Friday, March 28, 2008

One Writer's Update: This, That and The Sweet Far Thing

Just When We Thought It Was Over
E's finishing up week four of illness, but at least there's an end in sight. After starting yet another round of antibiotics over Easter weekend, she's finally well enough to make it through the day without a nap. We visit the pulmonologist today to see what we should be doing to prevent another setback as we enter allergy season.

Teen Writer's Workshop
Teen Writer's group meets this afternoon. Today's topic is dialogue. The working title for the group exercise J&A have planned: Behind the Blanket. To illustrate the importance of including inner dialogue, action, and body language when writing dialogue we plan to pair two "volunteers" behind a blanket with instructions to read the lines from selected book passages without feeling, inflections, etc. Then we plan to drop the curtain and have them act out the scene with expression and tag lines and maybe even props.

On J's and my personal agenda: starting with today's session keep a master file about what worked and what didn't. Reference said file at a later date as we prep for our presentation about teen writer's workshops (and how to get one started at your library) at the Illinois Library Association conference in September.

Current Read: Libba Bray's The Sweet Far Thing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day Two and Counting

E returned to school for a half day yesterday. She came home wilted (who wouldn't after being home with the flu 2 1/2 weeks?), ate lunch and crawled into bed for the rest of the afternoon. Today was better. Though exhausted when I picked her up, E stayed up longer before needing to take a nap. Each day back is mini victory, bringing me that much closer to reclaiming my uninterrupted writing time.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Return to Morning Pages

A year and a half ago, I began writing Morning Pages ala Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way.

The practice is simple. Journal three pages first thing each morning. Do not judge the words. Do not plan what you're going to say. Write without thinking, letting your heart speak through your pen. Punctuation is optional. So is form. Use the time to dump, vent, pout, praise, celebrate, plan. Go wherever your muse leads you. Write longer if you wish, but try to complete at least three pages. Do not stop until you are done. Then start your day.

When I first started Morning Pages, I was amazed at the clarity the simple exercise brought me. Each entry became a moving meditation. A way to ground me in the present and warm up my muse. Into my journal, I dumped my fears, worries, to-do lists, hopes, dreams, and duties for the day. The awesome part about this practice was that, once there, my worries, hopes, and dreams were content to wait for me on the page, rather than pratter on in my head while I worked.

For a variety of reasons--kids, illnesses, the life of a writer mom--I fell away from the practice. I didn't think I'd missed it until I began writing my pages again recently.

Not sure where the idea came from, but I bless it. After two and a half weeks of care giving and round-the-clock meds, I consider a return to Morning Pages one of the few good things that have come out of E's latest bout with illness.

Current read: Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. (Began this thrilling must-read for vampire fans a few days ago. Would have finished it already if I wasn't so **** tired.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sending Up an SOS

Okay. So, we've been hunkered down with E since February 27th when she came home early from school coughing up a storm. Dr. S diagnosed an ear infection a couple days later on Leap Day. E started meds that evening. The fever responded quickly. The cough not so much.

Twice we've tried sending E back to school thinking she was on the mend. Both attempts failed. The exposure to the cold or the dry school environment or something else triggered horrible coughing fits that sent her home early both days.

I'm used to E's colds setting her back a long time, but not this long. This year, despite a regular routine of nebulizer treatments and heavy duty cough meds, she's not bouncing back as quickly.

Seeing as I'm sleep deprived (E hasn't slept through the night since this all began), there's probably something I'm missing. I put in a call with the doctor's nurse recently in hopes that we can brainstorm.

Writing report: Dribbles here and there when my muse allows.

Current read: Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, a recommendation from fellow critigue group member, A, and a must read for vampire fans.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Doing the Happy Dance

I'm in! I'm in! I'm in! I just received word that I made the short list for the Words in the Woods retreat! What a boost after the last of couple weeks with E. Etching the date on the calendar.

Plot Challenged? Read This

Some writers are blessed with the ability to plot their stories from beginning to end before sitting butt in chair for the hard work of writing. Others, like me, write by the seat of their pants, following an image or whisper of diaolgue in search of a character with a story to tell.

There's nothing wrong with either approach. One's process is one's process. But at some point, even the most intuitive writer must sift through the patchwork quilt of story she's been working on, and make decisions about plot.

This part of the revisioning process can be agonizing. The story one has been creating all this time with a writer's heart, must now be analyzed with an editor's eye.

To distance myself from my work when it's time to make a difficult decision, I leave my story behind for a day or two, sometimes longer, whatever it takes in order to read my work dispassionately. My critique group becomes even more indispensable. So do certain plotting techniques like the one discovered in this book by Debra Dixon.

Dixon's book is the first I've run into in a long time that demystifies plot for even the most plot challenged of writers. A big shout out to Dixon for articulating the subject so well, and to Windy City Romance Writers for keeping the book in their chapter library.

What a gem.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Book a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

Next time you consider vegging in front of the TV or computer insteading of reading, consider this report from RealAge : reading builds and protects cognitive reserves which, according to one study, help provide a defense against environmental toxins.

E update: her fever broke, but she still has a wicked nasty cough. Poor thing's on day 10 of being sick.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Writer in the Twilight Zone

No posts in a while because E's sick. A flu bug of some sort hit her without warning mid last week. Operating on little or no sleep. Too little to make sense out of what my characters are trying to tell me. Hip deep in Motrin, Tylenol, inhalers and heavy duty cough syrup. Nearly rushed to the hospital end of last week after our arsenal of tried and true weapons vs. cold/flu bugs gave out. Thankfully, something changed during the night that delayed the trip. On Friday, the pediatrician said she's been swamped with kids with the flu. It's nasty this year. Doesn't seem to matter if the person got a vaccination. We're trying desperately to keep our heads above water here. I got something over the weekend. E's cough is still keeping her up at night, which means this sleep-deprived writer has now officially entered the Twilight Zone. I need a caffeine IV.