Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Push Through

I posted this tweet during my writing session last night:

Tonight's writing session is like trying to herd cats. #failing miserably

The words were definitely "trickling" at my last writing session!
And yes, I was quite miserable. The words were painful to produce and several times I nearly quit. But then I read Pablo Picasso's quote, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."

So back to the page I went. I told myself, "Just finish the chapter. That's all."

And lo and behold, the scene I was working on finally came together into something I never expected. It was perfect.

Well, the words themselves weren't perfect, but hey, that's what editing is for!

Moral of the story: When you hit resistance in your writing, push through.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Keep 'Em Separated?

On Twitter (which I'm still not convinced I like), I've been following some literary agents. Sometimes they get political. As this is a hotly-contested presidential election this year in the U.S., talking politics can get you into some pretty stellar arguments.

Which is fine. Disagreement and talking about issues is what we do in this country (though sometimes not very well if all the nastiness I see on both sides is any evidence...).

But what I'm wondering is this: should you mix politics/religion/other hot button issues, with business?

I understand that we all have opinions. But I also think there is a time and place to share them precisely because they can be so divisive. I understand there are some that don't care about these topics (and sometimes I wish I didn't, either, as my blood pressure would thank me) and there are those who hold passionate beliefs and have no problem airing them for all to see.

If, however, you interact with the public on a daily basis, and that public includes a wide swathe of people on all sides of the political spectrum, is it necessarily wise to start discussing politics or religion? Celebrities tend to get away with it as they have a huge following and can afford to alienate a few people if those people choose to boycott them based on their political/religious beliefs (I'm not a fan of boycotts, but that is another topic I don't want to get into).

But let's confine this to the literary world. Agents, editors, marketers, and publishers: should they mix politics with business? What about aspiring authors? If an aspiring author who was trying to find an agent posted a bunch of politically one-sided ads, would it hurt his or her chances at getting an agent even if their writing was stellar? I guess I'd like to ask that question of some agents and editors, too.

I tend to think we should keep business and politics separate.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How Disconnecting Will Help You Reconnect

I recently joined Twitter. I held off for months because I didn't see the point in adding yet another social media site to my already big repertoire. I still am not sure I like it, but I'll keep my account and hang on for another few days. What I enjoy the most is being able to see what celebrities have to say and even conversing with them (if you're lucky).

However, Saturday night I had a slight meltdown in terms of my Internet time. In between housekeeping, laundry, and baking some scrumptious chocolate pumpkin cupcakes, I spent a good chunk of the day on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, not to mention looking at blogs, news sites, and other non-essential viewing items. I managed to get some writing done, but not nearly enough.

Not good, especially when the weekends are my prime writing time.

So at the end of the day, I decided to watch Midnight in Paris again. It's a film by Woody Allen and is really a tribute to Paris and to nostalgia itself. A writer, played by Owen Wilson, is given a tremendous gift: at midnight every night, he gets to go back to Paris in the 1920s. He meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and a host of others. He has always believed that Paris in the '20s was a Golden Age, and that he would have much rather lived then as opposed to his present time. However, he meets a woman living in the 1920s who believes Paris in the 1890s is the Golden Age. It's fun to see how their views of their own "present" shape who they are.

I won't give away the ending of the film (which I highly recommend, BTW), but suffice to say that it speaks to me on a number of levels. Besides the nostalgia part (which I will undoubtedly discuss in a future blog post), it was the commitment to the artistic life that really made me think. Paris was a Golden Era during the 1920s for art and literature, a response to the horror of World War I. But what I love was these artists' commitment to making great art. Sure, they partied and drank and probably smoked far too much, but creativity was at the heart of their lives.

(I'm mindful, however, that most of these great artists in this narrow window of time did not have a family or a mortgage or bills to worry about like most of us do. They were probably content to live in the moment for the most part, yet another response to WW1.)

But if we were to put these people in the year 2012, what do you think they would do? Would Hemingway be on Twitter? Would F. Scott Fitzgerald have a Pinterest board of likely locations for Gatsby's house? Would Picasso have a Facebook page? ( I bet Gertrude Stein would have a stellar blog...)

It's interesting to think about.

I am conscious of the fact that today's world is far different than it was from Paris in the 1920s. As writers and artists, we have a terrific ability to connect with other artists - and our audience. However, I honestly believe that we can destroy our creative life by spending too much time on the computer or iPad or iPhone or whatever electronic device connects us to the world.

Is that too harsh? Destroy is an awfully serious word. But in this case, I can't think of a better one to use.

I have personally experienced a change in my ability to focus. It's so easy to click from one site to the next, taking in information at a quick glance before moving on. This translates over to my "real" life. I find that, unless it's a really good book, I can't sit and read for hours on end. I get restless and want to go do something else. It's the same with my writing. I have never been able to sit and write for hours at a time - I usually get up and move around quite a bit. But lately, I've been getting on the Internet when I need a break. And what does that lead to? More and more distraction, which breaks the focus I have on my story.

What is the solution? In this day and age, it's hard to get completely away without any form of social media - especially if you're an aspiring author who wants to be published some day.

As in so many other things in life, I find that it all comes down to one concept: balance.

So here's my goal. Since I am on the computer all day at work, when I come home at night, I am allowed ten minutes to check my email and my social networks once - and only once - before bedtime. Otherwise, the Internet stays off. I am to use that time to write, read, craft, spend time with my daughter and my husband, listen to music, journal, whatever.

On the weekends, the schedule will be slightly different. I will give myself an hour or so in the mornings to catch up with what's going on in the world, etc., but after that, no more Internet until the evening, and even then, it must be limited.

There is far too much to see and do in this world without being glued to the darn computer for hours on end. Why I keep having to remind myself of this is baffling, but I think our world makes it so hard not to stay connected 24-7 that we must make a conscious decision to disconnect.

I have a feeling that by disconnecting, our lives will be richer and more fulfilling. And that, my dear readers, will translate to a deeper, richer, and more fulfilling creative life. This new sensibility will show up in our writing, our drawing, our painting, our gardening, our baking, our songwriting - in whatever creative endeavor we choose to pursue.

Here's to disconnecting so that we can reconnect with our creativity!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Snoopy, Charles Schulz, and Me

I've been keeping a bit of good news under my hat for awhile, but I can officially unveil it now!

My article on Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts and Snoopy, appears in the December 2012 issue of America in WWII magazine. Schulz served in World War II, a fact not many know. The article also includes several Snoopy comics.

It was an absolute honor and pleasure to write this article. As you may have guessed, I am a huge Snoopy collector, having amassed quite a few items in the past ten years. I love the Peanuts comics and find in them  subtle wit and humor that reflects Schulz himself. To be able to write about the life of such a humble, talented man was incredible.

It's on newsstands now!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


These shoes are going to become my new best friend. My husband took me shopping today, determined to find me a pair of shoes that would help my very achy and painful arthritic feet. The salesman recommended these and after I tried them on, we brought them home.

For the past several days, I've had trouble walking. It's scary. My feet ache so much and are so painful that I'd much rather recline and put them up then anything else. A good pair of shoes was a necessity, and I'm very thankful we were able to get these.

The fatigue and all-over body aching has also been a royal pain in the tush. I've slept a lot lately, kept taking my ibuprofen every four hours, and tried to think positive. I won't lie, though - Thursday night I had a slight meltdown as I felt so horrible that I despaired of how I was ever going to keep going like this. I didn't go to work the next day, too tired and in too much pain. Yet it was a better day as I had asked some other writers to share their experiences with chronic pain. That is the great thing about the Internet - the support you get from strangers who can quickly become friends.

I'm learning to adapt to this new body. That means I don't do as many things as before. I also move slower. I'm asking for help more (which is really hard for me to do as I am VERY independent) and I'm trying not to focus on the pain.

I am still waiting to talk to my doctor about medication options, etc., but that will have to wait until he's back from vacation. In the meantime, I'm learning that distraction can be my best friend. Yesterday, I met a dear friend for lunch, did a little shopping at Hobby Lobby, and came home, put up my feet, and worked on my novel. I momentarily forgot the pain and it was good to lose myself in my story.

I've toyed with the idea of slightly altering this blog to include ways to help writers with chronic pain. I believe that can be the best therapy of all - helping others. We'll see what the Lord has in store for me.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my new shoes and keep living one day at a time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dinner Update

I wrote an article on Ed Reep, a World War II combat artist, a few months ago and it was published in America in WWII magazine. I was fortunate enough to correspond with him (he's 94 years old) and in the process, I also got to know his daughter, Susan. Through Facebook and email, we continued to connect, even after the article was published. When Susan told me that she and her husband, Mark, were making a cross-country trip from California and wanted to stop in Nebraska, I was thrilled. She also said she was bringing me a surprise. I had no idea what it would be, but surprises are always fun to get!

We met Monday night at a local restaurant and we had a fabulous time. They are both terrific people, full of life and eager to embrace adventure. A few days earlier, they had been in New Orleans and went to visit the National World War II Museum, so of course, I had to get the details as I've never been there.

And what was my surprise?

This Giclee print of one of Ed Reep's sketches he did in Italy during the war:

I was so touched and humbled to receive this. The original is in the U.S. Army Museum in Washington, D.C. I cannot wait to have it framed!

I'm so glad I met Susan and Mark, and I hope to someday visit them in California.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Random Tidbits

It's time for another rousing edition of random tidbits from my very humdrum exciting life. Without further ado, here we go...

1) Autumn is here! YES. Temperatures are in the low 50s today. The trees around town are just gorgeous. Lots of red, orange, gold, yellow, and brown.

2) Unfortunately, chilly weather - which I adore - makes my joints hurt. My hands have been bothering me the past few days and I think I will have to invest in a pair of therapeutic gloves to wear while I'm at work.

3) I have revised the first chapter of my last completed novel (which I'm trying to sell) approximately 4,390 times. I really like it now. We shall see if an agent does, too.

4) My daughter hates the weekend. Every Friday night, she wishes it were Monday. She likes school that much. I have checked and yes, she really is my daughter. But on this particular issue, I think we differ quite a bit.

5) It snowed in my hometown (western Nebraska). That's 365 miles from me, and I doubt we'll get any. But as they have been in  a severe drought all summer, they need all the moisture they can get. Unfortunately, it's also harvest time and as my brother is a farmer, this is probably the last thing he wanted.

6) I may have to have my cat checked for insanity. Every night he wakes me up with his incessant pawing at my daughter's bedroom door. It's like her room is the forbidden zone and he must enter it or suffer some terrible consequence. If he keeps it up, curiosity may indeed kill the cat. (I kid...maybe.)

7) It is the 50th anniversary of James Bond. I have been a Bond fan since I was a kid. My dad and I would watch the movies when they came on t.v. Sean Connery is my favorite Bond followed by Daniel Craig. The next Bond movie, Skyfall, releases in November and I can hardly wait.
The quintessential Bond.
Daniel Craig - a worthy successor to Connery's Bond.

8) Next Monday, I'm having lunch with the daughter of Ed Reep, a World War II combat artist. I wrote an article about him that appeared in America in WWII magazine. She and her husband are on a cross-country trip (they are from California) and are going to make a stop here in Nebraska expressly to see me. How cool is that?

Enjoy your weekend!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!