About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Busyness

Okay, I have a  confession to make. I'm totally embarrassed to admit this...but April is almost over and aside from my blog I have done next to no writing. Part of this is because I've been away from home a lot and it has just been a very busy season for my family.

Me holding my new baby nephew

My middle sister had her second baby, little Daniel. I spent a whole week at her house with the kids doting on this little guy. Babies don't keep as my grandmother used to say, so we had to enjoy this time with Daniel as much as we could.

My daughter with her Papa

My daughter had her 8th grade formal. Several days of planning and helping to decorate went into that event. I also helped chaperone. I was glad I did. She had a good time but she enjoyed having me around to hang out with some. I think she cleaned up pretty good.

My sister is the short blond in the blue dress walking offstage

My second trip away from home involved my youngest sister. She's finishing up her third year in pharmacy school. This past weekend I traveled to Birmingham, AL to celebrate her pinning ceremony. It is a tradition at Samford University and marks the end of her class work and the beginning of her pharmacy rotations.

I've also been trying to get most of my assigned reading done in preparation for my residency for school. In a couple of days, I will be reading a workbook's worth of writing excerpts for the other writers in my residency workshop. Still, it has been hard not having the time to concentrate on my writing. When life gets in the way of your writing life its good to remember that if we didn't take the time to live we wouldn't have anything to write about. That being said when things interrupt your normal work schedule here are few tips for things you can do to get back into the daily routine of writing.

1. Write in short increments of time. Even if you only work on one scene or one paragraph of a scene for 15 minutes it helps you stick with a daily pattern. And as things get less busy you can build on that time to work longer.

2. If for some reason a longer project is giving you grief consider writing a short story or an article for a magazine or writing contest. Sometimes when you've had a long stretch of time away from your notepad or computer working on a shorter project with a set deadline helps you focus. Plus if you win prize money or get paid for the project it bolsters your self confidence.

3. If writing everyday isn't possible, then spend some days doing market research on viable places you can submit your work. By looking at who agencies, publishers, and magazines or journals have published or represented in the past you can get a feel for where you own work might be well received. It also helps you improve as a writer by reading the published work of others.

4. If these don't work and you are determined to stick with a longer piece of writing or a novel, but you're stuck, maybe you need to do some research. One fun way to accomplish this is to pretend you are that character and visit a location from your story. Observe the sights, sounds, and scents of the place. Look at what other people there are doing. Listen to the dialects and tones of their conversations. Think about how your character or subject would react to this setting. Let what you see and hear play out in the scene you've created or are trying to create in that place. If possible take a pocket notebook and even a camera with you to record what you observe.

5. Finally, if life continues to interrupt you then it might be time to reassess your time commitments and decide if there is a way to cut back on some of them. If your writing is really important to you then you need to make that clear to your family and friends. Demand time for yourself to be creative and just write.

Even if you aren't a writer but still work from home and feel you're losing focus some of these tips can apply to get you back on schedule. Work for short increments of time and build on that. Focus on projects that have set deadlines first. Take time to update yourself on current trends or demands in your area of expertise. And if all else fails get out of the house and go for a walk or meet with contacts in your area of interest to talk shop. Remember we are all our own best advocates no matter what we do. So don't panic or beat yourself up when spring busyness like I've been facing arrives. Instead, consider trying out some of these tips and hopefully you can get back on schedule and your work back in focus.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Going to School

Beloved Backpack that I didn't throw out
Today I dug out my old backpack. I'd gone to bed a couple of nights ago worrying that I'd thrown it away. This brought a pang of sadness as I've had this backpack since the end of high school and all through college for both undergraduate and graduate school. My daughter used it as her backpack for a while. And they just don't make bags like this anymore. At least not at prices I can afford. This one actually has a leather suede bottom.

Why, you may wonder, did this concern come up at all? My kids have their own packs to carry around. Why would I need this old thing? Because I am officially going back to school again at the end of May. I'm getting a MFA degree in Creative Writing from Spalding University. In a few short weeks I will be doing my first 10 day residency followed by a semester's worth of independent study.

New College T-shirt

Spalding is a top 10 rated school for brief-residency MFA programs like this in Writing. They have been listed in magazines such as Poets and Writers and Writer's Digest, as well as, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators journal The Bulletin. I first found out about the program three years ago. Then I wasn't ready to consider the idea of entering a writing program like this. I was still working at honing my skills and narrowing my focus on what I wanted to do as a writer. Even before that I considered going back to school once my youngest child was in school full time. But the cost of doing so was prohibitive and I didn't want to go back and get another degree in anything unless I was sure I would really use it. If I went back I wanted to be sure I'd be going into an area I truly loved. This fall I decided to research Spalding University's program and take the plunge. I'm really glad I did. Not only has their faculty and staff been enthusiastic and welcoming to me. I feel that this program is one that helps writers in multiple genres of writing from various backgrounds become better and more professional in their approach to their craft. I've already met some of the other new students and feel like I will fit in great at residency. All the new students coming in this spring and summer for their first residencies are from all over the country, are at different age levels in their lives, and all are serious about pursuing writing as a calling and profession.

I'm still nervous about starting back to school again after so many years. But I think after considering many different graduate programs to pursue, from going back for a Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology (or something similar) to applying for a Physicians Assistant program, this MFA in Writing degree is the right fit at just the right time for me. I'll be able to finish it and hopefully secure a teaching position at the college level with some time to spare before I have to send my oldest child off to college.

Workshop textbook

So today I happily dug out my old backpack, relieved that I didn't throw it away. I gathered together my textbooks, notebooks and folders and stuffed them safely together inside my dusty pack and made a list of back to school supplies for me. It is a happy experience. One that I don't think anyone is ever too old for. I'm more excited about going back to school this year than I think I've ever been before. Here's hoping I can keep up and excel in my chosen field. :)

Textbooks/Reading Assignments for Residency

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Battling the CrossCurrents

A few days ago, I went for a walk. Earlier in the week I'd received yet another rejection on a novel I've been submitting. This time I got lots of personal feedback from the agent. I wasn't surprised at the rejection. I'd been struggling with the middle of my story for months--certain there was a problem, after feedback from both my critique group, and a couple of volunteer readers. When I'd work-shopped it in the fall at a SCBWI conference it had gotten some very positive comments and interest. However, even the guest author I'd gotten a one-on-one critique with warned that with my novel's strong beginning, I needed to be sure I followed through for my readers and gave them the payoff they'd expect. The agent I got a personal rejection from questioned whether I was writing my right story. This came at a time when I've been questioning how I can fix this novel or even if I'm capable of doing so.

When I came home from my walk I wasn't feeling a whole lot better about myself. But my walk had done something positive. It had motivated my family to go outside and fly some kites. As I watched them, all three of their kites were aloft on the wind soaring. But then my daughter's kite hit an unexpected cross current of air grounding it. She struggled and struggled to get it aloft again without success. Asking my husband for help she left and came back only to watch him experience the same problem. Each time it seemed like the wind was beneath it ready to send it soaring another gust of wind would hit it from a different direction and send it crashing to ground again.

I realized that the struggle with this kite, which looks like a beautiful owl, reflected my current emotional state. At the conference I'd come away hopeful and confident that this novel, this story, was ready to be seen by others. Only to find that perhaps it was close but still not where it needed to be to soar. Self doubt, and not a little self loathing followed as I fought with myself to take my story in a different direction than I'd originally set it on. These doubts and defeatist ideas had me effectively grounded. Worse they'd shut me off emotionally from my characters making it impossible for me to guide them or more importantly be guided by them.

My husband continued for several minutes to struggle with the kite. My daughter had given up after just a few attempts. But he knew the winds were right it was just a matter of finding the right current to get the owl up in the sky again. Doggedly he made attempt after attempt to send it flying. String got tangled and had to be untangled, trees got in the way, random air currents viciously slammed it to earth over and over. It was a monumental battle to get it in the right place at the right time. He didn't give up. And I realized I could be like him and continue to fight for my characters or I could be like my daughter, give up and move on to something new. Neither course was obvious as being the right one. The most worthwhile things in life rarely come with road signs offering you directions that say, "this way stupid." Or "this path offers lessons in futility, turn back now." I'm not certain as a writer how you can know you've reached the end of the line with a project. This is the first time I've ever gotten so much strong interest in one of my novels. It isn't my first book, its just my first near success. I haven't decided to shelve it. But I have decided to give it some space and stop trying to force something to happen when I'm obviously not ready to do the kind of writing it requires to fix. The cross currents out there are still very strong. When I'm ready, I'll go back to it with the determination my husband showed with my daughter's kite. And when that moment arrives I will find the right breeze to catch that will send the wings of my novel soaring.