I'm currently in the process of beating my WordPress installs into compliance, because the WordPress from blogger importer isn't working properly on my server. I'm cheating and importing via Wordpress.com - so I've learned, once again, that there's always a circumlocutous way to do something. Let's not get me started on 2.6 beta for WordPress - I'm always vaguely ashamed when I technobabble in communities that aren't techie ;)
Speaking of which...
For the last four years, I've been asking for a cat. Not just any cat, a Bengal. And for years there's always been a reason not to - usually my landlord. When we moved to the new house though, I was told there might be a chance, eventually that we got a cat. And this week we did.
That's Kushie in the photo above, on her first day with us. We got her from the Gloucestershire branch of a wonderful rescue society in the UK, and every day, she does something new to make me smile. Having never kept a cat before, I'm unbearably squeally about her, but more importantly, I'm also feeling rather contented and like the house is actually mine too now. My adorable other half has always wanted a cat, but I've spent the last year and a half feeling like I just...take up a part of the space in the house we moved to, and that till my other half got home, that's all I was doing. Taking up space. My writing has suffered, my confidence has suffered, and due to not writing during the day, and going out more, my bank balance looks kinda pathetic too. A week with my furbaby, and I'm already getting back into writing and editing properly, I'm going out during the day, less, and most of all, I'm comfortable in my house. Awful as it sounds for the time I spent here before.
If you've got a routine that you enjoy/need - and you suddenly find yourself without it, take my advice - try and fix it as soon as possible. This last year and a half has taught me a lot about how effectively I procrastinate - how little I actually use of my writing, and how sad I am when I'm not doing work I enjoy. Between the cat and Uni, my beloved and my kids, this is the first day of the rest of my life, and I'm going to enjoy it!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I love you. Your hurt is my hurt. But I have to work. Can your sensitive, caring nature be reserved for later?
No? Okay. This is why I'm here - to help you, to teach you, to be available when you experience the first of what will probably many issues with friends.
So what I am going to do is stop mucking with the email program that refuses to cooperate when I really need to answer my editor's email, and I'm going to take care of your heart. I'm going to tell you that friends are only human, that sometimes that they will hurt your feelings for reasons unknown to you, and that your strength and sufficiency need to come from God because He never fails us.
Friends are like the cinnamon and sugar, but God is the toast. The toast provides the nourishment and sustenance (if it is 100% whole wheat) and much of the flavor too, for that matter. You can live without cinnamon and sugar, but you can't live without toast.
There, that should handle it. All better now? Good.
Now I really have to go to work. This story on nutrition needs to be wrapped up and I have to reboot my email program.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
We have a super special guest today! I met her through FreelanceSuccess.com and she's one of the most upbeat and inspirational writers I know. When I was looking for writing mothers to interview, Jen Jen Singer of MommaSaid.net was one of the first Mamas (Or Mommas) that I thought of... I've been struggling with motivation lately but after reading Jen's story, I feel like my mountain might actually be a molehill.
I’ve always said I’m enough like my mother that I can talk to anyone, anywhere, yet enough like my father that I don’t want to. I can pour on the charm for a TV segment or a book-signing, but the next day, I have to hide in my office and write. I do need to get out, though, if for no other reason than to get blog fodder, but also because I like to be with people. But I also like being alone now and then. And with one kid playing “Smoke on the Water” on the keyboard outside my office right now while two others discuss the finer points of the Lego Indiana Jones game, now would be great.
Book publicity exhausts me. On the one hand, I love talking on the radio and doing interviews. On the other hand, I find that, around book launch time anyway, it takes up so much time that I don’t get to write as much as I’d like to (or need to.) I didn’t write a word in my book that’s due September 1st for five whole weeks while I was doing publicity for “You’re a Good Mom.” That’s fine – better that than no one cares about your book, right? And I do love a good publicity “get,” like when I appeared on Sally Jessy Raphael’s radio program twice. But it can get tiring.
I love when I get lost in writing a blog or a page in a book. I lose track of time, and I don’t think about anything else but what I’m writing. Well, also Scrabulous -- I swear I have writing ADD. But when I’m in the writing zone, it jazzes me like tennis can, only without all that sweating.
Deadlines are very motivating, as are checks. But honestly, I just love writing. When I’m stuck with writing something (and it’s someone else’s move in Scrabulous), I go to the gym or anywhere but my office. I often come back with something to write about, which, in turn, keeps my butt in my office chair.
Last June, I had four chapters left to write in “You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either)” when I found out I had cancer. Still, I managed to finish writing the book, beating my extended deadline by a week. I discovered throughout chemotherapy and radiation that writing anchors me and gives me hope. Plus, it’s cheaper than therapy. Besides, the steroids my oncologist prescribed made for a lot of sleepless nights, so I figured I might as well write while I was up at 3 a.m., because it was better for my psyche than trolling cancer support chat rooms and crying. I have found that once you’ve written on the oncology floor at the hospital, writing seems easier. I have a September 1st deadline and 41,000 more words to go on my next book, the second in a series of MommaSaid branded parenting guides due out in 2009 from HCI. And yet, it doesn’t phase me. My next PET scan, however, does. I’ve been in remission since January, but I’ll have quarterly PET scans this year to make sure my lymphoma doesn’t return. If it does, I’ll pack up my laptop for the hospital.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Because I work from home, and because my work involves the Internet and writing, I have regularly updated my computer to the newest. My latest version is a laptop loaded with Vista, Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office 2007. I didn't have any choice about Vista really, upgrades happen, and I must adjust. I must have Word, Photoshop, Acrobat and Indesign in order to do my work.
With each new upgrade, I do not get rid of my old computer. In my house, we have three desktops and three laptops. Since I began buying computers, I have only removed one computer from my house -- an Apple where it was one piece -- the monitor was part of the hard drive. And I only disposed of that one after my children ruined it by shoving crayons where crayons shouldn't go.
I still have a computer with Windows 95 loaded on it. It is perfect for my kids to play a game of solitaire or to use the drawing feature. I have another desktop with Windows 98 and without a USB port in the front. The newest desktop has Windows XP, a USB port in the front, a flat-screen monitor, and I paid $20 extra to add a 3.5 disc drive along with the CD drive and the CDRW drive. I don't think that one plays DVDs though.
My next computer was a laptop, and it worked very well (and was well used) until a couple of months ago when it was replaced. I still use it though because some things are still only available on it.
In addition to this unusual amount of computers, my home also has high speed internet and wireless access. This is a necessity for a me since I work from home most of the time. But it is one way my children, and their friends, benefit. One of my daughter's friends loves to bring her laptop to our house because she can get online using my wireless and our connection is faster than her home's dial-up.
But I've recently cracked down on Internet access at my house. The two desktops that are connected to the Internet have NetNanny installed, which allows me to customize how and when my children go online. I can also customize it to block access on a child by child basis. Plus I can access the controls while I am away from home and immediately block all Internet access at my home -- or at least access from those two desktops. The wireless laptops aren't blocked because they do not belong to the children. Instead, we've used log-on passwords to block access to the laptops. But this doesn't work for laptops brought to my house.
This means at times, I have demanded the friend's laptop be put away, which means it is placed in my living room and left alone. I think I am going to have to figure out that security option on my wireless Internet in order to block other technological gizmos that children may be bringing to my house.
I need wireless in my home for my work, but I don't want the fruits of my labor to be a ripe opportunity for my children to access the internet via hand-held games, cell phones and other gizmos without my knowledge. Are there any other writing mothers out there struggling to control the electronic gizmos belonging not just to their children but to their children's friends?
Or, to put it another way, is it wrong of me to expect all cell phones be left in my living room at bed time?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Whatever you call it, taking some time away from the computer or notepad and getting yourself involved with a non-writing activity once in a blue-moon is good for you and good for your writing.
I have LOTS more to say, and seem to have an easier time saying it, when I refill the well with some activity I enjoy.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I REALLY enjoy taking care of things in my home. In May, I made a concerted effort to get ahead on my writing deadlines so I could spend the summer having fun with my daughter. (That's one reason I haven't posted here as much as usual.) But in the process, while my head was stuck in my computer for hours at a time, the laundry was piling up, the paperwork piled up, the clutter piled up... . Are you sensing a theme?
This week so far, I have refilled my cup by washing loads of laundry and doing a big major spring overhaul (yes, I know it isn't spring anymore!) of my daughter's room. I've weeded and mulched the flower beds. Oh, and went out and bought some groceries. It's always nice to have food in the house. My daughter, being "big" now, has been helping me with all these things. We've had a great time.
But the best part was walking into a store holding my daughter's hand. I can't believe how much I've missed that! People SMILE at us. (After she started school last year, I shopped alone and realized people weren't smiling at me anymore.) We smile back. It's a really, really good time.
Take a break, Moms. Go somewhere with your kids. Or just do a load of laundry without thinking about how you'll construct the next sentence. Maybe you will have to work extra hard to get ahead on your deadlines in order to do this, but whatever it takes, do it. And while you're doing it, don't think about anything but what you're doing. (You'll write about it later.)
What do you do to refill the well?
Labels: Refilling the well
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Image by tanakawho via Flickr
I got an interesting email this morning - normally, after posting (like I did the other morning), I'd wait a couple of days, but this one just couldn't wait.
I was talking about rejections yesterday, and I wasn't entirely clear or accurate. Most of the pieces I'm currently having rejected are later accepted by magazines further down my submission chain.
But there are just some places I CANNOT get into - the elusive areas of fiction writing that would really make a huge difference to my morale, my goals and possibly my writing career.
Where does the email fit into this?
Well, yesterday I got a rather sniping email asking if I realised I was making 'smelling mistakes' (I'm assuming they meant spelling ;)) and that no American author should make the mistakes I do.
Well, for a start, I'm British, not American. We use the Queen's English instead of American English. Both are perfectly valid language variations in my opinion - and there's no reason to say American English is derivative, because both languages, in my opinion have evolved since splitting paths. I'd probably have etymological students up in arms right about now, but to be honest, for me, it’s splitting hairs. And if you prefer the look of color without the U, that's great! I can't write that though without my brain screaming 'WRONG!'
Secondly, I'm mildly dyslexic. I also rush when I'm writing blogs, because, to me they are very 'immediate'. I have spelling and punctuation problems, but I don't rely on Word to check them, and that's something I'm trying to teach myself to get over. Most of my favourite bloggers make the same mistakes as me ;). Its not an excuse though, so I'm trying to fix that.
Blog posts, for me though, aren't the same as the writing I'm sending to my editors. Both are equally important to me, for different reasons, but I *really* don't view what I'm saying on blogs as the same as what I'm sending to editors. The immediacy issue aside, I also feel that no matter how you cut it, blogs are less formal - they don't require nearly as much editing, and while that can lead to sloppy writing, it's more likely that the poster is just in a hurry. Again though, that's not an excuse for making spelling and grammar mistakes (my most common one is 'it's' and forgetting the apostrophe ;))
I am however making a few changes.
I'm going to 'slow down' - I'm going to write posts in Word and hopefully, I'll see a pattern in what mistakes I make - which will tighten up my writing, and feed my perfectionist streak.
And yes, I know, it sounds odd saying I'm a professional writer that makes all these mistakes – so I’m going to start removing them, just to make sure that I’m presenting exactly that. Though my blog posts and my fiction writing are two completely separate things, there’s absolutely no reason for me to handle them differently.
What do you think?
Monday, June 9, 2008
SoImage by takomabibelot via Flickr We're all about contracts here - which for many, involves endless rounds of querying, writing, polishing, promoting, edits - redrafts, invoicing, deals with publishers, deals with editors buying articles for whole stables of magazines, sites, newspapers, blogs and more. It's about working towards that shining goal of having your name and words in print right?
I spent the last year investing in my writing - I started a course at University that I really am enjoying - and at the same time, to celebrate the end of term, I polished up all of my stories and poems and subbed them round places I spent the year hand picking. Its not an *ideal* way to get yourself into print - for a start, it doesn't subscribe to the 'rule of 13' that Dej and Heather frequently mention (I think!) on Thewritingmother's mailing list.
Sometimes, when I'm submitting work, I feel like I'm trying to use a rosetta stone to decifer success though. I've yet to 'crack' it - but I'm sure its there, just round the corner.
Due to various things that changed (for the better!) in my life recently, I'm even more determined to translate some of my hard work into success, but I'm finding rejections very hard to deal with. not because I believe I'm not being seen in the right places, but because I'm sending my work to 'all the right places' and I just can't seem to break in. Its not a bad thing - I'm becoming more determined to do it, and writing all the better.
So - I wonder - how do you step passed rejection? It is, after all, only another stage of your journey as a writer - so how do YOU deal with it?
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Happy Sunday Mamas! Today we have a great essay by Judy Gruen about how to market yourself in a niche ... in her case, the humor (or as Kai and I would say, humour) market. This is a favorite (or as Kai and I... oh nevermind..) topic of mine since I've written a LOT in my niche market. And I tell every new writer I can get my hands on to specialize and corner a niche market... So, without further blabber from moi... heeeere's Judy!
When an editor at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner called to tell me she was buying my essay, “Fear of Fat: Don’t Let It Make You Skinny,” I didn’t try to act cool – I shouted "Yippee!" right into the phone. I was only 22 years old, and this was my first freelance sale. Not only had I earned fifty whole bucks (in the mid-1980s, this was only paltry, but not laughable), I had broken into the newspaper business, or so I thought.
What was really happening was quite different, though I wouldn’t realize it for years. This first sale, and the several that followed, were paving a foundation for my career as a humor writer. The Herald-Examiner, at the time the scrappy underdog daily paper in L.A., bought a few more of my pieces, and then I sold a few to the Chicago Tribune when I lived in that city during grad school in journalism. Inspiration struck quickly, as native Chicagoans kept asking me in disbelief, “Are you sure you’re from LA? You’re so . . . normal!” Apparently, they expected native Angelenos to have purple and blue hair that looked like it had been cut by a 4-year-old who’d been mainlining sugar all morning. I was no different than any other essayist: I recycled as many of my life's experiences as possible into humor fodder: When a boyfriend jilted me, for example, I skewered his metrosexual habits, such as sending his jeans to the dry cleaner and stuffing shoe trees into his sneakers, in the Chicago Tribune. (That was fun.)
Though I kept selling humor pieces, the very idea of trying to become a professional humorist seemed absurd. After all, how many Erma Bombecks could one country support? No, I was a practical gal, and my day job for years was writing and editing for health care publications, both at a major research university and later, at a health care corporation. I loved my job. It was interesting. It was relevant. It paid.
But several years later, after I had left my job and worked at home as mom to four children, there was simply too much hilarious material to ignore, so I wrote my first book, “Carpool Tunnel Syndrome: Motherhood as Shuttle Diplomacy.” Then, when I hunkered down to do the hard, gritty work of marketing the book, I realized I had to market myself as a humorist. That’s when I realized my career focused had changed, perhaps for good.
It’s hard to market yourself in a limited niche, and the key thing I’ve learned after working at this for seven years is that you have to keep searching for your audience, the people who will relate to your voice. For years, I avoided marketing my work to Jewish publications, even though I’m Jewish, since I didn’t want to limit my audience, nor did I want to be pegged as solely a “Jewish writer.” But over time, editors of Jewish publications and web sites started coming to me – they had heard my voice and recognized it in the pieces I had sold to them. In the past two years, I’ve become a regular humor columnist for two Jewish print magazines, the “Jewlarious” section of the web site aish.com, and started podcasting my program, "Just Off My Noodle," on the web site of a national Jewish organization. I no longer shy away from writing about this aspect of my life, as it actually widens my audience, and I can almost always adapt my work written for these outlets into more generic humor, such as for my blog on MommaSaid.net, for my email newsletter subscribers, and other media outlets.
If you are writing for a limited market, you’ve got to love what you do and love your topic. If you aren’t getting pleasure from your work, rethink your writing emphasis. Finally, persevere and carry a thick skin. If you’ve been at this for more than 15 minutes you know editors will ignore you more often than they'll pay attention, but if you keep polishing your work and continue hunting for new, like-minded audiences, you can and will break through!
Judy Gruen’s latest book, The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement, has earned numerous publishing industry awards, including a Gold ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, a Silver “IPPY” from Independent Publisher, and a Bronze Benjamin Franklin award from the Independent Book Publishers Association. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, and many other media outlets. Read more of her work on www.judygruen.com.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I thank God for my husband every day.
Okay, not every day. I sometimes take him for granted, and that's not being thankful.
But MOST every day, I appreciate him.
I know there are writing mothers out there who do not have supportive spouses. I know there are writing mothers out there who have no spouses. I know, and I understand that I have a lot to be thankful for.
Lest you think we're over here living in Nirvana, U.S.A., I will remind you that no husband is perfect, and even supportive husbands are not supportive ALL of the time or in every way you would wish them to be. My husband doesn't follow me around the house asking to see what brilliance I have written that day. He doesn't care how I conjugate my verbs or what I think ending a sentence with a preposition is good for. But he's supportive in a lot of ways.
I'm going to list a few ways my husband supports me in writing, and I'd be very interested in hearing how your husbands, if you have them, support you.
1. He is liberal with his expertise. My husband is a contractor by trade and roasts coffee as a hobby. I've written a few articles for construction companies, and his help has been invaluable. Plus, because we've been married for 12 years this month, we have that great kind of shorthand that lets him know what I'm asking even if I don't say it right. (Example: You know that board that hangs down? You mean fascia board? Yeah, that's the one.)
2. He helps eliminate distractions. We've made a lot of progress here. He often reminds our daughter not to ask me a bunch of questions when I'm working. It took me a long time to tell him that even interruptions from him can cause the precariously balanced pile of sentences I'm holding in my head while my typing fingers catch up to crumble. But now I have, and he's careful. One important point to make here: to my family, surfing the Net to find facts and statistics for an article looks very similar to surfing for fun. I need to remember to tell them I'm going to be working, or they won't know.
3. He listens to me read draft after draft. After draft. After draft. My husband is a great sounding board. He doesn't usually make a lot of comments other than "Sounds good," but at this point I don't need much more than that. I should note that just as I ask him to respect my writing time and give me some uninterrupted time, I also try to be aware of what he's busy doing before I even ask him if he can listen to me read. It's only fair, and it's considerate.
4. Sometimes he'll read the final draft out loud to me so I can hear any mistakes, or take note of someplace where he stumbles or looks confused. This helps me so much when I've worked on something until my eyes have crossed and I don't have time to set it aside for a day or two.
5. He supports me (and the family) financially. Sure, we both contribute gobs to the family, but he works and provides for us financially. I do more of the traditional chores, but when I'm on deadline some things don't get done. He pitches in and helps.
Yeah, he is a jewel, isn't he?
Happy Anniversary honey!
How does your spouse support you?
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I just HAD to post this tonight. Tonight we have a guest post from Aileen McCabe-Maucher (plus more letters! RN, MSW, LCSW). She is a a licensed psychotherapist, registered nurse and author of the forthcoming book, The Inner Peace Diet that will be published by Penguin in December 2008. And, she's a mom to a two-year-old girl.
When I read Aileen's bio, I had one huge question:
"How can I be ambitious AND have inner peace? I’m an ambitious person by nature… but I want to find that peace. How can I do it?"
Here's what she had to say:
When I think of maintaing both a sense of inner peace and personal ambition the following quote by Lao Tzu comes to mind "By doing nothing one could accomplish everything.'"
As a busy mom, writer and psychotherapist, I rarely have time to "do nothing." As I type this entry after midnight, I have two loads of laundry in progress, a feverish child in my bed, and a desk piled high with work. A part of me thrives on burning the candle at both ends and having multiple projects in the works. However, a larger part of me, simply just wants to be relaxed and enjoy exactly where I am in this moment. For me, inner peace is simply about being in the present and knowing that everything will be okay, regardless of how crazy it seems now. Meditation is a great way to infuse your day with inner peace. I try to set aside ten minutes each morning to simply sit and breathe. During meditation, I slowly breathe in and out through my nostrils and gently let go of any thoughts or worries. I allow everything to be as it is. Having thoughts occur during meditation is as natural as breathing. I welcome the thoughts and then quietly let them go as I surrender to silence. At first, I found meditation challenging. I ,too, am ambitious. It was hard for me to sit still and I was eager to get started with the next item on my list. However, after a lot of practice meditation is now my favorite part of the day.
Paradoxically, I find that after this ten minutes of "doing nothing" but meditating, I am most productive. Some of my best ideas and freshest writing come to me after meditation. In a sense, meditation fuels my ambition yet also sustains my sense of inner peace.
That really spoke to me. I am a pretty driven person. I'm a check-it-off-move-to-the-next-thing type of gal. But lately I've been thinking about how to find a peacefulness inside. A small part of my brain wonders what other women do who are stay-at-home-moms... and who don't drive themselves batty trying to write until midnight each night, get workouts in every day, work a full time job ... and expect that they won't lose their temper or snap at their kids.
Surely they have some kind of peace. I'm considering taking a few weeks off from any writing whatsoever, maybe even a computer break for two WEEKS this summer, after my book deadline of course. But maybe I can work a little harder at getting that "everyday peace" that Aileen is talking about.
Thank you Aileen!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I'm on a group called MomWriters and recently we got into a discussion about women and writing. Fellow MomWriter Kimberlee Jackson wrote this powerful post and agreed to let me post it here.
"One has only to skim those old forgotten novels and listen to the tone of voice in which they are written to divine that the writer was meeting criticism; she was saying this by way of aggression, or that by way of conciliation. She was admitting that she was 'only a woman', or protesting that she was'good as a man'. She met that criticism as her temperament dictated, with docility and diffidence, or with anger and emphasis...She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others" (121)
I really like you a lot. I mean, you're great. You help me get up in the morning and you make me feel all warm in side.
When I'm tired, you tell me I can keep going. When I need comfort, you're there in all your murky goodness.
And when I think I can't go on, you say "Yes you moron, you can, just drink more of me!"
But you know what?
I'm just not happy with our relationship. It seems a little one sided. It's all you giving, me taking. I'm feeling a little guilty. I think I might be a bit dependant on you. So I think maybe we should stop seeing each other for a while. Please don't call.