Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zion National Park, Utah

On my way back from Grand Canyon I stopped for a little mile hike to a beautiful viewpoint in Zion National Park (lucky for me it was still national park week and I got into Zion for free, too).

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.

Write on!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yogi

No, not Yogi Bear...



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?


Write on!










Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Ten X campground





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?

Write on!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Water Filter (Katadyn Hiker Pro)

So I got a brand new water filter just for times like these in the out of doors when I can't just get clean water from the kitchen sink (not that I get it from there...but you know...when I can't get it from the cute little water jug in the fridge). What it does is filters out all the nasty things--you know giardia and criptosporidia--so I can pump water right out of a stream in the wilderness into my water bottle (or my backpack bladder bag...) and drink it all up. It makes backpacking easier because then I don't have to carry ALL the water I'll need for a three day hiking adventure into the biggest canyon ever.

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.

Write on!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vacation

Hey everyone! I'm still out soaking up the sun and working out my legs (the Grand Canyon is a beast!). But, the wonderful thing about it is this is my vacation. I'm having a nice, relaxing time in the outdoors while I hike, sketch, and eat camping burritos. No washing or cleaning permitted here--because I'm even taking a vacation from the shower! I LOVE having a vacation from the hum drum office work and commuting that takes up my entire life.

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.

Write on!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Utah

Sometimes I wonder if my writing is restricted by my experiences. I know I know. I still have an imagination and what about all those amazing stories that people like JK Rowling or C.S. Lewis came up with? For one, they lived in the magical land of England, which practically oozes mystical worlds from the grasses. And anyway, I don't write fantasy (at least not right now).

I want to get out of Utah for a while. See something other than these awesome mountains speckled with pine trees and quakies and red rocks (WHAT AM I THINKING? who wants to leave THAT?! -->) Something other than the "oh my heck" and "oh my gosh" phrases. Something other than the Mormon culture that seems to sneak into everything some way or another.

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?


Write on!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tent

This whole week I'm living in a tent. Unless the sky is clear...then I'll probably forego the tent and sleep under the stars. I LOVE CAMPING. I just love the wilderness, the rocks, the trees, the canyons, the little critters. Speaking of Critters...one of my favorite books is called Just Camping Out by Mercer Mayer. For those of you who don't think it would be fun to spend a week living in a tent in the wilderness--this book is for YOU.  :)


Write on!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Southern Utah...or maybe Arizona

Guess what everyone! I'm actually in the Grand Canyon right now...or somewhere in Southern Utah along the way... This week is National Parks week and you can get into any national park for FREE!!! I'm spending a week in the Grand Canyon National Park so I can hike, relax in my new hammock, play in the dirt, hug a few trees, and eat the delicious dehydrated fruits and veggies that I (and my bestest friend) made all by ourselves. Of course, I'll get in a bit of writing too. :)

Life is meant to be lived.

Write on!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

R is for Real Life

I tend to make a lot of goals and lists of things to do. When I'm in a list-making mood I make BIG lists. I always intend to do all the things on the list, of course. But it seems like real-life happens and I don't check off anything.

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?


Write on!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quest

I love stories.

Lately I feel like I've shared a lot of my personal stories.

I wondered if maybe it's been too much personal stuff on a blog with the description: writing secrets, tips, and frustrations. But then I remembered that this is MY blog and I can do whatever I want. :)

Okay, I also thought about how every story is a journey--including my own. Maybe I don't write about the publishing industry or agents, editors, writing conferences, or how to make your writing AMAZING every time I blog, but that's what's great about writing and blogging.                  

Even though I only have 42 followers and most of my pageviews come from myself, I've gained a lot from embarking on this quest of writing.

Every story is a quest for someone--multiple someones if a writer is lucky and has a lot of readers :)
    
What's your quest?


Write on!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for People Who Need People (Barbra Streisand)

Okay, I have to admit something. I love Barbra Streisand. A lot.

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?



Write on!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Ovaries of Titanium

Three years ago I traveled to England with a study abroad program led by John Bennion.
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.


"Think of a powerful emotion you've had in the past week, use it to write a scene about your main character standing on the edge of a cliff (or a tall, windy peak in England)."

"Your main character's best friend just died. How does she react? Show the details of her fingers, her lips, her hair. How does she stand? Does she say anything?"

"What are your main character's fears? goals?"

"What's in your character's pockets?"


OR maybe your brain needs something more challenging?

"Write a 250 scene using only words that start with W"

"Write a novel in six words"

"Write a 250 word scene without using the letter E at all"



Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for NO

It seems like one of the very first words children learn is NO.
Maybe because they hear it over and over. Mommy doesn't want little baby to eat the dog food or chew on rocks or climb into the dishwasher or run out into the street.
Throughout life we hear NO a lot.
NO, you can't have ice-cream; it will spoil your dinner.
NO, you can't have a pony; mommy and daddy don't have the time, the money, the space, or the patience to take care of a pony and besides, you'll grow out of it in a few years anyway.
NO, you can't go to the movies with your friends; you haven't done the dishes or taken out the trash.
NO, you can't hang out with Billy and Bob and Scooter because they're pot heads and what kind of a name is Scooter anyway?
NO, I won't pay for your college; this is the time where you need to grow up and take care of yourself--you're an adult now.
NO, you can't borrow money from us because your credit score is non-existent.
NO, you can't have time off work; you don't get accrue enough PTO and besides you're our best employee.

Okay, so none of these scenarios have anything to do with me...mostly because I got the ice-cream and the pony and my friends never went to the movies, and I hung out with whoever I wanted (except NOT the pot heads and no one named Scooter)... :)

One problem I used to have, but am getting better at now, is saying NO.
NO playing on the internet all evening.
Telling someone NO when they ask you to hang out, but really you just need personal time.
NO, I can't play because I have to go to bed early and I need to work on my novel.
NO I will not come in to work today because I am sick dammit.

But, what's even harder for me isn't saying NO. It's saying YES.
YES I will go on a hike right after work and enjoy the sun.
YES I will soak in a hot bath and read an entire book.
YES I'm writing all the blog posts for the week I'll be hiking in the Grand Canyon.
YES my book will be done by June 13th and YES I'm working on it right now.
Say, YES to going to bed on time.
YES to taking a friend out to lunch.
YES to a weekend dinner date.
YES let's rearrange the house so we feel more comfortable living in it...

Sometimes it's important to say NO to some of the "pressing" things in life so we can say YES to the things that really matter. One thing I've been thinking about a lot is work. I don't think I am a work-a-holic or anything, but I do think that I'm just not cut out for 40 hours a week in an office sifting through files, writing reports, editing manuscripts, compiling how-to guides. Summer will be better because I'll be outside, but I really think that there is so much more to life than work and money. I'm learning to say NO to all the working and money making so I can say YES to my health, my relationships, my writing. For now, I still have my day job (and I will until at least the end of this summer--if something doesn't go horribly wrong), but who knows what will come after that. Maybe I'll find my passion in delivering pizzas part-time, hiking, writing on my novel, and sipping tea in the rocking chair. I guess I'll have to work the summer and wait and see.

What do you say NO to? Or YES? Are there things you wish you'd say NO to? Or YES?

Write on!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Make-up

Every good writer knows that the key to being good is reading. Research.

I don't necessarily read or research because I want to be a good writer. I just love to read and to learn. Recently I've been learning about cosmetics--anything from lipstick to shampoo to sunscreen--and how they're really bad for your body. And here's the short answer to why they're bad: your skin absorbs everything you put on it and takes it into your body; the materials things like sunscreen, shampoo, foundation, etc. are made of is basically nasty chemicals that are not the kinds of thing you'd eat--so why would you put it on your skin to be absorbed?!

I don't wear make-up. And I hardly ever wash my hair--I know it sounds gross, but it's actually better (health-wise) for your hair to not wash it so much. I don't use face washes or lotion (because lotion seems to give me rashes). But here's what I do...sometimes...: I put coconut oil (like the organic kind with nothing else extra added) on my hands when they're dry. I use bees wax chapstick. And I wash my hair (on the occasion that I wash) with organic, earth-friendly soap.

I don't know all there is to know (or even a smidgin of what there is to know) about cosmetics or even about organic products, but I"m reading this cool book called "No More Dirty Looks: the truth about your beauty products and the ultimate guide to safe and clean cosmetics"


This isn't because I'm interested in putting stuff on my face or in trying to make up a new face to show society, but because I find it fascinating to see what things are made of and what goes on in terms of products and people's lifestyles. And, of course, because I'm into organic/natural living and it's all got to start with research. Who knows, maybe one day I'll write a book called How to live, be, and feel NATURAL. (hopefully my publishers will come up with a better title than that... :)

Write on!

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Life Coach

Here is me being long-winded...something that happens more often than not.

In 2007 I began to recognize my attraction for girls was...well, an attraction to girls--physically, mentally, emotionally, and personality-ly. I read an article in the Ensign (October 2007) and decided that I just had to get rid of my feelings--shove them away into a dark closet and forget about them. Oddly enough I spent a lot of my time during the 2007-08 school year literally hiding in my closet. It's hard to push your feelings away when you're roommates with the girl you like...

In the fall of 2008 I had a crush on my relief society president. My entire ward talked only about Proposition 8. My roommate at the time told m once about one of her friends who was Mormon and gay, but he chose the "gay lifestyle" and even though she still loves him she's sad he made that decision. That year I was so determined to go on a mission. I was going to study so hard and be so prepared that I would knock everyone's socks off.

Spring of 2009 I realized that my attraction to girls wasn't going away. Later that summer one of my really good friends/woman-I-look-up-to said to her son with her whole family in the car (and me, too) "We don't hang out with gay people." That summer I started cutting. At the beginning of the school year that fall one of my close friends came out to me as bisexual. She and I walked to school together that day and she told me just before we turned into the giant parking lot by the law building. I can't say that I expected it. It took me by surprise to hear her say it, but I felt so excited. So relieved. Finally I knew I wasn't the only one. I came out to her just seconds after she told me.

During fall of 2009 through spring of 2010 I saw a counselor at BYU. I had about 4 or 5 sessions with her before finally saying I felt attracted to women (she was the 2nd person I came out to). I still remember how I couldn't look her in the eye. How my fingers were trembling as I clutched my journal and read the words I never thought I'd say out loud. I'm attracted to women. My counselor didn't react. Here I was sharing the deepest, scariest part of myself and she was like, "so?" Probably she had already guessed it, because a few days later another close friend of mine said, "I have a question for you." She guarded it with don't be offended and I'm just curious. I buried my face in the blankets on her bed. Then she said, "are you bisexual?" I said, "Sort of, but I only like girls." She said it was ok. It didn't change our friendship. A while later I admitted to her that I liked her. That didn't change our friendship either. She's still my best friend.

While in counseling I learned one key phrase, "Where are these 'shoulds' coming from?" My therapist loved to say that to me any time I used the word should. It was annoying and frustrating at the time, but now I see how great it was. How she helped me look at things in a different perspective. How she helped me focus on me and not what other people expected of me. How she helped me realize that I could make decisions for myself and my life based on what I want and not what I think the people in my life want for me. I stopped cutting in the winter of 2010. And in the spring of 2010 I stopped seeing my therapist (mostly because I was leaving for a summer job and she was soon leaving to be a real-life therapist rather than just an intern).

In fall of 2010 my friend recommended I try some free life-coaching sessions from Vaughn Life Coaching. I took the free sessions over the phone, and was actually pretty amazed at the outcome. For one of the sessions Vaughn (I think his first name was Kyle) asked me to write down the five things I value most in my life. This is what I wrote then:
Wilderness/outdoors
Writing
Reading
Health
People

When we talked about these things in my next session I told him how surprised I was to see that a major part of my life was missing from the list. Nothing about church or god or "spirituality" (in terms of how most religions seem to see it) was on my list. This was when I finally let myself understand that I did not value the LDS church. This isn't to say that I didn't learn some important things in the church or that I didn't love the people who are part of it, but I realized then that this is no longer one of my personal values in my life. While I felt this for quite some time I had never really understood exactly what it meant. For the next assignment, I was to write down different ways to include these values of mine more in my regular, day-to-day life. And, of course the next thing was to actually follow through. I spent a lot of time in nearby canyons reading books by Terry Tempest Williams, going for little hikes, and writing in my journal. In doing these things for myself I started to see that I could then have better relationships with the people around me. I had to take care of myself first. I had to live for my own values before I could really truly love the people in my life.

Anyway, I only had a life-coach for a few weeks (until the free sessions ran out) and it really changed my life by helping me recognize different approaches to getting to know myself. I learned that I am always changing and that my values shift and evolve throughout my life. It's important for me to re-evaluate every once in a while.

So, two years later here is my current list:

Creativity--meaning creating stories, art, forts, etc.
Learning--research, reading, taking classes, listening to people
Wilderness/Outdoors--hiking, camping, walks, bike rides, picnics
Health--exercising, eating good foods, taking mental health days, setting aside personal time
People--family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, strangers at the grocery

I think in a lot of ways these things make up my spiritual existence. When I allow myself to be creative and to learn new things and to take time to go for a solo hike in the mountains then I have been spiritually filled. Once I have taken care of myself in that way, I'm ready to turn around and love the people in my life by taking time to write a letter or an email, even send a text message or make time for a lunch date.

One of the most critical aspects to finding out who I am and what I"m thinking and feeling is to write. I carry a journal with me almost everywhere I go and I write things down when I'm confused or excited or upset and it helps me process my experiences and my growth.

What are your five most important values?

Write on!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Klunk


Klunk is a Kool Kid who lives in Kentucky.
Klunk always wears Kleats wherever she goes.






Klunk likes to sKateboard.




Klunk loves to eat Kookies.


Kome back later and see more Klunk Kreations (like maybe after the April Alphabet challenge is over :)

Write on!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

J is for Journey and Journal


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.

"Troubled times
Caught between confusion and pain
Distant eyes
Promises we make were in vain"



"Some day love will find you
break those chains that bind you..."

"True love won't desert you..."





Write on!



I is for Inbox and Indigo Girls

I check my email about a thousand times a day.
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...

Write on!

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Havasupai

Have a Soup?
Aye.

So, in a couple weeks I'm embarking on an adventure.
To Havasupai?
I wish.
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!





Someday I'll make the journey...
after making the required reservations. :)



Write on!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Garden

Books are like gardens.
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
water
weed
water
de-bug by getting a pet spider
and a garden snake
weed
water
weed
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
write
edit
write
edit
de-bug by getting a pet writer
and a critique group
write
edit
write write write
edit
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.



Write on!

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Fire

I'm a writer with a day job.
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.
It's top-secret.
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

E is for Everything

I couldn't really think of anything to say about E. Except that it encompasses everything and everyone in an everlasting evolution of energy.

So, there's really not much else to say about E except that it is electrifying, eccentric in every way from ego to ergonomics; it is easy-going, economic, and quite the entrepreneur--or so I've heard. Even the heavens exclaim Eve (and maybe Adam or Addie) established the echoes of humanity on the Earth. E evokes the essential ideals of every e word, and examines from end to end all emerging establishments through evidence and eager evaluations. Everyday e energizes existentialists, environmentalists, evangelists, empiricists, essentialists, etcetera. Some might think e is evil, but e empowers, extends, and even esteems enemies as equals. Perhaps e is excessive or enumerative, even erroneously emotional, nevertheless e entrenches every emptiness with enlightenment, every error with extraordinary existence, every elephant with enormity.

What isn't there to say about e?

Write on!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dinosaur

I don't wanna use my head!


I'm going for fearsome, but I think I'm just coming off as annoying.



Okay, I have to admit my favorite dinosaur is Rex from Toy Story.


I couldn't really tell you much else about dinosaurs, but I have a friend who could. Okay, so I've never met him, but we've emailed a couple times...His name is Greg Leitich Smith. He's super cool, and!, he happens to be a pretty good writer--and a published one at that! These two things (the good writer and published part) are a big reason why I'll be spending a week with him in June at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference. Greg will teach one of the two advanced morning workshop classes offered at the conference, and I'll be his lovely dinorsaur assistant. Greg, if you didn't already catch on, loves dinosaurs. And it just so happens that a couple of his books are about...welll, dinosaurs!



If you don't know about WIFYR (the very awesome conference at which Greg-the-dinosaur-man will be mentoring and presenting), I'll tell you now that it is a very serious matter and that I will proabably dress up like a dinosaur. If you want to see this you'll have to join our awesome morning class--so send an email to staff@wifyr.com expressing your interest and explaining how you qualify as an advanced writer. This is the chance of a lifetime! Not just me in a dinosaur costume... I mean the chance to be in a small group worskshop led by Greg Leitich Smith!


I feel like I should add that you don't have to write about dinosaurs or even like dinosaurs to be in Greg's class and to enjoy every bit of it. Not only am I ridiculously fun, but I hear Greg is funny as well as intelligent. But don't take my word for it, here's some other people's words:


"Greg is quite a genius at mixing science and humor!" --DEBtasticReads


In Booklist, Louise Brueggemann noted that "Smith achieves just the right balance of intelligent wit and drama."


About Chronal Engine (Greg's latest book)

"The short length, breathless pace, and graphic-novel-esque, full-page illustrations might make this one appealing to reluctant readers."-- School Library Journal


"There's peril aplenty, but Smith keeps the tone light and easy, making this accessible to younger readers averse to anything truly scary."--Bulletin


See you lovely writers at the conference!


Write on!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Cunt (a book review)

If I haven't already lost you because of the title, thanks for reading! Hopefully, this isn't too offensive (or any kind of offensive at all...).







While on a roadtrip to the Redwoods last summer I stopped in a cute town called Arcata. I found the most awesome used bookstore there, and of course I had to puruse through the many MANY shelves. Somehow I gravitated toward the women's literature, and came upon Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. I'm going to be honest, as a 22 year old girl at the time, I had no idea what the word "cunt" even meant. Nobody had ever used that word around me in any context. I was drawn to this simple cover of a flower, a single word, and the phrase "a declaration of independence." I was interested in feminist literature mostly because I'd never really read any--if you're wondering what hole I was living in, it was Richfield for 18 years and then BYU for another 4 years. I soon learned, after reading the opening of the book, that cunt is not a good word by any means. In fact, it's deemed one of the WORST words in American English. Inga Muscio decided she wanted to change this. She wanted to take back this word (so often used to demean, belittle, offend, and degrade women) and make it something to be proud of--something to celebrate. And after reading her book, I feel like I've been able to have all kinds of cunt celebrations...

So, what's inside? If you click here you should be able to check it out at Amazon. But, I'll give you my very watered down (full of my own perceptions, histories, and feelings) version. Muscio explores first the term cunt--what it is, how it's used, etc.--and then declares that she's taking it over. She then uses a number of personal stories--beautifully told!--to support her ideas about women, the world, words, and activism.

One of the most honest books I've ever read was the Diary of Anne Frank. It was raw, true, and gut wrenching. Cunt was probably more honest than that, and it sparked a lot of thoughts for me. I don't think I can explain what this book led me to explore or process--mostly because there have been a lot of catylists for thinking and expanding in my life lately--but I can think of one major thing this book helped me with.

Shame.

A friend lent me a book once about overcoming shame. I tried to read it, but it just didn't work for me. I couldn't find a groove with it and I set it aside. But when I think about it, this book (Cunt) helped me work through that process of abandoning shame without my even realizing it.

First of all, I grew up as part of society as a whole--a member of the Earth clan, citizen of the United State of America. I've also always been a Utah resident. And to push that even further I was born into an active Mormon family. If simply being a human being or a citizen of the USA wasn't bad enough for piling on the shame and guilt of having a body and--oh no!--a sex drive, let's add the Utah culture on top of the Mormon relgion to the mix. Calculate all of it, and what do you get? More shame and fear about one's own body than some people can stand (I'll admit right now that I was not good at withstanding it). Women in general (like on a WORLD scale) are treated as second class, but worse than that they are treated like sexual objects. Disagree? Maybe you should brush up on your peoples and culture, history, sociology, and the "real-world". And maybe you should think about what the word cunt even means. Forgive me, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here...

But the further down you go-- from World to USA to Utah to Mormonism--the worse these ideas of women become. As a Mormon woman in the Utah community and a citizen of the USA, I grew up thinking that my sole purpose in life was to grow up and have babies, and to have sex whenever my husband wanted it. Along with these thoughts, I was supposed to have no sexual urges myself (those are reserved for the men to have) and I certainly was not supposed to have feelings--sexual, romatic, or otherwise--for other women. College was quite a shock for me (maybe I'm a late bloomer?) because I discovered all kinds of sexual desires in myself, and as hard as I tried to convince myself otherwise--those were largely for women.

I never hated my body very much--something that surprises me when I think about society and culture and media and everything else--with the exception of periods and my newfound wants when I reached college. I've always been pretty. I was always in love with my nose and my freckles and my gorgeous blue eyes with the crinkles at the edges when I smile. I love the scar on my lip, the mole in my right elbow pit, and my adorable toes... But all that seemed to change when I realized, like the Mormons and society as a whole seemed to scream at me, that my body is the enemy. It wants to be touched and to touch in so many different ways--many of which are, of course, inappropriate. It seemed as though I was this awful sinner with sexual desires and that I was all alone--because in my world (remember Richfield and BYU Provo) nobody felt what I felt.

I didn't want to feel any of these things, and yet, my body, being the horrible thing that it was, completely betrayed me and felt what it felt regardless of how hard I tried. If I couldn't control some parts of my body, I decided I would control something. That's when I started cutting. Just a little scratch here and there with a pin. Then a slice here, cut there with a pocket knife. I would show my body who was boss.

But we all know that just made it worse. Because not only did my feelings stay, I now had scabby messes all over my body. I worked through this destructive behavior in a number of ways, but I think a lot of my shame for my body and my feelings remained.

Cunt came into my life at a very important time for me because I was open to understanding myself and ready to get to know myself better. And what I learned from reading this amazing book is that for one thing, I'm not alone. Sexual urges are completely natural--didn't we learn this in biology? (or maybe we were supposed to learn it!). But not only that, other women have the kinds of feelings that I have for other women.

I think sexual intimacy is a BIG DEAL--it's very special, and (dare I say it?) sacred. I don't think this means we can't talk about it. I just think that the feelings that come along with sexual urges, desires, and actual intimacy are very powerful and can be some of the strongest bonds of love between two people. I also think that theres absolutely nothing to be ashamed about in having sexual desires--like we were supposed to learn in biology: it's natural. And while, as a Mormon/Utahn/US citizen I could recognize the beauty of physical intimacy between two committed lovers, I was still wrapped up in the shame that comes from fear of one's own body. I didn't know my body at all. Cunt was a way of opening my mind to different possibilities for exploration. It's my body afterall--shouldn't I know how it works? How it feels? What it wants and needs?

And this opened up a completely different realm for me--not just the idea that I'm a sexual being and why shouldn't I get to know my cunt a little better? I began to realize that I could listen to my body. And from listening I could know that it doesn't want a big hamburger; it wants a real fruit smoothie with spinach and sprouts. It doesn't want to slump around in bed; it wants to wake up early and go for a run. It doesn't want lemon chicken and sauteed veggies; it wants raw cucumber pasta with cashew sauce and cherry tomatoes. I've been taught to hate my body and to ignore it so much that I've been feeding it and treating it like shit--staying out late, eating greasy foods, taking pain pills to mask the desperate messages from my body.

No more. I'm not ashamed of being a sexual being. That doesn't have to define my entire existence, but it is a big part of it and I can't deny that. I'm not afraid to listen to my body, to explore it, to enjoy it. All I really have to say now is, "thank you, Inga Muscio".

Write on!

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bus



I have a UTA pass. It allows me to ride pretty much any public transportation--trax, bus, front runner. I used it every day for maybe a month or two until I got so busy trying to finish essays, make time for critique groups, and write my novel.




Major cons to riding public transit:




  • 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


Despite these pitfalls of the public transportation, today I decided to ride the bus to work. Although really when I say "bus" what I mean is public transit, because I ride the front runner train from Ogden to the Salt Lake central station and then the bus from there to my office. My old route included riding the trax train as well, but the new system I have devised is faster and takes only one exchange instead of three.


There are a lot of pros to public transit commuting that definitely make it better than driving.


  • 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.



Ride on!




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

A is for April Fools

I've never been very good at April Fools jokes. I once convinced a friend that I broke my arm from jumping on her trampoline (and landing painfully on the springs). I even managed to sprout some tears before I burst into laughter at how concerned she was. At least I know she is a truly good friend.

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.

Write on!