Floundering

Yep it happened. I let a whole week go by without posting. Had good intentions, but to no avail, the week and weekend escaped me. I also didn’t attain writing goals either. I’m slowly chipping away at Chapter 26 which will be complete end of this week. Work is great, training has been smooth and I couldn’t ask for better co-workers, but the hours go by faster than I can keep up and time is not my friend anymore. Yet, does it really hold relevance minus appointments and such? I take a deep breath, feel gratitude in my heart and I’m here. Presently, I’m here.

My writing felt derailed after last week. I read through emails scouring through my weekly newsletters from Lighthouse announcing new workshops and online classes. I signed up with a four week workshop: Short Story 101 with William Henry Lewis. This will be my first class with this instructor. This course offers intensive reading and writing assignments. Right up my alley to realign my goals and commit to writing practice regularly. I’m excited and flustered. Anxious and exhilarated. An amalgam of emotions surging through my brain in a good way and I’ve completed my first month of full time employment, so hey, I met a mini goal somewhat even if it wasn’t writing related. As my writing partner “J” tells me, “Don’t let your second job (my employment) get in the way of your first one (writing.) I am blessed to have my writing family in my life for these reminders.

William Henry Lewis – Photo Credit: Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop

Here’s a nice bio on Mr. Lewis (not my words, from Lighthouse.)

“William Henry Lewis has published fiction, poetry, and non-fiction in many publications, including The Washington Post, O Magazine, Higher Issues In Education, Colorado Review, New Letters, African-American Review, Blackbird, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, and Ploughshares. His work has been commissioned for museum exhibition, and his stories have been reprinted in several anthologies, domestic and abroad. His work as a young playwright was selected by Edward Albee, and his fiction has been honored by America’s top literary entities, including the American Library Association, Fellowship of Southern Writers, National Endowment for the Arts, Best American Short Stories, and as finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize.

Lewis is the author of two books of stories, In the Arms of Our Elders (Carolina Wren Press; three printings), and I Got Somebody in Staunton (HarperCollins; two printings), which was listed among Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2005, and selected as the city of Richmond’s Go Read book for 2006.  

His has been praised, among others, by David Eggers, Nikki Giovanni, Peter Matthiessen, Marita Golden, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Edward P. Jones and Lewis’s work has been highly acclaimed by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, TimeOut, Washington Post, and O Magazine. The Los Angeles Times Book Review praised his fiction as “beautifully written and carefully crafted,” while the Boston Globe noted his work as “moving, but unsentimental, these are stories of hard-won wisdom, potent intelligence, and compassion for the cadence of everyday life, establishing Lewis as a writer to be appreciated and admired.”

I think anyone would be excited to take this class after reading these achievements. The course outlines character, plot, structure and language applying the rules of short story telling, however he emphasizes breaking some of these rules which I love. I enjoy learning the rules to creative writing, yet it’s nice to break out of the mold. I was told at one point, it’s harder for first time writers to get away with breaking the rules, unless they can pull it off REALLY well. However, as an avid reader I’ve seen it done in both seasoned and novice writers novels. Not sure if rules do apply to the novice writer or not so I’m eager to find out in Mr. Lewis’s course!

The only fall back to enrolling with the course was it’s conflicting schedule with my writing group night. It runs every Monday evening from 6:30-8:30pm. I graciously let my writing peers know I’d be on hiatus the month of July while taking this course, but wanted to offer my email feedback to whomever the submitter was for the weeks ahead as a ghost participant. This is part of life happening to one of us. A few of us started new jobs, one came back from an Alaskan trip and one retired. This all occurred almost simultaneously. Major shifts and changes going on within this ever evolving dynamic group. I’m pretty confident, by the time I’ve finished this workshop, I’ll have fresh new short stories to share with my writing peers, along with newly written chapters to submit.

I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself after last week and posted this gem below. Excuse the “f” bomb , but it did put a smile on my face when I read it and whispered this back to myself. Yes I can, don’t give up! More to come, stay tuned! Stay healthy and cool as we journey into July!

I’m a What?

That’s what I asked when I was deemed a pantser. Yep pantser. I had no outline setup or plotting structured when I began my actual writing journey. The idea of the story and trajectory of chapters was transparent in my mind’s eye. I watched in daydreams the sequence of actions roll out; scene by scene, character tensions rising with their reactions but everything fell flat, it was surface work. The setup was there, but the emotive was lacking substance and empathy. I needed to dig deeper, pulling all the emotive from within, allowing each layer to unfold. The reader needed to fall into the rabbit hole and ascend the arc with the protagonist cheering her on to the climactic moment of self discovery or as Joseph Campbell’s monomyth reflects; the return from transformation.

Erika as the Goddess of Transformation

I realized mid-way writing my novel I should’ve outlined. I dreaded thinking about being transported back to high school English class when we were instructed the daunting task to outline prior to writing, free hand. I don’t want to date myself but I attended high school before laptops and computers were implemented in the school system; everything we were assigned always required writing by hand. My dear writing partner, J, met me at Lighthouse one Friday 500 afternoon (Lighthouse offers it’s members 2 “free write” days a month to write at least 500 words) offering help on outlining. She taught creative writing at Denver University and had some tips she followed, plus a reference to a writer’s website who offers free downloads of writing guides. K.M. Weiland is one of the websites I signed up for email newsletters AND downloaded her free 5 Secrets of Story Structure. I used the story structure later on and also ordered her Outlining Your Novel Book on my Kindle and the workbooks which, in my opinion are affordable. Click on this link to go straight to her site: K.M. Weiland’s Website. If you’re interested in the outlining book and workbook here’s the link from her page: Outlining Your Novel. The guidance J offered and these newly acquired tools were the benchmark to my outlining path.

K.M Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel Workbook, easy to navigate guide, highly recommend 🙂

If you are a pantser and can’t wrap your head around outlining there are also guides for pantsers, like Annalisa Parent’s Storytelling for Pantsers. I read this as well and found it concise, engaging, witty and resourceful. Annalisa Parent also has her own website as a writing coach if you feel you need external help and can afford those fees (writing coaches charge different fees dependent on their services and your needs.) Her site is cleverly named: A Date With The Muse. The nice thing about signing up with Annalisa’s site is she REGULARLY, and I mean daily, sends emails of various publications looking for writer submissions that pay substantial amounts if selected. She also has a an online writing community you can join called The Writing Gym. These are fee based programs, however signing up for the newsletter is free. She has a podcast and videos to check out.

Storytelling for Pantsers – Not my photo

Back to my outlining journey with J’s help. At Lighthouse J handwrote an outline template that helped her with the basic 3 Act, 27 chapters format if you want to start textbook style or you can develop additional chapters depending on the story length. It was easy enough however, I cringed thinking about high school. J even mentioned that was the negative factor in outlining because plenty of writers think of the high school way of outlining, but many writing coaches, teachers, professors and instructors have created an evolved and robust method of outlining with questions to ask prior to the process. Some outlining activities make it fun with “what if” scenarios sparking your brain to think outside the box.

Consider BEFORE Outlining

  • Who is your protagonist and how are they involved in the story
  • What is the conflict or situation that arises interrupting your protagonist’s world
  • The world around the protagonist; their life, people in their life, setting/location
  • What is the main thing that makes your story interesting
  • What are the internal and external struggles of the protagonist

I knew these things mentally, but didn’t take the time, narrowing down the details. When you sit and take the time to write out the answers; it forces you to dig deep. I’m going to compile a listing of my favorite writer resource sites and books that helped with extensive Q&A of your story’s needs, wants and goals. I found out later in the game this was important to know up front, BUT didn’t allow this discovery from hindering my writing progress. I plan on working with some major changes and editing with one of the books I mentioned in my previous post when my first novel is in the raw draft form.

I look forward, not back. A few quotes I love to remind myself, no matter what happens in life:

  • “It’s never too late to be who you dreamed of becoming”
  • “Don’t worry how much time it will take; the time will pass anyway”
  • “Don’t Give Up. You Can Do This!”

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Ms. Weiland or Parent. Merely offering my opinions and suggestions on what helped me up to this point in my writing career 🙂

The Quest for Balance

I am determined beyond measure to balance my time wisely between work and writing. Ironically and abashedly I had all the time prior to my new job. I had a set writing time with a writing group friend three days a week from nine to noon during which the first three months I was cranking out pages with fierce velocity, nothing distracted my concentration. Then in April the momentum slowed, life happened with mundane and not so mundane crap. I resorted to Netflix bingeing and Internet surfing, succumbing to the much dreaded slump and non-motivating behaviors writers encounter.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, knows the balancing agony oh so well….

During the Pandemic, my discipline was amplified while babysitting my infant granddaughter, whom I would plop on my lap while my fingers hit the keys as if I was performing Vivaldi’s “Summer” from The Four Seasons. I was on fire! Nothing was getting in the way….

In my writing groove with infant perched on my lap

I’m almost there, the glint dimly shining at the end of the tunnel. I can do this. I can’t fret over lost time and I will not dare rush hastily. It’s been over ten years now and I know I can, not think I can, know I can finish and sigh relief, even knowing it’s finishing my shitty first draft. That’s ok. The revision process has always been enjoyable for me, knowing the actual writing is complete. Last Monday night’s writing group was a few number. One of us is trekking the Denali snowy capped mountains of Alaska with a group of mountaineers. He gifted us with a cool (delayed response time) video to watch their progress, another has been busy with her real estate business (market is booming people) and the other one lost her beloved mother, mourning the loss and spending family time with funeral arrangements. Life happens to everyone, but we all maintain our singular goal of persevering through the good and bad of times and when we’re ready to get back into the groove of things, we show up wholeheartedly. It’s not always easy.

One of the members shared a book he’s been utilizing to navigate through his project called “Wired for Story” by Lisa Cron. I was excited to hear his thoughts because I too, own this writer’s guide along with her other book titled “Story Genius,” also utilized by another member (my writing partner on Zoom) who praised glory on the latter. So, uh oh, the dreaded, “so,” screw it. So, at her recommendation I purchased “Story Genius” planning to read and follow the prompts for story writing using brain science, explained in Lisa Cron’s words: “Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story and what keeps the readers transfixed. “Wired for Story” and “Story Genius” reveal these cognitive secrets–and it’s a game changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.” I’m hooked by that phrase already as a writer and avid reader.

Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and Wired for Story

I’ve provided hyperlinks on the two books aforementioned, if interested. They will take you to the Tattered Cover Bookstore based out of Denver. This is an independent bookstore and I’m a huge advocate for independent book shops. I know most people gravitate to Amazon and if you do fine, I’m not affiliated or an affiliate with Tattered Cover, however I am a huge proponent of giving my money to the non-conglomerate book sellers. Another independent book store I adore and love visiting is Bookbar based in the Tennyson Street arts district of Denver. The ambiance, wine and food are delectable and the support of local writers is deeply empowering and inspiring. The Denver Arts community is strong and I’m proud to be a part of it, as a Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop member. Both stores are linked below. Photos are not mine, but merely to share and encourage patronage if interest piqued. They do ship out of state.

Tattered Cover Bookstore (photo credit: unknown)
Bookbar (photo credit: Bookbar)

I’m wrapping up the end of the second week of full time employment with a hot bang (it was 95 degrees today, is it summer already?) I’ve submitted to writing group for next Monday’s night meeting with the next installment of what they’ve read up to date. I’m ahead by four chapters and trying to keep up the story propulsion. I’ve completed Chapter 25 and started Chapter 26 tonight. I’m doing a happy dance in my seat, fist pumping and air high fiving because I did it and while being sick (fell ill due to some heavy pollen in the air that kicked my sinuses to the curb, but heavy loads of Emergen C, zinc and homeopathic sinus medicine along with rubbing some peppermint oil on the back of my neck helped immensely and much needed resting naps this weekend.) I’ve submitted AND met my weekly goal. In my writing group we share three minutes of our past week (personal and writing related) and report on whether or not we attained our goals. We set weekly goals to hold accountability if we can and if for unpredictable reasons couldn’t, then we either carry those goals forward or set new ones. Some of us have daily/weekly writing count goals, some chapter completions (these are usually mine) and others, writing research including some leisure reading. I’m excited to share my good news of finally completing a chapter I was stuck on for the past three weeks. I guess working a full-time job was the much needed motivator I needed to enforce discipline.

The desert heat is dropping to the mid-80’s now and the crickets chirping at dusk signal it’s time to wind down for the evening. I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead. Happy Writing, Happy Reading, Happy Arts, Happy Photoshooting, Happy Work, Happy Life, whatever floats your boat, hope it brings you happiness.

Sandstone Ranch, Longmont, Colorado at dusk March 2021

From the Earth

Fit for Life/Gaiam Lobby – Louisville, CO

When I walk into the offices of Fit for Life formerly Gaiam, I’m greeted by the magnanimous Gaia. The goddess, who in Greek mythology personified earth and produced many offspring including the Titans and Cyclopes. I catch my breath, approaching the prolific and profound mural, containing my excitement to see what’s behind the glass door as my new manager escorts me to my new work home.

I’m guided through typical cubicle setups and the usual meet and greet with fellow co-workers and cohorts, BUT the difference from past jobs I’ve worked, was the ambiance and natural earthly feel to the environment. The abundance of plants displayed throughout the office, enveloped me through an enchanted forest with cubicles and product tables dispersed within and it was nice to see a quaint and cozy area for relaxing near my work station with a huge window nearby and luminous natural lighting filtering through. I think I hit the jackpot of “the job that helps pay the bills while you pursue your dream on the side.” Yep, I felt warm and fuzzy immediately. Good sign so far, knock on wood, or fake compressed, wood depending on what you’re working on these days.

New Office Home Space

I contain the joy I feel in my heart when I follow my manager, “J” (I’m using first letter initials to protect the privacy of people in my life) through hallways of storage rooms and a showroom of product. So many yoga mats in a rainbow of shapes and sizes along with blocks and straps are stacked in shelving units. The company has designated a “freebie” table, for employees to nab whatever item(s) are available on a first come first serve basis. The café, where they prepare fresh organic, healthy options from the menu and use produce grown from the private garden in the back is spacious and inviting.

Private Garden of Fit for Life/Gaiam/Gaia

The tour behind the building near the private garden was the part, where I knew, I made the right decision to accept this job offer. A gorgeous meditative path with a newly installed water feature encapsulated the beauty and tranquility of the grounds. I was deeply mesmerized by the beauty of this enriching area, catered to the employees for some peace away from the grind. I knew these harmonious effects would inspire happy productivity in my life. I was not disappointed.

Meditative Path
Medicine Wheel adjacent to the private garden

I was so enraptured by the beautiful mural walking into the lobby that the huge amethyst geode situated to the left escaped my view; it caught my eye when I left the building, end of my first day. I realized then, how completely “zen” the entire office felt, absorbing the relief of stress and strain, soothing irritability, balancing mood swings, dispeling anger, rage, fear and anxiety. My heart found it’s new work home comforting and at peace within my soul. I am grateful for a good first week and look forward to the horizon ahead.

Amethyst Geode in the lobby

And with that said…on to writing news.

Finding balance at home after my first working week has been challenging. I logged on last night with my writing group (we meet weekly on Monday evenings) feeling apprehensive. You see, I didn’t get a chance to read, in it’s entirety, the submission for last night’s feedback. This is unacceptable to my standards. I take the time to thoroughly read, not once or twice, but at least three times; fully absorbing a piece to provide that critical feedback needed, as a reader and writer. I must organize my time wisely. I knew this was the challenge I’d be facing once I partook an office job again. I am one of the submitters for the following week, so I need to buckle down.

Chapter 22 will be submitted from my upcoming novel of heartbreaking love; a mother struggling to accept the repercussions of her son’s detrimental mistake he committed at 17 years old. This chapter has already been written, so the goal this week is review, edit, revise and polish before submitting the final piece for group to critique. I alternate each chapter between present and past, informing the group which segment is next. This will be a past chapter. The protagonist, Rachel, will endure consequential transgressions during her senior year at an alternative high school and that’s all the intel, you get. I can’t give away too much, that would ruin the future of marketability and sales after the novel has been published, to a public, who’s already read it through my blog. I’d still like to update and share minor tidbits, since it’s currently 25 chapters complete. I’m not sharing previous chapters anyway and I’d rather not disclose those details. I’m determined and equipped to establish equanimity, cohesively aligned with my personal goals. I’ve worked too hard the past 3 1/2 years to give that up because I had to find employment in order to “live.”

I will manifest, it will happen. Don’t give up on your dreams. Find ways to coordinate and manage your time. When the passion ignites the fire that fuels your dream, the time will surface to make it work. Don’t give up! You can do this!

A side note: I was awarded the Fantastic Badge from ViewBug, where I’m a Pro member among fellow peer photographers, showcasing our representation of personal art. Check it out and follow for updates.

https://www.viewbug.com/member/MAPPhotography

Hope you are well and taking care of YOU. Make it what you want. Make it count, make it last, make it happen. Namaste….