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

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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.

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? . . .

Setting Writing Goals

0610 list

0610 list (Photo credit: paloetic)

I tend to be a bit of a free spirit and will never be one of those sorts of people to plan my day out by the hour. No offense meant if you’re reading this and you are one of those type people.  I do use a monthly calendar and write out to do lists, as I know planning does help make things happen.

Through the tools I use, I do accomplish quite a bit, but have been thinking it might help to set some goals for myself.  I believe it may help restore a little balance in my life as I can get carried away a bit. My daily activities usually depend on my mood, what interests me, and if something has a deadline. There are times I may curl up reading a good book for hours or sit and write for hours on end.

To give my life more sense of direction and balance I have started to really think about goals as well as write them down, so I have a good visual to keep me motivated.  It’s wonderful to do things I enjoy, such as write, but clean clothes and healthy meals are also vital.  Goal setting will be a project I will work on some this week.  Goals will always be subject to change, but I thought I would share some of my writing goals so far:

  1. Blog twice a week atleast (both blogs)
  2. Read two books a month
  3. Write two articles per day
  4. Check boards on my website list for freelance writing jobs (so far www.freelancewritinggigs.com , www.craigslist.com , and the job board on www.wow-womenonwriting.com )

Here’s a quote by C. S. Lewis on goals-“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”  Best wishes for balance in your life and happy goal setting.