Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Worst Interview Ever? Top this.

Probably not the worst ever, really. But a great example of how difficult they can be!

Luke Burbank, with NPR, interviewed the Icelandic band Sigur Ros with regrettable results.

View the train wreck for yourself. (It's even worse if you close your eyes and hear how it must have sounded on the radio.)

Please understand - I'm not being critical. My initial reaction to watching this was to thank God that most of my interviews are between me and one other person (or a roomful of people at the most). This guy is on NPR. Yeah, and now the INTERNET.

So, what has he learned from this experience? See the footage of Jancee Dunn offer suggestions as to how this interview could have been a little bit better. And she's had lots of help from commenters and bloggers, who are, as always, willing to point out where they think it went astray. :)

So let's join them!

I thought this was GREAT learning. GREAT. A no-cost course in what to watch out for in the potentially dangerous interview waters. It's a little like the cartoon in the Sunday paper. "Can you spot the 8 things wrong with this picture?"

So, what can you find?

Hey, it's in the spirit of learning folks. That could have been any one of us! Remind me not to get into radio broadcasting, 'kay?

Monday, October 29, 2007

M, Rudeness, and 100 Posts

My son M is six years old and I LOVE this age. It's like suddenly he's a mini-adult, able to talk about the things that bother him. Able to identify those things without screaming and body-flinging (most of the time).

Today he wanted to go to his friend E's house to see if E could play outside. I said ok and off he trotted. He came home looking dejected.

"Do you know what I don't like about E's mom?"

"What, honey?"

"I don't like how when I say 'can E come out' she says 'no' as soon as I say 'Can E-'"

"Do you mean she interrupts you?"

"Yeah, she interrupts me and it's rude."

We discussed adults and how they can be rude sometimes. He wanted to know what he could do to make someone not be rude. Really, I explained, there is no way to make someone else be polite. You can only be polite yourself and show them how to be.

I'm big on polite, and I don't mind when my son corrects me. When we are reading our books at night I sometimes say "Ok, next one!" and he goes to hand me one, saying "do you mean, can I have the next one please?" Um, yes, that's what I meant.

This is important to do, with my son, because he is so worried about making mistakes or social faux pas. But to see me make a mistake, apologize and correct it as best as I can, he realizes that it's ok to make a mistake.

I don't know what else to say about E's mother... some people are just rude.

By the way, this is our 100th post!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Five tips for the perpetually disorganised

(x-posted from my blog, Publish Hacks)
I promised I'd be back when my brain reconstituted slightly.
And so....without further ado.
The five top tips for the perpetually disorganized (cue chart count-down music)

In at number five - Make a to-do list - It might seem odd, but you're not going to be able get organized and plan your time without looking into what you've got to do. So, work out what you've got to work with, and then you can handle the rest more effectively.

At four - close your email. If, like me, you live in your email, you'll find your time is more effectively managed if you close the time sink that is your email. Not only do we focus less well on working if you're looking at your system tray for the little envelope every five minutes, but when it does come in, you then feel nagged, and may *have* to open it. Have a routine for checking email, even if its once an hour (but at the same time, if you're really in a flow at that point, don't break it)

At three - remember that if you're procrastinating, there's a reason for it. If you're ALWAYS procrastinating, perhaps you need to look at your practices, and find out why. Writing is everyone's passion, and yes, we all have to make money from it, but if you really hate what you're doing, maybe you need to look for something you hate less ;).

At two - remember that your todo list is a guideline, not a structure. As long as you're fulfilling your deadlines, don't sweat the small stuff. Similarly, if you're NOT completing your deadlines, you need to look at why. I'm very undisciplined, and I know that's what my main problem stems from, so I've built and designed my working patterns around that. But I don't break off when things are really going well either. If I get into the flow, I ride it out, and find a way to catch up later.

And at number one - make sure you've got the right tools for the right job. I'm currently trialling some low cost software that's supposedly great for people like me. It stores everything in the one place, so I can access whatever I need to with a couple of clicks, within the place I write - and is helping me see exactly where I need to go from here.
You don't NEED to buy software though - there are lots of free tools that you can use (in fact, I review them on my blog), its all a question of comfort.

BONUS tip!
Have FUN! Its one of the most important caveats of writing. We're not writing because we have to, we're writing because we love it. It might be hard, and yes, its frustrating, but at the end of the day, isn't it worth it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Perfectionist Tries to Plan Meals - a plea for help

Some of us grew up helping Mom in the kitchen. You know who you are.

You're the woman who goes to the grocery store without a list, and can plan a week's worth of suppers and a beautiful Sunday meal based on what looks good in the produce aisle.

It would be wrong for me to hate you.

So instead I'll just appeal to your bountiful sense of goodness, your abundant compassion, and your giving nature...


I might look like a woman who can bake up a loaf of fresh whole wheat bread before Martha Stewart can even get her apron tied, but that's just a genetic mistake. God gave me the cozy, domestic Mom-look, but with the analytical tendencies of a NASA engineer - minus mathematical ability, sadly - and the grandiose aspirations of explorers and inventors throughout time.

Know what that means? It means that Rachel Ray gets a lot more done in the kitchen than I do.

Don't get me wrong. I can cook, and bake. It's planning menus that stymies me.

The dreamer in me imagines meals fit for kings, and my mommy instincts only egg it on. But when the engineer part sits down to plan out the menu...

"Hmm," says the engineer in me, as I make a list. “I will factor in the season, budget, our family’s schedule, the government’s RDA, and a healthy carb/protein ratio. Combine that with the coupons in my organizer and arrange my trajectory according to the layout of the store aisles...”

Need I say more?

I'm looking for a book or website that has good menu plans.

Not with unfamiliar combinations like Alaskan Smoked Salmon Frittata with Snow Peas in Caper Sauce, just good ol’ American classics that will kick the engineer entirely out of the process. A little risotto won't kill me, but I'm not looking for gourmet, or fru-fru. Not twists on the classics. Just something like:

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.
Turkey, Yams, and Fruit Salad.
Ham, Blackeyed Peas and Cornbread.

I need help. And I need it soon. Because tomorrow is grocery day.

Any ideas???

I have nothing to say...

My brain melted this week.
I'm used to deadlines, of course, as every freelancer probably is, but I've found it hard to keep up this week. FOUR assignment deadlines, with one due today, and I've had to learn a whole new subset of skills to achieve the basic requirements of my assignments. I think I understand it all, but I'm still nervous. And I've got my regular contracts too.
I think I'll have something to say about time management, when I can actually formulate something along those lines, but for the moment, nada....

It shows though, that sometimes, bloggers really have nothing to say ;) I'll be back in a few days when my brain cools.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Somethings to Think About...

I want to share with our readers some of my favorite quotes regarding writing and motherhood.

  • "The pen is mightier than the sword."--An ancient Arab proverb

  • "Write bad things that are done to you in sand, but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble.”--An Arab proverb

  • "The phrase "working mother" is redundant. "--Jane Sellman
  • "God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers."-- Jewish proverb

If you are having writer's block or need some type of inspiration, maybe these will help you. Feel free to leave your favorite quotes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What I've learned in the past 24 hours...

If one is going to flirt suggestively with one's husband via BlackBerry instant messenger while he's out... one should make sure that the baby doesn't start projectile vomiting while one's husband is on his way home.

I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And you thought YOU were nervous...

When I posted about overcoming Interview Jitters last month, I promised a few tips on how to put your interview subject at ease.

Some people are used to interviews. In my opinion, these are the easiest people to interview, because sometimes they'll answer questions you haven't even asked yet. And they answer decisively, and in perfect, quotable sentences. What a relief.

But not everyone is a media pro. If you're alert to that possibility, then you'll suddenly understand why they're talking a hundred miles per hour, or making jokes that aren't funny, or why their throat seems to be closing up and they aren't talking at all. When you can help make them comfortable, then slyly slip in your questions,they'll never even notice they're "being interviewed."

This isn’t rocket-science. I think for most established interviewers these techniques are second nature. But if you’re battling your own case of nerves, it might help to keep these simple tips in mind:

Be interested. This starts pre-interview, inside your brain. It helps me sound more enthusiastic, and that gets the subject talking because everyone loves to talk about what they’re passionate about. Um, almost everyone.
Thank them for their time. Let them know how much you respect/appreciate/need their input on the subject. Not only is it polite, but a nervous interviewee will be reminded that he or she is the expert on the matter. Wouldn’t that put you at ease?
Warm them up with chit-chat. “Wow, what do you think of this heat/cold/smog/acid rain?” will work just fine. But be careful here. You could end up wandering so far off your subject that 45 minutes later you’ll have to break in abruptly with, “And I’ll bet those grandkids are really proud about your recent discovery of ionized particles in subcutaneous matter! How did that discovery come about, anyway?”
Ask easy questions first. One thing I do if I sense my source is nervous is tell them I have to get some basic info before we begin: spelling of first and last name, make sure I get their title right, etc. That usually puts people at ease. They're like, "Spell my name? That's easy! I know this one!! Yay me!"
Don’t read your questions. Ask them.

Okay, that’s five. What are your tips for putting interview subjects at ease?

Friday, October 19, 2007

I Told Them, "I am a Writer."

I just started a local playgroup in my area because I felt it was needed. Turns out there are 11 mothers interested in the playgroup. We now have two sessions--one A.M. and the other P.M.

Our first AM session went well. Thursday, at our second AM session, we, adults, became a bit more comfortable with each other, we even asked more personal questions--like what do you do for a living?

As my turn came around, I told them that I teach part time and that I am a writer. I said "I am a writer" as if I had been a writer for ages. After I had said that, I surprised myself, but I didn't it show it on my face--you know, I stayed cool, sophisticated *smile*. The other mothers were impressed.

They started asking me questions like what do I write about? Online or Print? I answered all their questions.

I just had to share my excitement because that is the first time I had declared to the world that "I am a writer." Now, I know that is what I will tell people when they ask me about my occupation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NaNo Groups Online

In response to a commenter who asked where to find NaNo moral support when you don’t live in an area with a local group, much less a Municipal Liaison (Gee, I hop I speeled that write!), I thought I’d list a few online groups that might work for her and others in the same position.

NaNoWriMo forums

Momwriters NaNo Support (Must be a member of the main Momwriters group, but that's easy! Go to the main Momwriters Yahoo Group.)'s NaNo Forum

I know there are others all over the 'Net, but I'll just list a few that I can think of at the moment.

If you know of some great NaNo support groups online, would you please be a dear, and add them in the comments? Solitary NaNoers everywhere will thank you, and so do I. Thanks!

Nano MLs

Municipal liaisons are some of the luckiest Nanowrimoers on the planet.
Not only do we get to write our own novels, but we, as the liaisons for our regions/areas/ get to meet some of the coolest writers on the planet.
I say that because, as far as I'm concerned, any writer is cool. You're living your dream, and creating the story that's sitting there, in your head.
50,000 words in a month isn't - that - difficult. 1667 words a day, or more, and you'll be fine. And before anyone starts to tell me about the myriad of full time work, parenting, other hobbies - I know. Full time student, full time mother, full time writer. I do the work of three or four people (like the rest of us ;)) and I do the Nano and ML. Its a great life.

But I think, its important to say something about the ML's because, to be totally honest, if you're stuck - or confused - sad, lonely, or in need of a sympathetic WRITERS ear, the ML, especially during the Nanowrimo is a great stop.
We're YOUR MLs - we're here for YOU. We are the people that know (and arrange) the write ins. We also get goodies for you - badges, tattoos (last year) and other fun stuff. And of course, you'll be able to find other writers, in the same area, in the same boat as you.
So, remember, find your regional rep - and talk to your ML and find out what's happening in your area. As a community, the Nanoers can't be beat.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Follow Through

I think it was back in August that I mentioned I was waiting on three checks to arrive. One of those checks is still outstanding.

I followed up, for the first time, last week with an e-mail to the editor. It was more of a "I haven't received my clips and check yet, did I miss them?" e-mail. And yes, the reference to clips first was on purpose as was the possibility that I had received and overlooked them.

The editor was quick to respond with an apology and mentioned she reminded the person in charge of accounts. I don't have a date yet, but she did say she would let me know when to expect it. I have made a note to check back in a week or so if I haven't heard anything.

Following up on money issues is always problematic. You want to walk that fine line that keeps you in good graces with the editor while still collecting on a debt. It has been my experience that it is rarely the editor who cuts the checks, but it is the editor you deal with in trying to collect payment.

Since August, I have billed for and received a number of checks quickly. So it isn't always a problem, but every once in a while, checks take a long time to process. As someone trying to pay my own bills, it is a necessity that I figure out when I can expect a payment.

I've learned that asking a few questions early on in the process helps. How is billing handled? Do I need to send an invoice? Are there certain days when checks are cut?

A long time ago, a company I worked for didn't seem to have a billing system, and I could never figure out when I should expect a check. The checks I received had random dates, and I couldn't figure out a method to the madness.

When I asked my editor, she didn't know either. At my request, she and I learned there was a system. For invoices in before the 5th of the month, checks were cut on the Friday following the 10th of the month. It was that "Friday following" that caused so much randomness. Once I knew how the system worked, I knew what to expect and when. I also knew to make sure I submitted my invoices before the 5th of the month.

A few questions about billing procedures can really help you determine when to expect payment, and when and how to follow up on payments not made.

I also must confess that I failed to bill one of my regular clients recently. I should have received payment for work on the 15th (today), but I neglected to submit my invoices on time. No invoice, no payment. I will get paid eventually, but now I have to wait for the next billing cycle.

I tend to keep pretty close tabs on money I am expecting and dates when I should expect it. But even with a pretty secure system, I have to factor in the unknowns. Without a system, I would never be able to figure out what is due when. Do you have a system that works for you?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Note on Comments!

I've opened up comments to anyone.

Here's hoping I don't get the crazybutt emails about the second realm of heaven and aliens and tinfoil that I've gotten in the past.

So comment away ye lurkers!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two Weeks to NaNo

I shall be NaNoing this year. Again.

I'll let you in on a secret, I have only finished once. I think I've done it five years now. Four of those I've been municipal liaison for my city.

The thing is, I don't see my November job as NaNoWriter, I see myself as NaNoEncourager. I'm the one that sets up the real-life meetings and gets some swag together so the writers have a little momento for their efforts.

Last year we were so poor that when I picked out swag at the dollar store I went to pay for it and had no money, I was overdrawn and couldn't buy $50 worth of dollar store goodies. But I went home, lifted cushions and checked my piggy bank and my husband's wallet (kind of the same really...) and got the swag together. I just wanted to do it. I wanted to do it for the writers who would show up all filled with hope.

So despite the fact that I'm busy and tired... I'll do it again this year. I may never finish a novel, but I hope that I start something in someone else that becomes something bigger.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why I'm Glad I'm Not...

I wasn't sure how to finish the title of this post. "Why I'm glad I'm not... a high-powered, big time success?" That doesn't seem exactly right, because I'm very much a success in the terms I would use to describe it. But for now, I'll assume you know what I mean: on the career fast track in New York city, working for some big time publisher or media company. That would be too long for a post title anyway. :)

I had a great, productive day. I was on deadline (who isn't?) with a story I'm working on and I needed information - today - from a source in New York. I'd been in contact with them throughout the week and today was my deadline. Just minutes before 5 p.m. their time, I called with one final plea, saying that I knew that it was just about closing time and if they could get me the information I needed I would be so appreciative. My contact called me to let me know they were still working on it, and then she said, "Just so you know, we're not, um.... We're still here. We're still working on it."

The woman was young, and maybe I was just imagining it but I thought there was just a hint of wistfulness in her voice. Either that, or it was the rumblings of her stomach as she thought about people like me in Kansas who think of 5 o'clock as quitting time.

I know everyone is in different stages in their careers and lives, and granted, there are many times when I work late into the evenings. But I get to do it at home, and I get to define success on my own terms, which have more to do with how happy my family is than whether my last performance evaluation was good.

For now, at this stage of my life, that is exactly where I want to be. I suppose there will be time for me to be a high-powered executive later.

Day of Eid al Fitr (Holiday Feast)?

Well, yesterday I had posted that we weren't sure if today would be the Eid. Turns out half the Muslims in the U.S. celebrated the three day holiday today, and the rest will celebrate it tomorrow.

What did I do? I celebrated it today. I did not fast. It is forbidden to fast during a holiday. However, the congregation prayers will be held tomorrow because they feel tomorrow is the beginning of the holiday, where many Muslims felt it was today.

But according to Islamic sources, it is OK to not to perform Eid prayers on the first day of the holiday, but prayers can be performed on the second day. That is what I will be doing tomorrow morning along with my family members.

I will post on the excitement of the holiday in the morning.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Day In The Life

My writing life is a lot more concentrated these days. It is squashed in between 3 and 10 pm. But then again so is the end of the school day, dinner, housework, the good TV shows, my bath time and ... oh yeah... quality time with the kids.

So sometimes my interviews overlap with... life.

Yesterday I had three interviews to do.

One went really well. Of course I had put The Backyardigans on and I might have thrown some chocolate in their general area.

Which came back to bite me with interviews two and three.

During interview two I had to stop to quiet my son (6yo) and say, "Sorry, that was just my son's light sabre. It's a little loud."

During interview (which was post the baby's bath and pre pajamas) three I had to stop typing and run across the room because the baby... she pooped on the carpet. Thankfully interviewee was none the wiser. And at least I noticed before she started playing with it.

Day 29 of Ramadan

Tomorrow could be the last day of Ramadan, or it could be today. I am not really sure. See many Muslim countries have already declared that today is the last day of Ramadan, while I believe a couple of countries say it is Saturday. Where does the US stand? Well, let me put this way: we could celebrate tomorrow, Saturday, or be split up--some on Friday and the rest on Saturday. It is tradition (hadith) for Muslims scholars to declare a celebration by the sighting of a moon.

I wonder if there are political motives when different Muslims celebrate the Eid al Fitr (Holiday Feast) on two different days. This is a controversy among many Muslims.

As a rule of thumb, many of my family members go with Saudi Arabia because it has the holiest city (Mecca) in the Islamic world. We look at it as representative for the Islamic world.

I am actually sad to see Ramadan go. As an individual, it was a time of spiritual cleansing and feeling better about your body and mind. I actually became more aware of my surroundings. As a group, it was time for straightening bonds and creating memories with loved ones.

I will let you know what we decide tomorrow. We will be looking into our local masjid (mosque or community center), and see what they will be doing tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Days 28 and 27 of Ramadan

Day 28

Today was a COLD day for many others, including myself. Even though this is a normal part of the season--we've been spoiled by summer. Just the past few days, we had 90 degree days.Instead of sometimes feeling thirsty, I felt cold. I needed something warm to drink.

I probably didn't mention this in prior posts, but we have been losing minutes each day because it is sunsetting earlier.

Ramadan could be over tomorrow or Friday. Islamic scholars will declare when Ramadan is over, by sightings of the moon. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the Islamic calendar follows a lunar cycle.

Day 27

Quiet day. Relatives came over and had dinner with us.

Writing Newsletters Worth Reading

Author's note: You know, I just reread this post and realized it seems a bit like an ad. I write marketing copy sometimes, so if I slip into that mode, please forgive me! It isn't an ad at all. I just like the newsletter. :) There. Now I feel better. How about you?

I know there are a lot of good writing newsletters out there, but it can be difficult to sift through them all to find the good ones.

I get several. None of the ones I get charge for a subscription. (The bad ones I would pay just to get unsubscribed!) Some of them send worthwhile content, with only a few appropriate ads.

One of my favorites is the Worldwide Freelance Writer newsletter. No spam whatsoever. Each issue has a smattering of markets and one well-written article that is worth reading.

It's like they read my mind. For instance, today's issue has an article called "10 Ways To Write Great Blog Posts." I was just thinking about that.

#2 was "keep posts under 250 words." So I think I'll close here with a question for you:

What's your favorite writing newsletter? Why is it worth reading?

Writerly Parenting Tip #1

If you are too unorganized or wrapped up in your project of the moment to remember your child has show and tell every other Friday, your child will figure out something to show or tell.

Things including but not limited to the song your, determined to be a terrible influence, brother delighted in teaching said child over the summer. The song your child remembers every single Kindergarten inappropriate word to and sings loudly and often.

Which you will think bad enough, until the second time when he will tell the class that, "It is ok to lie because Mommy does to phone solicitors and to save someone's feelings like the time she told the police officer that we had only been living in Mississippi for four weeks, when we'd really been here for two years, and that's why she still had a Texas driver's license."

After which the teacher will look at you strangely and you will notice your child is learning every Kindergarten appropriate song known to man. As well as lecturing you on the virtues of never telling lies of any kind. Until another parent, whose child has informed them of your own child's delightful show and tell activities, clues you in and you feel like dying from the humiliation of being the horrible, lying and forgetful Mama.... And you vow to do better.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Question of Sanity...

I have been sitting on a bunch of guest posts for a while. A couple of weeks back, a friend posted this on a mailing list we're both on. I thought it was harried, but hopeful at the same time. I have taken the liberty of entitling it...

A Question of Sanity

Today I am questioning my is nights and days where it seems like everything goes backward, that in reality it is going forward. I have been home just over a week after spending ten days in hospital due to threatened premature labor. This little one is now full-term and had me in hospital last weekend with major contractions and nothing happening. I turned full-term on Thursday which I am really grateful for and am now looking forward to actually having her.

Yesterday - what a mixed bag. No I didn't try to put the dog in the fridge as he would not fit - thank goodness. That is the state my brain was in - forgetting things, misplacing items, running late for daycare, not realizing we were out of gas for the car, it was a great start to the day.

So very soon, my family will increase from four males (five including the dog), to two females - myself and our little girl. There was no mistaking the ultrasound and this pregnancy has been nothing like any of the boys ) I would not have it any other way. This year has been a huge learning curve in family, relationships, learning about myself, who I am and what is important to me. Writing is more viable than ever as a way of life and I am developing this as I go along. I am still doing my magazine and web work, have a special book to contribute to and another series of ebooks in development on writing.

This year, I can see that dreams do come true, miracles happen and I am often surprised when one problem is solved without a huge amount of fuss or planning. Having to be humble and ask for help has been a huge thing for me to learn to do. I realise now I can be independant and still have help without having to do everything alone.

Life is a gift and something to treasure. There have been times when I have been in a depressed state, so angry I resembled a mean looking bull about to charge the poor person caught in the corner of the fence, or the teary momma who wants to just sit down, cry and bury her head in the sand. I haven't buried my head in the sand - I mean the sand in the eyes and nose would be the pits. I have managed to coral that mean bull and have to take him for walks every day to keep it calm, the depressed person is unable to stay sad as the eternal oprimist comes through and has to laugh and see the good in every situation. Plus with a lovable nut for a husband, three active young boys and being alive, there is so much to enjoy and appreciate.

Keep going with your writing, sit tight with our dreams - I am now daring to dream again and I have this nagging suspicion that I am on the right path to getting everything that I have always desired for my family. Love we have in abundance and everything else is a huge bonus.

Better go before the 5 and 2 year demolish their bedroom with the toy tools they found this morning. Mister 2 was up at 5 and wanted to play and I made him go back to bed as the crows hadn't flown past and the sun was still in bed. 6am saw the 5 and 2 year playing in their room making a ruckus and bouncing on the beds, so mom got out of bed, got them settled as the sun was still not up and then at 6:30am, they wandered into the office where I got them drawing. So children keep me very engaged and I am so tired at the moment that my eyes feel like they are about to fall out of my head. How my hubbie can be such a heavy sleeper is beyond me...yes I am a bit envious as I am a light sleeper so hear most things that go on.

Washing beckons, columns call ahead of schedule due to bub and I have a need to clean. So have a wonderful day and know you are not alone in "the land of the Momma".

--Susan Thompson is a full-time mom, copywriter, freelance writer based in Australia. Widely published, she is always looking for some new project to get the creative instinct happening.

Want to read some more from Susan?

Mid-North Monthly Website Administrator/Writer
Web Wombat Lifestyle Contributor
Fatherhood - Me A Dad (written under her male alias Aidden Williams)
Creativity is Not Extinct
Step-Parenting A Foreign Word

Monday, October 8, 2007

Day 26 of Ramadan

Today, I took my ds to the doctor's office for an earache, turns out to be an ear infection. My heart went out to my ds because he was in pain--I wanted to cry with him.

Once he was under medication, he would be himself again. My dh and I would tell him to say "Alhamdilulah, I feel better" meaning Thank God, I feel better. This is to teach humbleness, a characteristic in Islam.

Tonight, marks the beginning of the 27th day of Ramadan. What is so significance of the 27th day? It is Lailatul Qadr. Muslim tradition has it that this is the most powerful night, better than 1,000 months. This is the night were many Muslims will spend most of the night in the masjid (Muslim community center or mosque) praying and making supplications. Although, I spent the night in the past in the masjid, this year unfortunately, I will not be able to spend the night at the masjid. DH is working and I have a child that I could not part with and he is to young to stay at the masjid all night.

I will be spending the night listening to Qur'an recitations, among other things.

Mama Needs to Lighten Up

DD’s first grade teacher uses a reward system with a color chart: Every day, each student starts with green. If they do something against the rules, like chatting, they get a color change.

DD is an excellent conversationalist.

Every morning, I remind her to stay on green, and she bounces onto the bus, filled with the expectation of success.

Many afternoons, she steps off the bus disappointed.

Thursday night I realized I need to de-emphasize the whole color thing. At bedtime that night, she prayed she would stay on green the next day. We usually sing a song after praying, so I asked her what song we could sing that would help her. She only thought for a second.

“Expect Miracles?”

I laughed, and told her that it wouldn’t take a miracle, just a little practice.

This morning I reminded her what a great daughter she is. I didn't mention any colors.

UPDATE: Hurray! She stayed on green today. She came home so self-assured and happy. That's the image of herself that I want her to retain. :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Days 25 and 24 of Ramadan

Day 25

Today, my parents went to cook dinner at the masjid or a Muslim community center. This is fairly common during the month of Ramadan, in the U.S. My dh and ds went to Chicago to enjoy a day there and then eat at an Arabic restaurant.

We shopped at Arab stores. It was cool to see others that I don't know were fasting like Dh and myself. (I come from a very small town in the U.S.). We asked the store owners if they opened after dinner because we wanted to finish our shopping. Many said yes during Ramadan.

This is my first time eating at an Arabic restaurant fasting. It was an interesting experience. We walked in about 15 minutes before it was time to break our fast, seating ourselves. Some Muslim families were already seated, others followed behind us. Customers were waiting patiently. At the appropriate timing, everyone broke their fast with dates or water. Breaking a fast with dates or water is a tradition that Prophet Muhammad used to do. There are many health benefits by breaking a fast this way.

I was surprised to see many people breaking their fasts in restaurants because growing up, I never broke my fast in a restaurant. It was at home, other homes, or at the masjid.

Day 24

I took ds to the park, we met some friends there. Once my ds and I (dh was working) arrived at my parents' home, we listened to Qur'an recitation by Abdul Basit As Samad, a famous Egyptian reciter.

The Secret to my Success

I'll admit it. I may be writing this so that someone reading can point to the screen and say "see! see! Heather says I need one!"

My laptop.

I wrote my book on my laptop while sitting at the kitchen table, in my bed late at night, at the local bookstore, drinking coffee, sitting in the truck waiting for my son after school, upstairs in the waiting area during gymnastics...
I have cooked dinner with my laptop on the counter (safe distance from the stove) and sat on my bathroom counter watching my daughter over its screen.
And it has other purposes. I put it on my table and let it play a cd through Windows Media Player so my kids can be entertained for 15 minutes while I answer my emails on the desktop computer. I've also used it on trips to play a video and keep the kids entertained.
So really, all you husbands out there questioning the need... trust me, there are many.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings are my favorite. My most favorite favorite. Or as my son says, my bestest. I get to sleep in. DD (1) let DH sleep in until 7:30, my son got up shortly after and came in to lay down with me for an hour. I stayed in bed until almost 10 am (!).

Pause to feel a little guilty. Sleeping in feels a little lazy.

When I climbed out of bed I immediately had to put the baby down for her nap. Then I could come down and observe the chaos that is Husband Watching Daughter.

My wallet was destroyed, thankfully no money or checks waiting to be deposited were seriously injured.

My external hard drive was suffering from a severe case of having it's on button pushed over and over and over and is now self-checking itself for errors (there are many, it's been working for 2 hours now).

My husband's excuse? "I should have known when she was too quiet for a while." These two things occured within his eyeline, but he was watching football and playing games on his laptop.

The reason why I find it hard to concentrate on my work when I'm also watching the kids is that it's actually important to know what the children are doing. Babies chew on cords and stick things in sockets. They push nice glowing buttons and see what happens when they pull things apart. It's kind of hands on, this parenting.

I try not to be irritated. Afterall, I've got six years of parenting under my belt, he has about a year or two.

I'm sitting on my laptop in the kitchen because my regular computer is busy running its self check... except it's the computer with all my articles on it. I'd quite like to get working on them. Any time now.

For some reason I feel like maybe I shouldn't have slept in!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Day 23 of Ramadan

Wow. There is about six to seven days left of Ramadan. Relatives and friends always ask each other how has been fasting with you. It is common to hear many Muslims to say that Ramadan has been "light"--meaning it was a piece of cake.

This morning my brother calls me, telling me that he vomited when he woke up. Does that make his fast invalid? He was on his way to attend classes, so he was in a hurry for response. I asked my DH who was half asleep, and he said that if my brother doesn't feel good or his throat hurts, then he should break it. That is what I had said to my brother before I asked my half-asleep DH. I just wanted to verify.

Turns out my brother had a big time sore throat--looks like a chest cold or something like that. So my brother broke his fast. I explained to him that if a person is sick or doesn't feel well, he or she may break it because God doesn't want you to tire easily or more. I reminded him that Islam is an easy religion. God doesn't make it mandatory for a person who is sick or doesn't feel well to fast.

However, if a person missed or broke his or fast before the appropriate timing, then it is required that the person makes up other missed days of fasting. Since my brother missed one day, he will have to make up that day after Ramadan is over.

Although my brother didn't fast today, he did not eat or drink in front of the rest of the family. He did that privately in his room out of respect for us.

Today, my father and I discussed some of the Surahs (Chapters) of the Qur'an. We were discussing interpretations of verses and what kind of meanings they have. Assuming you are familiar with the Arabic language, listening to the Qur'an is a relaxing task and activity. There is something about the Arabic language. For those that don't know, the Qur'an is only read in Arabic when praying or lecturing.

The Arabic language is so elegant and poetic, that Arabs use to stop wars between each other and have poetry festivals. Enemies would be friends during the festivities. After poetry festivals were over, friends would become enemies once again.

History, itself is a fascinating subject that documents life. If we study our history, chances we would understand today much better.

A Sign That the Duties are Unbalanced

Husband: "How do you turn the dishwasher on?"*

* we've lived here for five months.


.... Co-Worker... no, I don't care about your dog's anal something or other problem. If I don't tell you about my kid's diaper, you don't tell me about your dog's butt. Deal?

.... Cheap Editor... if you are going to pay writers pitiful teeny tiny little 'stipends' then please don't act as though you are The New Yorker. Although I understand you are so used to dealing with writers that are simply sooooo grateful to see their name in print that they'd probably pay YOU... PROFESSIONAL writers spell gratitude this way: Name on Check.

.... Members of Unnammed Organization ... I'm so tired of the politics. Can we please move on? It's not like we're saving lives or raising funds for underpriviledged kids or stopping the genocide in Rwanda. Lighten up.

.... Old Guard Member of Unnammed Organization ... I get it, you don't think they listen to you. But your choice to pick up your toys and leave the playground just means that we'll move on without you. Nothing more. But your sour-grapes Dear John letter said more about you than the organization.

Cheating at NaNo, The Real Thing

Now this is cheating at Nano!

Someone at elance is looking for a ghostwriter for a project that is suspiciously similar to a NaNo novel!

But, but...why???

An empty magazine is Not Good.

We've all seen it: the hero sneaks around the corner, searching the darkened warehouse for the bad guy. The bad guy pops out from behind a shelf teetering with old dusty things and fires off a couple of rounds. Our hero brings his Glock 9mm up and Click! out of bullets!

OH NO! His magazine is empty!

Okay, so in my goofy metaphorical way, I'm saying that magazines without content are pretty useless.

When you write an article for a magazine, whether it's for a little money or a lot, you are providing a needed service. Heather pointed this out in a recent discussion on The Writing Mother group.

A new-ish but talented freelancer asked us if we thought she was being unreasonable in her dealings with an editor. (You can read about her Editor Troubles on her blog.)When the writer refused to hand over all rights to an article she wrote for NO PAYMENT, the editor was (allegedly) upset.

Right now, weather-worn freelancers are smacking their foreheads saying, "Not THIS again!" But it bears repeating at least one more time because there's a new freelancer born every 3 and a half minutes. (I made that up.)

Good editors are happy to get good content. Broke editors will often work with content to make it good. They need content, because a magazine without bullets is Not Good, as I already demonstrated above so breathtakingly if-I-may-say-so.

Bad editors will try to make you feel guilty if you don't bend to their every wish.

I'm not saying don't sell all rights. I'm not saying you have to get paid billions. I'm not saying every editor out there will do this to you. None of that.

Simply that it's your article. You choose.

I love writing for local magazines. I reserve the right to write an article for twenty bucks if I choose. So please don't misunderstand. But I can also refuse to write for twenty bucks.

You as a writer are providing a service and a product for your customers. Editors have every right to reject a piece if they don't feel like it meets their needs. They also can require all rights. YOU can choose not to sell them. YOU can choose not to sell them for what the editor is offering.

Good editors already know this. They are fair, often friendly, and very much aware that this is a business transaction. Good writers should be the same way. Let the rest of them conduct their business in a flurry of personal attacks, emails zinging back and forth through the ether or in the shadow of a darkened warehouse. If you happen to trip over one of them, just straighten yourself out, dust off the detritus, and go back to the brightly lit sphere of professionals. They aren't worth your time. They know where the light is, they can come to it when they want to, and you won't save them by trying to convince them to.

If you are a good editor, you have my respect and appreciation (and my submission - could you get back to me on that sometime this week? :) ) If you are a good writer, go to the light. And on your way out, if you don't mind, hand the hero some bullets.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Days 22 and 21 of Ramadan

Day 22

Just a reminder to some of my readers, the purpose of my Ramadan posts is to show you how Ramadan is incorporated in an average Muslim's lifestyle. Although there is more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, many people still have no clue what is a Muslim or Ramadan--despite the advances of media and technology.

By showing similarities with flavors of diversity, differences among the human race will be more accepted and tolerated, hopefully eliminating forms of hatred. So, my posts will be about my day (yes, may boring to some) during Ramadan to inform (or teach) readers what Ramadan is like and how it is not a "weird" practice.

As stated in one of my earlier posts, Ramadan is a time to do extra volunteer and charity work. At the same time, it is HIGHLY encourageable not to tell others about your good deeds, but keep it a secret between you and God. I prefer this method because I believe each person can offer so much, and sometimes they can't. There is no need for competition among who can do the best deeds.

Day 21

I have been reading the Qur'an. My goal is to finish it by the end of Ramadan. It is interesting to see how the Qur'an is related to life. It is Book of Knowledge. We, Muslims, believe that the Qur'an has been the same since more than 1,400 years ago--not one word has been changed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cheating at NaNo

November is coming, with it's holiday busy-ness and something else exciting: National Novel Writing Month. Why they couldn't have picked January or February, I'll never know, but November is the month non-fic writers like me turn into novelists.

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization designed to help us do just that. You can learn all about it at their webisite, but I'll give you the quick version: You sign up to write 50,000 words of your novel in a month's time. No concern over quality - the goal is just OUTPUT. Just Write It. Just get the words down and later you can edit. (There's a month for that too, I believe.)

If you do it, you "win." If you don't do it, you sigh and think, "Next year."

Last year in November, I sighed and thought "Next year." I had something like 11,000 words. It was a very busy month for me, with travelling and visiting relatives and Thanksgiving with family, etc. (Lots of excuses to be found if you just look hard enough!)

Anyway, the novel I started was going to be GREAT. I still think it is going to be great. I still have 11,000 words.

The NaNo rules explicitly state that you work on a NEW novel. You can plot and plan in October, but no writing is allowed. Writing begins on November 1.

But how can I abandon my old characters at 11,000 words? My main character is still circling the living room, if I remember correctly, planning her next move.

Well, I'm pretty sure I'm going to cheat. If it compromises the integrity of the process, I won't officially sign up at the official site, but I know of a few places where I can still hold myself to a word count. Maybe here would be one place. I might get one of those tickers or something that shows my progress.

Anyway, I have a few weeks to think it over before I actually commit to NaNo, cheating or otherwise. But until then, I want any NaNo cheaters to come out of the woodwork. Are you going to cheat? Tell me. Confess. Don't leave me out here in the cold, looking like the only cheater. Please.

NaNo Cheaters unite!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day 20 of Ramadan

Today marks the last 10 days of Ramadan. This is where Muslims will try to do more actions of worship than any time of the year. Lailatul Qadr "Night of Power" is said to happen sometime during the last 10 days. The significance of Lailatul Qadr is when our prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur'an. The Qur'an calls Lailatul Qadr "better than one thousand months."

I am so used to fasting that I don't see it as a burden. To me, it is a way of life. I incorporate into my life. It does not separate.

Some of my relatives had dinner at my parents' home (yes, I did as well *smile*). It is awesome to eat with a group. The more, the merrier, so cliche, I know--but very true.

Impossible Goals

I got inspired by one of the women in The Writing Mother Yahoo group. She's writing a book about goal-setting, called How to Contact Brad Pitt for Dinner. Yes, great title, right? And it seems like an impossible goal, this contacting Brad Pitt business. But she got his publicist's phone number.

His publicist's phone number. The same one NBC would call if they wanted to contact Brad Pitt for dinner.

And that got me thinking, how impossible is that goal, really? If I had any desire to meet Bradd Pitt (I don't, but don't tell him that), I almost think I might test it. I really don't think it is impossible. People contact him for dinner every day, probably.

So how impossible are our impossible goals? Do you have one? Do you want to win the lottery or become the next Nora Roberts or have your own cable news show? (Hey, Neil Cavuto did it.) How impossible is it? As impossible as flying? As impossible as walking on the moon? Or walking on water? Yes, Jesus did that, but so did Peter. (I'll wait while you go check...)

Someone will be the next Nora Roberts, at least as far as being a highly successful and prolific author goes (no one can replace her as a person). It's inevitable - time passes, people are born, books are written, successes are made.

The interesting thing to me is that when I think of so many things as being possible, the glitter and allure of a lot of them fades. It reminds me to think of what I really want. And most of it I already have.

Let me go bask in this thankfulness for a little while...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Days 19 and 18 of Ramadan

Day 19

Today I took my dad to his physical therapy session. Out of all days, the office had put out doughnuts of all kinds and juice. Why? Because it is I think Physical Therapy Month or in honor of Patients Week. A therapist passed by the waiting room, and said to a lady and me, "Help yourselves to snacks."

I told her, "No, thanks. I am fasting." She just smiled and walked off. The lady in the waiting room stopped reading her book and looked up with interest. She asked if I was used to fasting by now. We also conversed of who was exempt. She found it interesting.

Day 18

I am still reading the Qur'an. My goal is to finish the entire Qur'an during Ramadan.

My brothers, DS and myself ate leftovers because my DH took my parents and their guests to his relative's house for dinner. I volunteered to stay behind, so there could be enough room. It is more important that my parents and guests attend (for what we went through this summer, my parents need plenty of fun--it is a long story).

We had leftovers. My brothers and I said that it was probably one of the most fulfilling meals we've had in a while.

Now I truly understand the meaning less is more.

Should I?

Lately, like a crazy person, I’ve been turning down job opportunities.

One of them – a job selling ads for a local magazine - might offer some opportunities to grow with a publication. But it would probably shut doors for freelancing locally.

Part of me says, "What're you, crazy? Ground floor opportunity, here!”

But what’s crazier? Accepting a job that helps a magazine I really like, that might pay pretty well, but completely shuts doors to competing publications, or turning down a job offer that will take me off of a course I’ve waited for years to get on? I’ve done a lot of off-roading in my career.

What if I accepted the position in ad sales and found that I was really good at it? Would my freelancing career get derailed because all my time was consumed with making heaps of money? Would it really even be an opportunity – or just the end of an opportunity?

But still. It’s hard to say no...

I shouldn't do this. I shouldn't. It's not what I want. All my reservations are valid; the feeling in my stomach when I contemplate this job just reinforces my hesitance to accept it.

So for this week, at least, I’m going with “no” on the ad sales.

It would be different if I would be doing more than just selling ads. Editing, or helping with production, planning issues, writing....