Wednesday, April 23, 2014

U is for Unsubscribe


I'm getting really tired of all the junk email that I receive.
"Check out our low sales!'
"Free shipping today!"
"New useful tips…"

I don't want to buy more clothes or gear; I don't want to donate to the really-important cause that will save the world or at least maybe the wolves or the whales.

And I don't really want to have to deal with people anymore. Or work.

All I want to do is write. And dance.

So, I'm going to unsubscribe from all the things for a little while (though, the junk emails probably will be for all of the time).

Write/dance on!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Q is for Quiet and Quest




As I'm gearing up for my quest into nature I've been thinking a little bit about what my goals are. Obviously my goal is to get to Katahdin, but on a more personal level--what do I want?

I want to learn to be quiet. To be still and to let whatever soul powers I have in me to take over and be the guide. I've noticed lately that the quiet scares me. Instead of sitting still and letting myself be, I turn on some music or I call someone I know or I turn on the computer.

These are all fine things for distracting myself, I guess, but they do very little for me by way of healing and processing and finding that place inside where I want to live.

At the beginning of the new month I will leave on my quiet quest for quietness with my quaint little house strapped to my back.

And while I'm out there in an unknown world, maybe I will learn to not think, but just be. Be still. Be quiet.

Write on!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

P is for Phantom


I wore a ring for almost two years. Really that's not very long in the grand scheme of things. It's not very long at all. But it feels like a lifetime.

I took that ring off on April 5th. A day also known as There's-no-chromatic-scale-in-a-song day (a joke from high school band).

Even though the ring is gone, I can still feel its ghost there on my finger. Every now and then I slide my thumb down my finger as though to adjust the ring from slipping too close to my knuckle. At times I will reach for that finger in the habit of spinning and fidgeting with the ring, but it is no longer there.

Some days I feel lost without the ring. The phantom of it is a reminder of what I once had and now have lost. Of a love more beautiful than mountains. Of what "being here is so much" really means.

Will I always be haunted like this?

Write on!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Oxygen

Trees make oxygen.
Love the trees.
Breathe them in.
We could not live without trees.

"All I can do is keep breathing," and kissing the trees.




Write on!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Nightmares

I tend to have vivid dreams at night fairly frequently. I do especially when I'm stressed out.
Lately, I've had a lot of nightmares.

They are not fun.
I wish I could turn my brain off for sleeping time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mom

It's that time again. Time to write about my beautiful mom.
Really, I have the best mom of all time. I don't care how great your mom is, mine is better.

My mom is so adorable.
She is strong and sweet and kind.
She is loving and understanding.
She is always there.

My mom taught me to live with love. She taught me to forgive others, o see the good in everyone, and to give freely.
She taught me to love nature, to adventure into the unknown, to appreciate the beauty of the earth, and to follow my heart.

Of course, she worries about me. And misses me. But she always is there. Always supports me in everything I do. She is constant. She is forever.

I love you Mom! 

Write on!

Monday, April 14, 2014

K is for Mount Katahdin


Katahdin is my next big goal. It is the one thing that is calling my name, whispering to me to come hither and partake of the beauties of living.

I thrive on goals. I need something solid to set my sights on. Something I can look at and easily say, "I can do that. It will be hard and challenging, but I can do that." And once I step toward that goal all other things seem to fall into place. All the emotional and spiritual awakenings do their sorting out within as I move toward something my brain can imagine.

It's the same with writing novels. My brain likes having this idea and this goal of completing a story. And my heart and my soul do all the magical workings along the way as I show up with my pen and paper. Then the beauty, the pain, the laughter, the connections of human to word to human all come together and the story is made.

Existence is a beautiful, wonderful thing. It's not something my brain can put into words, but I feel like all aspects of myself work together. I need to satisfy my brain and my logical-thinking self by establishing concrete goals like getting myself from point A to point B, and no matter what those goals are, my soul finds the people I need or digs up the lessons I need to learn.

Everything always works out. Sometimes I call it luck. Maybe Karma is a better word. I think it has to do with how I send out my messages of need and want and I take steps in a direction that feels right and then everything falls into place.

I'm feeling like all this is vague. But, my point is, I'm embarking on a journey and I'm ready to grow along the way.

Write on!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

J is for Joni Mitchell

Because she is awesome.
Big Yellow Taxi. Seriously. The range of her voice!

Also, my all time favorite song of hers is Both Sides Now. More and more I am learning how true this song is.

"I've looked at life from both sides now. From win and lose and still somehow it's life's illusions I recall, I really don't know life at all."

Here are two versions, which make this song all the more beautiful because she sang them at different times in her life with such different sounds.







How amazing is it to have some music and some words that hold so much truth even after many years? Between 1970 and 2000 the words are still true, but the way you sing the song is different. Anyway, it's beautiful. Like all beautiful, truthful words--it can be applied on so many levels and to so many people.

"Something's lost, but something's gained in living everyday."

Write on!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I is for Into the Wild

Into the Wild by John Krakhauer is a beautiful book about a beautiful soul who set out in search of a magical connection with nature. He was a brave soul. A soul who not many can understand.

Alex Supertramp (or Chris McCandless) was a soul who followed his heart away from the world which we all know filled with money and responsibility and little boxes all made of ticky tacky into the beautiful wilderness of freedom. His journey, while being very focused on actual wilderness (mountains, plants, wildlife), was more about connections and love and people than anything else.

For a long time I have felt this sort of urge within me which I'm sure Emerson or Thoreau or Kerouac all would understand perfectly well. It's a sort of pull away from all the norms and established "successful" ways of living into a more organic, uncharted realm of the earth. I have often thought that this urge of mine was simply to "escape" into the mountains away from people and expectations. I think that Chris McCandless had this same idea--that he needed of fill this weird void or satisfy this pull by going into the wild and living off the land. Not to give away anything in the book if you haven't read it (but also to give it all away!), he discovered that as beautiful and wonderful as the great outdoors is, "Happiness is only real when shared." People are essential to our journey.

It has been a dream of mine to hike the Appalachian Trail from end to end--roughly 2,200 miles spanning from Georgia to Maine. I need to be outside. I need the trees and the dirt and the rocks and the sticks. I need the birds. The bugs. The sun. The rain. I need to be alone in nature. But I also need people, too. The AT will be perfect for both of these necessities. Hundreds of people hike the AT every year. It offers a fantastic little community all of its own while giving place for true nature experiences.

This year I will follow this feeling I've had for so long. I will step into the wild, into the realm of love, into a new life and finally scratch this itch on my heart.

Life is meant to be lived. To be loved. To be enjoyed. So I will do just that because "the freedom and simple beauty is just too good to pass up."

Write on!

Friday, April 11, 2014

H is for Hercules

And, yes, of course, Sara Bareilles--again.
Music is a very beautiful thing. Right now it is huge reminder to me that I am not alone despite how very alone I feel. Words and music together are perhaps the most beautiful thing in all creation--that's not true, but still it is such a phenomenon. Such a wonder.
Music holds so much emotion and energy it amazes me sometimes. Music and words do what most other things fail to do: connect souls.

The wild thing about music is that we can find connections to it on so many levels and in all different stages of life. Here is a beautiful song that I love to belt out in the car just because it's got a sound that really jives with my soul. The words have recently taken on a more significant meaning for me and I'm finding myself loving this song and feeling connected to it on a much deeper level than before.

Hercules by Sara Bareilles

I'm on a hunt for who I've not yet become.
But I'd settle for a little equilibrium.
There is a war inside my head gone silent.
Both sides dissatisfied and somewhat violent
The issue I have now begun to see: I am the only lonely casualty.
This is not the end, though.

This is my darkest hour.
One road has led me out here.
I only need turn around to face the light.
And decide flight or fight.

(sorry you have to go watch it on Youtube! but still be sure to listen to it).


Write on!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

G is for Good Grief

Except really it is for bad grief. Or maybe just grief.

Grieving is hard. I do not like it.
Everything sets me off.
A little leaf on the ground with a bunch of other little leaves on the ground.
Sticks.
Mud.
Trees.
Birds.
"I wish I were a bird, she said. So you could fly away? No. So we could be together with no thoughts of yesterday."
Songs.
All the songs.

The tiny click of a lock makes me feel as though I'm being stabbed in the chest.
The smell of peppermint makes me cry.
The smell of rain makes me cry.
The smell of some of my clothes that I wore last week makes me cry.
The sound of the neighbors enjoying each other next door makes me cry.
Frisbees make me cry.

Sometimes I think of something that I want to say to someone. And that makes me cry.
Or I think of how it would be nice to do this or that down the road. And then I cry.

There are days when I just can't do this. It hurts too much.
And I all I do is ask WHY?
Why?
Why?
Why?

But there is never an answer.
Only "I don't know."


Write on!



Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Friends

People are the most important thing we have in this world. They are always there (even if maybe sometimes not the same ones are always there). And they provide the deepest, most amazing connections we could ever have as humans.

Making friends isn't always the easiest thing to do. It was really easy for me when I was in school. There were all these people around me doing the same things that I did, stuck in the same classes I was, and that made it easy to find someone to talk to. Outside of school is not quite as easy for me. I make friends at work, but because of my line of work as a firefighter I have to say that my style of "hanging out" doesn't really jive with my co-workers too well most of the time.

Despite not having a set place where I can trap people into being my friends, it seems like people always find me. They talk to me randomly on the street at a festival and invite me to a vegetarian potluck. You know, or something like that.

I'm learning more and more that it's important to cultivate those friendships. To keep in touch with people even when life moves across the country.

I have some very awesome friends and I'm so grateful for them. So grateful that they have stuck around in my life and tried to keep in touch with me. So grateful that I have people to talk to, to laugh with, to learn from, and to enjoy.

Thank you friends for being in my life! Thanks for all the love.

Write on!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Everyday

Read everyday. It makes you smarter.
Write everyday. It makes you a writer.

Write on!

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Divorce, Divide, and Decide

di·vorce
diˈvôrs
Divorce is a touchy subject for most humans, but I don't think it should be. As I experience yet another great divorce in my life, I'm finding that it's important to talk about it. Every human has experienced divorce in some way or another. Maybe it's having parents who legally dissolve a marriage, or one's own legally dissolved marriage. Maybe it's the separation of oneself from a church or religion. More often it is leaving a job, selling a car, giving up meat.

Divorce is a very essential part of life. I have divorced myself from so many habits and perspectives that I am no longer the person I was ten years ago--and thank the universe for that! If we do not break away from certain aspects of our lives then we can never truly grow and expand and learn.

But divorce isn't always easy--in fact it hardly ever is. It's a heart-wrenching process most of the time. Right now, my current divorce is the hardest I have ever experienced--which says a lot. Divorcing my ideals of being a straight female destined to become a wife and mother was hard. Divorcing my church and consequently my beliefs, life goals, and knowingness was painful and heart-breaking. It seems that everything must go through an upheaval before a big beautiful change. I suppose this is mine now.

Following a divorce is the dividing of things. Sorting out which books to keep, what clothes to discard, who to keep in contact with, where to cross out on the map. But it's also a dividing of the heart, the mind, the emotions. No matter how different a person I am in this moment compared with who I was ten years ago, I have not lost that other part of me. I am the same while not being the same at all. My soul has divided into sections, the past me still there in my experiences and memory, the present me confused as hell, and the future me always a magical unknown.

Even in all the chaos and confusion of divorce and division, decisions still must be made. The world is infinite and there are infinite possibilities. The important thing, for me, when it comes to deciding is always ALWAYS follow your heart. Go with your gut. And once you've done that everything falls into place. Love prevails. Beauty abounds. Peace ensues.

Maybe it's true that as we get older life only gets harder; it seems to be that way now. But, I've also noticed that with more difficulty comes more beauty. Here's to a lifetime of divorce, love, and beauty.

Write on!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Control, Alt, Delete


Five years ago I felt as though I had zero control over my life. I kept feeling intense attractions towards some of my female friends, and they would not go away (the attractions, I mean). I wanted so badly to be straight and "normal" and to carry on with an average, happy life. No matter what I did, I couldn't change it.

In a panicked-turned-numb sort of state, I decided that if I couldn't control anything else, I could at least control a knife. After making calculated designs on my skin with a razor blade, a stranger caught a glance at my arm in a moment of my own carelessness. As a past self-abuser herself she knew exactly what my cuts were. I expected a lecture or some kind of "talk," but it didn't come. All she said was something like, "Wow. What control." And finally, I had my validation. Someone could see that I really did have control. I had power.

Right now, I'm finding myself in another place where I have no control. I feel powerless. I feel lost. There is nothing I can do to get back what I thought was mine to keep forever. I feel frantic and panicked and anxious.

This time, though, I don't feel the need to have control. I mean, I still have my humanness so I do still want control. But, I'm learning this time around that there are some things that I cannot change. Things that I cannot control or fix alone.

Without a control button, the next thing I can think to use is Alt. When life becomes uncontrollable it's time to find an alternative route. I had a lot of plans. A lot of ideas for what the future would hold for me. How I might proceed. Who I might proceed with. Where I might proceed to. According to a lot of people I live a fairly "alternative" lifestyle. Now I've got to find an alternative alternative.

As with all new books and new chapters, it's important to kill your darlings to make the best version possible. Sometimes you've got to delete a few of your favorite lines, throw out some of your favorite dresses, and pack away some of your favorite photos. For me right now, it's time for some Spring cleaning.

Who knows, maybe I'll even use all three buttons at once and completely re-boot the computer.

Write on!



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for The Awakening


I first read The Awakening by Kate Chopin as a freshman in college. I don't know what to say about this book except that it is wonderful and painful and a little bit weird. The first time I read it I hated the main character while feeling as though I identified perfectly with her in so many ways. Perhaps it is easy to hate characters who are so similar to ourselves, especially when they exhibit so strongly the characteristics which we possess and are so very afraid of.

This book was originally titled "A Solitary Soul," which I think is fitting in some ways, but not quite so. "The Awakening" is a much better title for it. As with all good novels, this one didn't really present any kind of moral or anything, but also, as with all novels, I certainly discovered a few things. The one thing I learned from this book is that we have to follow our hearts no matter how "wrong" it may be, no matter how socially or familially unacceptable it may seem, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

I'll try not to spoil it at all (YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ IT), but the ending is heart-breaking simply because what may well have been "following one's heart" for Edna, seemed literally to be an impossibility. I hope that we can all find a way to follow our hearts regardless of all the pressures and expectations that bombard us every day.

And if you're anything like me and Edna, the best place to go to think and listen to the great whisperings of your soul is definitely the beach (don't forget the sunscreen).


Write on!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Writing Bootcamp

I am participating in this cool Spring Boot Camp that lasts from March until May

Here are my bootcamp goals:

  1. Write 300 words everyday on my new novel (24,600 words by May 31)
  2. Participate in A to Z blog challenge in April
  3. Make notes/conduct research/edit other writing projects.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Your Domain Registration Will Not Be Renewed" and Other Headaches

A while ago I received an email from Google about my domain registration "tademings.com" informing me that it would not be renewed because of expired billing information.

The credit card I used to purchase a one-year term for my website domain expired and so the auto-renew feature didn't work this year. I figured it would be an easy fix; I'll just go and update my credit card stuff so it has the current information. WRONG. In trying to sign in and change my billing information I kept getting rejected because the email I was using to sign in is not linked to my domain.

WHAT? The email that I use every day to log into my blogger account and write new posts on my website and all the things is not linked to my domain? But how could this be?

So, I looked all over trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I read all the "help" pages related to domain issues and found, essentially, nothing helpful.

Finally! I found a forum somewhere with instructions on how to access my account--what Google doesn't want you to know (which I find oddly ironic considering they would get more money more efficiently if they would just let me update my billing information like I wanted). I managed to update my billing information in my "google wallet" (something I never knew existed--scary!) and I thought I had finally done it. I defeated the evil Domain-killing monster! But I received another email telling me that my domain would still not be renewed because of billing error and no auto-renew was established.

I had to start all over again, looking for someone who could help me. I even tried calling google services, but was only directed to an operator who wanted me to press 1 for what I wanted and then 1 for what I wanted again and then I was supposed to have a PIN from some website which I went to, but which was only more directions for how to got to this other website to get a PIN, which led me essentially back to a point where I had to sign in to the account with access to my domain--but I don't know what account to sign in with!!!! GAH.

It turns out that when you purchase a domain this magical account is created out of nowhere. So, the trick is figuring out what your actual "email" is of the many options (most of the places said that it would be either "bloggeradmin"@yourdomain (like tademings.com) or it would be your name (like Tiffany)@yourdomain (tademings.com). I tried all of these and it kept saying either that I was not authorized for this domain, or, my favorite and most frustrating of all, "this account has been deleted."

WHY IS IT DELETED?  I STILL HAVE UNTIL MARCH 27th TO UPDATE MY BILLING INFORMATION!!! I NEED MORE TIME. PLEASE DO NOT DELETE MY BLESSED DOMAIN.

After a couple more days of confusion, anger and frustration, I found another thing that had more weird loops to go through, secret codes to crack, and passwords to reset. And it was the trick! (at least I hope it was the trick). So, if you even run into this problem, here is a helpful blog that a helpful person made for those of us who cannot understand what the hell is going on with google sometimes.

And here is the most helpful forum of them all (because it helped me get to the point where I could actually use the above helpful instructions). So, what I did to make this information helpful was to replace my personal domain (tademings.com) with the one they were using in this password AND username retrieval thing: If you don't know your Google Apps username and password please use this link to retrieve them https://admin.google.com/beautifulthorns.com/ForgotAdminAccountInfo. Put your domain name in place of the highlighted domain and it will lead you to a magical place where you can discover what your brand new log in thing is. BECAUSE MINE WAS NOT ANY OF THE AFORMENTIONED ONES WHICH IS WHY IT TOLD ME MY ACCOUNT WAS DELETED! Apparently, Google updated all their domain accounts within the last two years (in which time you forgot the original account log-in anyway) making it seem impossible to get what you are determined to get. Now, the log-in is apps-admin@yourdomain.com ("yourdomain.com" being your actual domain like tademings.com and "apps-admin" being exactly what it is). 

phew! 


Have you had to deal with this horrible thing? 

I hope not. 
But now, my lovely domain will live on. 

Write on! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Addressing Grief in Young Adult Novels

I attended a panel at the AWP conference in Seattle about addressing grief in books for children and young adults. Every one of the the panelists spoke about John Green's book, The Fault's in Our Stars. This is not a post about that book, but I just have to say, REALLY? For one thing, that book, while having some great characters and such, was not so great. The characters sounded just like John Green--have you seen his youtube videos? I have a hard time getting through one just because of his horrible, steady inflections. (YES I AM EXTREMELY JEALOUS OF JOHN GREEN'S SUCCESS, but that doesn't keep me from disliking the fact that all his characters pretty much sound just like John Green…).

Let's forget about that and move on to a really fantastic book: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.   This book was also mentioned in the panel about grief, though I was disappointed at the one tiny incident they focused on that had nothing really to do with the entire book that was her grieving. In the panel it was brought up that Lennie cut all these roses from her Grandmother's beloved rose bushes and then later, using the same garden clippers, cut up her own beloved copy of Wuthering Heights. First of all, anyone who has read the book would know that these two things come nowhere near touching the very weird way that Lennie actually acted out on her grief, which was making out with her dead sister's boyfriend. (um.. SPOILER ALERT! ? Maybe? Sorry).

I absolutely loved the way that Lennie is devastated so badly that she is then consumed by this intense need to make out with anything and everything--including the spoon at the breakfast table. It was a refreshing, funny, and complicated way at looking at grief which is why I think it was so successfully done. All the characters in the book were grieving (except for that one guy, but everyone else pretty much was) and the great thing about it is that they all grieved in their own unique way. I think that's a very important concept to keep in mind. I got this feeling with the panels that people want specific guidelines and instructions for how to use or implement certain plot devices (like grief or death or loss), but there is never one answer. One character will react in a totally different way than another character will even if they experience the exact same sort of loss (except it could never really be the exact same, but you get the idea, right?).

The sad thing to keep in mind, too, is that grieving is a process that takes years. When my dad died two years ago, everyone wanted to offer their condolences. They wanted to help me along in my process of accepting my loss and moving on and yada yada. The irony of loss is that while we may go through many of the same sorts of grieving "steps" like anger, denial, depression, etc, it may take years before we are in a place where the real sadness of the loss sinks in. When my dad died I was so angry with him. I had accepted his death before he ever died and I wasn't sad over it. But I was angry. Every now and then I see a photo taken in his kitchen or something reminds me of his house or his hair or his smile or how he sat in that ugly chair with the dirty pillow to drink his coffee. And in those moments I feel a little bit of regret, a little bit of longing. I wish I had drunk a cup of coffee with him--I wonder if that would have made our relationship any better somehow. Like maybe we would have both been more comfortable with each other if we both had a cup of coffee in our hands. I don't think that we ever fully recover from our losses (at least not the major ones--like that pink teddy bear I had when I was 6; oh how I loved that little teddy bear) but maybe our losses become a part of who we are. The memories that we could have had and the memories that are real come back to us at the thought of a semi truck or chemo therapy or a 60's era Dodge truck.

During the panel at AWP, a girl asked a question at the end about how a writer can really write about grief when they haven't experienced it. By grief, I can only assume she meant some BIG grief/loss such as losing a close family member or having your parents divorce or something that seems like a BIG DEAL. But the truth is we experience loss all the time, and, though we may not really recognize it, we go through the  grieving process all the time. We lose pieces of ourselves every day. A lot of people miss high school like crazy. Graduation is the mark of a new beginning, but it's also the mark of a loss. Friends move away. We move away. We get gym passes and then we cancel them even though we had a really awesome trainer friend and our muscles got so tough. We have pets and sometimes they get run over because we live on a highway.

Sometimes our loss may not be something that others think we should grieve over…but, here's something to show that we ALL (even the brainiest and most "protected" or "sheltered" of us) experience grief of some sort:

Grief doesn't have to be big. And, if our characters are experiencing grief that might seem bigger than anything we've really gone through (like losing a sister or a parent or a child), it doesn't mean we are disqualified from writing their story. We all know what it's like to feel loss. And, like Carol always said, it's a great thing when we borrow emotions and use them in places where we might need to use a little more imagination. Maybe I've never been to the moon, but I can imagine it and draw from other experiences and emotions to write about what would happen if one of my characters were to go to the moon. What makes for strong writing when it comes to grief is detail. It's about the little things--memories, twitches, ticks. It's about coffee, and root beer mixed with orange juice, little debbie snacks, pencil sharpeners, cigarettes, lug nuts, and the water spigot on the top of the million-year-old refrigerator.


How do you mourn?

Write on!


Monday, March 3, 2014

AWP Conference in Seattle


Imagine burnt hot-dogs mixed in with extreme b.o., car exhaust, and sewage sprinkled with wafts of chocolate and sugar, and you have the busy streets of Seattle. In this big, beautiful city everything seems to be so normal while being so strangely wild at the same time. Trees painted blue and strung with white christmas lights, people of every age and color and type tromping up and down the wide sidewalks past used bookstores and vegan restaurants and fancy, expensive places like Anthropologie. No one really seems to belong there together and that's exactly what makes them belong there--together.

Seattle is an experience. Expensive parking. One-way streets. Extra-long busses. And that city smell (see description above). What I loved about it was the people. All speeding up and slowing down, waiting at stop lights and cross walks, sitting on benches, running down the sidewalk--all in a sort of flow that only exists in large cities where people must move, breathe, and exist simultaneously in the same place.

The actual writing conference itself was no different (except the smells were a bit less potent) than the outside, city world. A wide variety of people--writers, poets, teachers, agents, editors--walking and running, and idly waiting on the escalators to get to the next panel or reading or lecture. All of them old or young weighted down by the free canvas bag with a 300 page schedule and various pamphlets and other items (candy bars, bottled water, wadded-up tissues, jackets, notebooks, menus from restaurants down the street) that only spacious bags tend to accumulate.

Many of the classes were crowded. Some of them because the rooms were simply too small, and the topics too interesting to pass up. People filled the chairs and sat on the floor, leaned against the walls, stood in the doorways--all the things you can think of to break fire-safety codes. The people were eager to learn, to ask questions, to meet other writers (but mostly to find out who was an agent or an editor). They were also exhausted and struggling to stay awake, antsy to leave and get something to eat. Some of them came and left as they pleased, not caring if anyone found their abrupt exit offensive.

AWP is the first writing conference I've attended that was so BIG. The classrooms spread throughout all three to six levels of three different buildings. Every person seemed so different, too.

I'll end right now by saying that I very much enjoyed the conference…though I think I enjoyed Seattle and hanging out with my mom more than anything. Up next will be an essay inspired by Pike Place, and a maybe a summary/discussion or two about things I learned from the panels I attended.

Have you been to a conference lately? Or a new city? And what did you think?

Write on!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Eating Animals Book Review


Eating Animals is very well-written and well-researched. The writing style is beautiful; the personal story of Foer is engaging and powerful. Foer writes non-fiction in a way that is easy to understand and is accessible to just about anyone. The visual aids, statistics, and multi-layered perspectives gave an intellectual and insightful richness to the overall story.

This book is informative and compelling. I would recommend it to everyone I know as it is both a beautiful story of personal journey and a book with information that every person should face head-on.

Foer does not sugar coat anything, but he also doesn't make anything totally black and white, wrong/right, either. Having read this book after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, I was delighted to find a narrator who did not shy away from sharing his personal beliefs and decisions following his intense research.

My personal response to the Eating Animals:

After curiously stumbling upon the audiobook of Omnivore's Dilemma and loving the information while being disappointed by the lack of resolve, I decided to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

This book changed my life.

Over the past few years I have moved loser and closer to eating like a vegetarian. I have also had a goal of one day becoming vegan. After reading Eating Animals I could not stay where I was any longer. I hd to do something, and I had to do it NOW.

Starting January 1, 2014 I decided I would be completely vegan. No exceptions (though, I still eat honey, use beeswax, and of course, wear my leather boots and gloves to work). So far I am happy to say that it is going great. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel happy.

I'm happy not only with my physical body, but I'm happy knowing that I stand for something. That my actions and choices with what I buy and eat are making (albeit small) a difference.

At the beginning of his book, Foer writes about his grandmother who was starving during WWII. How a wonderful farmer offered her some pork to eat--all he could spare, I guess. She refused it. She was literally starving and she refused to eat this pork. Why? Because it wasn't kosher. In telling this story to her grandson she said to his question of "even if it could save your life?" "If nothing matters, there's nothing to save."

I have never really loved the idea of being willing to die for a cause or conviction, but I have to admit that kind of devotion is powerful. And I'm getting to the point where I feel like if nothing is important to me then what is the point?

Being vegan is important to me because my body matters. I want my body to have the best food available and I believe that the best is vegetables, fruit, nuts--plant-based food. It is important to me because I cannot agree with the way animals are treated in factory farming or even in  the most "humane" of animal farming. And, it is important because I do not agree with the way big businesses like the animal-production industries handle their products--steroids, adding water to bulk up the weight, antibiotics, etc, etc. Also, I cannot be part of a culture that disregards the earth entirely for the sake of taste and convenience and tradition.

The environmental impact of meat-production is heartbreaking and terrifying.

Some people like to ask the stupidest question of all when they find out I'm vegan: How do you get your protein?

Because I know that is an almost legitimate question because of the poor education of Americans (myself included), I will answer it when I review my current read, Thrive by Brendan Brazier. But for now, I have to ask you, particularly meat-eaters, where do you get your protein? Is it from a chicken that was kept in a cage only as big as my pad of paper, ridden with disease, pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones, and killed after only 4 months of life then dunked into a vat of water and chicken shit to soak up as much weight as possible before being packaged, refrigerated and shipped across the country to your grocery store?

Where do you get your protein?

If you eat meat then you use read Eating Animals. I say it is a must, not because I want it to discourage you from eating meat, but to empower you with the knowledge of where your food really comes from.

Write on!


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Finding Literary Agents

It has officially been a month since I submitted my first completed novel to my very first literary agent.
I feel anxious, of course, because I've not yet had a response. I have never been very excited about this part of the process. Writing is hard enough, but sending my beautiful words out into the unknown space of the internet to be judged on quality and sell-ability is the hardest thing.

I have been researching literary agents over this past month here and there, hoping that I won't have to submit to any of the new people I've found. But, it's time now to get more serious about finding someone I'd like to submit to next.

Trying to find an agent on the internet is like online dating. You find certain websites that have literary agents and you scroll through looking at their pictures and reading their profiles. But you never really get a glimpse of who they are in real life. You don't get to see how they carry themselves, how they speak, how they dress, what mannerisms they have. You don't get any idea of how they might represent you or your book to the rest of the publishing world, and that's a very difficult thing for me.

I know that online dating works for some people, but I am not a fan of it. The agent I first submitted to was someone who I had met personally at a writing workshop. Someone who I was able to listen to give a presentation, and who I had the chance to speak with. I could ask questions. I could watch how he walked, how he used his hands as he spoke, and I could see the excitement in his eyes when he mentioned books he'd represented and authors he'd worked with. I could see the confidence he had for himself and for his clients.

If I were to come across this agent online, I would not have been so charmed. On the literary agency website all that is listed under his name other than the specific guidelines for submitting queries are three very short sections: "Currently looking for," "Currently not looking for," "Adult books," and "Books that I love."

I will trudge on in my search, but I must leave one piece of advice. If you have the opportunity to attend a conference or a workshop where you will have the chance to meet editors and literary agents in person--do it! You will not only have a better chance of them looking at your work, but you will also have a better idea of whether or not they will fit you as a writer.

Write on!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Story Ideas Never Stop


After I came up with the plot line for my first novel (which I call Some Secrets Aren't Secrets) I wondered how in the world I would ever come up with plots for other books. It seemed like everyone around me had all these ideas for books that piled up, and I was so proud of myself to have come up with one.

Now here I am with three main characters and three (mostly) solid plots, and I'm worried that the ideas won't stop coming. How will I have the time to write all of these books? Luckily, I've got one of them sort-of written (but needing loads of re-writing and editing). But the other two are still in the very early stage of establishing characters and places and sub-plots. I hope I can just get these stories down before I think of any more ideas.

Where do you get your ideas?
How do you choose which ones to tackle and which to leave by the wayside?

Write on!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Submitted To An Agent

That's right. I submitted my manuscript to an agent. It was time, I guess. I felt like my novel was complete enough to start sending out (and of course the next day I had all these ideas on how I could possibly change it and add to it--is that normal?). I feel excited, and very nervous.

I've began a slow research for the next agent I will submit to--once I get my rejection from the first one.
I know that some people will send out their manuscripts to several agents at a time, but I'm not sure I can do that. I know there are probably dozens of agents out there who could represent my book and do an excellent job of it, but I am currently of the mindset that I must really be convinced that the agents I choose to submit to will be the best for my book (and for all my other books to follow).  I want to be able to wear this t-shirt (to the right) and really mean it. The agent I chose to submit to very first is someone I've met in person and who has a lot of experience. This agent is someone that I feel like I can say I heart already. That's important for me.

It might make the rejections hit a little harder, but the important thing to keep in mind is that literary agents are busy people and they can only do so much. Just because I think an agent would do great work for my novel does not mean that particular agent thinks the same--and that's okay.
It might make for a very SLOW process, but for right now, that's what it will be.

What's your tactic for finding an agent?

Write on!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Review



I found this weirdly titled book-on-CD stashed in a compartment in one of the trucks at work. Because I have become an avid driver, I stole the set of CDs (okay, maybe borrowed is a better word) and let this book become my driving companion on long solo trips.

I have already been mostly committed to being vegetarian (and I say mostly because I have eaten meat on occasion over the past few years), and I've always told myself that "one day" I will be vegan.

When I was in college I ate like a vegetarian most of the time simply because I did not like to buy meat or to cook it. I also hardly ever felt a craving or desire for meat (unless it involved a bottle of barbecue sauce). Because I didn't eat a lot of meat (meaning, I guess that I didn't have it at every one of my meals) I had a few people who asked me if I was vegetarian. I thought this was a really weird question--why would I ever be vegetarian. I, like most people I know, seemed to have a negative idea of vegetarianism. Vegetarians were portrayed as crazy, extreme, animal rights activists. I was not one of those. However, despite not being "one of those" I still had little desire to eat meat. It just wasn't what my body wanted.

Without really thinking about it, I stopped drinking milk and eating eggs. Maybe I just hated buying them and there was never enough room for things like that in a fridge shared by six girls, but it's something that I just slowly stopped doing and never gave any real thought to.

When I met Jo, I began to learn all kinds of things about food and about listening to my body. She has taught me to slow down (though I still am not good at this) when I eat and take the time to enjoy my food. At first it seemed weird to me because I think I grew up eating quickly for a couple reasons. One is that any good food was gone very quickly if my brothers were around. Another is that nobody in my house was a very good cook, so eating quickly was helpful if you didn't want to taste what you were eating. I've since come to learn (thanks to Jo) that food can be amazing. And it really is worth it to slow down, because it really is possible to enjoy food.

After reading (listening to) the Omnivore's Dilemma, I've discovered new ways of looking at food. I am  still not exactly the crazy, extreme, animal rights activist, though I'm a little ashamed that I'm not. I am not only committed to never eating meat again, but I have very strong convictions now about any "foods" that have been heavily (or even lightly) processed.

As for the book itself, I think it was good overall. The stories were good and personal,  and the information was well researched. I did get lost a few times trying to listen to the words and words of facts, but I feel like they were facts that I needed to hear nonetheless. The ending was disappointing and abrupt, which seemed to steal something away from me, though I'm not quite sure what. The book was informational and eye-opening. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone because I think it's important for people to know what exactly they are eating.

Have you read this book or one like it? What do you think about food?

Write on!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not All Bats Are The Same

This is a fruit bat:






This is a baseball bat:


This is a softball bat:


The difference between the last two is very important if you are writing a story about someone who plays softball (which I am). I am a fiction writer. I used to think that I wrote fiction because I get to make up the story and don't have to do research and know all the facts. I'm learning now just how important in-depth research really is. 

The other day I went to a sports store trying to find a cheap bat that I could conduct an experiment with. I was surprised to find out that the scenes I had written (and needed to test out) were completely wrong because of one small detail: softball bats are metal, not wood. I was also (not really) surprised to find out that sports equipment is outrageously expensive. Now, I have a few changes to make to my novel so if a real softball player reads my book they won't think I'm a complete loser. 

If only my characters were runners instead of softball players and swimmers--things I know nothing about. 

What research have you done for you fiction writing?

Write on!