12/31/2011

New Year with Resolutions

I have resolutions. Do you?

I have elaborate lists of things I want to achieve in eight areas of my life. These lists show the steps, in order, that it will take to complete the project, or some aspect of a larger project, with reasonable deadlines.

Of course life (God, fate) sometimes has other ideas for us, and our best-laid plans go awry, and we need to try other strategies. But at least by thinking about resolutions, and setting deadlines for achieving them, we will come closer to hitting our mark than if we had not defined any marks at all.

And the secret to accomplishing what we set out to accomplish is simple. We keep it in front of us each and every day. We plan the work, and work the plan. Without deviation. Unless what we're doing isn't working. Then we reformulate.

Here are a few of my resolutions:


  • I plan to be slender again, like I was three years ago. I plan to loose 30 pounds by October 1.
  • Regarding the manuscript I finished in November, I plan to make more revisions based on input from my 12 beta reader/critique partners (that I will get on January 9), and then to write up a strong query, and then to begin querying agents. 
  • Regarding writing a new book: Oh, my. I am on fire! When I finished the "old book," I felt so drained, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep writing. For two weeks, I gave up the idea entirely. I didn't know if I could think up a new idea, or if I could top what I had accomplished in the old book. (The old book demonstrated a significant leap in quality, which I had not achieved in any prior manuscript. It was a great victory for me.) Now, I am happy to say that I can hardly restrain myself from setting out on a new writing path. I am working up an idea, and hope to have a draft written on or before October 1.   
  • Writer's Platform: Here, my goals are less well-defined. I could turn blog writing into a full time job. So could you, right? There's plenty to say, however I cannot allow blogging to overtake my limited time for writing. Maybe I "should" set up a posting schedule. Maybe I "should" begin to write on the 1001 ideas I could be writing about ... But the smarter resolution for me is to restrain myself ... To protect my writing time, and to achieve my writing goals. 
  • That being said, I am considering joining Rach's 4th crusade in February, and the A-Z challenge in April. Those two things may well be my blogging biggies for 2012.
  • Other Creativity, i.e. Scrapbooking: No formal goals here, either. I "should" build time into my schedule for this type of R&R, but I don't want to legislate that I'll do it two hours each week. I'll scrapbook on an "as needed" basis. "As needed" meaning when I seriously need a break from all of my other activities. 
  • Miscellaneous: Hubbie and I are planning a trip to Kauai, Hawaii around the end of January. Two years ago, on the spur of the moment, we took a trip to Maui and Hawaii, our first time ever on the islands. Me being a planner, I freaked out about the spur-of the-moment planning. Our friends were going; they invited us, and we had two weeks to get ready for it. I discovered I really could plan a trip in only two weeks ... even if I was working full time and babysitting two grandchildren while our daughter was in the hospital with a seven-week premature baby. Even if I was a second-round judge for the CYBILS, YA division, and I needed to read books, and the judges needed to make decisions. Even if I was involved in the Kidlitosphere's Comment Challenge, which happens every January. You need plan only two things for a trip to Hawaii: buy airline tickets and make a hotel/condo reservation. Oh, and to make sure you make a reservation to take a one-hour flight around the island in a Waco, open cockpit biplane. (Hubbie's #1 priority.)

Happy New Year to you! What are some of your resolutions?





12/30/2011

2011 in Retrospect


If I were writing a novel about my life in 2011, the following would be a month-by-month timeline of the external plot: i.e. me going after what I wanted, and some of the obstacles I faced in achieving my desires. 

You might ask, what was my ultimate goal? It was to complete my YA manuscript and send it to a few editors. A related goal was to begin to build my writer's platform via blogging. 


Goals for 2012 will build on those, plus some new ones.  

In most cases, for sake of brevity, I have omitted the internal motivation, aka: the story, about the needs that drove me to do the things I did. Rest assured, the story is far more interesting than the plot. 

Throughout the year, I was on a roller coaster of tumultuous emotions. Or maybe it’s just me all the time. I am a highly driven, passionate, intense person. Thus I felt an enormous amount of desire and frustration, anticipation, heartbreak and finally, a victory—a breakthrough—in 2011.

Toward the end of the year, in November and December, I went through a period of dark-night-of the soul-searching, regarding the life I want to create for myself in the next few years, and the direction I want to take with my writing. The plot doesn’t come close to showing everything I did, but the highlights with regard to my external goals. 

January:

Writing: After having spent all of my free time in the fall of 2010 doing a Feng Shui cleaning of my house, I decided to prioritize my (limited) free time on completing my manuscript.

Blogging: I switched my blog from being that of a book review blog to a writer’s blog. I started making contact with the writer’s community, following many new blogs, and getting new followers.

February:

Writing: I was busy writing my manuscript, although hubbie and I did take a trip to Sacramento, where he gave a sermon at a religious conference.

Late in 2010, I had signed up for Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel, a weekly course in revision. Keeping up with the weekly lessons was a huge challenge, but also a fun one. It felt like I had a seasoned author watching over my shoulder with each step. I learned so much from her!

Blogging: Rach had her second Platform Building Crusade while hubbie and I were in Sacramento. I was delighted to be able to visit all of the participants’ blogs via an internet speed that was literally ten times faster than what is available to me at home. 

April

Conference Time! : I was delighted to attend the SCBWI-WWa conference with good friends Laurie and Sharon.

Blogging: I participated in the A-Z blogging challenge. If Rach’s Crusade was a sprint, this was a marathon. I posted every single day (and 2-3 times on several days) during the month of April. I felt I contributed something valuable to the writing community in that I wrote short pieces describing all of the Enneagram types and subtypes.

I also found many new, interesting blogs to read, and increased my own following significantly. I’d started the year with about 75 followers, and by the end of April, the number hovered around 300.

Unfortunately, blogging every day did me in, and so for most of the rest of 2011, I slacked off. Besides that, reaching my writing goals took priority over platform-building goals.  


May

Writing: I completed the course, How to Revise Your Novel, however I still had not actually finished writing the novel. I needed to write a projected 90 pages.

Blogging: I finally finished organizing all of the 730 blogs I had RSS'd or was following in Google Reader into neat categories. A librarian through and through, I just had to make sense of it all.

June: 

Home Improvement: My husband and son-in-law re-roofed hubby’s and my house. I did the cleanup afterwards. What a job. What a mess. 

My Paid Job: I asked the Library Board of Trustees to allow me to reduce my hours from full-time to 32hrs/week. (I would need to wait until the budget hearings in August for their decision.)

My Paid Job: Summer Reading was in full swing, with me putting on, or overseeing, five programs/week for seven weeks. (Read: It was a crazy busy time for me.) After the first week of signups, 600 children had registered for the reading program. We ended up the program on July 31 with 967 signups, and program attendance hovering around 5000. 

Highlight of my Paid Job: For the first time ever, one of my grandchildren was old enough to be my SR helper. I brought my 9-year old granddaughter, Miya, with me to the library each Thursday. She helped with the morning program, the afternoon teen craft program, and then attended the professional entertainment/evening program in the park with me. All five grandkids and their parents attended the family programs in the park.

July:

Writing: I finished the manuscript to my satisfaction. Then I put it away for a month, and when I read it again, I decided to hone in on changes that would make it more commercial and saleable—which resulted in totally tearing the book apart and putting it back together again. That’s what revision is about. Not changing a sentence here and there, but a re-visioning of the original idea to make it better. (That’s not to say I wasn’t doing it throughout the long process, however, lesson learned: With my next manuscript, I intend to get ALL the way through it before I start playing around with it. )


Immediately after finishing Holly Lisle’s HTRYN, she gave me a free, 4-week course called How to Write a Series, and she offered me a good deal on How to Think Sideways, and so I read all the free material and signed up for the new course, which is about finding good ideas and beginning a new book. It was hopeless for me to try to keep up with that, however I did read each week’s lesson and take notes. Her HTTS course is literally thousands of pages long. (She gives you the manuscripts of several of her books in varying stages to study, which greatly piles on the pages of information.)  I summarized the essence to 70 pages.

August:

Family: My free time for a week in August was spent making a scrapbook. It was the only scrapbooking I’d done in 2011 up to that point. I thought my mother, who’s had Alzheimer’s since 1996, was at death’s door (not for the first time, but the fourth). Now on December 30, 2011, she is still alive. 

Family: Hubbie and I removed the last of our youngest child’s things from the basement. A year prior, they’d been scattered all over the house, and then in September of 2010, I successfully “corralled” them into a single bedroom plus a very large closet. Finally, we wanted our 5th bedroom to be a guestroom, and so off it all went to a mini storage unit.

Paid work: The board approved my request to reduce my hours. A co-worker will increase her hours by five and split the load of putting on about 130 storytimes each September-April.

Personal: I cut my hair for the first time in FOUR years.

September:

Personal: I experienced my first week of having Fridays off, however my daughter from Seattle surprised us with a one-day visit, and instead of me being able to sit in my writing room with my new computer and spend the day writing, she sat at that throne all day instead. She doesn’t come home often, and so I allowed it. (Enormous amount of unwritten backstory, here.)

Writer’s Conferences: Attended SCBWI-eastern Washington conference and met some new people, including some people from the Moscow/Pullman area.

New Critique Group: Within a week, I had emailed each person and was in the process of setting up a new Children’s Writers critique group. We met for the first time with an attendance of 10 people. Two people from my former group decided to drop out. 



October and November: 

Personal: I was beginning to feel a desperate need to slow down. The extent of my R&R for 2011: I spent 15 minutes playing with some acrylic stamps for the first time, which I’d bought two months prior, but had been too busy to use. Though I now had Fridays off, they were being partially swallowed up by unexpected family visits, or a hubbie who decided that since I was at home, I should help him move farm machinery!

But besides that, it was CONFERENCE SEASON. In October, I attended a four-day state library conference in Boise, a one-day Youth Services workshop in Coeur d’Alene, and a three-day RWA conference in Seattle. Since earning free time on Fridays, my hoped for, quiet little Fridays had been mostly obliterated, due to my own decisions.

Additionally, after having attended so many conferences, including the SCBWI-WWa retreat in November of 2010, I had the invitation to send a completed manuscript to FOUR editors, but with a deadline of November 30, 2011.

I wasn’t sure I could finish my revision by then. In fact, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it ... But I used my free time to the greatest effect possible for me (and I was already an excellent time manager). I hated to have to do it, but in order to finish on deadline, I made the decision to take off four days of annual leave from work --- Those days are like gold to me. 

But I did it, and was able to finish the revision and send off the manuscripts one week before Thanksgiving.

With my time freed up just before Thanksgiving, I spent eight hours cleaning the main floor of our three-story house, and I felt good. I was experiencing completions, endings.  

It felt like GOD’s GRACE was seriously working in my life. It began a long month of realizations about God’s possible will for my life for the next few years, and how I should create and sculpt my life, and the direction I should take with my writing. For now, the new possibilities feel comfortable to me, like I’m “coming home." I am now happy to follow it where it leads.



How was your 2011? What were the highlights? 






12/19/2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 2011


Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I'm signing off on the blog until the New Year. Have a wonderful holiday season, and I'll see you in 2012!

12/13/2011

Fidalgo Island, San Jaun Islands, Sunset Mid-December






DH and I spent the weekend on Fidalgo Island, of the San Jaun Islands, in Northwestern Washington State. We decided to take a stroll along Green Beach at around sunset --- 3:00-3:30 PM. It was chilly, 44-degrees, and getting quite dark, but I was able to capture a break in the clouds and a spectacular view of the setting sun.  


12/12/2011

DH Loved the Book


I said I’d report back when my hubbie finished my manuscript. Boy, that was taking a chance. What if he hated it, and I would need to confess to my handful of faithful readers that the story was a dud? (Or that he thought it was.)

Turns out, he loved it. He said that when he started reading it, he was pretty sure he would never be able to get into it, as he doesn’t read fiction and, to boot, it’s a teen romance. But it very quickly hooked him. Not only that, he laughed and cried in all the right places.

He said he thought it was a great book, and that it would make a great movie. Afterwards, he took me into his arms and teared up all over again as he started talking about specific scenes that made him cry. He added that, for my sake, he sure hoped it will sell.

So there it is. This marks a milestone in our 37-year marriage. I have always read and given him suggestions on sermons he’s written, for when he’s been asked to serve at religious conventions, but until now, he’d never read anything of mine.

As a result, it’s brought us closer together. That he took the time to read it validates me. We spent the weekend on Fidalgo Island in the San Jauns. When we took a walk along Green Beach, he vocalized more nostalgia, and a surprising openness to new possibilities, than I would’ve ever expected from him. In contrast my brain, which is normally troubled with all sorts of stressors, was blissfully empty and calm. 

12/07/2011

Someone's Been Reading My Manuscript ...

                                                                             

My DH is reading my manuscript. You might think, so what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that while he is an avid reader of nonfiction, especially anything pertaining to aeronotics, geology, weather or the Bible, he has not read a novel in 25 years.

The last novel he read was Moby Dick, and the parts he most loved were the parts that fiction lovers generally hate. You remember them--the scientific descriptions about whales, whaling, harpoons or what-have-you. Frankly, I don't remember them, however he has the type of memory that could probably, quite easily, dredge up some of the facts that Melville wrote about whaling. DH seems to have a photographic memory for facts and dates. He is able to easily retrieve from memory countless facts about about science, presidential politics, history and the Bible. More than anything, he is a Bible scholar.

Because of his fiction-reading history, or non-reading history as it may be, I don't fault him for not being interested in reading anything I've written over the years. To him, fiction is not the truth. Practical, realistic man that he is, he doesn't have time for such nonsense. A gifted pilot, farmer and mechanic, he self-describes himself as a "gear head."

I am fascinated that his brain is wired for mechanics and engineering, and yet metaphors and wit roll off his tongue with greater facility than they do mine. Me, the writer!

So after a little arm-twisting, and a little guilt-inducement, I finally got him to agree to read my manuscript. He uploaded it to his IPad, and has been reading it for a few minutes each night after watching O'Reilly. He's currently on chapter 7 (of 24) and his verdict ... 

He says it's really grown on him. He feels protective of the heroine. He finds the inappropriate boyfriend not too bad. (I told him the guy's going to get a lot worse, but that he isn't, ultimately, awful). He finds the hero "a fascinating character."

I wonder if he thinks I based the hero and the antagonist on him? Did I? No. My characters are all drawn from abstract concepts whose attitudes and behavior fall within specific enneagram types and subtypes.

I'll let you know DH's final verdict.

What about you? Does your spouse read everything you write?

12/04/2011

The Rhythm of Life: Spirituality Book Review

The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly: Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose

I confess, I am virtually always reading a book on spirituality or self-help. I'm not a regular church-goer, and so these books help to nourish the soul. Matthew Kelly was, if I am correct, a Catholic priest, or studying to be one. He apparently crosses the globe with his message.

It's true that the overall message in the books I read is often remarkably similar, however each author has their own unique way of expressing it. I discovered that Matthew Kelly's Rhythm of Life, and all of his books on spirituality, were self-published. I also discovered that his publisher has sold over 800,000 of his books. It's apparent that Kelly's message resonates with people.

He's big on finding balance. He believes people should have a dream and go after it wholeheartedly, but also not to neglect other very important aspects of life, such as relationships. No big surprise there, eh? He writes at length about what life's important aspects are, besides relationships.

Because the book is so meaty, I couldn't begin to do justice to reviewing it in a short blog post. But here are a couple of quotes that particularly resonated with me at this exact moment in my life:

If you listen to a great public speaker, you will discover that the way that person pauses is as powerful as the words he or she speaks. It is true also in life. The rests are as important as the activity. The silence is as important as the noise. The rest makes the activity more powerful and efficient. The silence makes the noise more meaningful. Walt Whitman once wrote, “I loaf and invite my soul.” Loafing opens the heart and mind to allow peace and tranquillity to flow in. We all need a time to relax and listen to the voice within, the voice that reveals the truth that makes us free. Leisure increases the richness of life. The wise make time to loaf. In this modern age obsessed with noise and movement, we seem incapable of relaxing. Take it easy.             ....
Our lives have a habit of gathering a momentum of their own, plunging forward, with or without our consent. Learn to slow down and access life. Take your foot off the accelerator and look about and within. Slow down. Breathe deeply. Reflect deeply. Pray deeply. Live deeply. Otherwise you will spend your life feeling like a bulldozer chasing butterflies or a sparrow in a hurricane.

The last sentence contains two particularly apt metaphors about our modern, soulless lifestyles. His book delineates the solutions.

What are some of your favorite books on spirituality?



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