Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Muse Chasers Walk Across Kansas

My writing gang is growing and taking on new challenges. This month, six of us have banded together to form Muse Chasers, a team for Walk Kansas, a K-State Research and Extension Health Initiative. We mostly walk on our own, but have added a short walk together (for as many as can make it -- me, that's about half the time) prior to our usual Monday meeting write-in routine. Last Saturday--that's two Saturdays now as it has taken me just that long to get from draft to publish--three of us started the day at the Tallgrass Preserve for a little hiking.

Writing is often thought of as a solitary activity, and much of the time I suppose that is the case. Maybe writers don't suffer from loneliness because there is simply so much going on all the time inside their heads. For me, walking has often been the first step to very satisfying writing. A really good walk, in fact, often ends in hours and hours of time at the keyboard. This happened the day we hiked at Tallgrass--hours and hours... though nothing was completed because the current work-in-progress has several weekends of hiking/writing to go. In a perfect world, when the fingertips slow, the body goes on a walk again to refuel.

I have learned that walking with other writers is fun, too. When one shares a story, the others are often quick to point out that it's one that should be written down. And writers never seem to tire of talking about books... those we've read, and those we would like to read, as well as those we'd like to see written so that we can read them, and those we'd like to write just because...

How many muses have been caught? It's hard to tell. For each one I catch hold of, there's another one or two that manage to evade my grasp. Our team has made it about 3/4 the way across the state with 4 weeks left to go. Seems like pretty good progress for a group so easily distracted by the sparklies we pick up (both real and imagined) along the trail...

Hazel, Michelle and I hit the trail at Tallgrass Preserve. What do writers talk about as they hike? Books, of course.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hibity Hibity: An interview with me!

From a birthday greeting on Facebook from an old friend (my second mother) ... hbty, hbty... I immediately read "hibity hibity" and I liked the way it rolled off my tongue. Hibity is a happy word. It's a new word (to me) and I'm keeping it.

My 2nd birthday, a few years ago, and the family dog, Poochie.

Today I celebrate 45 years on this planet with a little sleeping in, a lot of chocolate, and a nap! Inspired by my writing friend, Nancy, I have settled on an interview with myself for my 45th birthday.

Q: Are birthdays important to you?
A: Not the actual day so much; certainly not the way it used to be. As I've written elsewhere this year, I tend to kind of roll my age forward with the year these days. I've been thinking of myself as 45 since the beginning of 2015. I do enjoy giving myself a day of pure leisure, though I try to make that happen a time or two a month year round! A birthday is a good excuse to be spoiled a little. I took the time to respond to every single note I received on FB today. It was awesome to think about the web of connections I have after 45 years on this planet. I am proud to be the age I am. I have never been a 20-something, 30-something woman. Every year is a badge. I wear it proudly. I will not waste time mourning the years that are behind me.

Q: What is the best thing about getting older?
A: Growing confidence. With each year, I am less concerned about fitting someone else's image of what a writer should be, what a woman should be, what a mother should be... and more willing to simply embrace and BE what I want to be, moment by moment. I don't look for a prescription anymore. I don't need someone to tell me how to walk the path. I am simply walking it. Taking my steps and choosing the way I want to go, even if it means backing up, turning around, skipping over or finding my way around an obstacle or two.

Q: If you had one thing to do differently in your life, what would it be?
A: This always feels like one of those really dangerous questions. Sure, I have ideas (what about all that free time I had pre-kids... why didn't I finish a book or two then?) but what it always boils down to is this... I love where my life is at right now. The problem with doing any part of it over is that I might change the course that got me here. And while it might be another acceptable place I get to, I don't really have any desire to give up this place, so I guess I'll leave the past as it was, embarrassing moments, wasted time, and all.

Q: Okay, but if you were to pass on some writing advice to your past self, what would you say?
A: Stop worrying about it; just write it. Have fun with words. Say what you want to say. Don't be shy. Get your stuff out there and write, write, write some more.

Q: If you could save time in a bottle, what would you spend it on?
A: My family. No contest. I fill a lot of hours of my day. I probably work too many jobs, juggle too many balls. But nothing -- no money, no book, no completed essay -- is worth the price of time with my family. I have raised three very busy and involved people, and I will drop everything/anything, just to spend a bit more time with any one of them. Hubby, too!

Q: And how about your future self? What would you expect her to say, looking back on you today?
A: I would expect her to admit that the second 45 years went a little quicker than the first. That seems to be the trend, anyway. Each year passes a little more quickly. I hope she says that I learned to be a little more selfish and less giving... but in a positive way. That I learned to guard my time and keep it mine, still willing to share, but perhaps narrowing the focus of what I am available to do for others. I hope she says that I finally learned to never committed to projects I later resented (maybe I am already there?) and that I was bolder in my second 45 years, and more experimental in my creative endeavors. Above all, I expect her to say, "No regrets." Life is too short for regrets.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Let's Talk about the Illness

I am on page 65 of what I have decided to call the third draft of the current work-in-progress. It's proving much harder than it should. I've got a complete story, for goodness sake! A start to finish story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But this is my weakness, I understand. I love starting things. I enjoy diving head-long into a project and spending countless hours, days, weeks in the flow, losing track of time. Now I can see the finish line.

This is the biggest, hardest, most complicated story I have ever attempted to complete, and I feel myself slowing down. It would be SO EASY to walk away right now. It would be simple to start a new project that was full of fun, creative energy.

But that's not going to happen with this one. There is no doubt in my mind that I will finish this book. In spite of the fact that it may actually be crap.... in spite of the fact that people may hate it... I've been down this road so many times and I understand, now, how to cross the finish line.

That doesn't make it any easier.

That doesn't mean it's going to be effortless.

"You still have those doubts?" I asked my friend, Cheryl (who has published two books, and has nine years under her belt as a newspaper columnist, and has won awards with her writing and gets invited -- regularly -- to speak at events and do readings).

"Every day," she said.

What is it about being a writer that makes us feel like we are a continual work-in-progress, not quite there yet?

I fell into bed exhausted last night, scolding myself (just a little bit) for not getting more done on the work-in-progress. A little while later -- still not asleep, wondering if I was really as tired as I thought I was, or if I was just avoiding the work ahead -- I realized that I was plotting the NEXT novel. The one that follows the current work-in-progress. As if I haven't had enough of these crazy characters already. Full scenes from part II of this story are already being written in my mind.

This is the illness, the affliction.

It would make more sense to walk away, to just be done with words. I could get a job tending bar. I've been thinking of that as a job I'd like to try out. Pouring drinks. Watching people. Absorbing stories.

Like that would give me nothing to want to write about.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Writer's Progress...

is changing a word in a work-in-progress because it occurs to you that you wouldn't feel comfortable saying the word out loud... like at a reading, perhaps... then changing it back again because you figure you have plenty of time to learn how to pronounce it correctly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Long Overdue Tribute to Writing Friend, Dorothy Masters

Dorothy Masters: January 9, 1936-February 21, 2014
Photo Courtesy of Carol Yoho

Dorothy wrote me a note after I published my first book, Tiger Hunting. I could always count on Dorothy for kind notes. Often by email, sometimes by snail mail, she always took the time to say hello, to acknowledge my efforts, and to thank me for my time.

When I think of the kind of person I want to be, Dorothy is a role model. She once told me that she wrote her stories for her family, to leave something of herself behind. I collected Dorothy's books, though we were not relation, and I enjoyed reading them, too. Dorothy's stories were about making connections and nurturing relationships. They were fun stories and always full of the sunny view of things. One of her books was titled, in fact, Keep on the Sunny Side of Life. In her professional life, Dorothy was a nurse. She lost her husband in a farm accident at a young age and spent many of her younger years as a single mother. Dorothy wrote a column that was published in several rural Kansas newspapers for many years. She published several volumes of her memoirs and some short stories, as well.

The second year I was editor of the Kansas Authors Club yearbook (2008), Dorothy submitted The Rose Bush Theory as her entry. I am sharing it here, with permission from her family.

The Rose Bush Theory
by Dorothy Masters

I relate life and death to a big, beautiful rose bush. Picture a large blooming rose bush and you can see your family or circle of friends. Some of the roses are in full bloom with gorgeous color and perfect shapes. Some roses are starting to form buds. Some of the buds never complete the full growing process, and remain undeveloped on the bush. some of the roses are dead and remain on the bush, while others are starting to wither.

Now, relate each and every one of those blooms to different members of your family or your circle of friends and you can see the living and dying process. Life is a process with death being the final phase. Please do not wait -- live life to the fullest each and every day.

Keep in mind, to maintain that rose bush (loved ones) big and pretty, it must be fed, watered, nurtured, pruned and protected from the elements and given gentle caresses, plus some tender talk. The care is even more essential when caring for people.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What's on the To-Do List for 2015?

Found this on Shelf Awareness on Facebook. Neil says it so well. Happy New Year!

Once upon a time I considered myself the queen of New Year's resolutions. I was one of those freaks who made and actually kept them. I was building habits, most of them good, and at some point I reached a point where I couldn't bring myself to make another resolution. More of the same, became my mantra. One day at a time, one moment at a time... I rarely stick to one project at a time, though I still wonder if that might be good for me. Mostly, I try to remember that I can't allow myself to become devastated or distraught over all that I have not done because, let's face it, there will always be things not done.

Starting out the New Year, my big project is completing the yearbook for the Kansas Authors Club. I am feeling a bit behind on this project, but remain optimistic that I will get it done on time. It also helps that I am really itching to get to my next completed novel. I've been reviewing my stack of first drafts and have selected the target. It's going to take some work, but I will get there. There is no option other than optimism.

I am also working on plans for the next book in the works for Meadowlark Books. Watch for an announcement. There will be a call for entries by the end of this month.

Momma always said I could speak your reality into existence. I've written it. And now I've read it aloud. It will be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Collections: Beautiful, Meaningful Words

BuzzFeed has a post of 51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature and it inspired me. I keep a journal of my favorite lines from books I've read. Here are some words that I have collected where I found deep, personal meaning and connection.

"I was a New Yorker, and if you are a real New Yorker, you don’t leave. You want to leave all the time but you don’t. That’s something fake New Yorkers do. The same way that if you’re really part of a family, you don’t leave it. To leave a family physically felt more drastic. Like leaving a self behind."
Fiction Ruined My Life, a memoir, by Jeanne Darst

"Once my family’s strong, predictable safety net, I now felt like the trapeze artist himself, flying from bar to bar, grasping at any line that might swing my way in hopes of staying afloat."
Househusband, by Ad Hudler

"I’d always thought confidence was as permanent as eye color or earlobe size, but it had become clear to me that it was as fragile as cornchips."
Househusband, by Ad Hudler

"It takes time to find the courage to display the parts of yourself that aren’t bright and shining. But you have to see them, have to know they’re inside you, because they will resonate in the landscapes you control."
Sebastian, by Anne Bishop

"I have not survived against all odds. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. I have not lived to tell. This, this is my story."
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal 

"It seems we humans so want to divvy the world up into clean little packages that fit neatly together. But in reality, each package seeps into the next, affects the next. And the pile forever shifts. And, as far as I can tell, no one understands where the contents in the packages came from to begin with. I certainly don’t. It seems to me now that the point of living is less to understand, more to not become dulled to the miracles that are everywhere."
Madapple, by Christina Meldrum

"I don’t know how to rest in myself very well, how to be content staying put. But mother knows how to be at home and, really, to be in herself. It’s actually very beautiful what she does."
Travelling with Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

"The two most powerful impulses of my life have been the urge to create and the urge to be – a set of opposites – and they have always clunked into each other."
Travelling with Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

"I began to realize how hard it was to separate out all the voices to hear the single one that came just from me."
Savvy, by Ingrid Law

"Memories and experiences become part of who we are. Kansas seeps into our cells, reconfigures our DNA, claims us as its own. If we leave, it follows."
Flyover People, by Cheryl Unruh

"We never lose this sense of being grounded, of knowing who we are and why we're here, of being nurtured by the soil and the grass and the stars."
Flyover People, by Cheryl Unruh

"I am homing in on forty years old. Another twenty years and I’m looking at sixty, and these days, twenty years seems like next Tuesday. I feel young but pressed for time. I am beginning to get a sense of all I will leave undone in this life. It makes my breath go a little short. I’m not desperate, just hungry to fill the time I am allowed."
Truck: A Love Story, by Michael Perry

"There is nothing further from calm than a shelf full of books. For these are the screams and the shouts and the moans of humanity, quiet only on the outside."
Harvey & Eck, by Erin O’Brien

"But for those hardy tempers who could love great spaces, where one spot was no more important than another, experience of the sea of grass was glorifying. On the Great Plains, a man of strong identity stood always at the center of his world – a king of infinite space."
Kansas Ghost Woman, by James S. Barnett

"It is true I do not speak as well as I can think. But that is true of most people, as nearly as I can tell."
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

"Some people have an inner voice. I have an inner to-do list. And since I'm a glass-half empty type of guy, my list is entitled "Things That Are Wrong With Matt." Whenever I am in danger of feeling too good about myself, that list starts flashing in my head."
American Shaolin, by Matthew Polly

"Who is the real person, I wonder—the ten-year-old being dragged or the sixty-year-old going round full of admiration and appreciation? How many other characters can I expect to be before I die?"
No, I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year, by Virginia Ironside

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