Rejection

Wow, I allowed way too much time to lapse from my last post. I took on a baggage load of commitments and this one was pushed to the backburner. Within this time I took on another workshop via Lighthouse. This time a 2 hour long Saturday course on Fairy Tales as the Foundation for Short Fiction because I’m on a journey of short story, short fiction writing lately. The class was instructed by the luminous Jamie Figueroa

Photo from Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop Website

A little bio on the instructor from Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop

Jamie Figueroa is Boricua (Afro-Taíno) by way of Ohio and long-time resident of northern New Mexico. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, American Short Fiction, Agni, and Emergence Magazine among other journals. Jamie received her MFA in Creative Writing from The Institute of American Indian Arts where she is now an Assistant Professor. Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer (Catapult) is her debut novel. 

Her class was whimsical, enlightening and fun. The stories from Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales and was assigned reading were interesting, compelling, mystical and magical, from all over the globe. Jamie’s debut novel is available to buy. I always make it a point to purchase an instructor’s novel(s) if they’ve been published to support and promote their art and scour through their spoken example in printed form. I got my copy of Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer yesterday and can’t wait to dive into it.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

Jamie sent us a link to Bookshop.org. She supports this independent online bookstore so if interested in buying a copy of her debut, clicking on the title will take you directly to the storefront and book! 🙂

Speaking of short stories, short fiction and fables I’ve been submitting a piece of Creative Nonfiction since May. I’ve researched close to 50 so far and narrowed down the best publications that my piece aligned or fit the criteria of their type of genre/pieces. To date I’ve gotten back 5 rejections out of 6 submitted. Most of them were complimentary of my piece and one even sent several other publications to check out for submissions so my piece could find publication. My heart skipped a beat or two and I was a little teary-eyed, even though I was rejected, my determination seared through my being. A friend of my stepdaughter’s, an English professor from Colorado State University encouraged the idea that my piece was not meant to be published with those particular publications and it would find it’s home. She also added that she too, had a few rejections of her latest poetry submissions and she’s already been featured in several publications and also published her first work of poetry through an independent press, so her declaration of rejection boosted my confidence. Thanks D!

I could’ve allowed rejection to overcome my mind and soul, sucking me down a deep, dark vortex of envy and frustration but that didn’t feel natural for me to absorb in my moment of response. I thank my notorious and generous writing group who’ve taught me the value of constructive criticism/feedback, developing tough skin over the past six years. I’ve been submitting short pieces and chapters for much needed scrutiny of plot, story, structure, format, diction in the most diplomatic presentation and my ability to receive what will only benefit and improve my writing has paid off. I’m not going to lie, some feedback hit hard and not because of delivery but because of expectation of the reader falling short. That’s ok, the reader is always right as “O” told me when I was confused or battling setbacks of the infamous imposter syndrome. Am I even good enough? Will I be good enough? Will anyone care to even want to publish it once I’m done? Why am I even doing this?

We all plummet through the endless rabbit hole of whys and what ifs. It’s a matter of falling to the bottom with a renewed perspective of perseverance that takes the anxiety weight off of us. My writing group designated the last Saturday of every month for submitting our short pieces and poetry to publications for half the day, from morning to early afternoon. I had set goals I didn’t adhere for this month, like posting twice a week on this blog (oops, life happens, sorry) and submitting to at least 10 publications for the month. It takes a lot of work as I’ve learned where reading through the publication guidelines (a must and essential) and the submissions themselves to gain understanding and an idea of the publication fitting what you’ve written. Realistically, you can’t submit a piece of CNF to a fantasy/sci-fi based magazine. Does not make sense at all. Research is imperative and I take that time. I know in my heart it will happen and I will not give up!

A highlight of my past weekend was venturing down to Denver to pick up some native supplies for my Pop. He was like a little kid in a candy store, picking out his sage, spruce and abalone shells for his smudging practice. I drove him to Tennyson St, to the one and only Bookbar! I haven’t been to one of my favorite indie bookstores since geez, I can’t remember when, that’s how long and nabbed these beauties, along with some children’s books for my beloved granddaughter. One is a series of shorts by Haruki Murakami. This is homework, reading tons and keeping those mental notes. Reading is key to improved writing. Rinse and repeat that line.

Bookbar

That’s my update. Goal for the remainder of August. Keep up with blog. The 25th down, six more days to go. Post 3 more before we venture into cooler, crisper weather and colorful landscapes. I love Fall, most likely because I was born in the month the Autumn Equinox kicks off.

Hope all has been well with everyone. Eat that ice-cream, enjoy the outdoors soaking up that Vitamin D, hug your kids, tell your loved ones you love them, sing, dance, laugh, just do whatever makes your heart smile and your soul beam.

Luminous Rapture

Completed my Short Story 101 month feeling renewed, refreshed and provoked with a plethora of ideas brimming. The working title to my new short is shown above. I don’t want to give away too much but let’s just say this workshop allowed me to steer off course in unknown waters of pure imagination of the graphic kind. I’m so used to writing my family dramas or relationships with romantic entanglement stories that my mind brewed something fresh and fun even though there’s murder, torture, betrayal, theft involved. You never know what your psyche is going to pull through the surface and I’m thrilled with what I concocted. With that said my instructor Hank Lewis was amazing. A powerhouse of lyrical prose and knowledge. His own work just sang poetic sublime. He shared a fair amount of parental/offspring dynamic, thematically some of the pieces resonated with my own. My fellow students shared some evocative pieces and the assignments helped me dig deep with form, structure, language and voice. I didn’t want this class to end.

I love when I have epiphanically induced moments of inspiration through classes when an instructor slam dunks or hits it straight on the nail with guidance that motivates, invokes and pushes your limits. Writing is work, lots of work in the beginning for us novice writers, sometimes seasoned ones too. There’s always so much wisdom to attain through the thoughts and ideas of another that stoke your fires and I’m there people. Like I said, I wrote a short unlike something I’ve ever thought to delve or explore in this particular genre but I did and I’m over the moon happy about it. Thank you Mr. Lewis for an enlightening and rejuvenating class this past month.

I wanted to share some Summer Reading I embarked upon these past two months. A few of these books were pretty lengthy and took some time to read, but I enjoyed the escape and found they were worth mentioning, plus I indicated early on I’d share some books I loved. Some are short story anthologies. I like to do research and homework when working on specific pieces and since I was focusing on short form I found Joyce Carol Oates as a source of uplifting artistic individuality. I took a Master Class of hers on Short Story Telling and was invigorated with newfound revelations. Here’s my summer selections:

I am no one you know – short stories by Joyce Carol Oates
Lovely, Dark, Deep – short stories by Joyce Carol Oates
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – A novel by Ocean Vuong – beautiful details of self discovery.
The Index of Self-Destructive Acts – A Novel by Christopher Beha
The Prophets – A Novel and recommended by my beloved cousin Stephanie 🙂 Robert Jones Jr is magnanimous with story telling, a must read!
Mexican Gothic – A Novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, this writer is starting to grow on me. She’s a modern pillar of blended folklore, myth within present time.
Silver Sparrow – A Novel by Tayari Jones.
Last but not least my favorite all time writer. Wonders of the West – A Novel by Kate Braverman. I shared one of her short stories in my Short Story workshop – Women of the Ports from “A Good Day for Seppuku.” She inspires me on a muse level and I’m just blown away by her mesmerizing and hypnotic style every time I read her work!

So there you go, my list of must reads. Reading is homework, builds skillset and voice, language, style. I have my favorites and I keep adding the more I read new work, but here’s a slew of noteworthy authors to check out and mainly women because I support my gender in this craft and POC because they have written the most thought provoking and lovely stories I’ve read presently:

Kate Braverman

Rachel Kushner

Elaine Kahn

Bett Williams

Rachel Resnick

Emma Forrest

Stephen Graham Jones

Gabino Iglesias

Joy Harjo

Rebecca Roanhorse

Jon Bassoff (local author in my area, gothic noir style!)

Catherine Wallace Hope

Taylor Reid Jenkins

Louise Erdrich

Zadie Smith

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Edwidge Danticat

Rudolfo Anaya

Raven Leilani

Laura Pritchett (Colorado Author)

Joyce Carol Oates

Roxane Gay

Joe Hill

I just love reading and anything that moves, grabs, sings to my soul is worth mentioning, including authors AND in case you may be looking for someone new to read, I hope this list offers some choices on your reading log!

Grand Lake, Colorado

I’m ending with a picture of my favorite getaway. West of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park; Grand Lake is an idyllic, lowkey mountain town that I love to relax and savor every bit of nature. I dream of owning a huge home on the lake there someday but for now we’re finally returning for a much needed vacation in September this year. There’s a favorite indie, local bookstore I shop exclusively for book gifts on the main strip. The owner is always gracious when I do and tells me I’m the highlight of her sales for that week, yes I spend that much on books.

Read lots, escape through stories and relish in the imagination of others. Take care of yourself this week; take a nap, watch a feel good comedic movie, take a walk around a lake, call up an old friend, journal notes of gratitude, eat dinner by yourself at a nice restaurant because you deserve it, hug your loved one and give them a kiss. We have one life to live in this realm, make it count so you don’t have to keep coming back to try and relearn the same lesson.

Carpe Diem!

Nostalgia and Fairy Gardens

I’m wrapping up Chapter 26, a backstory/past chapter. The main character reminiscing her teen years, already a mother at 18 with her first son and where she was in life. Although my novel is fiction based with real events woven through the scenes, I often find while writing about the past and embellishing quite a bit on the fiction part, I fantasize about an alternate plane. I’m sure many people do the same thing when in retrospect, we can’t help wondering if we’d chosen certain people, places or comebacks, where we would’ve ended up, presently.

Sometimes, it’s fun and other times morose, BUT I don’t allow the past to sneak in and play tricks with my mind. I write it out, and play with those scenes; What if she said “Go fuck yourself.” Instead of keeping her mouth shut with her tail tucked in between her legs, cowering in agony. What if…instead of responding or reacting impulsively, she just walked away and never spoke to “said person” again, or what if she was brave enough to take the leap and make that move to a different city or take the job she was afraid to pursue, disallowing feelings of failure or anxiety to consume her better judgement. That’s why I write. I MAKE IT, WHAT I WANT in stories.

I’m happy and comfortable where I am in life. Nearing my fifties, it’s true what they say, the older you get, you stop allowing silly emotions or trivial life crap to interfere and at times destroy your inner peace. The good old adage “Youth is wasted on the young” painfully and also endearingly quoted by George Bernard Shaw, makes sense now, in my current age.

When I was in my twenties, older people in my life used to share stories of their youth wishing they could go back for a “do-over” or the popular line I always heard as a young person, “If I were your age, knowing what I do now. I’d do things differently.” I didn’t understand this declaration in my twenties and felt somewhat offended at times. I remember a discussion my younger son and I had on a hike we took in Nederland, about generational labeling. He felt offended by the “millennial” definition because he didn’t identify with the mold and criteria of his generation’s theme. I told him my generational label was worse. We were called Generation X aka the “Slacker” generation. He just felt in a nutshell, it was redundant, the need for our culture to label or symbolize any generation, period. I understood his point and agreed. A millennial and slacker go off in the woods pondering what’s better; stop motion animation or computer graphic images, libraries (this sucks Mom, just “Google” it) versus Internet research – Side Note: I really miss the Dewey Decimal System in the old school card catalogs, opening those little drawers to find the card you need to find the book you’re looking for is not the same as using the online computer, I digress, moving on, – reading books in print versus tablets, cell phones versus rotary phones and lastly what’s better–being dubbed a millennial or slacker.

As I grew older, shifting and evolving, these “youth wasted on the young” statements began to make some sense, however in my personal retrospect I’d rather change my trajectory NOW and not go back and do it over again, because that’s part of our life experience. If we didn’t learn from our mistakes or choices how could we pass lessons on to our own children, exemplifying what we gained or missed in our youth, hoping they potentially choose wiser and strive to rise above. Writing this novel has risen a lot of emotive to the surface and it’s challenging to keep up the momentum and yet, at the same time, I find it’s been a rewarding and motivational experience. The more I write, the past stays further behind. I’m finding peace with this cathartic process. On my writing journey, I’ve read some books on inherited family traumas and books based on true stories about children convicted of their violent crimes.

I read Mark Wolynn’s It Didn’t Start With You as a client of therapy and for research. Insightful, gripping (when you have those aha moments as I did reading through this) and resourceful. There are Q&A sections to help you narrow down through the family tree where YOUR own behavior or mannerisms may have been inherited from; Grandma had the same body image issues or Great Uncle Leon on your Dad’s side had obsessive compulsive tendencies. It’s also a short and concise read, narrowing down science and fact.

Two more great reads on Trauma and Drug Addiction (two of the main themes of my novel)

Bonnie Badenoch’s The Heart of Trauma focuses on trauma affecting the brain and how cognitive therapy assist in addressing the client’s healing process. This reads as a college textbook with case studies interwoven guiding the reader in understanding the triggers behind the situation and the deeply embedded root of the trauma causing a chain reaction from the brain and what the brain is experiencing before it even hits the person on an emotional level. Great read, but needs to be read carefully in order to absorb the information provided.

The Heart of Trauma – Bonnie Badenoch

Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is a great read on how drug addiction affects the brain and why it’s not so easy for addicts to just stop. I didn’t agree with some key theories he had on root causes behind individual drug addictions, but appreciated his efforts in assisting and addressing the needs of the drug addicts he treated on the streets. This is a long read (about 500+ pages) with a lot of patience to get through it, but he writes engagingly, sharing stories of clients’ addictions and analyzing his own personal addictions (not drug related, he discusses all forms of addiction and how the brain triggers these addictions.) Anyway, for a person who is like me, doesn’t understand and at times isn’t always accepting of addiction because I never had the issue, it was informative and eye opening.

In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Gabor Mate

Lastly, I’d like to mention this book I have not read yet and evidently there’s a Netflix movie based on the book. This is a novel about a teen convicted of murder. I pulled it off my bookshelf to read soon, as it relates to my novel in terms of a teen being convicted for a violent crime (not the murder part in my personal circumstance) and because I like to read the books FIRST before watching the film adaptations. Walter Dean Myers’ Monster

Monster – Walter Dean Myers

I’ve embedded hyperlinks in the title of these books to purchase, if interested, between BookBar and Tattered Cover bookstores based out of Denver. Feel free to find them elsewhere, but as I noted in a previous post, I’m a huge advocate for independent bookstores.

Ok, I got nostalgia and trauma out of the way, or Nostalgic Trauma, however way you perceive, it’s all relative. On a lighter note, when I write emotionally draining chapters and feel the need to shift energies–I tend garden. I incorporated, this year, in my backyard, a fairy garden. I wanted to do this for so long and it’s come full circle. This is the first phase, first development. I’m adding on, as I’m admittedly addicted. I can’t help it, it’s a good addiction though, right?

I wrote a short story a couple of years back about a wife who creates her own fairy garden in the backyard, unbeknownst to her, two magical entities were eagerly awaiting in the shadows, completion of the garden, so they could move into one of the homes she set up. It was a leprechaun named Lanny and fairy named Sheila who moved into the cream colored, copper tin-roofed, green-doored home. My writing group got a kick out of the story. Here’s some pictures I took during the day and at twilight (trying to capture the solar powered homes and blue rock that light up at night but they didn’t in these pictures) to show off my hard work. Building fairy gardens is not easy. I put a lot of sweat and time into this, but it brought happiness and joy while I was working calmly and methodically. It’s the little things people. YOU MAKE IT, WHAT YOU WANT. I have to keep throwing my blog’s core value in the mix. No matter what you’re pursuing in life; YOU Make it what you want.

If you know of any fairies and magical creatures looking for some prime fairy garden real estate, send them to Firestone, Colorado. I’ll be adding more phases, so in the meantime, there may be a waiting list.

Enjoy life, read a book for hours, walk on a trail or in a park absorbing the beauty surrounding you, smile at people even if they don’t smile back, spend time with your loved ones, laugh, breathe, meditate and love. Rinse and repeat; live each day as if it’s your last.

Narrative Device

Ok it happened, finally…first Short Story class tonight and I’m pumped, invigorated and most importantly INSPIRED! I set up a once a week, evening write time with “J” which she wholeheartedly agreed considering she’s been in a writing slump since her beloved mother passed. She’s part of another writing group collective, that meets during the day, but wanted to keep up our writing flow together as a team. When you develop a nice intimate, relaxed environment with another writing partner who keeps your accountability in check, you want them around even if, momentarily it’s one day a week.

I like this class; it’s a small group setting, about nine of us total and everyone conveyed a sense of friendliness and openness to the group. I could feel the positive, creative energy flowing through the internet airwaves. Hank, as the instructor refers himself, is a powerhouse of knowledge and wisdom on the literature and storytelling forefront and I’m over the moon ecstatic about making a wise investment and choice enrolling in this class. My first one for the year.

What is my overall objective?

What is there to learn from this story?

Why are the characters pertinent to this story?

We had some profound handouts Mr. Lewis emailed to the class, to read, review and discuss our thoughts and ambitions as writers from these pieces. What stood out and why? We read and reviewed the first “Model Short Story” uploaded by one of the students, first up on the roster to submit for discussion. Hers, a short titled “Orton” provided a benchmark of what Mr. Lewis’s expectations were in a model piece as far as structure, form, plot and story were concerned. I’m on a motivational power boost to propel my writing narrative at a new level.

The path to artistic freedom – Black Canyon National Park, Montrose, Colorado 2018

I can do this, I won’t give up!

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….

A New Path Ventured

I start a new job tomorrow. June 1st. I mentioned this in my previous post. I’ve been gearing up for the moment since the job was offered to me beginning of May and now it’s official. I’m back to working class. That’s ok. I needed to make money. I tried finding writing gigs but without previous experience it was challenging. I’m still looking for writing gigs while working full-time and working on my novel. I’ve been submitting to publications for flash fiction and short story bits I’ve written. Gotta start somewhere right? I’m ready to organize my time wisely with writing in the evenings. I’ll make it work. I’m almost to the finish line.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier Gorge Trailhead

I’m making the effort to log a new post in here parallel to writing. I failed to organize my home life before new job. What can I say, shit happens. So with that said. I’ll have to buckle down the rest of this week, forcing myself to make it happen. The good side to the new job is I work from home two days a week after training for four days in the office. That’s a goal within itself. The faster I learn this job, the easier it will be for me to log off at home, make dinner (break time) then get to the keys on writing. I’m keeping an open and optimistic approach and I still have writing group that keeps me grounded.

I started Chapter 25 to my novel. Here’s a brief synopsis on the story. The title I don’t feel comfortable sharing, just yet, but there is a hint of it in the summary.

My first novel focuses on a young mother named Rachel, struggling with her teenage son’s destructive behavior until one fateful night, he commits a violent act that costs his freedom. Rachel reflects on her painful childhood, trying to piece together where she failed in preventing the vicious cycle of inherited family disease and traumas. Can she overcome her weight of guilt and insecurities, persevering in the end?

This story is about the choices we think benefits our loved ones, but do these decisions really help or hinder the person we love struggling in life?

How can we break the pattern of detrimental family traits passed down generationally? How can we overcome the familiar reactions of our past and act on what we know is the right thing to do in our heart, even though it’s a painful process.

In the end how does this change our psyche, or in this case, how does it change Rachel’s?

Happy ending to May and beginning to June, beginning to new chapters in life, beginning of the unknown and beginning to hope. May we all reach our Avalon!

Mule Deer in Black Canyon National Park, Montrose, Colorado

The Blood Flower Full Super Moon | Lunar Eclipse

My first post kicks off with a stellar lunar eclipse in Sagittarius. I looked up what this luminous super moon represents and what encapsulates this important time; it’s the final phase of letting go all the internal garbage that sabotages our psyche and no longer serves purpose in our lives. The cycle lasts four days prior and four days after. With that said, utilize this time to set intentions, goals and manifest dreams.

We break down the blocks during this phase, that hinder us, including the psychological fear that we can’t attain something for reasons we were conditioned into believing. Expand your horizons and lay the groundwork for some serious action. It’s never too late to become what you’ve always wanted to be in a world that allows ego to override our sense of self.

Take those steps, whether they’re baby or gigantic, take them and set forth on a new adventure, trusting in yourself with complete faith that you’ll achieve what you want. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to ask, everyday, for what you want. Let it soak into your pores, marinating on the tip of your tongue, believe in it and most importantly, have patience with the fruition. You make it what you want here on this plane, you just simply have to ask the universe. Ok, that’s my Full Super Moon pep talk.

What a profound and empowering evening to start my blogging journey. I’m pretty excited and pumped right now. So, to get down to the nitty gritty of what I’ve been working on the past ten years, yep ten long, agonizing, arduous and at times hopeless years of writing my first novel. This is a novel based from a true life event that I experienced in 2009. I wrote out the idea as a memoir, then realized after research I’d have to ask permission, and set it in stone contractually from the people aforementioned in the memoir. I was not willing to ask permission for my time, sweat and blood to publish with their blessings, MY hard-earned work. I had to figure out what type of genre this piece would fall under.

Back in mid-2014, an ex-coworker and now dear friend shared a story of her sixth grade teacher, who recently wrote chapter series books for middle school aged kids and the books became best sellers. One in particular was adapted to screen. I asked my friend if she could find out from her ex-teacher, who she paid to edit. My friend took it a step further and found the editor in the books she owned, searched the editor online and found she worked part-time at Denver’s Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop.

I researched Lighthouse and instantly registered as a member at the end of 2014. In January of 2015 they had an open house mingle with new and recurring members/students, volunteers and instructors. I’m one of those introverts who can extrovert to a certain degree and this kind of thing would be one of those gatherings where I’d find it excruciatingly painful to be an extrovert, but I sucked it up and attended, alone. The people were inviting and kind as I sauntered through the breathtaking and amazing old Victorian home converted into a writing school. Volunteers smiled, as they offered chilled wine and appetizers and handed me pamphlets on the upcoming courses.

I met a couple instructors who, in the middle of my 30 minute long elevator pitch (should be 3 minutes) of what my story was about, helped narrow down what type of genre I could categorize my book. A novel “based from true events” or Creative Non-Fiction. I chose the former and celebrated with more wine, feeling joy of finding a tribe of writers, in a city that grew on me over the years AND knowing I didn’t need legal disclosures and permissive authority over my work.

I went home and pulled out the few chapters I wrote in 2010, rewriting fictitious scenes and newly discovered characters. I was on a high and kept thinking “I can do this, this will happen.” I was also invited into a writing group a few months down the road by another dear friend who was working on a memoir. I was accepted as a member and thought I was on my way, and in no time I’d have a best seller.

Nope. Wrong. Terribly, presumptuous wrong.

I was surrounded by seasoned writers, a few with English related degrees, the rest possessed stronger writing skills. I felt inept, intimidated, doubtful, fearful and disappointed in myself. Every time I submitted chapters, the formatting was horrible or the dialogue was confusing, the point of view and tense were all over the place, and the pacing and continuity inconsistent. The scenes were either too descriptive where it wasn’t needed or not enough where it should be. What did I do? What did I get myself into?

After spending months with the group, I developed the much needed thick skin of accepting constructive feedback, it was not easy. However, it was helping me formulate and figure out where I needed to sharpen and hone in on my writing. I listened, paid attention and followed the advice and guidance of my fellow peers. I enrolled in classes and workshops at Lighthouse conducive of the much needed direction in my prose, voice, technique and style. The courses and revisions of my work were paying off, but the time needed to write was hard to manage since I worked a full-time job and helped support a family. Balancing work, family and writing was not an easy task.

  • 2010 I started Chapters One – Three of my book
  • 2014 I joined Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop
  • 2015 I joined a writing group and started coursework with Lighthouse
  • 2017 I suffered a personal tragedy of loss (I’ll get to that later down the blogging road) and dropped out of my existing writing group
  • 2018 Soon after tragedy, I enrolled in an 8 week course at Lighthouse. After course was complete, I reached out to my fellow students via email asking if anyone of them or all would be interested in writing together. One enthusiastically offered her home to host a writing group; Alma’s House Writing Group was formed in March of 2018 aka AHWG.
  • 2018 – 2021 Still active with AHWG since the tragedy (I broke ties with the previous group as I needed a change, no personal offense to that group, which they understood and graciously wished me well.)
  • May 2021 – After 3 1/2 years of being unemployed (quit my previous job due to tragedy.) I accepted a full time position starting June 1st AND I’m approaching the light at the end of the tunnel in completing my first novel. Deep breath. Kids are no longer in the house, need to devise and plan writing strategies with new full-time gig.

The intention of this blog is to document my progress through present transparency into my feelings, frustrations and thoughts while walking this beaten writer path. I do not have a college degree. I am an autodidact through the workshops I’ve taken at Lighthouse, the plethora of books I’ve devoured, podcasts I’ve listened to and websites for writers recommended by my writing group family. Yes, I consider them my bibliophile/writer family. You spend one day a week with the same 7 people for going on 4 years now who’ve become a collective of constant nurturing and support, they blossom into a “writing family.” We all agreed, over the course of these years, our writing has grown exponentially stronger from consistent, diplomatic and respectful feedback we’ve bestowed one another.

During the process of writing my first book I came up with two more ideas for new stories. I started outlining them a little, but stopped because I needed to finish my first project and not catapult ahead. I spent a lot of wasted (for me) non-writing time through the past decade, dealing with life situations or emotional strife and figured out what internal and external factors could help re-center my attention.

The second book will focus on the personal tragedy that hit in 2017 and the third will actually be a 3-book series by encouragement of one of my fellow peers from group. The third was originally a short story resulting into an expansion by certain group members requesting details on characters and scenes in the story. I wrote this short, now soon to be full length novel, during the pandemic to reignite my writing as I fell into a slump with my first project. Most of my fellow group members did as well, struggling through the same depression that hit globally, trying to upkeep writing tasks and goals. We met on Zoom during the lockdown phase (and continue to do so, until we’re ready to meet physically again) maintaining our weekly sessions and trying to keep up morale, although it wasn’t the same as meeting in person it was better than no interaction.

The short story piece expanded from 25 pages to 50 to over 130 something pages. I ultimately decided with some brainstorming that I could lengthen this first book in the series and write two follow up books (very rough and short premise/outline are already written out.) I sent out the expanded short in revised format of 130 + pages to several beta readers and the ones that were able to send me their feedback provided substantial and enthusiastic review with the exception of one. A dear relative, who’s an avid and sharp reader didn’t like the story, however she loved the writing.

You think this would bother me coming from a family member, but I did ask for explicit honesty and she provided what I asked. I was not crippled by her response. The story won’t be for everyone, I am realistic, BUT “she loved the writing” and expressed uplifting support and pride knowing I was pursuing my dream and she’d still buy the book once it was published (Start changing your thinking from “if I get published” to “I will get published.”) Focus on the good. It’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t “like” your story, they may “love” the next one. Focus on the good.

I’ll share reviews on books that are both leisure and educational reading, circulate links to sites that helped me, like some great writing coach ones offering free short e-books on story structure, character development, plot pointing and writing prompts. I’ll provide insight into my writing group time (a separate blog on writing groups will also be in the works) and advice, suggestion and strategies that worked for me, not everyone functions the same way, but if I can offer something that could work then I’m fulfilling my purpose with this blog.

I’ve dabbled in freelance photography the past 3 years, also self-taught and will share some random photos, because who doesn’t like to look at pretty pictures, right? (The blood moon photo is not mine, I can’t take credit for that gem, but most photos will be mine)

I can’t wait to meet and network with fellow bloggers. I’ve been doing this on Instagram with other writers and coaches and it’s a wonderful phenomena to establish through social media and gain some insight with those platforms. Especially when it comes time for the marketing and promo involved once publishing is complete.

I hope this blog resonates with those novice writers who want to give up (don’t do that) and ease the minds of those who feel like an imposter, particularly the writers like me, who don’t hold a degree in the arts and feel they’ve been wandering aimlessly without clear direction or guidance to the writing craft. I don’t allow “I’m not good enough because I’m not college degreed” to get in my way and this is not true. Do not tell yourself this, or anything to the extent, nor believe it.

Be well, take care of yourself and soak in the rays of that Super Full Moon, washing away the stagnant, negative energy of old and absorbing the renewed faith and hope that all things are possible. Believe in yourself and hold clear and true to your heart’s desire.