Books Read in November.

7BD2E01D-52FC-4FD9-9FB5-0F2A35CB045F

“Keep It Moving- Lessons for the Rest of Your Life” by Twyla Tharp

Twenty years ago, I wrote a book called “The Creative Habit,” sharing the message that we can all live creative lives if only we could stop waiting for a muse to arrive with divine inspiration and instead just get down to work.

I’ve read that first book of hers at least a half dozen times. It’s inspiring and the kick in the pants when I need that.

This is the same kind of kick in the pants to just keep moving. For our physical as well as our mental and emotional health.

Tharp is a tough cookie. Her advice is to just do it whether that is getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym or write the novel or plant the garden of your dreams. Just. Do. It.

As with the first book, she writes from her own experience and gives the reader exercises to do in order to incorporate more movement into our lives.

The first passage I underlined:

What I believe in is change and the vitality it brings. Vitality means moving through life with energy and vigor, making deliberate choices and putting to good use the time and energy that we have been granted.

“The Last Book Party” novel by Karen Dukess

Walking up the dirt driveway to the summer home of Henry Grey, I reminded myself that I was an invited guest.

I am a sucker for any stories set in the writing/publishing/book world. This is all three. 

Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer, much to her parents’ dismay, working as an assistant at a publishing house. Feeling at a dead end there, she decides to take a job for the summer as the assistant to Henry Grey, a famed New Yorker writer married to a famed poet.

Eve has little idea of what exactly she is walking into and her life becomes completely upended by her decision and she is left wondering if the world she so longed to be part of is really what she wants at all.

A sentence on marriage that intrigued me:

Maybe that’s what marriage was, a Mobius strip of togetherness, so that no matter how much a couple twisted and turned away from each other, even toward someone else, the attachment remained.

“They Said She Was Crazy” a novel by Kristine E. Brickey

Mara Sutherland couldn’t believe her bad luck.

Mara is getting ready to celebrate her son’s graduation from high school. It has been just the two of them for so long after she found herself in the position of being an unwed mother in college. But she raised him and he was her pride and joy. Then the unthinkable happens. She comes home to find his lifeless body. Her son had taken his own life.

The novel explores a mother’s deep grief and rage and longing to know why her son did what he did. She begins to see Zane and though she finds comfort in these visits, she wonders of she is going crazy.

It’s a painful story of a mother’s raw grief.

A sentence about trying to write into her grief:

Over the next few days, she would try to find more words, gain back the freedom o releasing what was barricaded inside her broken heart.

“Let’s Call It  Doomsday” a YA novel by Katie Henry

Here is one way the world could end:

If you follow this blog at all, you know I have a bit of a fascination with end-of-the world stories. So, of course I would be drawn to a novel whose main character has the same obsession.

Ellis Kimball deals with anxiety. She obsesses over the myriad ways the world could end. She stock-piles supplies to help her and her family survive when the inevitable happens. Ellis is prepared.

What she isn’t prepared for is meeting Hannah Marks in the waiting rom of her therapist’s office. And she definitely isn’t prepared when Hannah tells her that she has visions and knows exactly when and how the world will end. And that Ellis is with her when it happens.

Ellis is quickly drawn into Hannah’s world, trying to decipher clues from her dreams, looking for a mysterious man that Hannah insists holds the key to the answers they are seeking.

But how far will Ellis go to help Hannah? And how far will she go to let the people around her know what she knows about the fate of the world? 

A sentence I love:

Is there anything that makes your heart jump more, than someone wanting to keep your words?

#NaNoWriMo2019 Results.

IMG_1273.JPG

My goal was to finish this draft of my current novel.

I didn’t meet that goal. But I am totally okay with that because I learned a lot while trying to reach it:

  1. Consistently showing up really churns up the story in my mind. I find myself having breakthroughs and ideas even while I am not actively writing.
  2. Forward momentum is what gets a draft done. I found myself hitting the same place I keep getting stuck which is the soggy middle and I forced myself to just keep plowing ahead,
  3. Showing up day after day brought clarity to a story that felt incredibly murky. I was up to over 113K words and ended up at just over 62K and that was perfect. I saw what was dead weight, I cut strands of the story that no longer fit and I have a clearer vision of where the story is headed. I don’t know the exact ending but I know and trust that I am headed in the right direction.
  4. I trust myself as a writer. I trust my process more, no longer questioning the fallow times, knowing that my creative energy needs to ebb and flow for balance, to recharge. I trust my writing chops. I learn more and more with every sentence, every scene, every chapter I write about character, setting, dialogue, plot, motivation.

So, while I didn’t meet my goal, I am still celebrating.

I am celebrating all the progress I did make.

I am celebrating my tenacity to stick with a project over the long haul even though nobody, and I mean nobody is expecting anything from me. This motivation is all internal and that is huge for me.

I am celebrating that I can see me easily finishing this draft by the new year.

I am celebrating myself as a writer.

Enough with Not Enough.

I am always looking for topics to inspire my writing and specifically topics that ask me to inquire deeper into my own writing life. When I came across the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by the Positive Writer, I knew I had to explore it.

IMG_1211

Typewriter image found via Pinterest. I am enough found via Pinterest. Photos merged using Photos Merge.

Enough. It is a word that has haunted me for years. 

There is an entire advertising and marketing industry designed to make us feel like we don’t have enough, don’t do enough and aren’t (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Thin. Strong. Curvy. Blonde. Rich. Spiritual. 

I have especially felt this tug of not-enoughness in my writing. See, I didn’t go the traditional route, which I used to consider a hindrance but eventually came to see as a strength. I earned an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration right out of high school. No general education courses. No literature classes. Just art.

I worked as a graphic designer for years which allowed me to eventually ease into a freelance career so that I could stay home and raise our two daughters. 

Along the way, I kept up with my own voracious reading and sporadic journaling. At some point I stumbled across a book called “The New Diary” by Tristine Rainier. It opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

The next turning point came when I discovered “Writing Down the Bones.” Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing. I continued to practice and read. A lot. My work colleagues were used to seeing me with my nose in a book at lunch, usually a different book every couple of days. A friend finally commented that at this pace I’d soon run out of books to read and would have to start writing my own. Hmmmm… the seed was planted.

Once we were settled in Arizona, writing found me over and over again. I was fortunate enough to attend a week-ling retreat in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg where I filled 3 notebooks in 7 days. I also discovered a fantastic program through the Phoenix YMCA called “Writer’s Voice.” They offered a “MothersWrite” class. It was a free, ten-week writing class that provided childcare. It was a lifesaver. A sanity saver. It allowed me to keep connected to that tenuous creative part of myself at a time when I felt stretched thin with the demands of motherhood. They also offered various creative writing classes as well as Master-level workshops that required you to submit work in order to be admitted. It took a long time for me to take the step of submitting my work but when I did I was accepted and attended an intense ten-week workshop with Elizabeth Evans and later, a second one with Simon Ortiz. Later I audited a fiction writing class with Melissa Pritchard at ASU. I always felt slightly out of place in these academic since I was usually the only one without any kind of four-year degree backing me up.

Over the years, I’ve considered going back to school to get that degree. Or maybe attend a low residency MFA program that would waive the Bachelor’s Degree. They’re out there. I’ve looked. But with two girls to help put through college, I really couldn’t justify the expense. It’s not like I want to teach at the college level. I want to write. Realistically, all I need is a pen, paper and if I’m lucky, a computer, all of which I have. I’m more envious of the experience of the MFA rather than the physical piece of paper. I salivate at the thought of immersing myself in writing for two years– eating, breathing, talking, dreaming books and writing. But really, my life can’t hold that right now. What it can hold is this: a writing group; occasional workshops; lots and lots of books; and lots and lots of writing.

Yoga has also played an essential role in my writing. As soon as I began to practice yoga, I saw the connection between the two. Both require me to show up, to meet myself where I am and to be present. I now teach 7 yoga classes a week including one I created that combines writing and yoga called “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.”

Yoga has helped me cultivate a relationship with my mind. With my whole self, not just the shiny parts. It has helped me see beyond the veil of not-enoughness to the deep truth that I am more than enough exactly as I am.

As of today, I have filled dozens upon dozens of notebooks. I have written many short stories and even had a few published. I have a novel-in-stories that is complete and looking for an agent. I am deep into the third draft of another novel. Then there is the YA fantasy trilogy simmering as well as a memoir based on my journey with yoga and writing.

At the age of 54, “enough” has a totally different connotation. It is no longer a word I use to judge and bludgeon myself with. It has become a word that fills me with hope. With a sense of ease and grace.

I write every day. Some days I write more than others. And it is enough.

I show up to the blank page. And it is enough.

I read as much as I can. And it is enough.

I submit my novel and stories and essays. And it is enough.

I have created a life that not only makes space for writing but truly nurtures it. And that is more than enough.

Day 14 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

eed872e264fafa532448253ae9a47322

Image found via Pinterest.

I find myself getting mired in the murky middle of this draft. Again.

I am going back through it, taking notes on each chapter, seeing where the story is at, where it needs to go. Noting when something is a repeat. Filling in with new chapters.

But I find myself avoiding my novel. The enthusiasm to finish it this month has waned,

This morning I realized why.

I am editing when I need to just be writing.

Writing it through to the end. Not caring if I change tense or repeat a scene or throw a whole new story arc into the mix.

I can fix all of those things. But only after I have a full next draft done.

So, that is what I am doing now. Just writing the damn thing through to the end no matter how messy or imperfect or incoherent or poorly written it is.

I can fix messy and imperfect and incoherent and poorly written.

I can’t fix not written at all.

19a25fcf7eed56d8c60ff29625e356eb

Image found via Pinterest.

Day 12 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

CB359B2A-53C9-4314-840A-9F385A7E85A4

I haven’t been posting every day but I have been writing every day. There’s only been one day where I wrote but didn’t work on this novel. I’ll take it.

Learning a few things about myself and my writing as I get deeper into finishing this draft:

• I desperately need to learn the different between lay and lie (I had a cheat sheet at one point but I’ve lost it.)

• I also need to learn the difference between effect and affect.

• I need to write as early in the day as possible. My focus fades fast the more I get into my day.

• I am learning to write good enough for now. Good enough for this draft, this scene. Good enough to be able to come back and fix it up in the next draft.

• I am learning to use placeholders. Just put a random name in of a person or song or singer or street that I can then figure out later (with FIX IT in all caps after it). Don’t let “research” be an excuse to stop writing.

• I work best in 30-45 minute increments. Then I need to get up and do something for 15 minutes to get the energy flowing: yoga, browse the bookstore, play with the dogs or do some light household task.

• Accountability is key for me. I know that nobody really cares if I finish this draft or not, but since I declared that I would, I feel pressure to honor that.

• Planning for the next day is really helpful. I like to know when and where I plan to write and have little assignments ready to get me started.

• Mostly, I am learning to be my own personal cheerleader instead of constantly judging and criticizing my efforts. I mean, I am writing a novel! Another one, actually. Not many people do that. It is a huge deal. A huge commitment. It is helping me let go of the I-am-lazy story I tell myself and replace it with I-am-a-badass-writer-devoted-to-her-craft story.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you learning about yourself? Your writing? Your process? I would love to hear!

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 3

IMG_1055.jpg

Change of plans today. My writing buddy is feeling under the weather so we are rescheduling. But since I had already planned on going out to write, I stuck with that. Brought a PBJ, got a soy chai and now it’s time to write!

Session 1: 12:17 PM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

It’s amazing how much progress can be made when I lift my perfection filter and just write a scene, even if it’s the shittiest scene ever. At least a shitty scene can be revised. Now for a short stroll through the bookstore to refresh my body and mid then time for another session.

Session 2: Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Finished a chapter. Moving onto next one. Making notes of pieces that need to move up earlier. 

Plan for tomorrow:

At desk by 7 AM. 2 sessions before going to yoga at 9:30.

Besides making progress, I am immersing myself in wondering and dreaming about this story and the characters again. so even when I am not physically at my desk, I am still writing. 

Notes:

Need description of Lydia’s house

Write Thanskgiving scene

Reward: Finally check out the new indie bookstore in town!

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 2

IMG_1039

Day 2

7:36 AM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Just about wrapped up this chapter. Now that I am giving myself to permission to just stay at my desk, with my novel and allow my imagination to wander, I realize that I do a disservice to my work by merely relying on word count and it is why I have been avoiding it and focusing on what I consider “easy writing”: morning pages, writing practice, blog posts.

Sitting with what is unknown is uncomfortable. Writing shitty first drafts of scenes and chapters doesn’t feel good. Not being able to say here is a finished piece at the end of a writing  prompt leaves me questioning my so-called productivity.

But this allowing myself to stare out the window and write a crappy scene that gets the gist of it down and is no where near perfect is part of the process that I have been hesitant to dive into. Well, consider permission granted. 

I hereby give myself permission to leave blanks, leave questions, skip ahead or back in chronology, stare out the window as I try to see the scene unfold behind my eyes, and to write the shittiest draft necessary in order to keep the momentum moving forward. 

Plan for tomorrow:

~ Meet a friend at the bookstore to write together. Writing is so solitary that having somebody  else next to you is comforting. And accountability really really works for me.

~ Start with phone call to Grace. End of chapter.

~ Bring The Observation Deck to shake things up.

 

Books Read in October.

IMG_1037.jpg

“The Testaments” a novel by Margaret Atwood

Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.

I was both thrilled and terrified when I heard that a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be coming.Thrilled because that story fascinated me. Terrified because it often feels like that fictional world is merging with our reality.

I went to the theater on pub day to watch the live presentation and interview. Atwood is brilliant and funny. Actors read from the book and I left itching to dive into myself.

Once I did, it was hard to put it down. I appreciated that it wasn’t a sequel in the sense the that it merely continued with June’s story. It is so much more than that. We get a wider, deeper perspective on Gilead and its citizens. What it was like to grow up there, what was intended compared to what actually manifested.

Rarely have I been so enthralled and pleased with a sequel.

A sentence that made me laugh out loud (In a story that is anything but funny):

“Nobody is any authority on the fucks other people give.”

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

This book does not claim to be an account of facts and events but of personal experiences, experiences which millions of prisoners have suffered time and again.

This book has been on my radar and TBR shelf for years and I finally made time to read it. With all that is going on in the world, it felt extremely, even urgently, relevant.

Frankl, a psychiatrist, labored in four different camps between the years of 1942 and 1945. His parents, brother and pregnant wife died. He had every reason to allow the events happening to him to define his life and his experience. Instead, he chose to cope through finding meaning in suffering.

It is a moving and thoroughly inspiring story of finding resilience within no matter what you are experiencing outwardly.

A sentence that resonates:

They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida

When I was small, I didn’t even know that I was a kid with special needs.

So begins this wholly original, thoroughly enchanting memoir written by a 13-year-old boy with autism.

Each chapter starts with a question posed to him about being autistic. Questions he is often asked.

In incredibly self-aware, often poetic language, he describes what it is like to be him in this world. What it is like to experience the world through his brain, his body. 

A passage that blew me away:

But when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky. Really, my urge to be swallowed up by the sky is enough to make my  heart quiver. When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too—my bounding legs and my clapping hands—and that makes me feel so, so good.

“Mrs. Fetcher” a novel by Tom Perotta

It was a long drive and Eve cried most of the way home, because the big day hadn’t gone the way she’d hoped, not that big days ever did.

Exploring her new empty-nest life, Eve embarks on a sexual awakening that makes her question much of what she thought she knew about herself and those closest to her. Perotta takes us to the teetering edge of what could be catastrophic consequences but pulls back just enough to allow his characters the space to royally fuck up while still managing to grow.

A passage I love:

It was nothing, really, just a passing shadow, and Eve had lived long enough to know that it was foolish to worry about a shadow. Everybody had one; it was just the shape your body made when the sun came out.

#NaNoWriMo2019~Day 1

E2A0BC3A-8668-4FB4-BA89-5F50BC3E8229.JPG

I am using this year to finally finish the draft of my current novel. I think this will be the third. But it has changed so much that it almost feels like the first draft again.

First session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes and go.

I realize that I often edit as I go and that is why it is taking oh so long. Now, I am placing notes to move a scene or blanks to fill in later so I can just keep going.

After the 30 minutes, I got up and did the dishes, folded a load of laundry, made the bed then went up to my yoga room for a few sun salutations. Now, I’m back at my desk and ready for round 2.

Second session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes. 

Started a new scene. Bringing back in an old character. Trusting that even time spent staring out the window and wondering is time well spent. 

Bundled up and took a 45-minute walk through the neighborhood while listening to IMG_1035an interview with Dani Shapiro and Gabrielle Bernstein on the Beautiful Writers Podcast.

Session 3: Set Freedom for 30 minutes.

I notice that part of my process involves writing my way backward into a scene. I’ll start in the character’s head then realize I need to ground them in a body and in a place then that usually sends me into a flashback that I then realize is not actually a flashback but part of the current story.

Got a shower and got dressed for the rest of my day.

Plan for tomorrow:

Pick up with current scene.

Be at desk by 8 AM. (I was going to say by 7 but I just saw that an event tonight will keep me out until 11:00.) At least one session but more likely, two, then it’s off to a 90-minute yoga class at 10:00.

Permission Granted.

ad26f77961beef5d915d29e7c66f4cc3

Image found via Pinterest.

Remember being a child and needing to ask for permission for just about everything? To watch a show. Go out with friends. Have a snack. Stay up later. 

We needed permission to keep us safe. To help us learn to make choices that were good for us. And we looked for that permission from our parents, teachers and caregivers.

We looked for that permission outside of ourselves.

Often, we carry that permission-seeking well into our adulthood. I know I have.

I sometimes look to agents and contests to give me permission to be a writer. If that person out there sees something worthwhile in my work, then I must be a writer, right?

Wrong.

I am a writer because I write.

I am a writer because it is how I live in the world

It is how I inhabit this life.

It is how I process this being human.

I don’t need permission to call myself a writer.

I don’t need an agent or a publishing contract to call myself a writer.

I grant myself permission.

What do you need to grant yourself permission to do or be?

Maybe you need permission to :

To speak up.

To rest.

To not finish that book you started. (Seriously, let it go.)

To say no.

To say yes.

To go after a new dream.

To let an old dream go.

To accept an apology you never received.

To extend forgiveness to yourself.

To embrace your body as it is right now.

Whatever you need permission to do or be or say or believe, consider it granted.

addb41c1f0127c8789ecb6e03d187e16

Image found via Pinterest.

(Feel free to share what you are granting permission for in the comments!)