Monday, January 24, 2011

Not So Fast

Not a quick step
Resounding on the hardwood floor
To let them
To let myself
Hear the movement forward

Not a rocket
Shooting off
On fire
Turning out the pages
Faster than I can count

Not the NASCAR racer
Tearing up the track
Passing all
As if they were
Standing still
Watching in awe
As I pass

Much as I would like it
My toes are only inching forward
Wheels turning slowly
A snail
Leaving a perfect trail
Of neatly ordered
Slowly formed
Through intense pressure

Perhaps someday
It'll be a diamond

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Drawing Board

This photo, taken by Alec Hendrix in 2007, shows Coffeyville, KS after a terrifying flood. Some died, and many lost their homes to the flooding.

It is also the inspiration for my second novel, which I am now, after a year of working on other projects, revising. Writing the novel accomplished a few things. It started me thinking about a lot of religious and spiritual elements in my life. It got me to the top 100 entries in the Breakthrough Novel Contest. It even helped me work on some family issues.

Looking back over it, I'm grateful that it got me this far, but I also see that it isn't going to get me any farther. In fact, it's pretty much crap.

And I don't mean that in a nice, pseudo-humble sort of way. It sucks. It's overall plot is more than far-fetched, its detail and characters lacking, its ending far from meaningful. Besides a few kernels of brightness shining, like sunlight on water at sunset, it's pretty much muddy ooze.

Fortunately, I had one reader who told me so. And I also had the wisdom to let the thing sit longer than overnight--I waited a YEAR to come back to it--so that I could come back with renewed perspective and shred and reshape the novel into what it is supposed to be.

I'm off to work on my piece of crap. Perhaps, if I can replace the rotting wood and moldy drywall, I can get the structure of it back into shape. I pretty much have a blank slate, so I'll move walls, tear down a few useless rooms, add a bathroom, finish the attic properly, and put a playset in the backyard. I'll wait on the painting, shutters, and landscaping until the last, when the plan is exactly what it needs to be.

Here's hoping you have the guts to shred your own masterpieces... to carve them into their true form...

Cheers! (Now get to work!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Art of the Narrative

I've finished up the ending of my Thomas novel (finally), and while it isn't very good yet, I know it will get there.

Nothing is as awful as a bad ending. The ending is one of those elements crucial to a good book, for if it tells too much or wraps up too little, doesn't make sense, or takes everything off on some weird tangent, readers will be disappointed. Jung claimed that we read so that we can "practice" our own endings, so endings are especially meaningful to us as readers.

I was reminded of this as I put my kids to bed last night. Since our books are still packed, and will likely be packed for a few more weeks (ugh!), we told stories to each other. I started things out, putting together a goofy story about a purple, hair giraffe who ended up living in northern Canada. Then my son told a story in three sentences. His typical method of creating plot is establishing that something is stupid:

Once upon a time there was a red crab.
He was very stupid.
The end.

Dreadful. Naturally, I didn't tell him it was dreadful, but I my mind, buzzing about my own ending (to be written once the kids went to bed), took note of the fact that an ending which comes too quickly (and says too little) won't be satisfactory.

My daughter, not to be outdone, told a story which started out very well... a leopard who ate all his friends and had to learn non-violence if he was to not be alone in the world... but she continued the story long after the climax had occurred, carrying through for nearly ten minutes to express how he met a girl leopard, they had eight cubs, and the reformed leopard taught them how to hunt and kill (no joke). By the end even my eyes were rolling.

Again, my writing brain jotted down the reality that an ending, if too drawn out and too filled with nonessentials, could really bore the snot out of readers.

Perhaps a balance should be struck. What do you think should be in an ending? What endings do you tend to love or hate? Why?

Friday, January 14, 2011


I'd stop by for a while
Leave each blog with a smile
But I can't

I got ten itchy fingers
And while the feeling lingers
I must write

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I am still sitting in my hotel room as I write this, so some things in my life are not progressing.
However, for the things within my control, I'm doing pretty well. And I am not alone.

My daughter, famed socialite that she is, already has about a dozen friends at her new school. She climbs in the car at the end of the day with a new Georgia accent, too, slipping out of it only after several hours with us (and it is SOOO cute!).

My son has progressed from "needs work"--a kind way to say he's acting like a complete brat at school--to "Good"--a kind way of saying he is working harder and isn't quite so annoying. Even better, he's waking up with a smile and looking forward to school. They both checked out their first library books at school yesterday, and I had to pry these books out of their hands to get them to do anything this morning. Definite progress.

My husband has progressed a great deal over the last month, too, from not enjoying his job a whole lot to LOVING his (new) job. He comes home with a smile on his face every day, and our interactions with the community so far have made him pretty much decide he's the luckiest person on the face of the planet.

And even though I am not out of the hotel room yet, and we overheated the microwave cooking dinner a few nights ago (manicotti tastes almost as good when it isn't quite warm), I am still writing. No, that's not right. I'm finally writing again. Over the last three days I have edited through 180 pages of my novel, and now I'm perhaps 6 chapters from finishing the new version entirely. After not writing on any novel since before Thanksgiving, I am quivering with happiness to be doing what I love most.

Can you feel it? Can you feel the quivering? It's called progress.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Made by Hand

Ever notice how a gift made with love and one's own hands means more than one purchased in a store? (Don't even get me started on gift cards.)

For instance, my children's great grandmother sent a bunch of knitted baby afghans for them when they were little, and while pretty much all of the other baby stuff has now been donated, I still have these blankets, and I will likely give them to my kids when they have children of their own. I save cards with handwritten notes in them, even if the notes aren't that brilliant, because the writing is in my friend's or sister's or hubby's hand.

Elementary school teachers understand this, too, and the hand-crafted macaroni gifts my kids bring home are treasured even after they start to lose their macaroni. I know the brushstrokes on that painting are my kids' brushstrokes, and that alone makes the gift worth keeping.

With that in mind, and inspired by my fellow blogger Crafty Green Poet, I'm offering the first five commenters on this blog something handmade by me. Yes, I am currently stuck in a hotel, but once I am safely tucked away in my own home, I'll get to crafting for you, my select five readers/commenters. All I ask is that you offer the same on your own blog--or at least make something of your own for five people, even if you don't have a blog--and that you give the handmade gifts out before the end of the year.

You can't be sure what you will get. Will it be a bright, framed watercolor of a fairy? A dried flower painting? A recording of me on the piano? A pastel drawing of orbs in space? A poem written just for you in calligraphy? Fresh-baked banana bread or chocolate chip cookies? Feel free to name some preferences, and, even better, tell me what you plan to make by hand.

And if you turn out to be a late commenter, just make your post count, and I might still send you something!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Dead

To serve an inane
Inarticulate idea
He pulls a gun
And kills
His soul

The dead are lucky
For we are left with him
The expression
Of our daily yen
For hatred

He won't learn
Will we?

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Stepping back
From the schedule
From the expectations
To pull my children in
To a snuggle for the day

Stepping out
Into the sunshine
Warming skin in
Warming air
No ties
No tasks
No cares

Stepping over
The mountain
Made molehill
Just for the day

Stepping in
Into a world
Of mermaids
Of magic
Of writing

Stepping softly
Through a world of hope

Where cares can wait
For stepping
In the future

Friday, January 7, 2011

Serenity Wanted

Enchanted Oak, one of my current favorite blogs, wrote a review about a book I really need to read right now.

True to form, my son had a rough day at school--on his second day of school. According to his progress sheet, which is sent home every day with comments, and which a parent needs to read and sign, he played around and talked at his desk, completed almost none of his work, and so on. He had a rough day all around, for I had to take him out of school early so that he could get a shot to complete a series and be formally admitted into school. And I actually had to pull him off a doorjamb and hold him down so that the nurse could give him the shot.

I have never had to do this before. Even now, as I sit in my hotel room, my stomach churns in dread over how he is likely behaving in the classroom at this very moment.

You know the old saying, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change those I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

My wisdom is severely lacking. I can't change his behavior once my son is at school. He seems bent on doing whatever he wants to, and a bad mood makes his behavior even worse. But is there something about his mood that I can help to change? Is there a way I am contributing to his moodiness, or his attitude, or his behavior?

Or do I need to accept this as something I cannot change? Is this a place where I need to find serenity, to accept my son as he is and allow the school to deal with his behavior on their own, let him accept the consequences of his actions, and just take care of me without the tinglings of dread I feel each morning? Do I just make it clear to my son that I love him, and hope he finds his own path to happiness?

Any advice? I know many of you are parents, and many of you have much older kids... perhaps you can give me insight and perspective I don't have at this point.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Beginnings

Despite not having ANY of the required documents to enroll, my children started school here in Georgia, 2,795 miles from where we lived only a week ago. (The required shot records are still processing at the health department, and all of the other identifying documents are in our moving pods... which won't be delivered until our house closes... which was supposed to happen Dec. 30th... which didn't... but which should happen by the end of January.)

School supplies in hand (in grocery bags), the kids took a tour with us parents, looking over the library, the lunchroom (which also serves breakfast), the music room, and their own classrooms. Each child went happily into a new room, with a new smily teacher, a new group of students, a new chance to make friends and do fun things and otherwise not be bored.

The hubby seemed pretty impressed with the kids this morning, and so was I. But I couldn't talk about it as we walked out the door without them. He kept asking me what I was thinking, but each time I opened my mouth my eyes teared up. What if they weren't okay? What if someone was mean to them? What if they were unhappy?

Then again, plenty of kids had been mean at their last school. And I can count a large number of times they came home unhappy, or disappointed, or hurt. But they went back the next morning, as cheery and hopeful as if they'd won the lottery, and school was a big treat.

Today was no exception. Today they had the treat of getting to go to school. So they smiled, hopped up and down, and even did a little happy dance in the hotel on the way to the car.

Amazing how a little optimism can brighten a day, and though I'm still feeling a bit choky, their smiles comforted me as the hours past.

Now if I could just get over my own motherliness... and perhaps approach the day with the same optimism?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year?

Resolutions abound at this time of year. You could Google the word and find all sorts of them to choose from, including statistical analyses of the most common ones, instructions on ways to accomplish them if you make one, blah, blah, blah.

And, just as with every January, people will set out to be different "this year." They'll join gyms, give up coffee, give more to charity, eat healthier, complain less, spend more time with their kids, blah, blah, blah.

But the gym parking lots won't stay crowded. Churches won't be, either. And kids will go on being ignored or brushed away. Fat lost will be regained. Cigarettes will creep back in. Blood donations will drop before the need lessens. Soup kitchens will feed more people with fewer donations. Initiative for initiative's sake won't last. It never does.

So don't do it. Don't make a resolution for the year. You likely won't keep it up, and when your stamina or endurance falters at the end of January, you'll find it harder to keep going, to pick up when you miss a few days because life gets in the way. You'll give up. You'll feel guilty. You'll feel defeated. And nothing will change.

Instead, take just today. Not the year, not the month, not even the week. Just one day, today, or one hour--this hour--or even just one minute--and choose to act. Tomorrow doesn't matter. Next month doesn't matter. Only now matters right now.

If you're reading this, right now, choose. Choose what you'll do.

It's a small choice, yes. It's a short minute, or few minutes, or hour, yes.

Will it make a difference in the long run?