Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confidence for the Upcoming Year

I recently co-authored an article with some writerly friends. One of the points was confidence. My blog chain gang also blogged about confidence. Here's my earlier post, and it's one of my faves. Anything with Seinfeld is bound to be good. The whole chain is uplifting, so if you're looking for some self-confidence this new year, read the chain links and the article. It's a good mantra for life, too, not just writing.

Here's an excellent post by agent Nathan Bransford on confidence (he had me at intestinal fortitude. I mean, if you can use that in a sentence, you are the king or queen of the day in Elana-land. Seriously.) Even though it's almost two years old, every word is as true today as it was then.

Nathan = awesomeness. I love word math just as much as the next geek person.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

QueryTracker Blog, I *heart* you

Okay, as if I don't have enough other things going on in my life, I'm going to be a contributing author to the QueryTracker blog! I've never been more excited about anything in my life. Well, maybe one or two things, but this seriously tops the list at this moment in time.

Me and my partners in crime writing, Mary Lindsey, Suzette Saxton, H.L. Dyer, and Carolyn Kaufman will be up and posting today. You should definitely go check it out. To accompany the awesomeness that is QueryTracker, this blog is aimed at aspiring authors. They will find helpful posts about query letters, articles about writing and publishing, guest bloggers from the publishing industry, contests, and anything else we think will help the writers of the world on their journey toward publication. Oh, and if you're an aspiring author and haven't visited the forum, dude you have to join. Now. It will change your life. Srsly.

Come join us in this new adventure!

Why Life Takes Perseverance--Especially the Life of a Writer

It's blog chain time again. This round, we've decided to blog on whatever we want. Scary, huh? So I've chosen to go the more serious route this go-round, especially with the new year looming. I'm fairly certain Kate has posted before me and Sandra will be up in the next couple of days.

Alert: This is rambling, totally true, personal life-story with a lesson (hopefully) at the end.

So I'm a writer. I'm not in the closet about it. If you could possess one quality for writing--or for life--it should be perseverance. That's my lesson for today. I'm sure my experiences are not unique, surely every one of us has had something we've had to endure. For me it was college.

And the story begins...you might want to strap yourselves in.

I graduated from high school with several Advanced Placement credits under my belt. Picture the band geek with straight A's. Yeah, that was totally me. Feeling pretty good about myself, I enrolled at the local university and my AP credits filled some general electives--classes I now didn't have to take. Nice.

Then I got married. Young, I know--30 days after my 19th birthday in fact. I moved 150 miles south and enrolled in a new university after only one quarter at the one I'd just started. The new school took most of my credits. I worked hard and earned an Associate's degree by the end of the next summer. I'd been married 8 months, and out of high school for 15.

Then I moved to a new university. (That's number 3 for those of you counting. The applications forms, fees, transcript requests, letters of recommendation...it was a nightmare.) I attended this university for a year and a half before my husband's job transferred him 300 miles south.

So...in the middle of July, 9 months pregnant with my first child, I moved to Southern Utah. It's hot there, in case you didn't know. Like really hot. Over 110 degrees the day we moved in. I thought that would be the end of college for me. 3 schools, over 400 miles from where I'd started, a baby on the way. I was done.

Or not. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I needed to finish. My son was born in August--not the best time to go back to school. So I took a semester off and applied to Southern Utah University on the day applications were due.

I got accepted and drove 50 miles each way--with my four-month-old baby in the backseat--to attend classes. So with the 100-mile round trip with the screamer in tow, a husband who made $12,000 a year, and the thought that I wanted to teach (because there's big bucks in that *snort*), I went to college.

My husband quit working for the Jazz (the 12 K plus commission just wasn't enough) and got another job cleaning carpets. This allowed him to take a class or two at night. By now, I had to student teach. It's a lot more than attending classes. It's all day. So I enrolled my son in daycare and finished my degree.

Upon graduation, I got a job teaching music and art--not my major field of study, I have a math minor--in Alpine School District, back in central Utah. I will never forget the day I signed my contract. It should have been one of the happiest days of my life. It wasn't. More like the suckiest. My husband took my son down the street to the store while I filled out all the paperwork. I cried. At the desk with the lady in human resources looking at me like I was crazy. I'm sure she was thinking, "And we want this girl teaching our kids?"

Yeah. I was 22 and had worked my freaking butt off in college, was raising a kid, trying to make ends meet. I signed my contract in April, guaranteeing myself a whopping $22,091 for the coming year. Oh, but I wouldn't get paid until the end of September--for a job that started August 11. No joke.

So what did I do? What I always do: I persevered.

My husband and I moved in with my parents (gag) and spent the summer working. We managed to save enough so that we could move back to central Utah and I could start teaching. We made it from August 4 to September 30 without a paycheck. Major big time suckage.

Since then, things have gotten progressively better. My husband graduated, also in education. It only took him 5 years. And he makes slightly more than the 22K I started at. I now teach half-time and make more than I did when I started full-time. Because I worked my tail off again. With full-perseverance mode on, four years and 53 credits later, I had earned a Master's equivalency. It's basically my district's way of saying I have enough credits to have a Master's degree, but I didn't go through a university program to do it.

What does that take? Perseverance.

I warned you about the life story. I swear I'm almost done.

The point of all this? It takes an insane amount of perseverance to become a published author. It takes more than just writing. It takes writing a good book. Researching agents. Submitting. Getting rejected. Over and over and over. But if you persevere through all that, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me, I've been through a lot of tunnels. There is always another side. The sun is usually shining on that side. And birds are singing, wildflowers blooming, the pleasant sound of the waterfall. Sure, sometimes there's that girl in the human resources department crying because her four years of struggling only netted her $22,091. Not all tunnels are created equal.

When I first started writing, it felt like college. And trust me, for me, that's not a good feeling. You work in college. You pay them. You don't get paid for all the work you do. That's writing. You write. You pay to send out queries, print manuscripts, buy a laser printer, etc. You don't get paid to do any of it. Until you persevere long enough to secure the agent and sign the publishing contract.

Now that's another contract I'll cry when I sign. And I will sign it. Because I know myself well enough by now to know that I can persevere long enough to do it. Because, just like that nagging feeling when I almost quit college, I have this bug in my head telling me to keep writing. I've learned to listen to that voice. Good things happen when I persevere through the quagmire to reach the end of the tunnel. The proof is in my past.

So go persevere at whatever you're doing! This New Year, make a goal for yourself and don't stop until you reach it, even if it takes more than a year. More than two. More than ten. A line from one of my favorite movies (major kudos if you know it). "No! Never give up. Never surrender."

Life story, over and out. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Total Weirdness and Wonky Ish

In case you missed my post on cool words, you should check it out here. Inspired by a comment Megan made on a post, I decided to keep track of the words I have to type in to leave comments on people's blogs. This may reveal just how nerdy and band-geekalicious I am, but oh well.

Here are my faves:

Left on my sister's No Measurements cooking blog: slica. I almost think this could be the name of my next female MC. "Slica ran down the wet sidewalk, thinking it was really slica, just like her name." Dude, the agents will be fawning over that first line.

Left on Megan's blog: pingess. It occurred to me as I left the comment that "-ess" could be a sweet thing to tag onto words to make new ones. Like, "Dudess, I thinkess we couldess go outsidess." Um, that sounds sorta Shakespearess. So maybe notess.

Left on Cole Gibsen's blog: corse. I don't know why, but my mind translated this to "horse." And that's not funny. Or weird. Or wonky. Oh well. Not all words are created equal. 'Corse not. A horse is a horse, of corse of corse...

Left on Archetype's writing blog: tedee. This is a version of "Ta Da!" for those speech-impaired people who can't say "a". Or two-year-olds. Or one of those things on Alice in Wonderland. Or something.

Left on Kate Karyus Quinn's blog (who has the coolest name, BTW): manunut. No, I am not kidding. Man-U-Nut. I laughed out loud and came to put it in the blog post. I'm still laughing.

I wonder what kind of words people get when they comment on my blog...wouldn't that be interesting to know? See what I waste my time thinking about? Sheesh. Think how much I could get done with the brain cells I've been devoting to weird and wonky words.

Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Personality Characteristics You Need to Get Published

by Elana Johnson, Carolyn Kaufman, and Suzette Saxton

Agents and editors deal with hundreds of queries, synopses, proposals, and chapters every month. Whether you realize it or not, your approach to the process has a lot to do with whether or not your work will ever reach publication. Here are the 7 characteristics necessary to achieving your dreams!

Characteristic 1: Commitment to Growth

The first thing every real writer needs is a willingness to learn and grow. All agents or editors—no matter how busy—are interested in quality work. The first step: write the best book you can. That means you’ll probably need to brush up on grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and plotting. Don’t give someone an excuse to reject your work because you’ve either never learned or forgotten how to write in an active voice.

Research local or online writing workshops and sign up for a writing conference or two to jump start your creative juices and brush up on what it takes to become a published author. Join a critique group to help yourself develop a critical eye for grammar, sentence structure and plot in the writing of others. Then apply what you learn to your own writing. When you view writing as a life-long learning experience, you've taken the first step to becoming published.

Characteristic 2: Humility

Completing a project is an accomplishment, and one you should be proud of—just not too proud to miss places you still might be able to improve. Chances are, you did forget a comma somewhere. Or spelled a word wrong. Or didn't tie up that loose end. Or tried to cram in too many subplots. Or something. When you share your work with critique buddies, really listen to their feedback. If an agent is kind enough to offer advice, thank him or her and then consider making the changes to your manuscript.

Characteristic 3: Self-Confidence

On the flip-side of humility is self-confidence; you’ll need both in equal measure.
Not to be confused with arrogance—there is a difference! Getting published is usually an uphill battle. Everyone along the way will have an opinion about your work, and not all of those opinions will be positive! Most agents reject between 95% and 99% of all queries they see, and editors are even harder to win over.

Even after you make it through the gauntlet of agents, editors, and other decision-makers, you’ll have to face book reviewers and bloggers. You must believe in yourself enough not only to go through the whole process, but also to endure the onslaught that follows. Once you've acquired the skills of a writer, a sense of self-confidence will help you recognize that your hours of research, learning, and growing are going to pay off.

Characteristic 4: Perseverance

Once you've produced the very best story you can, built your self-confidence, and balanced it with humility, it’s time to submit. Research agents and editors and only submit to those who are a good match for your project. And don't just submit to one agent or editor. Or two. Or even ten. Keep going until you find one who loves your work!

And don't stop writing while you submit. Maybe your first book won’t make as big of a splash as you’re hoping. Maybe your second—or your fifth—novel will be the one to land that dream agent and publishing contract. Author Dan Brown published three books before he scored a worldwide bestseller with The DaVinci Code.

Characteristic 5: Professionalism

Understand that publishing is a business, and that agents and editors are trying to find books publishers—and eventually readers—will want to spend their hard-earned money to buy. That means you need to conduct yourself like a professional. While this might seem obvious, you must treat everyone you deal with, from agents’ assistants all the way up to publishing heads, with courtesy. Even if you don’t like what they’re telling you.

Never send hate mail back to agents or editors. (You might be surprised how often publishing professionals have to deal with this.) Also realize that form responses are normal — if you had to read hundreds of queries every month, you’d send them too! Don't take rejection as a personal attack—it's just business.

Characteristic 6: Patience

It takes patience to see your dream of being published come true. Not only patience to write the book—which doesn't happen in a single sitting—but patience to wait for responses from beta readers, critique groups, and then agents, editors, and publishers. Some respond immediately. Some are a little slower, but will respond eventually. And some won’t respond at all. In each case, your patience will be tried.

Characteristic 7: Luck

Before you decide that you’re doomed because you’ve never won the lottery (or even a door prize drawing), you need to know that we’re talking about the kind of luck you make for yourself. There is an old Chinese tenet, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So first, be prepared. And then cultivate your own luck. Lucky writers behave in ways that create good fortune in their lives. For example, they read agent and industry blogs to get a feel for what different agents like. They notice and act upon chance opportunities, follow their intuition, look for the bright side of every situation, and are certain their future is promising. Their outlook becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, creating the perfect environment for “luck” to flourish. Remember, it only takes one positive response!

Plus One: Indomitable Spirit

Incorporating these seven traits will result in the indomitable spirit necessary to succeed in the publishing industry. What is Indomitable Spirit? It’s an attitude or state of mind in which you are impossible to frighten or defeat. Never, never, never give up on your dreams.

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bio box:
Elana Johnson finished college against nearly-impossible odds, a struggle much like dealing with the publishing world. Visit her at elanajohnson.blogspot.com for more publishing insights. Visit psychologist/writer Carolyn Kaufman at archetypewriting.com and learn more about how to use psychology accurately in your writing. Find “The Bone Setter,” Suzette Saxton’s most recently published work, here: http://www.mindflights.com/item.php?sub_id=4283.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And the Winner is...

I know, I know. It's taken me forever to get to the contest. I'm sure you've all been on pins and needles wondering who's going to win, how old I really am, etc. Pshaw. Here's a picture of what I've been up to this week.

Sorry, the whole number-generator is way down on my list. I mean, did you see that cake? My daughter l-o-v-e-s Spongebob and her birthday was yesterday. She's four now. That cake took me forever. I only have two words: crumb coat.

Anyway, here's the scoop. I am 31. Hmm, whaddya know? Admitting that is easier than I thought.

And the winner: Kate Karyus Quinn! Yay! My blog chain buddy. Email me at elanajohnson at gmail dot com with your address and I'll mail out your books. But...I seriously don't have the guts to brave the post office this close to Christmas. So...if you won't hate me forever, I might wait to mail them until after. Sound good? If you're going to die, let me know in the email. I'd hate to be responsible for the death of a fellow writer, awesome blog chainer, and general all-around uber-cool person.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Love-Hate Relationship

I love the Christmas holiday. The lights and snow. Well, maybe not the snow, but definitely the lights. And presents. And decorating and watching my kids get excited. That's all good.

It's the movies that have me on the hate side of the fence. Don't get me wrong, I love holiday movies, but I wish, wish, wish I wasn't such a baby. Here's the run-down of tear-jerkers this holiday season. You've been warned.

Home Alone. I despise this movie, yet there I was, watching it. Mostly so I could be doing something with my family. And guess what? I started bawling. Gah. When the mom comes in and hugs the boy and they're reunited...choking up. Embarrassed. Because I hate this movie, and yet I'm touched. There is no justice in the world.

Elf. I wish, wish, wish I were kidding. I mean, come on. Elf? Have you seen the movie? It's not exactly a touching rendition of Christmas. So I'm sitting on the couch watching the stupid human-who-thinks-he's-an-elf help Santa with his sleigh and his dad who hates the human elf is helping. Tears well up. Then they start singing...and the dad sings... *sniff* I need prozac or something.

Fred Claus. This is the worst one I think. I refused to watch it last year because I don't like the guy who plays Fred. My husband watched it late at night and insisted that I would like it. I was thinking it must have been really late at night and there was no way I was going to like it. Well, I did. A lot. And then I started bawling. When Santa gives that guy the Superman cape? Holy kryptonite, Batman. I realize that's the wrong superhero, but neither one of them can stop my bawl babyitis, so it doesn't really matter. I'm not ashamed. I cried during Fred Claus.

So I've developed a love-hate relationship with the Christmas season. I don't like feeling like a bawl baby, and yet I can't stop the tears that seem to come more abundantly during December. At least it hasn't snowed yet. That is just a hate-hate relationship because all that white stuff cost me $700 in new tires last year. But that is another post for another day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This is Exactly How I Feel About Twilight

Seriously, people. I didn't like the movie.

This is the funniest thing you'll ever see. Watch it. Laugh. I did, right out loud at many, many things. I could tell you my favorite lines, but I think it would ruin it for you. Holy Forks, Santa. You've got to watch it. Now.

And this was pretty funny too. And totally spot on.

**Sorry to all those of you who liked the movie. Books = awesomeness. Movie = suckage.**

Thanks to Jen for the first video. She made my year. She needs chocolate. Or maybe socks. gelakguling
And to Moonrat for the link to the best screenplay ev-er.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Geek Are You?

41% Geek

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

I'm so geek, I still haven't figured out how to do the random number generator thingy. I will work on that later today and then I'll post the winner to my "Guess My Age" contest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yup, it's my birthday. I am now officially O-L-D. I dare you to try to guess how old. I always make my students guess. They give the funniest answers (ranging from 21 to 56). It is in that range, BTW. In fact, I'm giving away a present to one lucky person who can guess correctly. What? you ask. Since I am a lover of all things young adult, I have a set of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy books. Well, at least the three that are out. Shadow Kiss was just released November 13. I love them. And her. She has a fun blog here.

Isn't that guy on the cover of Frostbite yummy? Yes, yes he is. But I digress. The age contest. Here are some hints. Take a stab...if you dare. For those cheaters out there, I've removed my age from all my social networking sites as well as my forums. Ha! No cheating...takbole Relatives, at least try to pretend like it's a guess, 'kay?

1. I have a ten-year-old son. He's in fifth grade. He's OLD too. Makes me feel older than I am. I also have a daughter who will be four next week.

2. I've been teaching elementary school for nine years. That makes me a college graduate in the class of 2000. How cool is that? I was stoked. Back when I was young enough to get stoked about things.

3. I have coached youth soccer. I have no idea how this will help you determine my age, but it's a cool fact. Did I like it? Um, no. I did not. Maybe because I was TOO OLD. (ha ha!)

4. I don't watch movies that were made before I was born. This list includes The Wizard of Oz, Jaws, Carrie, The Godfather, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Well, I do watch Willy Wonka, those oompas are just too cute. This hint should be a dead giveaway. You ought to at least be able to get close with this one.

5. I do watch and enjoy Pete's Dragon. I love the noises that thing makes. And he's just so durn cute. Total giveaway. Come on people!

6. I love Dreyer's lemonade bars and Hershey's caramel chocolate kisses. Just throwin' that out there for those of you scrounging for a last-minute gift. siul I put up a sign at school on December 1. It says: 11 shopping days until Mrs. Johnson's birthday. I change it as the days count down. I get a lot of bubble gum. And all things grape. And hugs.

7. I have entered the realm of middle age. Dude...the *realm* of middle age. That sounds like a cool alternate universe I could somehow incorporate into a novel...Or a land, like middle earth. "She hovered behind an aspen on the outskirts of Middle Age, still not quite sure if she should leave her youth behind." Now that's a good first line.

8. My birthday is exactly 14 days before Christmas. That means that because it's Thursday today, Christmas will also be on a Thursday. When my b-day is on a Sunday, so is Christmas. I love this. I don't know why, it just makes me feel specialer than the average person. Unless you were born on December 11 too...then we're like twins. Dude! How cool would that be?

I know the last three aren't hints about my age, but I was in the list-zone. It's hard to break outta that, sorry. Guess my age correctly and I'll do one of those random-number generator thingies to choose the winner. Just post a comment to this post with your guess. That's it. Guesses must be submitted by Friday, Dec. 12 at 12 midnight MST. That's 2 AM Eastern, and 11 PM Pacific. I'll post the winner as soon as I figure out how to do the random-number-generator-thing. Maybe Saturday? And you'll get the VA books! Oh, and if you said "Happy Birthday" in the comment that would like, totally make my day. (Gotta get my junior high persona out every once in a while. See post here for a full 'splanation. Yes, that's a word.)

Oh, my family gave me an iPod shuffle for my birthday! It's hot pink. And I'm buying myself a book, of course. I hear Scott Westerfeld has a new one out...

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Books Are Still the Best Bang for Your Buck"

This holiday season, buy books for those special people on your list. So says Stephen King. And a whole host of other people. So many, in fact, that an entire Facebook group has been created. I joined. I adore books. I like just looking at them and wondering what kind of wonderful tale might be inside. Check here and here for some good posts on the publishing industry. Or here and here and here for some awesome book lists.

I'm an avid reader of Entertainment Weekly. Maybe that's my dirty, little secret, I don't know. But this week's issue (Dec. 12) has an article by Stephen King about the best books of 2008. It was the best article in the whole mag.

He says:
"Okay, gang, pay attention: In 2007, according to the National Associate of Theatre Owners, the average price of a movie ticket was $6.88. Let's say it goes up to $7.00 in 2008. And say that you and your sweetie buy $10 of snacks. Even leaving out the babysitter and the cost of gas, that's $24 for two hours' entertainment. For that same $24--less, with a discount--you can buy a new book and be entertained for days. Plus, your sweetie can read it when you're done (or first, if he or she's the grabber type). My point? Books are still the best bang for your entertainment buck, and 2008 was a great year for reading."

Then he gives his top ten picks, none of which I've read. Now, it's obvious (I hope) that Mr. King and I are not even remotely interested in the same genres, so it's not surprising that I haven't read a single one of his picks. But I'm going to. His advice? "Get them all. Immediately."

Now, I realize that I sort of have a fetish for books. I've had some people ask me, "What do you do when you finish reading your books?" Well, here are some ideas for those of you who may not "need" books just to keep breathing in and out.

1. Read them again. I have some that I read over and over.

2. Donate them to your child's teacher. Be smart about this though. Your second grade classroom isn't going to house Dean Koontz. But if you read middle grade and young adult, your 6th grade teachers are always looking for books. Mr. Johnson teaches sixth grade and every single book we buy goes into his classroom. Schools always need books.

3. Donate to your local library. They do house Dean Koontz and many, many others.

4. Keep them for your kids. In Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, they cite that the reading ability of children has nothing to do with how much you read to your child. No. It has to do with how highly you value reading. Do you value it enough to do it? Children who read well have parents who think reading is so valuable they do it in their spare time. Just seeing their parents read creates a child who loves to read. It has nothing to do with how much you read TO them, but everything to do with how much you read yourself.

So buy yourself a book this holiday season. Log what books you bought here. The goal is 1 million.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Um, I don' has skillz...

So Archy posted a time-waster and I didn't see it until after midnight. Of course I did it even though my eyes felt like sand paper and I knew I had to get up early the next day. Elliott Yamin was on pandora so I figured I could stand a few more minutes. Besides the prestigious Janet Reid had it on her blog, so I figured it was late-night-worthy.

Archy's blog got a high school rating. Go check it out.

Um, mine. Not so much.

blog readability test

Maybe I secretly dream about junior high. That would be more like a nightmare. Ah, well. Junior high is good with me. What can I say. I'm an underachiever. And gosh-darn it, people still like me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Wish Death to this Blog Chain

Abi always gives a little precursor to what the blog chain is...I've never done that. So here's my best shot. A bunch of us writerly types from QueryTracker decided to form a chain. We called it a blog chain. We made a special place where we meet on RallyStorm. After much discussion, we decided that the topics would be chosen on a rotational basis (my turn is coming very soon, *gulp*) and everyone would blog about the same topic in an orderly manner.

So...to keep linkage in the chain: Sandra started the chain this time. As usual, Abi posted before me and Terri is up tomorrow.

Okay, so my (lack of) intelligence is really starting to show. When I read this topic, absolutely nothing came to mind. And this is supposed to be MINDLESS musings. Even that's really hard when there's just...nothing. Bear with me.

Anyway, here's the topic this go-round: What is the role of wish fulfillment in fiction? What personal wishes do you want your stories to fulfill? Are they the same ones you want to read about? How do our fictitious wishes affect our everyday wishes?

I'm going to really focus on the middle two questions: What personal wishes do you want your stories to fulfill? Are they the same ones you want to read about?

I posted about Why I Read and Why I Write here. For me, this is my wish fulfillment blog chain post four months early. Though I like my whole list, I'll elaborate a little bit on a couple of my favorites.

1. When I read, I want to escape my real life. This influences my writing greatly. I want to write stories that aren't real, but close. That provide an escape for me when I read them again, and hopefully to fulfill this wish in other readers who have this desire when they read. I don't mind realistic fiction, but it isn't my favorite. I want to get lost for a while. No dishes. No laundry. Portals. Magic. A cool power. If you have this wish when you read, we read the same stuff. It's what I write as well.

3. I want to experience my first kiss again. And again. And again. I love romance. I'm not a great writer of it, but I like writing young adult where there is a little romance, possibly a first-time romance. I don't think my first kiss like, changed my life or anything, but it's something you can never do "first" again. So I like reading and writing about the first kiss. Sweet, simple, romantic.

6. I want to have a cool super power that allows me to do cool things. Almost everything I read that I love involves a main character that can do something no one else can. Something that makes them special. Something that can save the day at the right time. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordian comes to mind. I mean, the guy's a half-blood. How awesome is that? I totally want to be a half-blood. Or someone who can hear someone else's thoughts. Or can control the wind. Use magic. See the future. Something kewl. So I write stories with characters who can do things I wish I could do.

I definitely read what I like to write. And I wish I could do what my characters can.

And now it's time to pass the torch to Terri. Check out her post, which will be up sometime tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Iz Winner?

Dude, National Novel Writing Month is over. There were times I didn't think I'd survive. High highs. Low lows. Everything in between. Drama. Trauma. Llamas. Just kidding, I threw that last one in there to make sure you were paying attention.

So what did I learn from NaNo? Um, I'm crazy. Dos, I really need more time to stew on my characters before I just delve in. I normally do dive right in, but I don't have to get so many words in a certain time frame. I can slow down and speed up as the writing flows. Oh, but not during NaNo. It's a writingapalooza. C) brainstormage is good. Helped me through some rough patches.

I'm happy to report that I didn't use a single song lyric, ten-word name, or cell phone convo between two characters who know everything about each other. Not that I'm better than you if you did. But that's not how I NaNo. I wanted something I could continue to work on after November, something I could edit and revise over the next several months and not hate myself for forgetting that I put "100 bottles of beer" in there just to get the words.

Officially, I wrote 73,788 words during the month of November. Holy lotta words, Batman. I've never written that much in a month. That's like three (okay four) months of writing for me. It really helped that I had five entire days off in a row. I don't think I did anything on Saturday except write. And write. And write. Sometimes that's okay (nice, even), but I need balance in my life. So back to writing on the side.

I'm actually sorta sad it's over (and that shows my psychosis more than anything). Now what am I gonna use to motivate me? My own pathetic self? I don't think so. Good thing I have writerly friends...with goals they'll let me latch on to as if they were my own.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Blog Has a Personality All Its Own

So Kate and then Archy did this cool blog personality test. You'll never catch me doing one of those things in real life. I always apply to two or three of the choices and sit there puzzling over which one I should choose. I'm trying to analyze which answer would make me more blue or more red or more north or whatever. I'm a mystery, what can I say?

Anyway, this was painless to do for the blog. All I had to do was type in the name of my blog. Phew. I can do that. Go here to try it yourself. Totally painless. Promise.

So here's what my Mindless Musings turned out to be. Awe-some.

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

I wish I knew what the letters at the top meant. They seem to be different for everyone. And Archy said something about them in her post and I was clueless. And too lazy to do any research. I think I may have mentioned my aversion to research before.

But my blog is so me. I do avoid confrontation, I do like to help people in concrete ways, and I never plan ahead when writing. Other parts of my life I do, but never in writing. And since this blog is mostly about the writing, it fits perfectly.

On a side note, I put in my blog on wordpress...and got the same result. Le sigh. I'm stuck in a rut in my writing. I put in my crafting blog...same result. Man, I am sooo consistent. Yeah, lets go with that.

And my brain activity...no jokes, people. My brain does have activity sometimes.

This shows what parts of the brain that are dominant during the blogarific writing process.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

So today is the last day to wrap up the things I'm thankful for. In case you missed it, I ran out of things yesterday. So I put out a lame post asking you what you were thankful for.

I was trying to stay away from the sappy stuff, but here goes. It is Thanksgiving Day after all. I am most thankful for my family. Here are my kiddos on Halloween. You'd think that a 10-year-old and a 3-year-old wouldn't fight so much. You'd be wrong.

But I love 'em anyway. And if you can tell what my daughter is, you should get a prize. I have no prizes, but that would be awesome if I did.

I am thankful for my health. I believe I gave a rather detailed and disgusting post about a recent sickness here. I'm glad I don't exist like that every day.

I am thankful to be alive. I try to have a nature moment every single day. Something that reminds me that I'm not alone in this world, that there are things worth living for, and that it's acutally wonderful to be alive. There is so much despair in our world, that it's easy to lose sight of the joy of living. I hope I never lose that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Being Thankful Day 7

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm out of things to be thankful for. I couldn't even keep it up for seven days. In my defense, I did post a list of ten things I was thankful for here. But still. I should have more than sixteen things. Some of them weren't even that good. Sheesh. What is wrong with me? Maybe I have some major brain blockage.

Maybe you should tell me what to be thankful for...then I can blog about that tomorrow. So...anyone got anything good I'm missing out on?

If not, I can make another list... setan

A couple writerly buddies have made some lists I've enjoyed reading. Check out Abi's top ten here and Cole's double list here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being Thankful Day 6

Okay, today's Thankful post is a little blogarific. Or maybe it'll blind you with it's awesomeness (Quick! Name that movie!), I'm not really sure.


I'm thankful for words.

I like making up new and deliciouso words. The other day I was at my critique group and we were discussing proper comma usage. *snort* Like I use commas properly. I said something like, "I don't know, young adults don't commatize very well." They all laughed at "commatize." I thought it was a totally normal word. And it is--for me.

Other words I like: anything with "-age" at the end. This works for almost anything. "I need some major stewage time." Or "Man, I have writer's blockage." You get the idea. Or do youage?

Snarfalicious. Though I would never pretend to have made this word up. It's all Carrie. But I love it. In fact, you could put "-alicious" on anything and make a word I would love. I think I used "barfalicious" a few days ago. Yup, I did. Here.

You can never go wrong with "dude." Like, "Dude, throw me some of that action." My husband just said that as I sat down with a glass of peach punch. Translation? "I would like some peach punch too, my dearest skinny wife." Yeah, that's what I heard in my head. He got his peach punch.

I use "uber" a lot too. "That was uber-awesome." I tell my students how uberly cool they are all the time. The sixth graders get most of my jokes. Sometimes. The younger kids look at me like I'm speaking Japanese. Hey...maybe I am.

Wonky. I love saying it. I've yet to write it in a story, but I feel very world-travelerish when I say it. Like I've been to England or something, which I haven't. And it goes really well with weird. Like, "If your computer is doing something weird and wonky, just raise your hand and I'll come help you." I say this eight times a day. That's not a joke.

Which brings me to "ish." I say this at our house for anything. "I want some of that ish," I said when my husband got out the sundried turkey. Yum. Or you can add it to the end of any word just for fun. "It was sort of coldish today."

Other words that make me laugh just by seeing, reading, or saying them: shrub, snout, shrew. Hmm...those are all s-words. Here's some more: moose, caboose, and obtuse. Okay, I just made up those last ones cuz they rhyme. But I really do like moose. That is a funny word.

So I love words. I love making up new words. I love working with ones I know. I like reading words other people have woven together into the fine tapestry of stories. Okay, that was a little deep. But I think I should get some bonus points for using the word "tapestry" in my blog post. I mean, come on, dude. That's an uber-deliciouso, snarftastic, hyperized, freakish, wordalicious word.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Being Thankful Day 5

Today, we're tackling the big one. This might be as political as you'll ever hear, er, read me.

I am thankful for freedom.

I'm working on a story right now where the people don't have much freedom. They have someone else telling them what to do all the time. How to think. Who to love, who to marry, where to live. Everything. I really think that is some major suckage.

So I'm glad I live in a country where I have freedom to make my own choices. Which color of car I'd like to drive. What to wear to work. How many kids to have. That I can vote for my government officials. All that jazz. Normally, I'm not a very sentimental person about this kind of stuff, but for some reason, I think it's important right now. We each are free to choose what we believe. What we'll say. What we'll do. And the decisions we make are important. To us, our families, our children, our country. I'm glad I have the freedom of speech, of religion, of driving too fast if I want to. Sure, there are consequences of that ($82 at the courthouse for my last infraction), but it was my choice.

There's nothing like being free. Of feeling free.

We should all be grateful for that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being Thankful Day 4

Being thankful for little things is easier than the big ones. I'm a huge list person. I like making lists after I've done all the things on them. No, I am not kidding. That way, I can see the things I've done and feel accomplished.

And David Letterman has a list every single night on his show, so they must be uber-popular.
So today, I've got a list of the top 10 little things I'm thankful for.

1. The price of gas now that it's below $2.00/gallon. 'Nuff said.

2. The wonderment a three-year-old lives their life with. Everything is exciting and fun. I want to be three again.

3. Computers. Do I really need to elaborate?

4. Air conditioning. I've lived with it, I've lived without it. There is nothing like being cool in the summer. Nothing.

5. San Diego. This is the place in my head where I can always smile. I absolutely love San Diego. Seaworld. The beach. The shopping. The food. The weather. Just everything.

6. Dubble Bubble. I adore bubble gum. I chew it all day, every day. Maybe that's why all the teeth on the right side of my mouth have suddenly developed an insane aversion to cold. It makes eating the Dreyer's lemonade bars a real pain. Literally. But have I given up the dubble bubble? Not on your life. Crave it. Need it. Love it. Chew it. Thankful for it. And nobody can blow a bubble like me. At least that's what the third graders tell me. Here's da proof.

Yes, that's all me. Three pieces of dubble bubble baby. I'm da queen of blowing bubbles.

7. Reality TV. Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, The Amazing Race, and So You Think You Can Dance are my faves. Their reality becomes my escape.

8. Seasons. This may seem sorta weird, but I love living in a place where there are four distinct seasons. I love fall with the colorful leaves and cool evenings. I don't like the snow so much, but it makes me appreciate spring that much more. Of course, summer is my favorite. I mean, come on. This needs no explainage either.

9. A newish car. I had to drive my husband's 1994 piece-o-crap last week to get it inspected. Dude...I have no words for what that thing was. It certainly wasn't a car. It had a radio, three pedals, and a steering wheel, but that thing was no car. So I am thankful for my car, a 2005, that actually resembles a motorized vehicle.

10. Friends. My real life pals who make work bearable to my online writerly friends who help me out of tight spots in my writing. Everyone offers encouragement and support, for which I am eternally grateful.

Whew. That wasn't too painful. At least for me. kenyit

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Being Thankful Day 3

I'm just gonna launch right into it:

I am thankful for my husband.

This past weekend, he did something really amazing. See, we've been having some problems with our milk. I don't know why, maybe the cow gods are trying to tell me that I snarf too much of the stuff, who knows? All I know, is I bought three gallons of milk a couple of Mondays ago and by Wednesday, they were all off. Like rotten. I dumped them and bought three more. On Wednesday. So I made the infamous Oreo pie for my SIL's birthday and had some leftover Oreos. What goes with Oreos? You guessed it: milk. (In fact, it's the best partnership of food on the planet, even better than peanut butter and jelly. Wait. Are Oreo's considered food? In my world, yes. In fact, in my world, that's all you'd have to eat to stay alive. Oh, and bacon. Definitely bacon. Wow, this is a long tangent.)

Anyhoo, so I poured myself a big ole glass of milk and got some Oreos. The. Milk. Was. Bad.

I. Was. Mad.

It was Sunday night. So I bought said milk on Wednesday and it's bad four days later? That didn't seem right. So the hubby, who has the nose of a bloodhound, has been saying that the fridge stinks for a couple of days. I think it's his way of saying I need to be a better housekeeper, but after twelve years of matrimony, I'm pretty good at ignoring him when he says something smells.

But now that the milk is bad--again--I start rooting through the fridge for the culprit. I am convinced there is something in my fridge that is responsible for the spoilage of my white gold. Seriously. Hey, I'm no biologist. I don't get bacteria. I do get that my milk was bad. And I had the perfect food combo...and I couldn't enjoy it.

So I determined that this old nasty tupperware of sauerkraut was the reason our milk was going bad in only a few days. Lame, in hindsight. But I can barely see in foresight, so I have to analyze my past choices in order to have 20/20 vision.

I take out the offender and pour it down the disposal. I gag. I hate sauerkraut. We only have it for the hubby. It was dees-gust-ing. So of course the disposal gets plugged up. Of course. So I'm plunging. Nothing. Running the disposal. Nothing. I don't have one of those ultra-mother disposal's that you can put the top of pineapple down, but I like to pretend that I do. Not a good idea.

So my husband gets under the sink and undoes the s-bend and all this sick sauerkraut water, along with 4 bendy straws and all twelve eggshells I used on the chocolate pie, chugs into the bucket. Gross. He cleaned it all out, took out the barfalicious water and my sink was fixed.

See why I'm so thankful for him?

Now, did this solve my milk problem? I have no idea. I bought some milk the next day at a different store and it was fine. But by then, the Oreos were gone. Life lesson in all this? The perfect food combination only comes around every once in a while. You better hope your milk isn't bad when it happens.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Being Thankful Day 2

Yesterday I posted on the thrills and chills of teaching and how grateful I am for that. Today I've got...

I am thankful for music.

When I was in junior high, our English teacher assigned us to choose one thing we couldn't live without for one day and write a paper on why. The three choices were television, cars, or music. I, being a huge TV junkie even back then, chose television. I never liked English and turned out some lame-o essay on why TV was so important no one could live for a day without it. *snort*

But now, I would have to change that to music. Since I drive in the car a lot, music is important to me. It can set the mood for almost anything. It can make me feel better or make me feel worse. There are so many uplifting lyrics and melodies that I don't think I could make it a day without music. Just imagine Indiana Jones without the theme music. When he puts his hat on at the end and you hear those familiar notes...there's nothing like music. Or consider Star Wars when Anakin is going to the dark side and you hear those bass notes signaling the birth of Darth Vader. I have chills just typing it.

Movies, TV, the radio, it's all meaningless without music. (Don't get me started on talk radio. Just don't.) I also find inspiration for writing and life through music. I really don't think I could go a day without listening to music.

I listen to music the same way I read books. Over and over and over again. Then I'll find a new favorite (right now the playlist has seven songs that repeat and repeat and repeat...) and replace one of my old faves. At this moment, Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love" is being pushed out by Jesse McCartney's "Beautiful Soul." Sorry Leona. The playlist can only be 30 minutes. Why? I don't know, it's just something I do.

My all-time favorite song? I know you're dying inside to know. "Superman (It's Not Easy)" by Five For Fighting. Awe-some.

So I am thankful I can hear and have music to help me through my day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Being Thankful

My sister-in-law Lisa recently started a blog. She told me about one of her friends who was doing a Thankful post every day during November. I decided I wanted to do that, but that I would only do it during the week leading up to Thanksgiving. It will really be eight posts because I'm going to start today and post on Thanksgiving as well.

So without further ado...

I am thankful for my job.

Okay, so I may not fight off the KGB or use a whip to propel myself out of exploding trucks, but just like Indiana Jones, I am a part-time teacher. Never underestimate what I might be doing when I'm not teaching...

But seriously, I love my job. It is the best job on the planet for a mom to have. In an economy that is seeing epic fail, my job is secure. Sure, I may not get paid much, but I get to work with kids and sleep in during June and July.

So what are you thankful for this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the Blog Chain - Inspirational Thoughs

Um, what?

Yeah, that's how I'm starting this one. Michelle McClean is to blame for this latest round of carnage chainage. For this chain, Kate posted before me and Terri is coming up tomorrow.

Here's what Michelle has cursed me with: Share a favorite poem, quote, joke, anecdote, or anything of the sort that deals with writing, writers, the publishing industry, or the other strange and unusual tidbits that belong to our little world.

She got me at "deals with writing, writers, the publishing industry, or the other strange and unusual tidbits that belong to our little world."


I have no writerly quotes, inspirational or otherwise. I have some quotes that I love but they don't pertain to writing. They more inspire me to be the best gosh-darn person I can be. So that's not gonna work.

So I googled. When in doubt, nothing beats google, except maybe ask.com. They're pretty good too. But then I went through this:

Frantic Self: Gotta find somethin' good, gotta find somethin' good...

Practical Self: This is so dumb. If I don't have something I live by, what's the point? It's just gonna be garbage I spew out to be in the chain...oooh! That looks good...

Frantic Self: Can't drop out this round, this is a great topic. I love Michelle, even if her boxes have eyes...

Practical Self: I am wasting so much time on google. I could be on Rally, QT, writing, reading blogs, cooking dinner, or watching Survivor. Hmm...click on that one...noooo! Look away, look away!

Frantic Self: *deep breath* Okay, just find one thing. One thing will be good enough...

Practical Self: I hate being at the beginning of the chain, I really need more time for stewage. Just think, Frantic Self, we'll have to pick the topic soon...

Frantic Self, even more frantic: You're not helping! *grumble* Pick the topic, sheesh Practical...just...need...one...thing...

Practical Self: ...

So I've got nuthin'. I'm just going to share my one favorite quote. I adore most of what Teddy Roosevelt said; he was such an inspirational person. This quote could apply to writing if you squint at the screen just right and really stretch the bounds of your imagination. Isn't that what writers do? Or maybe that's just me...the squinting and stretching part.

"When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it."

---Theodore Roosevelt

I had this quote on the wall of my classroom for eight years. I think it's a good mantra for anyone in any walk of life. And that's all I have for this topic.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My First Blog Award!

I'm all a twitter. Seriously. The uber-fantastic Kate over at the lovers, the dreamers and me just gave me the "I Love Your Blog" award! Holy brown cows! I've never won anything! Well...unless you count those 50 Jazz tickets (I took 20 of my third graders and their parents.) Oh and the Agriculture Teacher of the Year (no laughing). Or maybe the cool stuff I won during Jess's HOLLOW-een contest...

But this is HUGE! Huger than all of that. I mean, who would have thunk that someone actually reads my Mindless Musings? But here it is, and it's no lie.

Like Kate, I have so many people to thank. Well, not really. My husband thinks blogging is the biggest waste of time on the planet. I endure endless hours of teasing from him and his brother. At least my sister-in-law supports my blogging. And all of you...

So here's the deal. I now get to pass the "I *heart* your blog" award along to five worthy recipients. There are so many to choose from...

1. My sister Jess's cooking blog, No Measurements. She's a big blogger and has been blogging every single day in November here (careful, not for the faint of heart, body, or mind kenyit ). This cooking blog is just another way for her to spend time blogging. Love ya, sis!

2. Jennifer Wilks' Confessions of a Lifelong Bookworm deserves a nod. She's awesome and always has something insightful to say about life, love, writing, whatevah. Love it, read it, blog it, award it. (Plus, she tagged me, something I was dying inside for, so...yeah. Thanks Jen!)

3. The Martin Family blog maintained by the queen herself, Megan. Even after that post on bleeding red, I'm still gonna give them this award. I may have to retract later, but...for now they deserve it.

4. Fellow blog chainer, Leah Clifford over at Ghostwriting the WIP. Her wonderfully entertaining posts about writing, life, politics (well, only that one time kenyit ), and anything else you can imagine provide a ray of sunshine in my day. She's the only one who's ever made me spurt Sprite out my nose while reading a blog entry. Seriously. She's that good.

5. And last, but certainly not least, is Authoress over at Miss Snark's First Victim. She is beyond awesome with her Secret Agent Contests, her ebook about Demystifying Agents, and everything in between. Go check it out if you haven't.

Thus ends the blog award post.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Halfway Through NaNo = Halfway Crazy

Okay, so it's November 15. I should be at 25,000 words in NaNo. I have no idea if I'm that close. See, I've been writing in a notebook for this book. I have about 30 pages of untyped writing, so I don't know if I'm at 25 K or not. I've logged in on NaNo at 15,357 and I think my 30 pages will get me above the halfway mark. As soon as I type it up...

Writing in a notebook is a new tactic I'm trying to see if my first drafts can be a little less scattered thus requiring a little less editing and revising down the road. Will it work? I have no idea. But I have noticed a couple of benefits already.

1) I've been liberated from the computer. I don't feel the obsessive need to be on the Internet every second of every day. I don't have to check my writing forums every thirty seconds. I don't have to post a comment on every thread. The computer battery is thanking me.

2) I write slower than I type, obviously. My brain is racing, but my mind (are those two things the same? Hmm...I think not) is contemplating the best word choice, a stronger verb than "ran," and a whole slew of other things. I'm *hoping* this will make my first draft better.

3) When I go to type up what I've written, I edit a little bit as I go. I'm hoping this reduce the amount of OCD-ing later. Who am I kidding? I'm still gonna obsess over every single word on the page. Especially when a request comes in. Oh well. I'm enjoying the whole writing by hand thing, so it's worth it just for that.

4) I may be halfway crazy for participating in NaNo and writing by hand and then typing. I think I should be able to log twice as many words. I mean, I'm writing it twice, right? Can I get a Woot! Woot! (woot! woot!)

Either way, it's the halfway mark for NaNo. And I am definitely more than halfway crazy trying to get caught up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My One Twilight Post

Who am I kidding? I'm sure I'll post more stuff about Twilight. I get Entertainment Weekly and they have some cool stuff in there about the actors. I'm more fascinated with the actual movie making than seeing the movie.

My writerly friend Abi, had a quiz up on her blog. So I went and took it. I was *praying* doa I'd be Edward. Do I know myself or what? I am so Edward.

You can take the quiz here. I'm gonna google for some good-looking pics of Robert Pattinson. I have several, but a girl can never have too many. kenyit

And that one above ain't bad.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Angsting Over the Blog Chain

It's time for the wild ride that is the blog chain. Strap yourselves in people, this one's gonna be rough. Archetype started this topic. Abi posted just before me, and Terri's post will be up mañana.

So here's the question of the chain: Some people argue that creative people need “angst” to produce good work. Do you? What emotions drive you as a writer?

I'm gonna break this up a little. Here's the first part again. Some people argue that creative people need "angst" to produce good work. Do you?

I don' think it's so much what I feel when I'm writing as much as it's what I experience when I'm not. The angst I feel about writing comes when I'm not writing. I've written something and now I'm stuck. What comes next? How do I get Jared back to Montana? What will Vi do now that Jag has said those three little words? Can she say them back? How can Hunter defeat his enemies? Oh, and how's he gonna get out of that bank alive?

That's my angst. When I'm writing, I'm fine. It's when I paint myself into a corner that I'm angsty.

Or when I have two scenes that need to connect somehow and I just can't quite figure it out. This requires much thinkage. And in my world, thinkage = angst. My angst-thought areas are: the shower (maybe TMI? Tighten your seat belt...), driving in the car, and as I'm waiting to fall asleep. That's when I have time to devote to "angsting" about my writing.

But I never angst during the actual writing.

So on to part two: What emotions drive you as a writer?

I need to be able to place myself directly in a situation. I think some people can do this better than others. I have been known to bite every fingernail I own while reading a book or watching movies. Things are just so real to me.

When I was younger, an episode of "The Facts of Life" scared me to death. I can still see it in my mind. (I looked for it on youtube, but even I do not have unlimited time. Have you seen how many episodes of TFOL there are? Sheesh.) Ever since then, I absolutely cannot sleep without being able to see the door. Or without any coverings, no matter how hot it is. This is completely illogical of course, since I'm practically blind and can't see at night anyway. But I can imagine the situation and place myself directly in it. I could write it if I needed to.

I refuse to watch movies like The Ring, news programs that talk about serial killers, or anything else remotely scary. After watching a 20/20 program on the BTK killer, I made my eight-year-old son check the closets if the doors had mysteriously closed. Seriously. I think everything I see or read could happen to me. And that's scary.

When we moved into our house several years ago, one of the first things I did was plan where I would hide if someone tried to break in. (In my defense, we were one of the first families to move into our development and there were construction crews everywhere. And no one nearby for help.) I have this way overactive imagination that conjures up the worst thing that could happen and then I decide what I would do in that situation.

I once watched a TV show like CSI or some crime show like that. This murderer guy was hiding out in the ceilings of his victims. Then he would call them on the phone and say things to them that portrayed that he could see them. It freaked me out. I refused to sleep in rooms where anyone would be able to crawl into the ceiling to murder me. Luckily, at the time, we lived in an apartment building on the bottom floor. When we went out of town, I insisted we sleep in the basement. No, I'm not kidding.

This kind of fear--the ability to place myself in any situation--is what I think helps me write. I experience it right along with my characters as I put them in horrible situations. I'm able to make up ways for them to get out of their scary situations, because yanno, I've done that in my real life. kenyit

Some of my favorite books are the Harry Potter's. But I absolutely hate number 5, The Order of the Phoenix. Don't get me wrong, I've read it several times and watch the movie quite a bit too. The reason I don't like it? It's filled from page one to whatever with injustice. It just makes me so mad. I use injustice to inspire anger in my writing as well. I think everyone feels like they've been wronged at some point in their life, and they can identify to an injustice and the anger that comes from it.

So I use terror, injustice and blind rage to drive my writing. Freak, I might need to schedule a therapy session for my angst issues. adacall I toldja to hold on tight.

Don't forget, Terri is up tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Finding the Silver Lining

I think I need a new body. One that can't feel pain. I've been inflicted with yet another sinus infection. The doctor thinks that it's the same one I had in September and it never went away. So he put me on a really strong antibiotic. When I say really strong, I mean like uber-strong knocks-you-out antibiotic. At first I thought it wasn't that bad. Even though the pharmacist said not to take it with calcium (yes, I obeyed) that it might make me dizzy, to avoid sunlight, and that I might have some less-than-desired side effects. I took it Friday and felt like I was on top of the world.

Saturday...not so much. I was dizzy and I had some, um, bathroom issues. Saturday night, I woke up with severe stomach cramps and I couldn't get off the couch all day Sunday. So on top of the horrible pounding where my brain is trying to squish my eyes out of their sockets, the post-nasal drip of mucus, and any amount of blinding light, I was now dealing with the whole stomach flu thing.

I couldn't believe one person could live through so much. Seriously. Yet I am still alive. I ate and managed to keep it down. And...then I got heartburn. Come on, body! What else can happen? Why won't you just cooperate? I mean, it was a frozen pizza, not Chinese food. Argh. And ouch.

And today it's back to the brain cancer trying to pound it's way through my skull. Sigh. At least I got a lot of writing done yesterday (3277 words for NaNo). See how I always find the silver lining in every situation? sengihnampakgigi The sparkly, shiny lining behind the heartburn, intestinal problems, mucus, headaches, insomnia, and infections. They're always there. Thank goodness for that.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And We're Off!

So it's November 1. That date has never been significant to me before. But this year, I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I think I'm insane. I have set a goal to write 50,000 words by November 30. Pure insanity. But it's the good kind. Is there a good kind? Yes, I think there is. sengihnampakgigi

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Confidence...or Maybe Not

I'm back on the blog chain for this post. You can check out the beginning post by Kate, she had some awesome things to say about voting against yourself, even if you think you're totally the best. Archetype blew my socks off with the post of the year, something I printed and will read every day. Then Michelle got my spirits soaring again, just knowing that I'm not the only one who cycles in and out of the whole confidence thang. Then Sandra made sure to remind me to have confidence in other parts of my life, and finally the poster (it has a T, posTer) before me was Abi, and she had some great things to remind yourself of when the Con man comes calling. Check them all out. Oh, and Terri will be up tomorrow, so keep the linkage going.

Here's the question: How, as a writer, do you find the balance between having too much or too little confidence in your work?

I think confidence comes in levels—no, let's go to DreamWorks—layers. (Quick! Name that movie. Gifts at Rally for all who get it right. sengihnampakgigi) Like onions. Or cakes. Or whatever else you can think of with layers. Confidence is like that.

So what does that mean? Hmm…here's my take.

I have the many faces of Elana. Sometimes I wear the Mom face. Sometimes the teacher face. Sometimes the party girl face. Sometimes the authority face. Sometimes...you get the idea. It's sorta like that Seinfeld where George's worlds collide. Have you seen that one? Elaine invites Susan—George's fiancée—to the museum or something. He's got Relationship George and Independent George. The Independent George will die at the hands of Relationship George as the worlds collide. Wait. How did we get on Seinfeld? Well, since we're there, have a look.

My favorite line: "A George divided against itself, cannot stand!" I so feel like this. We can't be our own worst enemy.

Let's get back on topic. So I've got all these different personas I maintain. Each one has a different layer of confidence. It takes an insane amount of confidence to teach. Not only do I have to know something, I have to believe that I know it so well that I can teach it to you. I have to have the confidence that when I get up in a room of 40 (no, that is not a typo, I have 40 of them at once) 12-year-olds, that what I'm going to say is worth listening to. I have to have the skills to get them to listen to it. The confidence in myself to know that it's worth listening to. That's insane.

I have that confidence. When I go to work, I am the queen.

Other areas of my life, I'm less confident in. Cooking. Uhhh, maybe it'll come out right, maybe it won't. Sewing. I hemmed some pants the other day. Not so even. Crafting—I'm confident in this. I can make a cute card, no problem.

Then there's the whole writing thing. This has been the craziest roller coaster of my life. Sometimes I feel like I'm the awesomest writer on the face of the planet. I've just put my characters in the worst possible situation, and they have no way of getting out. I've tied up all the loose ends (or so I think) and typed THE END at the end. It's phenomenal. Everyone's going to be salivating over it.

Yeah, right.

Those times are good, but they're fleeting. Then the Confidence Annihilator comes in and shatters my carefully constructed fantasy world. He whispers to me that my story isn't good enough. That it's nowhere near as polished as I think it is. That so-and-so's story is so much better, and why are you even trying to do this?

That I can't write.

Worse than that—that I shouldn't.

When I listen to the Confidence Annihilator, the many layers of confidence I've built up crumble. In order to continue writing, my confidence must be rebuilt. This takes time, bolstering from good friends, and the annihilation of the Annihilator. And this is almost as hard as the writing itself. At least for me.

So what do I do?

1. Read good things. Books, articles, magazines, blogs, whatever. Anything to help me keep the writing "bug" in my head—the one that bugs me to write.

2. Put the manuscript away. There's no need to commit manuscript manslaughter during a rebuild of confidence.

3. Vent to my writerly friends. They know. They understand. They uplift. They believe.

4. Listen to music. My favorites during a confidence rebuild? Video by India Arie.

"I'm not the average girl from your video
and I ain't built like a supermodel

But, I learned to love myself unconditionally

Because I am a queen"

I love that part. Then there's this too. Same song.

"So get in where you fit in go on and shine
Clear your mind, now's the time

Put your salt on the shelf

Go on and love yourself
'Cuz everything's gonna be all right"

I especially love the "love yourself" part.

5. Try something new. This last dip in confidence has been, um, taxing, to say the least. I decided to write by hand instead of on the computer. This has helped me find more confidence in my writing ability.

And so, don't divide yourself against yourself. You cannot stand. The Confidence Annihilator will come, that is inevitable. It's what you do to get rid of him that matters.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pulled Over, Popcorn, and Just Plain Pooped

Yeah, let's just get it out there right now - I got pulled over on the way to my meetings this morning. I'm blaming it on Google maps. I had to go to a school I've never been to, and I printed a map. I was holding the map in front of my speedometer. And the sneaky AF cops drive black cars. Grr...I was going 40 in a 25. Luckily, I acted very repentant, and she only wrote the ticket for five over. Needless to say, I was late to the meeting and I had to sit in the front row. Double grr...

The good news is, I'm eligible for traffic school. Um, no thanks. I'll just pay the fine. I'm always gonna drive fast.

I just finished a big bowl of caramel popcorn. It's the easiest recipe on the planet, and even I can make it after a long day of mind-numbing meetings. Usually I'm on the couch, staring into a great black abyss. That's how easy this popcorn is. (1 c. butter, 20 marshmallows, 1 c. brown sugar. Melt. 2 bags microwave popcorn. Mix.) Munching while watching Dancing with the Stars. Mmm, life is good.

I'm totally pooped. I had professional development meetings today. It was 8 hours of sitting and listening and trying to absorb as much as possible in a short amount of time. It shouldn't be so exhausting, but it is. If you've ever been professionally developed, you know what I mean.

Whew. What a day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

So it's my mom's birthday. She lives two hours away from me, and we met for breakfast at the halfway point. It was a fun time, because I don't get to see her that much. My daughter colored a Backyardigan picture for her and wrote, "I love you Grandma." That was cute.

Then I came home, and since I've been in a funk recently, I decided to make a chocolate pie. I mean, are there any two words that go together better than "chocolate" and "pie"? I think not. Of course, because nothing can just work the way it's supposed to, I couldn't get photo booth to work so I could take a picture. I got the green screen of death. Not really sure what that's about.

So I deferred to my usual when electronics don't work. Turn it off and try again. Still green. Like Kermit, green. Next step: ask the hubby. He asked me when was the last time I restarted my computer. Um...too long ago to remember. Months, probably. So we restart it.

Still green.

So he looks up something online. I swear, you can find anything on the Internet. So it said to shut down, not just restart. So we did that.

Whaddya know? Now it works! Too bad I'd already cut the pie. But here's a pic. My sister would be so proud of me. She has a cooking blog, and I can barely boil water. And this pie has a custard base that I made from scratch! Go me!

Happy Birthday Mom! If you were here, you could have a piece of this awesome pie. sengihnampakgigi

Thursday, October 16, 2008

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