Monday, March 12, 2018

A Literary Weekend

This is about 3/4 of the books we bought.
We budgeted a much smaller amount for
buying books, the laughed and laughed
and laughed.
If you've ever wanted to walk through an endless aisle of books, pass by the occasional author hurrying off to an event or signing, and make really difficult decisions between different workshops happening at the same time, then Tucson Festival of Books was basically made for you.

You may also call it heaven on earth. Reader's choice.

Heaven on earth is crowded, overrun with people walking from tent to tent and toting canvas bags crammed full of books they never knew they needed. Crowded, and wholly wonderful. There are many things for which I will not deal with a crowd. Literature is certainly not one of those things.

I met and spoke with authors, attended a workshop with literary agent (gotta up that query game, yo), and learned how to make a comic book with my kids. And if you're wondering, no, I could not think of anything better than, "I loved this book so much! I'm reading your first one now! I'm so excited to meet you!" to Celeste Ng.

Other than a mountain of books and a blown budget, I came away from this Festival with something even more valuable - motivation. A push to keep working and trying and doing. I recently started attending a local writing group and sending off chapters for my BFF aka beta reader, doubling down on efforts to get This is Now whipped into shape.

And maybe the best part of the whole damn thing? When my husband smiled and said, "One year it'll be you signing your book."

That and getting this really sweet note of encouragement from Janet Fitch.

I've been feeling kind of down about not hitting some of my goals. But honestly, it's only two goals I'm struggling with: journaling and blogging. Otherwise, I'm all on track! I'm on track with revisions. I'm on track with running (crushed a 10k recently). I'm on track with using my daily planner, reading, becoming a better baker. So I'm going to focus on what I am doing well, and giving myself space to figure out the other things I'm struggling with.

Did anyone else do anything fun this weekend, or have any goals that you're crushing?

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Year, Same Me (New Goals, Though)

I hope that all of you had a very, merry Christmas! And, perhaps more importantly, I hope that everyone enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi just as much as I did.

With the approaching New Year, I realized that the proximity of my birthday to when the calendar turns over is helpful. I get the urge to make changes and set goals from both turning a year older and saying goodbye to the past year.

Sure, I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do like to make goals. However, I typically make goals and then keep them to myself, which makes it quite easy to stop when things get hard. This is 100% why I decided to share my goals for 29. Not sure what my 2018 goals will be, but they'll likely be ones that will support my current list.

I'll be doing an easy push towards working on these goals until we're settled in our new home. Right now we're in TLF (temporary lodging facilities) after moving out of our rental house. In less than 2 weeks we'll sign for our house (who knew there were so many, many steps to purchasing a home?), and I've promised my husband that I'll let him watch TV as loud as he freaking wants for a solid week after we move in.

Yes, I am the annoying person with the remote in hand for entire movies, constantly turning it down while hissing, "We have neighbors!" Also, you're welcome to our neighbors who never had to hear our TV while I was home. I was not in control of what happened when I was not there.

And if you're wondering, we're getting on just fine in TLF:

They crawled in there themselves and neither is locked.
Don't call CPS on me.

Friday, December 15, 2017

29 & Not Feeling Fine

That's a lame title, we can commiserate over that, right? Lame, but accurate.

I turned 29 earlier this month and it was...a day. I went grocery shopping, cooked dinner like always, and watched Elf with my family. Watching the movie was the highlight of my day, which I otherwise spent (mostly) alone. So yeah, fun times, and a pretty accurate representation of my twenties.

Guys, I got pregnant with my daughter shortly before my 21st birthday, and soon after she was born we were gone, off to my husband's first duty-station. In Georgia. Look, sorry if you live there and love it, but we were stuck in Warner Robins, the armpit of that state.

I've not been happy lately. I try to be honest about my ongoing struggles with depression, but this is something distinctly different from depression. This unhappiness isn't chemicals bouncing around in the wrong places, it's a genuine dislike of how I've been over recent years. Who I am is not who I want to be, so I made a list:

1. I struggle with maintaining my running life, and want to challenge myself to do something that is difficult and will require me to push myself outside of comfort zones.

2. Why a signature bake? I watch a lot of Great British Baking Show with my daughter. Also, I can cook really well (self high-five), but I'm absolutely terrible at baking. My kids request certain suppers from me all the time, but never, ever ask me to bake anything. My son has eosinophilic esophagitis and is on a medically-necessary restricted diet, and I want to be able to bake something regularly that he can actually enjoy.

3. I've been on-and-off querying my novel, This is Now, for a while now, and it's not going anywhere. I've started making editorial notes and am going to start editing and revising. I really believe in this story and think that I can make it better.

4. I slacked off reading this year. According to Goodreads I've only read 34 books this year, so I'd like to bump that up a little next year. Reading is very important to me, and I want to make sure that I'm giving myself the time to do so.

5. This has been a little bumpy already. I've missed 2 days since my birthday, once for no good reason. I also missed journaling yesterday, as my son had a bad reaction to anesthesia after his endoscopy, and we spent the evening in the emergency room after a morning at the hospital. Valid. Excuse.

6. I'm starting this one this week. I tend to isolate myself when I'm feeling unhappy, and my two close friends moved away this year. Downside of living on a military base. While this isn't exactly fully interacting with people, it's definitely better than nothing.

Most of these are really about one thing: making time for myself. I don't think it's uncommon for people (OK, especially moms) to have trouble taking time for things that are important to them, and guys, I became a mom when I was really, really young. I've spent a lot of time making sure everyone else is OK, and I've not left myself with any time to make sure that I'm also doing OK.

Monday, November 27, 2017

November: The Month of Excuses

Boxes on boxes on boxes of nothing but books.
Life goes through phases. I know, this isn't revolutionary thinking or anything, but sometimes it's hard to fully grasp or even remember just how big the shift between phases is until you're in the thick of it again, saying goodbye to one part of life and hello to another.

I'm going through a phase shift now, as my husband is nearing the end of his military commitment and we're putting down roots. We're buying a house, clearing out an ungodly amount of crap that we've accumulated in the 3 1/2 years since our last move, and getting ready to officially call ourselves Arizonians. Arizonans? I should probably figure that out before I change my state of residence.

This shift has been stressful, and it's put a lot of strain on my family. I've allowed myself to make excuses for things I shouldn't.

For example, I blew off NaNo fairly early on while crying into a beer that there's too much stuff going on for me to be able to write, then watched hours of mindless television immediately afterward. After my last less-than-stellar 5k I mostly stopped running. Just...stopped. Because we won't have the extra money to sign up for more races until after we've closed on our home, and I got grumpy about it.

You get the picture. I'm an expert at making excuses.

Changes are coming as I attempt to throw out my habitual excuses. Maybe I'm just getting a head start on the New Year, but I think it's more than that. It's a realization that who I am right now is not who I want to be. I can either continue on this path as a person who is deeply unhappy with herself or her situation, or I can do the really hard thing, which is to change.

I'm still formulating the best approach to make these changes, but I know I'll be taking it slow and easy, and will do my very best to be kind to myself in the process.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Here’s to Nano (Again)

My writing life has suffered lately. Sure, just life in general has played a part in that. The whole job, kids, husband, running (then injuring myself, resting, and running) kind of life in general. But it’s not just that.

Like so many other writers and creative types, I suffer from depression. I’ve written about my depression before, and every time it still feels fresh and strange to put words to keyboards. Through it I’ve managed a few submissions and queries, lots of rejections, and finished a new short story. But…that’s been about it. For months and months on end. The idea of exorcising these ideas and stories and characters from my head felt physically exhausting.

I slept too much and too little.
Ran too little then too hard, hurting myself.
Ate too little then too much.
And stubbornly, desperately, achingly refused to write.

I’m coming out of the other side of a really bad depressive episode, and what good timing! NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual, month-long literary event. In short, you write 50,000 words in a month. Long version, you drink lots of coffee and tea and alcohol, write a bunch of shitty words, and then in December and January whittle and edit it down into a better second draft.

Here's to all the beer that will be
drunk this November.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t allow for second guessing of work. It allows for plot holes and characters who switch names halfway through a manuscript. It creates a 30-day period where you’re just racing to create your story. And right now that’s what I desperately need.

I first participated in NaNoWriMo back in 2005 or 2006, but created a new account when I wanted a new username. According to this account I’ve been at it since 2011 and haven’t missed a year yet, although I’ve only “won” twice. So who am I to break this streak?

Anyone else participating in NaNo this year? If you are, add me as a writing buddy!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Banned Books Week 2017

Chances are that you’ve read at least one banned book in your lifetime. Judy Blume usually springs to mind around this time of year, but what about Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, JK Rowling? That’s right, someone read Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic and thought, “Hmm, not appropriate for children.”

Guys. Guys.

Banned Books Week occurs every year and serves as a “celebration of the freedom to read.” The reasons behind challenges to books can vary, but they all come back to the same thing – censorship. Attempts to censor literature often comes under the veil of trying to shield children from so-called inappropriate subjects. Which is probably one of the worst things you could do for a child’s curiosity. Taking away information doesn’t sate the hunger, it only makes it grow stronger.

Banning books (or attempting to have them banned) is still going on today, which is absolutely crazy if you think about what kids and teenagers can more readily access on the internet. I am one Google search away from videos about fetishes I didn’t even know existed. Exposure to difficult topics inside the context of a story can be much more beneficial than a quick few minutes on the internet, which lacks the nuance of characters and plot that can put things in perspective.

They have no choice but to be nerds.
I normally try to read a banned book during this week, but ended up not doing so this year. Although, I’ve been reading Harry Potter with my kids (we’re up to Prisoner of Azkaban), so technically I’ve been on board the banned books week for months now. Look at me, ahead of trends!

What banned books have you read lately? Or were some of your childhood favorites commonly banned or challenged?

Monday, January 9, 2017

I Bit the Bullet (Journal)

To say that notebooks are my thing would be like saying that dogs have a mild affinity for bouncing tennis balls. I buy notebooks like I buy books: ravenously and in quantities that border on wholesale. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate used book stores and the library.

When I first saw bullet journals popping up on Pinterest I ignored them because I already journal, make daily to-do lists, track my runs with an app, and use Goodreads for books that I’m reading. Adding something else in just didn’t make sense, especially since I’m not a particularly artistic person.

Eventually I gave in to Pinterest peer pressure (but I won’t be handcrafting birthday goodie bags, dammit). I'm not doing it strictly by the books (ba dum tss) or using any type of specially-designed notebook, because if I'm going to stick with something, it needs to be on my own terms.

I'm using it to make my daily to-do list which actively replaces what I was using before, but otherwise the bullet journal is in addition to everything else. Because I’m a person who likes lists. They make my life feel tidy and organized even when it’s anything but.

Read #3 was awful. Just awful.

I'm only a few days into the bullet journal, but I'm liking it so far. It combines: 
  • my love of lists
  • bright pens
  • keeping track of the little things that happen throughout my day.
I still journal in my, well, journal, but I usually only sit down to do so at the end of the day, and the bullet journal is handy for jotting down a quick thought, story idea, or just something that happened that I'd like to remember.

Plus, I may not be creative, but come on this is kind of cute.

I hope that you all had a fantastic winter break and enjoyed your holidays. We spent our time being lazy, reading, and enjoying this bomb-ass fire pit that my parents got us for Christmas.

Have you started any new habits recently? Or do you journal regularly?