Snowy Day Ramblings

Snowy Bench

Snowy Bench

I just finished sipping a cup of homemade hot chocolate. It’s the perfect thing to do on a frosty day like today. Way more snow fell yesterday in our little part of North Carolina than we’ve seen in many years.  It never lasts long, so I just content myself to staying cozily indoors till the roads are safe. Of course since over 3 snowflakes fell, pretty much everything is closed anyway. The only venturing out I do is to take the occasional picture and to feed the outside critters(the resident goat, guinea, and couple of chickens).

It’s been one of those slow kind of days I enjoy. It started with making some delicious wholesome homemade banana muffins, full of good stuff like flaxseed and fresh ground whole wheat flour. I did some essentials, like cleaning up a bit, then it’s been computer time for me. My internet works at the archaic speed of the dial-up age, but I’ve still managed to mostly catch up reading blog posts and emails for now.

I’m still writing, just been quiet. Mainly writing in my journal, bits of non-fiction, and a few poems as the mood strikes. I’ve been reading plenty too, including I just got my hands on The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice, which I’ve been wanting to read for some time now. I’m not far into it yet, but it looks good and though I’m not a big horror fan, I do enjoy werewolf and vampire stories. I’ll have to share about some of the ebooks I’ve read in another post some time.

Besides going to become a grandmother within a couple of months, the thing I’m most excited about is I might actually get to go to my first ever writers conference. It’s the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair in Lumberton. It happens to be in the same town my husband’s side of the family usually has family reunions in and best of all the price is right within my budget as the admission is free. Several of the talks look interesting.

On a totally other note, if you’ve ever felt life is not going as you planned(ok…I must really be a dreamer if I think it’s supposed to…huh?) or you’re getting older and feel suddenly you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up, then I ran across a couple of interesting blog posts this morning. Both of them are on the same site, but gave me something to think about. Read the comments too, there were some interesting ones. The posts are If You Could Do Anything for a Living, What Would You Do? and The Problem with Plans : What I Learned from Getting Laid Off.

Best wishes in your life and writing endeavors. Here’s one of the many poems I’ve been writing lately…

Heartsong

Somethings are just known
Without any doubt
Felt down deep
Make life worth living
Make life complete
Slip into place
Perfect poetry
Sung between hearts
Grounding my soul
Giving me peace
A return to dreams
An awakening hope

This and That

This is one of those “little of this and that” type posts, kind of like show and tell at school or concocting soup in the kitchen from a variety of ingredients. I just wanted to share a few things…

I’m excited! A memoir piece I wrote was accepted in an anthology, Back to School 2013 Memoir Anthology. It’s now out on Amazon. My piece is called, “Confessions of a High School Social Phobic”. If you like writing memoir or would like to try your hand, there’s another call for submissions with a November deadline. You can find out more in the post over at the Karenzo Media blog.

Despite the craziness of my chaotic life, I’ve managed to read a couple of books too. One of the books, In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, is a novel set in the Renaissance period. The two main characters are the courtesan and a dwarf. The two flee tragic circumstances in Rome and move to Venice, overcoming much so the courtesan’s business flourishes again. The story is told through the eyes of the dwarf, which offers an interesting perspective.

This book kept my interest all the way through the end. This author is so good at being descriptive, that it’s easy to visualize the settings and the characters. I won’t spoil the ending, in case you decide to read it, but I will say it didn’t end the way I thought it was going to. I enjoyed it! (the book, not the ending) It’s the second book I’ve read by this author, The Birth of Venus being the first.

The other book was a memoir I’ve had on my wish list for awhile, Loose Girl : A Memoir of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen. It’s a memoir about a woman’s journey from promiscuity to learning how to have a real intimate relationship and how to love herself. She runs through guy after guy and pays the consequences for her actions through loss of friendships, chances at real love, degradation of self, and disease. There’s no fairy tale ending, but like the rest of us, I think it’s about self discovery and always trying to do better.

I think the author is brave for writing truthfully about such a taboo subject, but I was troubled so much I almost stopped reading the book a time or two. It wasn’t the promiscuity causing me such a problem, but the references to drug use interspersed throughout the book. There were parts as well, where her actions seemed shallow and selfish. I know that sounds so judgmental and I know none of us are perfect, but it’s my opinion as a reader. It was interesting enough and I wanted to understand more, so I did finish the book and I was glad I did. She’s bluntly honest.

Memoirs are one of my favorite things to read and write lately. Here’s a neat list I ran across of suggested memoirs to read. It’s by a woman who teaches memoir classes. The post is Writing Memoir? Read Memoir. Here’s a good article over at the Huffington Post by Linda Joy Myers, PhD. with tips on writing memoir too. One final tidbit I’ll leave you with is a quote I ran across. It’s a good one if you’re ever sitting there having guilt that you should be cleaning rather than writing… “At worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.”—Rose Macaulay. I love it! 🙂

Books and More

It’s been way too long since I’ve blogged and I do miss it. I won’t start with any apologies or false promises of blog posts becoming more regular soon. My life is just in an emotional chaotic state right now…being a caregiver and having a multitude of unanswerable questions about the future. I’m doing the moment by moment living thing and never know what each day will bring.

I’m still writing and thought I’d just share some of the things I’ve run across lately. I just finished reading a fantastic book I found at the library last week. My mother came for a visit and it was the first trip I’ve had to the library in a long time. The book was Pain, Parties, Work : Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder.

I’ve been interested in the writer Sylvia Plath since I learned about her and watched the movie Sylvia, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow. The book provided an insightful look into Sylvia Plath’s life, most of it, of course, focused on the month she spent as a guest editor at Mademoiselle. It was more about who she was as a person during that time than about her writing, though it was touched on throughout. There are excerpts from her journal as well, but from other times, as the author says Sylvia only wrote a paragraph about the whole month in New York.

It’s a different kind of book, but a good read. There are things in it about the 50’s from fashion to the way women were viewed by men. It even has quite a bit about her various boyfriends. There are many quotes in the book about Sylvia by some of the other guest editors and old boyfriends. The last part of the book had information I never knew about her nervous breakdown and suicide attempt soon after her return from New York.

I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever read offering a better view as to who she was as a person. It still makes me sad. She was so talented and had two beautiful children when she committed suicide at 30 years old. It makes me wish she could’ve seen what others saw and realized she had so much more life to live.

Since I finished it and had to move on, I found a book I’ve never read sitting in a stack in my living room. The book is Founding Mothers : The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. I picked it up at a used book store years ago, because it sounded interesting. Who knows why I haven’t read it before? (Must have had my nose in another good book and forgot) 🙂

It’s incredible! I am utterly amazed at how articulate the founding mothers were and I’m only to page 65 in the book so far. Women poets even contributed to the beginnings of America as a country independent from England. Some of the excerpts of Abigail Adams’ letters demonstrate a vocabulary surpassing many women of today, though she had no formal education other than that by her father. (No insult meant and I am including myself here) 🙂

Well, those are my current reads. Need to add to my “To-Read” list. I found a list of memoirs in a post Writing Memoir? Read Memoir over at the blog of Marion Roach Smith, which has some possibilities. One last thing I’ll leave with you is a neat post I read that made me smile. As wonderfully ideallic as I think it sounds to write sitting in a café somewhere, the writer of this post Squirrel, over at the blog A Thought Grows, is so how I’d be…a writer with “writer ADD” and getting little done. I’ll settle for my tea and the quiet of home or a nice grassy spot outside.  🙂

Happy writing and share any thoughts and/or any suggestions for good books you’ve read…

A Book Lover’s Dream

©Illumination Photographics by Selena Lynn

©Illumination Photographics by Selena Lynn Bullock

Spring is in the air and thoughts of love. Well, I’m in love with reading. It’s not a bad thing and many well seasoned writers point out if you’re going to write, you need to read. Read far and wide, not just your writing genre. You can pick up on many good and bad things in reading, which will help you with your writing. Another bit of sound advice, which I need to take, don’t read so much about how to write, just WRITE.

My daughter has found she has a natural affinity for grammar and writing in her college English class. I don’t think it has much to do with any special curriculum used during her years as a homeschooler. I attribute it more to her being raised in a reading filled environment. Books have always been around our home, many childhood trips to libraries and bookstores, bedtimes filled with stories read aloud, and encouraging her to read books of her own choosing.

We’re both still voracious readers, just have very different tastes in books. I love going to the library and stocking up on books. Caregiving responsibilities have increased, so I hadn’t been in a while. I finally got to go(clapping hands and smiling big) and it was great…I think my enthusiasm may have scared the young librarian at the desk. 🙂 I told my sister it was as good as chocolate or s-e-x.

I checked out a big stack of books I’ve been wanting to get my hands on, as well as a few Mother Earth magazines. I was one HAPPY woman. I won’t bore you with all my books, some are just random ones I have an interest in like gardening and crochet.

Two were writing books : How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead by Ariel Gore(I don’t want to be famous, but it looked interesting on the flip through. I’ve enjoyed the humor the author uses throughout.) and On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King(Love this…though be forewarned he is blunt and there is a bit of cursing if you’re on the prim & proper side. It’d be one of those times to not throw the baby out with the bath water as the saying goes…he offers a lot of good advice). The funny thing is this is the only book by Stephen King I’ve ever read…I don’t do scary.

Two other books were just for my reading enjoyment and have been on my “To Read” list a while. One is Interpreter of Maladies, which is a book of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. The other was Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I’m enjoying both of these, but have seen in places first hand examples of how too much detail can slow a story down. There are places with just the right amount of description, which make it easy to picture the story in my mind.

On a side note…if libraries make your heart soar, here’s a link with pictures of incredible libraries.

Current Reads

Morante with Alberto Moravia at Capri in the 1...

Morante with Alberto Moravia at Capri in the 1940s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Be forewarned, this is an unusually long post, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on a couple of books. Hey, writers have to read! I’m reading two books currently, Woman of Rome : A Life of Elsa Morante by Lily Tuck and Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Both are really close to being finished and I’ll have to pick something new to read soon.

Fall on Your Knees is a novel and by far the most interesting of the two, albeit a bit odd. It’s a book about several generations of a family in Canada, mainly the lives of the sisters in the family. It’s a sad novel marked by tragedy upon tragedy, beginning with a thirteen year old bride. I know it’s fiction, but it is revealing about human nature…the sacrifices some are willing to make and the coldness of others.

I can’t say I really liked the book, but the author did do an amazing job writing a intensely detailed novel with a complicated plot. It’s a bit dark for my tastes and deals with some rather uncomfortable subjects including abuse.  It has some really not nice characters in it and it’s hard to get to attached to some characters, because as soon as you do, they up and die. I’m more of a lighthearted, let’s not condemn people to death kind of person.

Oh well, I’ll finish it and I can say it’s definitely something different than I’ve read in a while. It was one of those that sounded intriguing by what was written on the back cover, so I had to give it a try. It has held my interest and made me want to keep picking it up, so I can see what will happen next to the characters. It’s a page turner.

Woman of Rome is a biography about the Italian writer Elsa Morante, born 1912 and died 1985. She wrote novels and poetry, which are discussed in the book in detail. It’s taking a while for me to make my way through this book. She was an interesting writer and seems she was not afraid to voice her thoughts, often at the expense of the feelings of others, but had a rather dysfunctional family during childhood and a tragic love life.

She seems to have had a very free life for a woman. She traveled often, had a complicated marriage, and had numerous love affairs. She loved Mozart and cats. She dressed how she wanted. She was a reader and underlined favorite passages in books. She wrote her thoughts in a diary at times. She had passionate discussions with those in her life and was generous. Despite all of this, it still seems as if she was disillusioned and unhappy with life.

I think it’s taking me so long to read this book, because there is so much information. It is well researched by the author, but I get lost in many of the details about the other people that were parts of Elsa Morante’s life. There is mention of many writers, film makers, and artists in the book; which I am unfamiliar with and makes for a disconnect. I will continue to muddle my way through and finish the book regardless. This has been a very slooow page turner.

If you have a book you’ve enjoyed I’m open to suggestions and if you need a few suggestions I have a board I started on pinterest of books on my “To Read” list you may want to check out.

This and That

I’m still crafting, crocheting, and baking as Christmas is fast approaching. This means my writing temporarily takes a side seat. I’m still writing, just not as much. Thought I’d share a few things today, hence the title, so here’s a little of this and that.

I started reading a good book yesterday. The funny thing is I didn’t realize it was the same author of another book I had read till I got started. It’s a memoir titled Barnheart : The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own by Jenna Woginrich. The other book she wrote that I read is Made from Scratch.

The book is about her homesteading adventures, which of course intrigues me as I love homesteading. She has quite a sense of humor and writes with the blatant honesty I adore. Loved her apt description of chickens. I already read a little over 50 pages and can’t wait to get back to it.

This month also seems to be a month for poetry. It’s something I don’t write all the time, just when the moment strikes me. I seem to write more of it when I’m in a sad mood for some reason. Why can’t I just write happy optimistic poetry? Maybe one day. Though the one I shared does have some optimism.

Poetry appeals to me, because it allows you to say much using only a few words.  The feelings are there even when I’m too tired, more emotionally than physically tired, to write pages worth of my thoughts. It’s an easier way to speak my heart. This is a short one from yesterday. It may not be finished. Seems to need more.

Hope’s Flight

Hope flies on wings
Fragile as a butterfly’s
It’s such a delicate thing
Lifted on the winds of dreams
Inspires soaring higher
Seeking life’s passions and desires

Butterfly

Butterfly (Photo credit: fox_kiyo)

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a last thought. I was going through some of my many scraps of paper
I end up writing on and found a quote I had wrote down. It’s one of those that just make me so inspired, not just in writing, but living. Such inspiration is a desperate need in my life right now.

“I wished to live my precious time upon this earth deliberately, so that when my life was over, I would not discover that I had not truly lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

Journaling and Other Writing Pursuits

English: Headshot of Louisa May Alcott (Novemb...

As I’ve shared before, I’m an avid reader.  This evening, I just finished the book Note to Self : On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O’Shea.  Absolutely loved it!  The author is blatantly honest and the book is written like she’s conversing with a close friend, the reader, as she shares many of her own intimate journal entries.  There are numerous sample journal entries throughout the book, including several historic examples as far back in time as 1665.  I was delighted to learn the famous author Louisa May Alcott journaled throughout her life.

Journals can be an excellent way to closer examine our lives.  The author makes suggestions for some topics you may want to write about in a journal.  Journaling could be as simple as recording your daily activities, documenting a dream, or even divulging inner thoughts you would never say aloud.  No matter what you choose to journal about, I do agree with the author’s sentiment that one of the most important people we should be honest with are ourselves.

My writing progress as of late has been a little slow on the end of writing which may bring in financial benefits, but I’ve been writing.  Journaling has by far been my favorite means of writing as of late, since there are some things in my life I’ve been working through.  I’ve actually looked forward to journaling and sought out my journal more often since I gave myself freedom to write in it as I want rather than a required daily entry.

* Enough about journaling, now a little side note about my other writing escapades.  To borrow a phrase from my teen daughter, Camp Nanowrimo was an “Epic Fail” for me and I did not accomplish the goal.  On the positive side, it did inspire me to attempt writing fiction and I wrote a whopping 6,127 words thus far on my novel for the month of June.  Not bad, considering I was devoting a lot of time to several other projects, including gardening.  I will hopefully finish writing it one day, as I am interested in the story. If you’d like to try it, there is another camp coming up in August.  Besides my novel, I’ve also continued writing poetry and worked on adding to the memoir I’m writing.

Camp NaNoWrimo . . . Novel Writing!

Life has been busy, so I’ve not had as much time to blog as I would like.  Holding my breath and thinking things are slowing down.  At least the dust appears to be settling.  Still waiting to hear back on submissions I have sent out into the world.  Still managing to continue to journal and actually enjoying it since I’ve freed myself of thinking I must do it every single day.  And of course, of course, I am reading!

As if I don’t have enough to do, I’ve decided to try Camp NaNoWriMo.  I’m in a cabin, have settled in, and attempting to write my first fiction novel.  Only have a little over 2,300 words so far, but it’s early in the month.  I’m normally a non-fiction and poetry type gal, but thought it would be fun to give fiction a try.  You never know if you like something, unless you try.

Camp NaNoWrimo

Camp NaNoWrimo

This is the first time I’ve ever tried anything NaNoWriMo.  The big month is in November, but I’ll see how this goes first.  I didn’t even know what NaNoWriMo stood for until a few months ago.  In case you are as clueless as I was, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to begin something new, not an old project, and write at least 50,000 words.

The novel I am working on is a romance fantasy novel.  I thought it would be good for my first attempt as much of the advice I’ve read about writing novels is to write the type of novel you enjoy reading.  I love to read historical romance, but am not too good at history, hence the fantasy.

I got in a creative spurt yesterday and even had a little fun!  Yes, the kind of creative fun you can remember from art class in school.  Using markers and crayons, I created a map of the kingdom and surrounding areas the companions in my novel will be traveling through as they embark upon their quest.  Now I have an inspiring poster to kind of help keep me on track.

Hopefully this week will be calmer and productive.  It can be both can’t it?  I’ll hope so anyway.  Happy writing…

Of Course, More Books About Writing…

Photograph of one of Ronald Skirth's journals.

Photograph of one of Ronald Skirth’s journals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my great loves above writing is reading.  Sometimes I’ll read one book for hours and other times I have several going at once.  Not reading them at once, but I’ll read a bit of one and then read a bit of another.  Well, I discovered some more gems at my local public library I thought I’d share.  I’m always on the look out for a good book.

I’ve dabbled in journaling through the years.  More of an on again, off again type journaler, but attempted to journal.  Usually my results are a few entries and then it may get picked up again several months or a year later.  Well, I decided to pick up my journal again and start anew, so timing was perfect to spot the book Note to Self : On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O’Shea.

I’m almost halfway through, but have enjoyed this book.  Makes me feel so much less guilty in my journal attempts and gives me some thoughts to free my mind to journal.  She says even the sporadic journal entry will shed a lot on your life through the years rather than not journaling at all.  The author is even so brave as to share many of her actual journal entries with her readers.  She even gives ideas on topics you may want to journal about if you find yourself lacking ideas.

It’s funny how small the world is and the coicidences which occur at times.  Not too long ago I saw the movie Sylvia, which had Gwyneth Paltrow playing the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath.  I  had never heard of Sylvia Plath and have been reading up about her as well as some of her works.  Well, in the book, it says Sylvia was an avid journaler and there are some of her journal entries included as well.

I’m looking forward to finishing this book and have began to start journaling at night before I go to bed.  I’m trying to do it nightly, but giving myself permission to skip a night or nights if need be.  Hopefully will fend off discouragement and plan to do what you do if you fail at dieting one day, which is just get back up and try it again the next day.  Some reasons to journal are it’s cathartic, provides some historical evidence of your life for personal reflection, and provides another opportunity to write. 

The other book I discovered was Shimmering Images : A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton.  It’s a small book and is written in a good conversational tone I quite enjoy.  I finished reading it in one evening.  Thought it might give me some helpful advice as I continue to plunge into writing a couple of memoirs and personal essays.  I’m not closing the doors on fiction, but have decided I am  more of a personal and non-fiction writer.

I really like the first part of her book, which shares our right to writing truths and at the same time doing so compassionately.  This includes being soul searchingly honest with ourselves as well as not playing the blame game.  While being careful not to persecute others unjustly, we must also not overly berate ourselves.  This is probably very hard for most, as it’s often said writers are their own worst critics.  I know I’m quicker to criticize myself than anyone else.

The second half of the book she shares what she means by shimmering images, which is basically a kind of memory in your mind you can see bits and pieces of, as well as gives ideas how to fill in those memories some.    Some of the ideas are doing things like memory mapping, asking family members questions, looking at old photos, and researching what was going on in the world during the time period of your memories.  Lastly in the second part she discusses how to get to the heart of what your story is actually about, so it has meaning.

The third part of her book shares information about useful tools for the writer.  She covers such things as choosing which perspective to write from and creating scenes in your memoir, which are important in memoir writing just as in writing fiction.  There is also helpful information on imagery and ways to avoid using cliches.  This was a good book and I appreciated the examples of memoir writing included by the author.

Do you journal?  What kind of journal writer  are you?  Besides Anne Frank, can you think of any other famous journalers or writers who keep/kept journals? . . .

Hidden Words, Hidden Works

Hidden canyon5

Hidden canyon5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I’ve been trying to find homes for some of my writing, I’ve had to take into consideration which pieces I feel comfortable sharing.  There are some things, which may only ever be shared with select people in my life or may never see the light of day unless I was to die.  There are some things I’ve written that I know in my heart I want to share one day, but some time will probably have to pass first.

There is not much I hesitate to write about as I’ve spent too much of my life being quiet.  Too many days not speaking my mind and saying my peace.  Writing gives me the freedom to get things out, even if it’s not shared.  There are some things I’ve written, which I keep hidden so no one will find and read.

Even though I write about most things, there are still things I’m afraid to write about.  I don’t think it’s really the things themselves are scary, but rather I think it’s like Natalie Goldberg points out in her book Old Friend from Far Away : The Practice of Writing Memoir, we’re afraid of what others will think.  Most all of us have either secrets in our lives or things we hope for, but don’t want others to know.

In a section of her book I love she emphasizes, “You have a right to write it.  Throw it out, rip it up, swallow it down.  Build up a capacity to bear up–don’t let fear run your writing life.  Hide your notebook in a good place.”  In other words never let fear stop you from writing.  I like the freedom to be able to say and write things.  Write things even if you have to burn it after you wrote it or hide it.

Kind of a side track here, but wanted to share.  There are two other great resources I’ve found for finding homes for writing when you’re ready to share something.  Duotrope has market listings, response time stats, and you can even do a specific search to find the right place for a piece you’ve written.  NewPages.com has information on magazines, publishers, calls for submissions, writing contests, and many other useful things.

 

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