Monday, April 30, 2012
Just outside the park my friend and I ate dinner in a cute little cafe--most delicious salad and panini I've ever had in my life. The cafe was cute and artsy and close to what I dream of having someday. A cute little raw/vegan shop where I can hang up local artist pieces and have a little bookshelf with my very own books for sale (and probably some of my other writerly friends' books too).
Every time I venture into the woods or the rocks or the sands or anything outside of a city, my dreams take over. They swell in my heart and my head until I'm just bursting with excitement and anticipation for making them come true.
Then sometimes I get discouraged because plans don't always pan out. In Zion National Park there is a campground clear out in the middle of nowhere that has no fees. It is a developed site with pit toilets, trashcans and everything. My plan was to stay at this campground for the night, but by the time I found my way through the dark to the camp I discovered also a "campground closed" sign hanging across the road into the camping areas. My friend and I spent the night in the car, which wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be, but still not at all what I had in mind.
Last summer I made goals to finish my novel by June (just before the WIFYR conference, so I'd have something to pitch/send to agents and editors I met there).
I didn't finish.
This year I've made pretty much the same goal: to finish my novel by June 13th (my birthday).
Since it is not yet June 13th it may happen, but I worry that my plans won't go as I hope. What if I end up sleeping in my car again...metaphorically speaking, of course. ???
The morning after sleeping in the car my friend and I embarked on a 16 mile round-trip hike to see Kolob Arch (also in Zion National Park--and one of the largest free-standing arches!). The hike was beautiful and followed a gorgeous little stream through red rock canyons and dapples of ponderosa pines. After hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, the hike was nothing. It was very much a walk through the park. Once we finished this hike, my friend and I calculated that we'd hiked a total of 48.7 miles during our weeklong trip. A healthy portion of those miles were on the steep switchbacks going into and out of the Grand Canyon (with somewhere around 4,000 feet elevation change).
Needless to say, I can do ANYTHING.
After hiking the Grand Canyon my legs were aching and stiff, but I did it. I carried a 25 lb overnight pack into and out of the grandest canyon in the world.
I can finish my novel.
I can do anything.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
I mean Yogi as in someone who practices yoga. I want to be a yogi.
I hear it really clears your head and helps you concentrate on your body and your soul, your inner thoughts and your health. It helps you channel creativity and leads you to the ultimate high of nirvana. Yoga is not just a form of exercise (although it seems like the western culture has turned it into that). It's a way of bringing each part of yourself together in a magical unity--body, mind, soul. It's a form of meditation that happens to also strengthen your body and rejuvenate your soul. Basically it's a way to become uber healthy and happy. I've read a few books about this. One of which was really awesome: Reinventing the Body Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra. It's not really about yoga, or meditation...but it does include some things about meditation and life. And I think most of it is really awesome because it put things into a different perspective for me.
I'm not very aware of my body. But I really want to be. I want to know what's going on with it and how to take care of it. As I research and learn more about all the different options out in the world I'm getting excited to try some of the things I'm reading about. Yoga is one of them. But, since I'm still on vacation and not quite ready to just do yoga on my own (maybe I'll check out a cool place in my town soon...I keep hearing about a good one), I think I'll just stick to this kind of meditation for now:
How do you channel creativity?
Friday, April 27, 2012
Okay, I'm probably not actually at the Ten X campground...but I might be... it's one of the places on the list of options for my Grand Canyon vacation. And I didn't want to write about anything else with an X.
Except I'm wondering how many X words you can come up with. Tell me. How many words beginning with X do you know?
Thursday, April 26, 2012
The water filter I have is called the Katadyn Hiker Pro, and it's supposed to be THE BEST ONE. Let's hope that it is.
As I'm thinking of ways to relate this to writing I thought I'd throw in this little hint a guy at the outdoor store shared with me about this water filter: put a coffee filter on the input hose (even though it already has a filter) to keep out the silt and bigger particles so your filter will last longer and work better!
Writing, like water, needs to be filtered (okay maybe I thought of this before and that's why I'm posting it). I tend to write something like crazy in my journal, thinking I'm brilliant (of course) and then a day later I read it and think, "That's a load of shit". So I re-write it. I filter it. I've been told that my writing is Raw. And it is a lot of the time--because I'm brilliant. But, I can't just whip something out and have it be a masterpiece. I could whip something out in an hour and get an A on it in an English class...but that does NOT make it good. True literature needs re-writes, reviews, and revisions. It needs to run through the filter so the reader isn't consuming disease-ridden words.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Some people might say that I should also take a vacation from writing...but here's the thing: writing is like a vacation for me. I do a lot of paper work in my job. I write reports and look over write-ups for pamphlets and news releases. I analyze crime scenes and write detailed investigation summaries and cause analyses. It's nice to let my brain take a vacation and write a poem or write a new scene for my book. Creativity is a vacation for me. So, I'm gonna stretch out on a nice big red rock, sketch a tree, write a poem, and eat another one of those camping burritos. Mmm.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
More than just getting away, I want to see something new. I want to expand my vision. Explore other ways of living. Other cultures. I want to watch people--the way they interact, walk, speak. Maybe I'd have a better idea of who my characters are if I could get into their worlds--the un-utah world in which they live. I want to talk to people. Make friends. Basically all I'm saying is I want to do some field research. I'm tired of the internet.
How do you work your character's situation/ideas/speech/behavior/etc if they're from Kentucky and you're from New Mexico? (or something like that) What do you do to create experiences for your characters if they're not your own?
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Life is meant to be lived.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
One thing I need to learn is how to prioritize. What is most important and what to I need to do to make sure that most important thing becomes my top priority.
This is how I am with writing. I let life get in the way of writing time because I have a doctor appointment or I'm sick or I'm getting ready to go on a trip (to the GRAND CANYON!!! WOOOO!) or I have to wash the dishes or I'm working on an awesome birthday present or I go for a hike... I'm really good at doing things when I have a routine, but at the same time I hate routines. I get bored and I feel like I'm stuck in a rut that I can't get out of.
So, I decided that since routines don't work for me (because real-life doesn't involve routines) I'm going to make writing time more spontaneous! When I want to go for a hike I take my journal with me and sit on the bridge over the stream for a while to write for a bit. I head to the park and write for a bit. I take my journal to the doctor's office and write while I wait (for ridiculous amounts of time). I write during meetings at work (which is AWESOME because then people think I'm taking notes--not so awesome when they ask for a copy of my notes at the end of the meeting because they didn't quite catch everything...). Writing is about making time (like everything else). I won't do it if I let my "real life" get in the way.
How do you manage real-life things when you're trying to finish your novel?
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Every story is a quest for someone--multiple someones if a writer is lucky and has a lot of readers :)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I especially LOVE her nose. I have a thing for noses...kinda like some people have a thing for brunettes.
Earlier this week I watched a hilarious Streisand movie called "What's Up Doc?" It reminded me how much I love to listen to this amazing woman sing (and how much I love to look at her nose). And how fun it is to watch a movie with your bestest friend.
I just burned my cheese sandwich because I was trying to write this blog. :(
My very favoritest song sung by Barbra Streisand is "People Who Need People." I have a really good friend who also loves this song and when we're together and either one of us starts out with "people..." the other will come in and together we'll sing "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world..." More than the lyrics my bond with that really good friend (whose blog you should also read-- From Sarah, With Joy) over this song has taught me just how much of a "person who needs people" I really am. Was that last sentence awkward? ...yeah.
I am a writer because my mom is a writer. Well, maybe that's not entirely true, but I think it made a big difference. My mom loved helping me write stories for class or for fun and when I was in high school I realized just how much I loved to write stories too. I've always been a reader. I was going to say bookworm, but I honestly was'nt quite like that. I read a lot when I was younger, but not THAT much. I loved the Boxcar Children Mysteries--Yellow House Mystery was my favorite. Then I grew into outdoor adventure stories like the ones Gary Paulsen writes (namely Hatchet). I zipped through the Harry Potter books like crazy. When I got to college I explored classical literature...like E.M. Forster novels, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf. I fell in love with Holden in The Catcher in the Rye. I even took a few minutes to skim through Twilight and The Hunger Games. As I studied creative writing at university I slowly realized that authors are real people! I was very lucky to meet a whole bunch of published writers AND to work with them on my own writing. Carol Lynch Williams. John Bennion. Pat Madden. Ron Woods. Ann Dee Ellis. Rick Walton. Kathleen Duey. Each of these writerly people have made all the difference in my development as a writer, and they've connected me with amazing opportunities for more learning and for getting my foot in the door of publishing. I needed these people to help me get to where I am now (almost done with my first novel, and almost ready to submit to agents--who I've already met!).
Okay, listen to the song and then I'll talk about one reason I like to read and write children's lit.
"Letting all the grown-up pride hide all the need inside.
Acting more like children than children."
Contemporary YA is what I'm writing now. And in YA there is a lot of hiding feelings, trying to be "grown-up" and, of course, acting childish. I can identify with that. The thing about children though is you can be raw, honest, bold. Sometimes it seems like you can be more honest in fiction than you can in real-life, and in children's literature you take on a whole different level of honesty than you can in other genres. I like that. The best part about books is the people. Not just the made-up ones in my head, but the made-up ones in other people's heads. If I write a book and ten people read it there will be 11 completely different stories/connections/worlds/characters because a reader doesn't just read what's there--they create images and ideas from the words I put on the page. I need people. My made-up people need people. And I like to think that people need my made-up people and by extension, me.
Who do you need?
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
When I first heard of the program I knew it was made for me--creative writing, hiking, walking, reading. I soon found out that even the professors were right for me. One windy morning in Keswick, England while waiting for our coach (bus) to arrive John Bennion encouraged us about the hike up Hellvelyn which we'd soon begin. He told us that hiking Hellvelyn takes balls of steel. Being the beautiful feminist man that he is he quickly added that it takes ovaries of titanium to hike this particular peak. Since our group consisted of about 20 women and only 5 men, everyone seemed to like this phrase quite a bit and we were ready to prove that we indeed have ovaries of titanium.
The view from the top of Hellvelyn where we ate lunch and had a dance party
Tina with a waterfall on the way down from Hellvelyn
Me and Clyde atop Hellvelyn with jackets sheltering from the wind
Whitney up to her knees in mud on Hellvelyn
Today I went to a "lady doctor" (otherwise known as a gynecolegist or something...) and I got my ovaries checked out. Even though I already knew from hiking Hellvelyn, it was confirmed that my ovaries are indeed made of titanium (not literally, of course...but I'm damn healthy!).
I've been thinking a lot about writing and titanium and ovaries. How they don't really seem to have anything in common except for one thing: Me. As a writer I think a lot about good writerly habits (something I don't have), but what about good physical habits? I mean exercise and healthy eating. Writing isn't an easy profession by any means. Even if it seems easy to sit at a computer all day making shit up (I got a BA in BS), it's not that simple. The mind doesn't magically have energy and new ideas from sitting on the couch with the laptop and eating cookies. Our brains need brain food--leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, proteins. And it needs a break every now and then from the hum drum of the compter fan. Maybe a hike or a bike ride or a little stroll down town. Maybe a few (eight!) pull-ups on the bar hanging in the doorway.
And then your brain needs some exercises too. Something to jumpstart creativity. Maybe it's a quick little freewrite.
OR maybe your brain needs something more challenging?
Monday, April 16, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
For most of my life I've been a ticket-holder on a passenger train to heaven.
The whole trip was planned for me with an itinerary for pretty much every moment of my existence. I didn't have to do anything except sit back, enjoy the ride, and follow the set schedule. I didn't have to decide what to eat or drink, where to sit or how to think. The holy train attendents and the heavenly train conductor would do all that for me--as directed by the mighty train god in his watch tower on the hill, of course. Unfortunately this train never stops. It just keeps moving on eternally, and there's no space to stretch your legs, no fresh air to breathe. It just moves along, and occasionally the holy train attendents throw out life saver rings for the downtrodden to grab onto and pull themselves onboard. Lots of people make the effort to climb aboard this moving train because it's en route to heaven, to happiness, to celestial glory, and nothing can get in the way.
One day I looked out the window (one of the few that was a REAL window and not a piece of flowery stained glass with a fluorescent light behind it) and I saw something bigger than this whole train ride thing. Maybe it was a flower or a stream of water or simply a tatooed man with dreads in his hair and a smile on his face. Maybe it was a tree or the moon or a muddy kid who couldn't care less about a train to heaven. Whatever it was, I realized that I could choose something else. I didn't have to sit passively on the train saying prayers to an invisible man, reading poetry about wars and do-gooders who chop people's arms off. I didn't have to believe that heaven was my destination, my goal, and my purpose in this life journey. I realized that I'm my own creator. I'm imaginative enough to make up my own beliefs, and strong enough to walk my own path.
I thought about jumping more times than anybody knows about.
Standing on the edge with the door open, wind flying past just daring me to take flight.
People off the train yelled to me--encouraged me to take the leap, to trust my instincts.
Everyone on the train with me said, stay. Stay, stay, stay. This is happiness. Maybe not right now, but that's where we'll be--someday.
I loved the people on that train. I didn't want to disappoint them. Didn't want to lose them. Didn't want to go a separate way.
But every time I caught a glimpse out the window at the possibilities I could explore I began to feel this thing I'd never felt before. I began to love myself. My mind. My spirit. My body. My soul. And I knew I couldn't stay. Even if I had to sacrifice the cushioned seats to paradise for a muddy road along the river, it was time to jump.
So, I took the leap into the unknown. Where I now have to create my life from scratch. I have to write my own story. Good thing I have a journal and a pen.
Just because I'm starting over doesn't mean I can erase the past. I still have all my journals (which add up to A LOT), and I have my memories. I don't love anyone any less. I don't respect anyone any less for living their own lives--for riding the train or playing in the mud or picking flowers by the river. I just need to choose my own way, and my own way doesn't involve any "destination: heaven trains" (although it does include a lot of terrible metaphors).
Now, before I get too anxious about hitting the publish post button, I have to say that jumping was the hardest thing I've ever done. And that I did not hit the ground running and just saunter along on my merry way. It's more like I snagged my jacket and got dragged along on the rocky railroad side for a few days until I realized I had to give up my jacket too. Then I landed in a canyon of muck where the reality of "I get to choose for myself" really set in. Here in Mucky Canyon there's no one telling me where to go, who to be, or how to get myself cleaned up. Here, there are no answers, and that's scary sometimes. But, as I stretch out my legs and breathe in some fresh air, it doesn't matter that there are no answers. I'm finally living for myself. And I love it.
Life is a journey.
Journey is a band.
Caught between confusion and pain
Promises we make were in vain"
"Some day love will find you
break those chains that bind you..."
"True love won't desert you..."
I wish I were exaggerating.
When I don't have any new messages I click the little Inbox button just to make sure the browser is up-to-date (second?) so I don't miss any messages that might possibly come into my box.
Most of the time I wind up deleting the messages that do show up.
Fwds about angels and jesus and if-you're-a-good-person-you'll-pass-this-on messages
ads from REI and other outdoor/backcountry type places
mass emails from creative writing list-serves which hardly ever apply to me
notifications from twitter and blogger and facebook
Other times I scan over the email and think, I'll have time later to really look at this and maybe send a response.
Of course those ones wind up lost in the line somewhere and I probably have a lot of friends who wonder why I never email them back...
Lately I've been thinking about how email used to be so cool. And I suppose with the way I act it may seem like I think it's so cool even now (it's just that I'm addicted to my email, not that it's so cool anymore). But, I LOVE letters. The ones that actually come in the mail. And postcards--thos are way fun.
Maybe I should write more letters...
On another note, I really like this song. The lyrics are the bomb!
I'm trying to tell you something about my life...
There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source from some divinity the closer I am to fine...
Monday, April 9, 2012
So, in a couple weeks I'm embarking on an adventure.
I'm learning a few things about the gorgeous natural wonders of the earth.
Things I'm learning:
1. nobody wants to take care of the earth
2. and they like to trash it (look at the West Desert--where I work--if you don't believe me)
3. what few wonders are left are really hard to go to
4. because everyone wants to see them now that they're so rare
5. hiking/backpacking permits must be aquired MONTHS in advanced
6. I've never really planned things in advance before
7. I'm gonna have to start planning ahead of time if I want to see Havasupai
Since I'm not very good at planning, I'm just gonna have to write about the garden of eden of the West. This little oasis takes a 10 mile hike through hot desert land, passing a real-life native american village and through a deep red-rock canyon...but boy it looks worth every mile!
Saturday, April 7, 2012
You've got to find seeds
soak the seeds
plant the seeds in some dirt
water the dirt where the seeds are
weed out the things that grow that are not products of the seeds you planted
de-bug by getting a pet spider
and a garden snake
And eventually, you get something beautiful!
Books are the same.
First you find some ideas
you let thse ideas soak and ruminate and marinate in your brain
write the ideas on some papers
write some more on the papers where the ideas are
edit the things that developed that are not good products of your ideas
de-bug by getting a pet writer
and a critique group
write write write
and eventually you get something beautiful!
Gardens and books are both products of hard work.
They're works of art.
And sometimes they're even full-time jobs.
Every garden and every book has a history with characters and adventures.
So it seems only fitting that every garden and every book have a bit of humor.
Perhaps by way of gnome.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Every writer has got to have one at some point, right?
My excuse for this one is that one day it will be the inspiration for a series of mysteries.
That's because I work as a wildfire investigator.
I'm a real-life detective.
And because of this I can't really tell you much more about my job.
I see a lot of cool stuff though.
And I solve a lot of mysteries--even if the average Joe wouldn't really think these fires are mysterious or even exciting... That's only because they don't know how exciting roadside fires can be!
Here's the idea: I'll create a beautiful fire investigator protagonist who solves all the crazy-hard-to-solve wildfires which were of course set by a serial arsonist--doesn't that sound awesome?!--and she'll (she being the investigator) save the day with her quick, analytical thinking. Or something like that.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
In Booklist, Louise Brueggemann noted that "Smith achieves just the right balance of intelligent wit and drama."
About Chronal Engine (Greg's latest book)
"There's peril aplenty, but Smith keeps the tone light and easy, making this accessible to younger readers averse to anything truly scary."--Bulletin
Monday, April 2, 2012
- time consuming
- it takes me almost 2 hours via PT whereas it takes 45 min to drive
- I have to wake up REALLY early (like 4:15 a.m.) which means
- I have to go to be really early which means
- I have no time to relax at home
- no time to make dinner
- no time to read a bedtime story
- no time for anything but getting home to go to bed
- so I can wake up and go to work
- I can read
- I don't have to pay attention to cars or deer or pedestrians
- people watching is super fun
- I can read
- and write
- and sleep
- The train has free WiFi so I can surf the net
- and write blog posts
- I don't have to pay for gas in my car--which is getting ridiculous!
- I don't have to put more miles on my car--it already has lots
Sometimes it sucks not having relax time at home. But, then again, it's so nice to relax (a little bit) while on the train--something I don't get at all while driving. And sometimes, gas prices just make the bus the best option.
p.s. if you haven't noticed I'm doing the April Alphabet challenge. Which I find somewhat ironic because the last book I reviewed was in the format of an alphabiography...guess it's my turn...sort of.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
I used to live with 5 really good friends during college. One of them always ALWAYS had a tub of "I can't believe it's not butter" which we refferred to as Not-Butter. A couple of the roommates saved several of these tubs and on April First they filled the tubs with things like golf balls, rubber ducks, erasers and jewlry then put the tubs away in the fridge. Of course, we wondered why there were SO MANY Not-Butter tubs--because really, you only need one at a time...and we soon found out that they indeed were not butter...and not Not-Butter either. :)
I couldn't come up with anything good this year though. I'm kinda bummed that I missed out on the day to play pranks (not that I can't anyway, but it's such a good excuse).
Even though I didn't have any good ideas, Mother Nature was still on top of her game. She brought me the most beautiful Saturday with pink, purple, and white blossoms, exoribitant amounts of sunlight and warmth with the occasional light breeze. And what do I get to start out my April with? Freezing winds and drizzling rain with a dash of grey skies. Good joke, Mother Nature. Good one.
So, what did you do for April Fools? Pull and really good pranks? OR Did someone pull a prank on you? Give me some good ideas for next year.