Friday, December 29, 2006

Should Have Knocked on Wood

I'm not an overly superstitious person, but I avoid walking under ladders and bless people after they sneeze. Which is why I probably should have knocked on wood after writing my last post. While working on the entry in question, P was helping our younger girls, E and S, wrap presents in the living room. Someone was coughing at the time. I assumed S was the guilty party because she's been coughing all week. I didn't connect the hacking with E until P brushed past S, commented that she was quite warm, and then decided he should take her temperature. That's when I realized E had been the noisy one (which is never a good sign because coughing is usually means she has a fever.) Turns out, my intuition was spot on. E's sick now, too...just in time for New Year's.:(

Pink Dainties, Frango Mint Cake, the Ray Conniff Singers, and Other Trivial Pursuits of a Jolly Writer on Holiday

Busy. Busy. Busy. The last week has included a variety of church activities and services, Christmas day at my mom's, the Ray Conniff singers (because Christmas isn't Christmas without the Conniff Christmas albums), deep cleaning (because writing takes priority the rest of the year), multiple trips to Goodwill to unload what we hope will be someone else's treasure, baking (including pink dainties from my days as part of the Lincoln Jr High home ec program, wheat bread, and four Frango Mint cakes), barbecuing of the bird for Wednesday's Christmas with P's family (because bbq'd turkey tastes awesome, and baking would have taken twice as long), and too much red wine (because now that I've graduated and Vermont College residencies are a thing of the past, I'm way out of practice. But it tasted soooo good going down.)

Overall, fun was had by all, except by our youngest, S, who coughed her way through most of our Wednesday Christmas celebration with P's family. Turns out she has an ear infection and sinus thing. Poor thing. I've been sick for Christmas. It's not fun being unable to have join in with everyone, especially when cousins are visiting. On a positive note, the heavy duty cough formula she took last night gave her her first good night's sleep in almost a week; so, I think she'll be in good shape to enjoy our annual New Year's Eve celebration with our good friends from high school K and D.

Appetite for writing: Since E's home from school and P took the week off between Christmas and New Year's, I've given myself permission not to write. The break's done my muse good. I can feel it relaxing, storing away memories, and gearing up for work once break's over.

Current read: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. The bustle of the season hasn't allowed much time for reading; so this book's taken longer to finish than the requisite two weeks the library gave me. To add insult to injury, the system wouldn't allow me to renew online because the book has multiple holds. Luckily, the librarian behind the desk yesterday took pity on me and overrode the computer so I could keep the book long enough to finish it. Overall, Meyer's latest is a page-turning blend of vampires and werewolves, along with a human MC loyal to both groups. The push-pull between the MC and the two groups makes for exciting reading.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One Writer's Early Christmas Present

One of the great delights of holiday shopping is the excuse to explore resale shops for new and gently used books. This year I stumbled upon a gem.

It's a blast from my past, a book I read so many times as a young girl that holding it in my hands again was like reuniting with a long lost friend. The book is The Cookie Tree by Jay Williams. The story begins after a young girl discovers a strange tree growing in the middle of her village. She soon realizes it's a cookie tree. The adults argue about what the appearance of the unusual tree means. The children celebrate the tree's arrival, and, of course, eat its cookies, at which point the tree folds up and disappears.

Rereading the book now I'm reminded of how deeply the story enchanted me. Even now fantasy remains a favorite genre, especially those stories that begin ordinary but become extraordinary.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Enter the Forest

The December issue of Edge of the Forest is available on cyber newsstands. Articles by yours truly: In the Backpack featuring an interview with writer/librarian Ruthann Heidgerken and Day in the Life with author Debby Dahl Edwardson.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Writing During the Holidaze

I apologize for going silent for as long as I did. No one's sick. Our DSL went down.

Here's a Cliff Notes version of what's been occupying my time since my last post:

1. Reviewing the ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) for Special Gifts: Women Writer's on the Happiness, the Heartache and the Hope of Raising a Special Needs Child. Makes it real to finally have it in my hands.

2. Writing--Spent most of my creative time this week finishing up my ghost story which finally has a satisfying ending. (Now we'll see what the crit group thinks. We meet next week.)

3. Holiday prep--we host Christmas with P's family this year, which means we've a whole lot of house to clean. Upside is we've been unearthing lots of things we thought we'd lost.

4. Shopping--thankfully I'm almost done with that. I've a few odds and ends left to do, then P takes over. Yep, you've read it right. I gather. He wraps. We've had this arrangement for years. Works out really well.

5. Enjoying our older daughter who arrived home Thursday from her first sem of college.

6. Finishing up last-minute prep for tonight's Christmas program at church. We still have Muddy Buddies to make for the potluck afterward. A couple hours and counting before we need to be sitting in the pews.

Fa la la la la la la la la.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Deadlines, Vampires and a Chipped Tooth

Deadlines. I love them and hate them. I love them because they help keep writing a priority when life conspires. I hate them because they prevent me from doing the things that need getting done like laundry so the girls have clean underwear, good, old-fashioned home cooking so we can eat something healthy for a change, Christmas cards because the season's upon us, filing before I lose track of ideas, subs, bills, you name it.

Top of the deadline pile for today: submissions for Edge of the Forest online children's literature monthly. Both "interviews" are on someone else's desk right now, which means I'll need to hustle as soon as copy's returned.

Also vying for my time today: E's tooth. She came home Friday complaining of a tooth ache. Her teacher figured she'd bitten her lip. By the time we determined the real reason for the pain--that E'd chipped off a chunk of her tooth, exposing the nerve--E's regular dentist was gone for the rest of the weekend. Motrin and E's high tolerance for pain allowed us to nurse the offending molar until first thing this am when we were able to see the dentist. I'm ever so grateful we dodged the need to find a peds dentist over the weekend qualified enough to work on E. I guess with everything E's been through lately--mostly recently her neurosurgery--an exposed root is small bananas.

Current read: Just picked up Stephenie Meyers' newest book, New Moon. Looking forward to curling up with this latest installment in the Bella Swan and Edward Cullen saga. For anyone intrigued by vampires with a heart, this author deserves a serious look. Meyer's first book in what I hope will be a continuing series: Twilight.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Crit Group, Brainstorming, and Safe Writing on the Road

One of the ways I've learned to channel the creative energy my critique group inevitably stirs up is to pack a fresh block of Post-it notes in the car. Yesterday's Post-its were hot pink. I went through half a pack during the 40-minute drive back. Using Post-its in the car is a lot safer for me than trying to balance a spiral notebook on my lap while dodging semis on I-80. What's more, the handy 3x3 size forces me to edit my ideas to the most important kernels before jotting them down. My notes end up being more focused and legible. And they transfer to my main KM notebook a lot easier, too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Crit Group Countdown

Crit group meets this morning, which means I've less than a half hour to finish up emails for this month's Edge of the Forest before heading out into the hinterlands to meet up with J and A.

Looking forward to meeting for so many reasons...the writerly conversation (something that's sadly lacking in this very solitary profession), the critiques, J's neverending cups of English Breakfast tea, and steaming bowls of spicy chili or soup. I'm especially looking forward to feedback about this week's sub, as I'm moving further in KM than the crit group has seen since we began meeting a year ago this fall, and now that I've finally narrowed in on the direction this tome needs to take, I'm curious what they think of it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Writers and Depression

Hats off to Cynthia Leitich Smith for today's link to Nancy Etchemendy's article on Writers and Depression. Not only is the article link timely (because so many people consider suicide during the holidays), the piece should be required reading for any writer, artist or creative soul.

The fact that so many creative types suffer from depression doesn't surprise me. It's an insidious condition, one that often masquerades as fatigue, illness, stress, you name it. All too often we pass off the symptoms as casualties of our avocation. We joke about our addictions to Diet Coke. We commiserate about our insecurities. We muscle through our days.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying every tired, Diet Coke addicted writer is depressed. What I am saying is that we're prone to it. And with good reason.

Writers are sensitive souls. We don't need to work at emphathizing with others; we do so automatically. The problem is we don't just celebrate with others, we feel their pain as well. Knowing writers work in this way, is it any wonder so many of us struggle with depression?

Much of the work I did at Vermont College meant learning to mine my own emotions in order to understand my main character's emotional throughlines. As much as I tried in the beginning, however, I had trouble identifying my MC's deepest need.

After many months of soul searching, I realized that the main reason I was having trouble getting close to my character was that her deepest fears mirrored my own. How's that for writing behind my back, Jane? Once I realized why I was avoiding getting close to my character, KM's throughline became clear, and I made important strides in my own process as a result.

I also made connections about the writer's life in general.

It seems the very nature of our craft--the ability to inhabit our emotions long enough to bring life to our characters--makes us our fears, depression, and addictions and other self-destructive behaviors.

I've no easy answers for how not to become trapped in the emotions we must embrace in order to create our art. I do know that through experience I've learned that my most powerful prose has come from the places that resonate with the strongest emotions. Which means that in order for my characters to find a way out of their darkness, I must find ways to face my own.

Making this connection about my writing hasn't been easy, but it's given me insights into my own process. Reading Etchemendy's article has given me more.