now I LIKE it!

Pete, on the other hand, had 4 or 5 pictures of what she wanted and spent a lot of time with the stylist picking and choosing what she liked from each and ended up with a one-of-a-kind, self-designed hairstyle that she loves and that looks Super Cute and very grown up on her.

Lesson learned: I do not want a short cut. Remind me of that if I ever say, “Hey, I’m thinking about cutting my hair off. What do you think?”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Right Then, Here’s the Plan

I am completely failing at WFMAD this month. The girls “need” me. Pete and I went out of town. Play dates with friends. Back-to-school shopping. Laundry and dirty bathrooms. Carowinds. Etc.…

Instead, my plan is to WFMAD next month. Well, the end of this month into next month. The prompts don’t expire. I’ll just take it a day at a time, a month behind.

That way, I can stop feeling guilty about this. I will continue to squeeze in time for writing between now and then, just like last year at this time, while I wait to get these girls out of my hair off to school.

Bear with me.

Check back in a week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Workin’ 9 to 2-ish, a couple days a week

That title totally works with the “Workin’ 9 to 5” tune. Sing it out loud; you’ll see.

I just saw a blurb in a newsletter about the job I applied for. It said this:

“The Administrative Assistant will support the CYRE program, our Director of Music, general office operations including bookkeeping, podcasting and an increasing number of unpredicted tasks.” [emphasis added]

I was a little put off by the doom implied by the last phrase. Wouldn’t you be? Maybe other candidates will reconsider sending their resumes when they read that, thereby allowing me to stay firmly ensconced at/near the top of the list. We’ll see. Some people are all challenged and inspired by stuff like that.

Oh well. Wish me luck. And if I don’t get the job, wish my friend Kate luck.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

FROGS!! (eventually…)

Earlier this summer, Husbandguy scooped a Copes Gray Tree Frog out of the girls' pool and returned it to the creek at the bottom of the hill. Later that day, when I went out to change the froggy pool water, I found these.

frog eggs 001

All over the pool. Apparently, Mama T. Frog left her family behind when HG relocated her. The girls both decided that seeing what happened with the eggs was more important than swimming in the pool, so we left them. Until someone wanted to see our house (which is never going to sell) and we had to take the pool down. We went out and bought these and scooped up the teeny tiny tadpoles to come live with us.

frog eggs-tadpoles 004

We got 2. This one is Lulu’s. Each habitat had dozens of little swimmy creatures in it, each with its own food supply still stuck to its belly (they start out with a little ball of yolk). Eventually, they needed food from other sources, and we were misinformed and fed them the wrong thing so they ate each other.

OMG, Bel! you’re thinking. Why are you telling us this Tadpole Horror Story?!

They’re not all dead/eaten. We still have 3 good sized tadpoles left. Oddly, these little guys seemed to get bigger overnight, the same nights that a number of their brothers and sisters disappeared.

tadpoles 004

tadpoles 007

We had more than that when Pete and I left for DC, but HG could only find the 3 when he changed the water while we were away. But I digress…

Copes Gray Tree Frogs make a LOT of noise. Click here to listen to what our backyard sounds like at night (that’s not actually our backyard…). We will be letting them go when they find their voices because as beautiful as the sounds of nature are, I like to sleep.

For now, though. We’re boiling lettuce (the right thing to feed them) and waiting for leg buds and giving them fresh, de-chlorinated water every other day.

Oh, and last night, Lulu and I discovered a planter full of water and TADPOLES on the patio. I was soooo tempted to scoop them into Pete’s critter keeper and watch them grow. Instead, I called HG, and he and Lulu carried them down the hill and let them go in the creek. I’m nuts. I’m not crazy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

WFMAD, day 8

Last year, I missed the beginning of WFMAD because the girls and I were at the beach with Moomie. Plus, I didn't know about it until I got back from the beach and looked up LHA's website.

This year, I missed a few days because I was in DC and VA with Pete. My beautiful cousin (who apparently reads my blog but never COMMENTS!) got married this past Saturday. Pete and I took advantage of the location and met the Grandpa a few days early and spent some time touring the Smithsonian Museums. Pete had never been to DC so I gave her her choice of things to do (see the monuments, go to the museums, tour the White House, a combination of those, etc.). She picked the museums, and there are plenty of them to fill up 2 days. It was fun. We rode the bus to the Metro station and then rode the Metro to Federal Triangle and then walked and walked and walked and walked all around. Pete was totally comfortable with the public transportation stuff. She'd be a great kid to live in a real city with.

Oh, we did visit one monument, the Washington Monument. Pete put her hands on it. When I asked her what it felt like, she said, "Stone... And history..."

And my cousin's wedding was wonderful. They did a great job of combining Catholic and Jewish traditions. I'd never danced the Horah before! Pete had a great time, too.

Plus, now my cousin and my new cousin live super close to HG's parents, which isn't far from here!

But anyway, I'm back on track with WFMAD. I might even take some time and try some of the ones I missed if I get a minute. Or 15... I'll share a little if I write anything worth sharing!

(And remind me to tell you about the job I applied for...)

Monday, August 1, 2011


Per Laurie Halse Anderson's encouragement, I'm writing fifteen minutes a day again this month. I did it last year too. You can probably find some of my stuff if you click the "writing" tag and go back a year...

You should WFMAD, too. The boost your creativity will get from just writing 15 minutes is totally worth it!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I've been rejected before, but this morning I got my first official rejection letter. It said:

Thank you for the opportunity to read "Garage". After much consideration we have decided to pass on this submission.

However, your work came really close, and we'd really love to see more of your work as soon as you have some to send us.

We look forward to reading you again!

That's awesome, right?! I am definitely keeping it. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm All Full of Myself so I'm Sharing This

We had a writers' meeting for that little show I like to do with my church in the fall, and only the director, one other writer, and I were there. It's my job to keep everyone informed about what happens at the meetings, and I was kind of annoyed by the lack of writers, so rather than send out my usual pdf of the minutes, I sent this:

Guys! Come on! I asked you 4 weeks ago when I sent out the notes from the last meeting whether or not you'd be able to make it this morning and NOBODY responded that they couldn't be there until it was too late to reschedule. As it was, it was a very productive meeting, at which each of you who weren't there were given 7 Very Challenging Assignments, and they are all due this Monday. However, only Dot, Mic, and I will be receiving copies of the notes I took so you'll just have to guess what your assignments are if you want your names in the credits.

I am going to doodle you all about the next meeting. If you don't know what that is, let your imaginations wander while you wait for me to doodle you. Then write all that down and hand it in; maybe we can use it in the show. The doodling will be a separate email with a very obvious and specific subject heading so you can't claim you didn't know what it was.

At today's meeting, Mic uncharacteristically did not give a Follies History Lesson, but we did spend some time talking about my new tattoo. So, way to go! You missed that! Of course, it's permanent and obvious, so I suppose we could revisit it if you want...

Also at today's meeting, it was determined that we need everyone to finish their assignments and begin sending them out. We started off like wildfire but seem to have fizzled waiting for people to write stuff. Mic has given us the opening scene and the lyrics to the opening musical number. Scott W. has given us a very workable Real Gays of Mecklenburg Co. Dot suggested "One" from "A Chorus Line" for the closing number and the FTV theme. She has taken on the task of rewriting it as "Hug," which was chosen as the f-word replacement. Anyone else got anything? Let's get this hugging show written so we can cast it and film the stuff that needs filming for the video segments, which I will edit with my fancy video software that can slow down and speed up and make it look all film-grainy and whatever. "Film-grainy" is too a word.

Oh, and the scene for the kids will be a mixture of Phineas and Ferb, GA, the Democratic Convention, and Disney's new movie, "Prom." Probably.

To sum up:
1. Hand in your assignments NOW.
2. Respond to the Doodle when it comes and
3. Come to the next meeting.

Thank you all for your inattention.

You know you wish you were coming to see this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Up To My Ears

Busy as a
Bee, I have got
A full plate of
To-do's to do.

OMG, Mom! Go away!

Don't try to hide it.
We all know you're
That crazy lady who
Sits in the hallway
Outside children's choir practice
With tears in her eyes.
And whispers, "They're so good!"
To anyone nearby,
Despite the mortification
Of the 9 year-old
Of your husband

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just You Wait

You think I forgot
But I did not.
Next week, I'll be hot
And post a lot
Of poems to get caught

It's Spring Break for my girls and the house is all caddywhompus because HG is painting the great room and his parents were here for 3 days and I've fallen behind, but I've been thinking about you every day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

No Monsters Allowed

The monsters formally asked,
When the bigger little girl came along,
Requested an all access pass
To scare her all night long.

As her mother, of course I said, "No."
I banned them all from our home.
I told them that they had to go,
Spectre, beastie, and gnome.

When her imagination started to play
And kept her awake full of fear,
I was able to truthfully say
Not a single monster was near.

And because I'm the mom, it was true
No monster ever could stay,
And when we had sweetie number 2
The monsters still had to obey.

Oh, sure, they begged for reprieve,
For me to repeal the harsh rules.
I stuck to my guns. They must leave!
So long all you demons and ghouls!

Try it, when your babes feel a scare
And things go bump in the night.
Tell the monsters to get out of there.
Mom says NO to the fright.


'Strue. 'Tworks. Our house is a monster-free zone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lo siento por mi español

"Se escapó dos veces."
Two times.
They were out.
We caught them
And put them in your yard,
And they got out again,
Just so I would have to
Figure out how to say,
"Your dogs are in our yard,"
In Spanish.
Sus perros desafíeme.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I am a little bit good
At a lot of things
But at nothing am I a pro.
I can do a little of this
And a little of that
But expertly? Probably, no.
Because of this trait
Of knowing a little
People are often impressed.
They are struck by the fact
I know something they don't
And don't wonder if I am the best.
It'd be nice, I do think,
To have some expertise
In even one occupation.
If I knew A to Z
About just one thing
I'd be deserving of their ovation.
But no. It's not so.
I have to confess
I have no special mastery.
I'm a little big good
At numerous things
Without great proficiency.


Oh my! I actually worked hard on that one. It's terrible, but I wrote it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


When Lulu was very little, it seemed like I was constantly inspired to wax poetic for or about her. I referred to her as my Little Muse; I saw poetry in her asking me to read to her or in how much she makes me think of my grandma; I made up little rhymes about changing her diaper or the fact that she didn't eat anything except ham and/or ketchup for a period.

Now she is all grown up. She's almost 5, and while she still amazes and challenges me every day, I don't seem to be as likely to bust-a-rhyme about/for her as I was. What gives? What am I missing? What have I lost? And how do I get it back?


NPM, day 12

Poem removed by author

Thank you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Poetry Elsewhere!

Check out Kelly's poetry quickfire over at My Voice, My View. She signed on to do that A to Z thing and hasn't had much time for poetry. I suggested she do "P is for Poetry" but she decided not to wait! Yay, Kelly!!



Pawing at the glass
Desperate to get out there
Quick! Open it! NOW!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I feel important

Oh that this feeling will last
Beyond this day,
Beyond these moments,
And not fade tomorrow
In a haze of indifference
And spiteful words
And hopelessness.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Fluorescent green
Hot pink
Bright white.
Nature's trying on
Bathing suits.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Almost Tomorrow

nearly eleven
it is almost tomorrow
where did thursday go?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Butterflies and bees
Swarm the yellow-black spider
And its zig-zag web

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


by Thich Nhat Hahn in The Heart of Understanding

In [one of the Buddhist sutras] there is a very short passage on how the world has come to be. It is very simple, very easy to understand, and yet very deep: “this is, because that is. This is not, because that is not. This is like this, because that is like that.” . . .

We are not separate. We are inextricably interrelated.



The difficulty, he says,
If you're going to be inclusive,
Is that you have to include everyone,
Even the one who says
'You're wrong and stupid and
I hate you for it.'

The ideal, she responds,
Is that the one who says,
'I hate you,' would desire
To coexist with you
Anyway, would understand
That we are all connected.

They nod in silent lament
For the Other
Who just doesn't get it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fourth Day of Poetry

April the fourth
Fails to bring forth
(i.e. to the fore)
The much hoped for
Poem four.

Seems a little early to out of poetry, huh? I am today, though. On the other hand, I wrote a children's story this afternoon. It didn't rhyme or I'd share it...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

NPM Day 3

Last night, the Grandpa proposed an interesting communal poetry idea to me. I'm in. I'll tell you more about it when I know more in case you want in too. Plus, also. that will get the Grandpa back online!


Energy expended
on endless envisioning
is exhausting.


That's not my NPM poem. I'm just saying.

NPM is below. Remember: NPM isn't about polished poetry...


Spring Shower

She's getting soaked to the bone by
Fat, refreshing sundrops, and

Splashing in puddles of light
Shimmering through
Fluorescent green leaflace.

An umbrella would be simply
Useless on a stormy day like today.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Poetic Lulu

Part of my definition of poetry is using unexpected words to create a novel image for someone. My brilliant Lulu is very good at this. Like the other day, in the car, when she was talking about how her friend J had worn a tie when the Primary classes had their little concert a couple of months ago. She said, "He looked very... romantic." Not a word I would have chosen. Definitely an image I appreciated.


At this time
Bel is experiencing

Friday, April 1, 2011

To Start Us Off

National Poetry Month again.
A poem a day.
Are you in?

Starting today,
Let's celebrate verse.
Here's my challenge:
Could your poems be worse

Than mine?
Mine rhyme,
Maybe rise and fall
With rhythm,
But sometimes that's all...


Hi! It's National Poetry Month again. This seems to happen every year around this time... I am going to honor it the same way I have for the past few years, by posting a poem a day (here are some links: 2008, 2009, 2010). Chances are slim that any of them will be very good, but that's not the point. The time for good poetry is later, after the revising, after April. Now is the time for writing. Wanna join me?

Septembermom over @ My Voice, My View has said she'll participate (Yay, Kel!!). Let me know if you're in, too, and I'll post a link to your blog so we can all share.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Is National Poetry Month

Hey! Tomorrow is April. I'll be here all month with my half-hearted first drafts: a poem a day for NPM. Tell your friends and write with me. Are you in?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bel. With a Chainsaw. On a Mission. Almost...

I have this little document, about 20,000 words or so, with a precocious protagonist (say that 3x fast) and a cute little plot. It is totally appropriate for an early elementary reader. Except for the 20,000 word part. That is about twice as many words as I need.

So picture me, in my lumberjack costume (I'm a lumberjack, and I'm OK!), with my chainsaw, getting ready to clear-cut the holysmokes out of this manuscript. Pretty imposing, right? Now picture Lumberjack Bel sitting at the computer, chainsaw sitting idly on the floor by my chair, harvesting virtual cabbage. Sigh...

I can't seem to get motivated! I think it's because the whole middle is actually part of a completely different cute little plot and needs to be rewritten. It's overwhelming. So I'm avoiding it. You know?

What would you do? What should I do? And don't say, "Just do it!" because I know that! But I'm stuck.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1 Yr to a Writing Life - Chapter 2

Click here for Chapter 1.

When I was in the 4th grade, I spilled spaghetti off my lunch tray into the milk cooler at school. I remembered this while reading Bird by Bird and had already started to write about it when I read Chapter 2 of that book with the really long title that I'm not going to type because I don't feel like making sure I get it right (so click the link above). Turns out Chapter 2 (month 2) is all about the personal essay. Taking a memory and writing it down and then fleshing it out and then finding the poetry in it. Oh, there is so much poetry in a story about a 9 year-old girl who has just made what seems like the biggest dumb mistake of her whole life! At that moment, I truly believed that I couldn't possibly ever do anything more embarrassing than spill my lunch. To be 9 again...

Now it's March, and time for Chapter 3. Hopefully you won't have to wait until April to read about that!

Oh, speaking of April: April is National Poetry Month, remember? Who's posting a poem-a-day with me? They don't have to be good (mine rarely are!); it's just for fun. And to celebrate NPM! If you're joining me, we should do the whole linkylinktoeachothersblogs thing so let me know!

Have I Lost You?

I feel like I'm always apologizing for being MIA and making promises to do better. If we were dating, you should dump me. If I were your best friend and you were dating... um... me... Wait. This metaphor isn't working. So let me just say this:

I'm sorry, baby. I'm a jerk. I promise I'll be there for you from now on. Please don't leave me. I need you!


Friday, February 25, 2011

I've Been Thinking...

Sometimes you're reading a story or a novel or something, and the author has included detailed descriptions of the story's location, the room or landscape or climate. You think, "A Real Writer* gives you descriptions of places in their work." Then later, when you're writing and realize you've just gone 2 or 3 pages without even mentioning if there is a window in the room, you wonder if you're doing it wrong.

But maybe instead the location isn't crucial. If the wallpaper doesn't move your story forward or add to our insight about the characters, does it really matter if it's striped? I don't think so.

* a published writer


Don't worry - I intend to post about chapter (month) 2 of One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer's Art and Craft by Susan M. Tiberghien. It is about personal essays and inspired me to write about the time in the 4th grade when I spilled spaghetti in the milk cooler. Probably Monday...

Friday, January 28, 2011


I have this Super Cool notebook. It's green with little line drawings of trees. All different kinds of trees. And peeking out from behind one of the trees is Big Foot! You have to search for him because he's tiny. And hiding. I'd take a picture, but I can't find my camera so look here instead. Mine is green. I said that. It has the picture below stuck on it and several Chinese restaurant fortune cookie fortunes that struck me, like "The world will soon be ready to receive your talents" (you know that's true!) and "You will make a name for yourself in the field of medicine" (HG said, "Are they going to name a disease after you?") and "Don't underestimate yourself. Your social skills are needed by others at this time" (very desperate others, apparently!). Also, a fortune appropriate for the career I've chosen to wrestle with, "You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily" (ah... revisions...).

Before I started reading One Year to a Writers Life, this notebook was just randomness and Follies. I mean literally, Follies - it was the notebook I took to the writers meetings for Follies last year. I don't have a good post to refer you back to that isn't from 2009 so I'll just remind you that Follies is the little show a group of talented people puts on at my church every fall, and in 2009 I stole the show and then in 2010 I wrote it and Pete stole it! Anyway, after I started my reading, I decided to make this book my journal and to date the things I write in it and to make them go consecutively from one page to the next instead of just writing wherever the book opens to.

I love my little notebook. I loved it the first moment I saw it and just had to have it. Little did I realize then that this would be My Notebook, my journal, my First Official Journal. Full of images from the ice storm and the sensory garden at the girls' school. Full of whining and complaining about having noplace of my own (yes, I meant that to be one word - Firefox doesn't like it - I don't care). Full of character descriptions and short scenes and, believe it or not, a couple of feeble attempts at plotting (not my thing, not finding those helpful yet). Nope. When I grasped it and wrestled it from the weird basket shelf thing where they keep the notebooks at the store, I had no idea what I would do with it; I just knew it belonged to me and that I could do great things with it. I knew it so certainly that I bought the matching 2-pocket folder.

How sad will I be when it's filled. Well, sad and proud.

And inspired.

I just mean that I hope my next notebook is this cool.

What do you think? Should I buy another one just like it now in case I can't find them when I need my Second Official Journal? Or should I just trust that, when the time comes, I'll be able to find another, perhaps different, equally awesome volume?

(This post was inspired by Charmaine at Wagging Tales. I often find her inspiring...)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Legitimacy and Randomness

How does it happen? How do you get to that point where you don't feel like a kid or a wannabe when you say, "I'm a writer"?

How do you write a compelling bio or query/cover letter when you still feel like you should be saying, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a writer"?

How am I supposed to find time to clean the bathrooms and fold the laundry and cook dinner and take everyone to the dentist/doctor/groomer/vet/soccer and still read and write as much as I'd like to? Maybe if I leave 2 hours early for carpool...

I submitted a very short story (I know it's called flash fiction - I just like very short story better) to AROHO's Orlando contest because they didn't ask for a bio (and because I like the idea of AROHO). That makes 3 things on my submissions tracking spreadsheet.

It's raining, and I'm supposed to be baking.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reviving Revising the Dead Bad

Last year, I spent a long time, months really, working on a story. I wrote it out in my notebook so I could squelch the urge to edit as I wrote. Then I finished it, and when I went to type it up, I discovered that the story was so bad that I couldn’t even stomach pressing the keys on the keyboard (you can read about that here). I did finally get it typed, and then I tried, I tried to breathe some life into it. I read and reread it. I thought about it in the shower, where I get some of my best ideas (why don't they make waterproof paper? - I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs to make notes underwater). I changed the secondary character to someone who would provide more conflict. I poked and prodded and pounded the story's chest. But it was stubbornly lifeless. BOOOORRING... So I abandoned it, left it to fester on my flash drive. Sad, I know, but it had to be done.

Best. Idea. Ever. Leaving it alone. Because, even though I was pretending it didn't exist, my miserable, timid, yawn-fest was always there in the back of my mind, with its glimmer of potential. Then I wrote another story with a similar main character. This new story spawned my Big Project Idea, a collection of short stories about the new character, and when I was thinking about possible stories I could write, I remembered that other poor, lifeless Blah, and I sought it out and pressed Ctrl+H and replaced the old MC with my new MC and it was way better. I had to change the style of the story and the MC's attitude about a couple of things, and I have to rewrite the whole middle. I can't wait!

And when it's finished, I'll have 3 stories in my collection. Maybe I'll throw together a tracker widget for the sidebar there --> so you can keep up with my progress...

Monday, January 17, 2011



That’s me . What you can’t see (because I didn’t feel like editing clip art today) is that the hurdle is labeled “PERFECTION”. And in my imagination (because the picture of me leaping over the hurdle isn’t imaginary, right?), under the hurdle is a big puddle of failure.

And the thing about Perfection Hurdles is that they don’t seem to end. Have I lost you? This was my plan BWAH HA HA! I mean, sorry.

Each step in the writing process is a Perfection Hurdle for me. I had to leap the first one (and knock out my inner editor) to finish my manuscript. And now that it’s done and riddled with imperfections, I have to leap another one and accept the fact that the first revision will make my stack of papers better but won’t be anywhere near perfection.

I’m not a track star (or even the slow kid who everyone cheers for because they always finish, even though they’re always last, not yet anyway). And the path full of hurdles is turning out to be kind of daunting. Instead of hurdles, at the moment, I see walls.

So I’m going to do what I do when I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to put it off. Just not do it. Because I don’t know how.

The difference, though, between me putting off revising and me, say, putting off calling up to Investments to ask about dividends or some other investing word I’m not certain of the meaning, is that while I’m ignoring this task, I’ll be reading, searching, researching advice, tips, tools from other writers who’ve found themselves behind this particular hurdle.

So? Any advice for me? Got a good place for me to look or book for me to read? Any tricks you use when you’re revising?

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, at the side of the road, retying my shoes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pantsing from my Right Hemisphere

Recently I learned 2 things that I found interesting about me as a writer. Since this blog is about me, and recently frequently about me as a writer, you're going to learn them too.

Charmaine Clancy over at Wagging Tales posted about right-brain vs. left-brain the other day. She included this link, which I immediately clicked and was totally surprised to find that the figure is turning clockwise. For me.* Which way do you see her turning? I always thought I'm a left-brained person, but I suspect that many people would disagree. Including you, dear reader? I'm not good with the abstract stuff right-brained people are supposed to be good at. I like the concrete, the logical, the scheduled, the patterned, the safe. I wonder if she would have been turning the other direction 3 hours ago when I wasn't right in the middle of my creative time. Which is scheduled. And therefore left-brain. Right?

On the other hand, when I write, I find that I am most comfortable when I'm writing by the seat of my pants. I learned recently (after reading Shannon McMahon's interview with Elana Johnson) that this is called pantsing (right brain) and its opposite is plotting (left brain). You can click the word and learn more about it (I had to). Isn't it funny that there's a term for it? I rarely go into my writing with a plan or an outline of any sort. I usually have a vague idea of what I want to say or where I want to start or about what or whom I want to write. Then I just start and write until I'm done. Or dry. Whichever comes first. Even in my college writing classes, where I had to turn in my outline and rough draft with my final draft, I would write the paper first and go back and draw up an outline from it to hand in (sometimes I'd change the paper backwards a little and hand that in as my "rough draft"). I always did very well on my papers. This is why I chose to get a degree in philosophy, I think. All the writing made it easy for me. I didn't learn anything useful, but WOW! can I write!

So now you can say, when you're talking about something brilliant I've said or done (like you frequently do, I'm sure), "My Right-Brained, Pantsing Online Friend Bel said/did..." and no one but us will know what you mean!

*When I concentrated, I got her to switch directions.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just Wondering...

Here, in The South, when there is the threat of "winter weather," everyone (except us and our level-headed friends) rushes out to the grocery store to buy milk and bread and eggs. What is the point? I mean, aside from the fact that winter weather here is often ice, resulting in power-outages and no refrigerators and the potential for the shiny new milk and eggs to spoil, why eggs?

Are we supposed to make French toast?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Scenic Detour

Yesterday I spent some time working on something for me. Poets & Writers has weekly writing prompts. I've been heavy into prose recently so I took the path less traveled and tried the poetry prompt.

The exercise was to take a favorite poem (by another author), delete every second line, and replace it with something you wrote. After that, you go back and replace the lines you left the first time, and what you end up with is an original poem.

I chose Vespers by A. A. Milne. I love the image of the little boy trying to focus but not quite succeeding. This is what I ended up with:

Hide & Seek

He crawls under the covers to the foot of the bed.
It’s time to be sleeping; he’s playing instead.
Quiet now, like he’s saying his prayers.
Here is Mommy, coming upstairs!

She’s out in the hall, turning off the light.
Is she coming in here to say goodnight?
She’ll never see me. I won’t get caught.
Hide and go seek! Ready or not!

Here it comes now, what I’m waiting for:
I hear Mommy come through my door.
She thinks I did what she said I should.
She won’t find me here, though; I’m too good!

She’ll never guess that I’m hiding in bed.
I’ll keep the blankets up over my head,
And I’ll shut my eyes, and I’ll curl up small.
She won’t see me. Not at all!

Mommy says now that it’s not time to play.
She thinks that I’m trying to run away!
She’s going back out. She didn’t see!
I’m silent and still and she’ll never find me.

Under the covers at the foot of the bed,
Soundless, unmoving, dozing instead.
Mommy picks him up and tucks him in right
And smooths his hair, and whispers “Good night.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Milestone!

You guys, I finished my book! The one I started during NaNoWriMo.

And by "finished," I mean that the manuscript now has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It also has about 3x more words than it should and is riddled with inconsistencies. But it's written!

I think I'll set it aside for a week or 2 before I start revising it. This is a different plan than I had yesterday when I finished it, but now I'm thinking that letting it stew might be a good idea.

Now what should I work on?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Soccer Shots


One nice thing about living in the South is that it’s not unreasonable to sign your 4 year-old up for soccer in January. I do miss real winter, but Lulu absolutely had a blast yesterday afternoon running and dribbling and making penalty kicks and scoring goals. One time, when the yellow team was headed toward her goal, Lulu took off running toward them and her coach yelled, “Way to play some defense, [Lulu]!” She glowed later when I shared that with Husbandguy.

Also, my little girl is the ONLY girl in this little group of potential future soccer players and she doesn’t mind at all!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ups & Downs, as Expected

Here we are, Day 5 of the New Year, Day 2 of my New Schedule. How's it going, you ask? Well...

There are Ups: Yesterday I worked for 2 hours on my children's chapter book and made real progress.

There are Downs: Today I realized that while I know how it ends, I don't quite know how to get there. Also, all of my writing today in general was disappointing. My Inner Creator was napping, apparently. My Inner Editor was awake, though, and cranky! Maybe she'll wear herself out and take tomorrow off...

There are more Ups: Yesterday, I started reading One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer's Art and Craft by Susan M. Tiberghien, and I didn't get all the way through Chapter 1 yet because every other page or so, there is an exercise. I love that! I thought that it would be read-the-chapter-do-the-exercises-at-the-end, which would have been fine, but practicing as I go is a way better choice for me.

The first lesson is about journaling, a thing I admit I do not do on a regular basis. What?! you exclaim, How can you be a writer and not keep a journal?! Well, I suspect that has something to do with not believing that I know how, and, being Me, I just didn't do it, rather than risk doing it wrong. Funny thing (and you probably know this), the only wrong way to keep a journal is to not keep a journal. But yesterday I wrote an entry (about what tools I'd like to have to help with my writing) and I chose an image from that entry (a space of my own) and I expanded on that image (including windows with sunshine and a door that closes) and I drew a mandala of that expansion:
(I am not an artist...)

I am looking forward to finishing the chapter today.

I can't think of any more downs. Except maybe I need more time allotted for housework. But an hour is 60 minutes more time than I had been doing so I think I'll keep it for now.

How are your resolutions going?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All the New Stuff

Holy Moly!

If reading and talking about writing has any effect on being a writer, I'm destined to be a writer really soon!

I told you about the 2 new books the Grandpa and Meme gave me. One is all about practicing my craft for the next year and the other one, which it appears I didn't mention in my other post, is about balancing being a mom and being a writer. I have already packed the first one in my pile of things to bring to carpool (really just that book, my notebook, my phone, and my keys, a little bitty pile...), and the second one is at the top of my to-be-read book stack.

Then yesterday, Husbandguy had the day off. He said it probably had something to do with being more cost effective to give everyone the day after the day after New Years off, since it was a new year, instead of the last day of 2010. Who knows. Regardless, we went out to breakfast after we dropped off the girls and then we did a little birthday shopping for Pete, who turns NINE next Sunday. NINE. More about that later... When we were in Borders I checked out the new issue of Poets & Writers, which the Grandpa gave me a subscription to. It looked really interesting so I told HG that I hoped my subscription starts with this issue (he said we could go back and get it if it didn't), and when we got home, there it was in my mailbox! Yay! More reading. That's folded open on the coffee table to be read while football is on.

And football will be on tonight. Go Bucks!

And then at church last Sunday, 2 other people initiated conversations about writing with me. They brought it up! People know me as a writer!! One wanted advice about self-publishing. I'm no expert on this, but I did have a lot of fun creating a little book for Meme a couple of years ago. It's filled with photos of and poems about my girls. It's really cute (and not for sale to the general public (it needs work)). The other just asked how it was going. I'd say, considering that I just started this in September and was only halfhearted about it for the past month-and-a-half, it's going pretty well. You know?

And today I started my new schedule. I wrote for 2 hours. I made real progress on my children's chapter book that I started during NaNoWriMo and will probably write the actual end tomorrow.

Are you a writer? Or other type of artist? How did you know when it happened that you became a Real [insert artist here]? Was there a blue fairy involved? Or, like me, did you just talk a big game enough that you started to believe it yourself and then everyone else had to too?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Resolve…

I have a couple of resolutions this year. Usually I don’t bother with them, but I thought maybe I’d give it a shot this year.

For one, I have resolved to teach Lulu to eat vegetables. My plan is a veggie a month, but I think that if I can get her eating 4 veggies by the end of the year, that will be a success. Right now she eats carrots. That’s it. I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to try to get her to eat peas too. Then maybe beans? I also thought I’d try having her grow her own lettuce this spring and see if that makes it more appealing…

And I am resolving to stick to a daily schedule during the week.

New Year resolution 003

(I stuck it to the side of the computer so it would be in my face all the time.) Obviously there will be days this won’t work. Vacation or sick days, for example. But if, when my dad calls and says, “Are you writing every day?” I can honestly answer, “Sometimes,” I’ll consider that resolution a success.

There are other things I’d like to do, run a 5k with Pete, get published and then get published again, clean the house, train the dog. I’m just going to try to accomplish these things, though, and not resolve to do them. That way I won’t fail…

Have you made any resolutions? Or any just-want-to's?

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