Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Belated, but Thankful Post

I am looking at my list of projects… it includes things that were on last year’s list of projects and, sadly, many of those items that have made the list two years in a row remain incomplete. If my son’s theory holds correct, a year is 1/46th of what it used to be. [his theory regarding our perception of time passing = when you are ten years old, a year is only representative of a tenth of your life, and therefore, it feels like it takes longer than when you are 40 years old and a year is only representative of a fortieth of your life] Anyway, it certainly feels true. I look at the calendar and am befuddled to find we are so near the end of 2016.

Of course, a full life is also to be blamed. I downsized this year. I shed a job, though admittedly put more of my efforts into another one… or two. And any time I catch all of my family members in one room, which is less often that I would like, I have done my best to drop everything and fill my time with them. Mostly listening, sometimes brainstorming, often laughing, lately reminiscing… these moments, though they may feel familiar, each one only comes once.

I will not grow old and full of regrets. This has been my mantra for most of my adult life and I am sticking to it.

As the month of November ends, I am thankful for my writing friends who have kept me honest and on-task through NaNoWriMo. I am a few hundred words short of target, but have faith that I will get there. I am thankful for my friends and family, those who share their lives and their stories with me. I am thankful for the space heater at my feet, the roof over my head, and the abundance that fills my refrigerator, as well as my heart.

I am thankful for my list of projects. There may never be enough time to complete them all, but as long as I am filled with enough desire to keep the list going, I will be satisfied.

Thanksgiving 2016 - purple sweet potato pie and true pumpkin pie - I am thankful for pie, as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A belated weekend post...

It's Tuesday. I got derailed a bit this weekend. Took a trip on the new Prairie Earth Tours bus to Tallgrass Prairie for the 20th anniversary celebration, and got to dine at Keller Feed & Wine Company. (YUM). Let's just say I highly recommend all three. Kansas may have issues, but the cool places and awesome people remain. You just have to get out and about and plug into the real-life community a bit.

Unfortunately, I was not in photo bug mode this weekend. This is the one and only photos I took of the tour bus. I didn't even think to document my meal until after I had eaten it!
Sunday was the first day this month that I did not hit my NaNoWriMo word goals. I was slightly ahead, so didn't get too far off pace. Today I am back at it, storing all the topics I really want to chat about for a later date.

For those of you who might also be writers, I purchased a book a couple of months ago (that I finally cracked open in November). It is called Story Genius; How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. The author is Lisa Cron. This is proving to be a powerful bit of writing advice. I only wish that I had taken the time to read it completely through prior to starting this year's NaNo. Instead, I am taking it on as kind of a companion read, and I know already that I will read it again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

NaNoWriMo, Six Days In

I fear I gave the wrong impression last week. Seeing David Sedaris in person DID make me contemplate writing irreverent pieces about family, but I have been ramping up for NaNoWriMo for far too long with a fiction plan to simply give it up.

The short story collection is off in the hands of a few first readers. I don't expect to look at it again until after the first of the year.

For NaNoWriMo, I am re-tackling a story tentatively titled Lost Girl of Birch Fall. This will be the third forth full draft of this story (assuming I get it finished... which I will, I will!) The story line has undergone quite a significant transformation between drafts three and four, though the protagonist remains very much the person I have envisioned her to be from the start. This is the novel I have written as a mystery, but thanks to a workshop at the Kansas Authors Club convention in October, I have decided it might be better presented as suspense. In my mind, changing from mystery to suspense novel was going to "fix" all of the difficulties I was having with this story. However, 10,000 words in, it is still feeling very much like a mystery. An improved mystery, but still a mystery. We shall see. It's amazing how clear it can all seem in your head, but when the words are committed to paper, they don't always say what you think they will say.

Monday, October 31, 2016

An Evening With David Sedaris; October 30, Stiefel Theater, Salina, KS

The next time David Sedaris comes to Kansas, I think I will invite him to dinner. I’ll have to clean my house, of course, give it that extra little sparkle befitting a celebrity. It may actually require that I follow through on a few of those upgrades. Not that I think Sedaris would feel himself too good to come to dinner in my built-circa 1902 abode/not in the quaint vintage, historical site-worthy sense. I just wouldn’t want any soft spots in the kitchen floor where a petite author like Sedaris might actually disappear!

Though I didn’t exactly mind sharing Sedaris with an audience of 1,000, and I rather enjoyed sharing him with my dear hubby and a few of my closest friends, it was hard to stop thinking of him as just another person in my life whose stories I collect. Perhaps because he is an author who records his own work, and I heavily favor Sedaris when I am looking for audio book material, I forget, I suppose, that he has not actually been my co-pilot on dozens of road trips across Kansas and beyond.

I had to remind myself that Sedaris has legions of fans who devour every word he has written, though I half-imagined myself special enough that he might look up and say, “Hey, Tracy, how have you been?” While we were waiting, the lady in line behind me informed me that David Sedaris had saved her life. I had to admit that my connection wasn’t quite that deep.

I wore my “I love Emporia” shirt to the event, and Sedaris did ask what Emporia was, so maybe he would welcome an invite to a fresh and local market meal at my house. I explained that Emporia was the center of the universe, of course, though I don't think he really got it. I wanted to tell him so much more, but it was time for him to address his audience.

When I invite David Sedaris to dinner, the next time he comes to Kansas, I’ll make sure there is time to show him a few of the cool things about my town and more. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an urge to write some irreverent stories about my family. 

My daughter, Evie, who is also a Sedaris fan, should have been my partner in crime at this event. Alas, she is off gallivanting in Ireland as a study-abroad student, but Sedaris was kind enough to sign a book for my daughter, too. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Short Story Collection: Mrs. J's 9th Grade English Class

How about this dot matrix print job! 
The photo is of the original document, 
typed by my teacher, and printed on 
fan-fold paper with tractor holes. 
We didn't learn typing until the 10th grade!
 I have the original, hand-written story, as well.

My deadline for getting my short story collection to my first readers is quickly approaching. I have 14 complete stories, plus three that I feel are very nearly there. I am looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and that has been incentive enough to keep me focused on the collection.

I am contemplating the story in the above photo as my final entry in the collection. I wrote it 32 years ago in my 9th grade English class. It is not the most original story, and I am not going to even claim that it is a particularly good story, but I have friends who still say they remember reading it. Honestly, I think they remember visiting my house and being a little bit spooked by our big red barn. And if they weren't afraid before they read the story, they certainly were after.

I wasn't scared, of course. I was never, ever scared of that barn.

The idea of ending the collection with this story is very satisfying to me, and perhaps a bit fun for the readers, too.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Coming next to a bookshelf near you!

Can you believe it? It's not the mystery I was working on. It's not the novel I worked prior to that. It's not the sometimes-promised sequel (or companion story) to Tiger Hunting. It is a collection of my short stories and it is near-enough complete that I will be sending it to beta readers by the first of November, with plans to publish it early in 2017. I have a lot to work on still... like order... a cover... and a title...

I watched a book promotion video this week that said Indie authors should talk more about their works-in-progress! So this is me, talking about what I expect to be publishing next.

If this book comes together as I expect, it will contain at least 14 of my short stories. Some of them have been published and/or won awards. Some of them will be printed here for the very first time. I am considering the inclusion of a piece from my 9th grade English class. If it makes the cut, I will be able to truthfully say that this book took me 32 years to write!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Imagine - 2016 Kansas Authors Club Convention in Lawrence, Kansas

Home from a weekend with my writing tribe and family -- grasping for a way to bottle up this energy and store it for later days. At this moment, I imagine myself coasting on this energy through the completion of the next several projects I have on the table.

Just a few my take-homes (posted mostly for me to return to and savor on another day):

Performance Art -- The convention featured several examples of poetry as performance. We had some really awesome entertainment. I've gotten much more comfortable as a speaker and presenter over the years, but I am a little surprised at how much this performance aspect appeals to me. I may have to devote a teeny tiny bit of my time to writing poetry and then a teeny tiny bit more time adding a bit more performance to my presentation.
Barry Barnes was a stellar performer. He looked like he was
having fun doing it, as well.

River Cow Orchestra -- the improvisational nature of this performance absolutely fascinates me. As writers, we are taught to write, write, edit and rewrite. This group would listen to a poet, and on the second read, start playing. It was entirely unscripted. The results were delightful.

And the award for best workshop... actually, I don't think there could be an award for best workshop. We had a good variety this year and all were high quality. Darcy Leech, however, is the one presenter where I honestly could have sat for another hour or two just soaking up her story. It was one of the most engaging and useful workshops about marketing that I have been to in quite some time. I'd like to be a mouse in her pocket for a few days. I look forward to studying her website -- and reading her book!

Darcy Leech was one of the 2016 KAC Convention Workshop Presenters.
My good friends, Mike Graves and Wendy Devilbiss were the contest managers this year. It has been a delight to meet with them and work with them on this project over the past year. They did a wonderful job of presenting the awards, as well. And it was so much fun to see so many of my friends have their work acknowledged in the contest. (Full disclosure -- I entered one poem and one prose piece this year -- no winners!)

Wendy Devilbiss - Poetry Manager, Roy J. Beckemery - Poet of the Year, Reaona Hemmingway - Prose Writer of the Year, Mike Graves, Prose Contest Manager. Well deserved awards to our writers of the year. It was good to see these two honored.

That message intended just for me... In 15 years as a member of KAC, I believe I have attended 13 conventions. Each year, I have come to expect that at some point during the convention, I will encounter that message that was "just for me." Sometimes it is something in the keynote speech, and sometimes it is something discovered in a workshop. Sometimes it is something found in conversation with another writer at the event. There's always this moment when I think to myself, "THIS is what I came for this year. This is the nugget I've been needing to hear."

This year it happened on Sunday morning. Ann Fell (2x Coffin Award Winner -- Sundrop Sonata in 2016) talked about the process of writing her suspense novel. Her first task was to distinguish the difference between a mystery and a suspense. Ta-da! Bells are ringing. I've been calling my most recent work-in-progress a mystery. Quite clearly, it is a suspense story. I look forward to getting back to it now. In a one-hour presentation, Ann's words opened up for me the problem I was having in completing this novel.

Ann Fell is the author of In the Shadow of the Wind, the 2015 Coffin Memorial Book Award, and Sundrop Sonata, the 2016 Coffin Memorial Book Award. 

Last, but certainly not least, I was thrilled and delighted that two books near and dear to my heart were awarded the first ever "Looks Like a Million" Book Design Award. To Leave a Shadow, by Michael D. Graves, was the winner. MoonStain, poetry by Ronda Miller, received an honorable mention. Both are books I produced as editor and publisher through my very own press, Meadowlark Books. I was also recognized for 15 years of membership in Kansas Authors Club and honored with a service award (Thank for the nomination, Gloria Zachgo!)

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