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Reflection

“No, Mom!” Mister yells.

I remove my hand from the bathtub drain lever.

“My toys are still in here. And please don’t let the water go down now. That will scare me.”

I nod, even though we’ve talked about him not being able to fit down the drain a gazillion times. I make a mental note to drain the tub after he’s asleep and to read I’m Not Afraid of Anything to him again.

I’m Not Afraid of Anything is the picture ebook I wrote a few years ago that was published by MeeGenius. It was recently featured on the MeeGenius blog as a book to help kids conquer their fears, especially the fear of the doctor.

It’s recent feature got me thinking about Mister and his fears. I find it funny that, even though I wrote it inspired by my own childhood fear of the vacuum, and even though Mister wasn’t even close to being born yet at the time I wrote it, the book still nails one of Mister’s fears. So, this week’s question is:

What book(s) do you find to be a reflection of your life? What about the book is familiar?

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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Reading

 

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Impact

“Welcome to the National League Division Series. Here are your Pittsburgh Pirates,” the announcer booms. “Starting in center field…”

Through wells of tears, I watch a blurry Andrew McCutchen turn to point to the fans before high-fiving his way down the line of coaches to take his space on the field.

As my other favorite players are announced, I can’t hold back my tears. The city has been waiting a long time for this. My family has been waiting a long time for this. And it is finally here.

Looks like the rally towel give-away is going to come in handy in more ways than one.

Okay, so it might not exactly be normal to be moved to tears at a baseball game, but, if you’ve been paying attention to sports at all lately, the Pirates making it to the NLDS is kind of a big deal. What is something you’ve experienced lately that has had a particularly strong emotional impact? How can you draw on that emotional experience to enhance your writing?

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Emotion

 

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Brains on Paper

Experiencing emotional situations and narrating them at the same time, isn’t exactly a super power, but it does come in handy for writing. There are a few things that I do that are a little, well, odd in the context of real life that also work really well for writing.

For example, I picture most people I meet, and even some I just see in passing, as picture book characters. A man with long, curly hair and sunglasses became the saxophone player for an audience of cats. A smiling older gentleman in the post office became a neighbor who teaches a young boy about imagination. A librarian who helped with a stuck door was…a librarian (funny how some people just fit, isn’t it?). A little weird, maybe, but there might be some picture book ideas just walking around out there. I’ll never know if I don’t look around.

I also steal physical traits, body language or ways of speaking from real people to later use for my characters. A teen girl walking with her hands in her sleeves and shoulders slightly slumped I’ll give to a character with self-esteem issues. And I’ll take a little one’s tendency to always walk on tiptoe and give it to a picture book character who is filled with wonder and curiosity.

I even revise my own speech. I’ll say something and immediately think of a better way to word it. It’s like living with the curse of a delayed comeback all of the time. Odd? Yes. Good for writing? Definitely.

All of these things mean that even when I’m not sitting down and writing, my brain is thinking about writing. It’s almost like having a sixth sense: a writing sense. And all of the above examples help to keep mine active.

I’m not sure if all writers do the things that I do, but I do know that writers’ brains work just a little bit differently. They have to. After all, most of our effort revolves around trying to put our brains on paper.

Related Links:

Sara Jane Townsend’s reflections on a writer’s brain: http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/a-writers-brain-guest-post-from-sara-jayne-townsend/

Blog post by Caleb Pirtle III about where two novelists get their stories: http://venturegalleries.com/featured-vg-blog/where-does-the-mind-of-a-writer-go-for-a-story/

Daily routines of famous writers: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Character

 

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Eavesdropping

“Let’s play ‘I Spy,'” I say loudly, trying to talk over the family bickering on the next bench. “I spy with my little eye, something red.”

“That’s why you get whooped,” the mother on the next bench yells, “I tell you and tell you and you don’t listen. That’s why you get whooped.”

“Did you find something red?” I ask Mister.

“An American flag,” Mister answers casually. “Mom, is that boy going to get whooped?” At least the family stops bickering. But now I’m scared of getting whopped.

Has a child ever embarrassed someone by eavesdropping? Did you ever embarrass someone else as a child?

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Dialogue

 

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Tiniest Thing

I don’t have very much luck. I get a lot of red lights, especially when I’m late. I don’t win raffles or drawings. The only time I played the lottery, I was off my one number. I’m never chosen for “look under your seat to see if you’re the winner” kind of things. I don’t even win scratch-off tickets.  

But even when I don’t have luck, I’m still very lucky. How can that be? Well, I have the usual: a caring husband, a healthy child, a nice house in a safe neighborhood, an involved family, goals and dreams I’m passionate about, and so, so much more.

But sometimes, like I did with Mister at the train station, I forget to see those things. 

Salsanpeeps shared a comment along the same lines:

I think watching my wife and son walk on the beach. Prior to that, it was watching them walk together pulling a wagon with his stuffed bear in it.

Sometimes, like salsanpeeps did, it takes stepping back from your situation to find the reasons you are lucky. I find that writers are good at this, probably because finding the things that make you feel lucky is a lot like finding story ideas. It means noticing the little things. 

The other day, Mister was fussing at nap time. “Can’t you carry me up the stairs, Mom?” he asked.

“I can’t,” I said, “Mom hurts too much today.” (I’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, see this post for more)

“What hurts?” he asked.

“My hands, my shoulders, and my knees,” I told him.

Slowly and gently, which is difficult for a kid who doesn’t do anything slowly or gently, he kissed each one of my “boo boos.” Those kisses showed me that, even with a chronic illness, I’m lucky to having a loving and understanding family to help me through it. 

And that gave me an idea. There are lots of other kids with family members with chronic illnesses like mine. So far I’ve only seen one book for them (When Pete’s Dad Got Sick).

If I keep this up every day for weeks at a time, I might only come up with one or two or five usable story ideas, but those ideas, and the perspective I gain in finding them, are so worth it.

Think about what makes you lucky, even if it is the tiniest thing, because that thing might just be your next story idea.

Related Links:

Blog post (with some beautiful photos) about a mom who started noticing things after she had kids. http://www.kellehampton.com/2012/09/observance-and-writing.html

Tips for finding those all-important details and story ideas: http://www.youngupstarts.com/2012/03/02/eight-ways-to-retrain-your-brain-to-notice-the-little-things/

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Inspiration and Ideas

 

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Can’t Believe

Mister is so excited he drops the quarter I asked him to hold. I stomp on it before it rolls off the train platform and check to see if the train is coming for the gazillionth time before I bend down to pick up the quarter. No train in sight. We’re going to be late.

“Now when the train comes,” I prep Mister, “we’re going to put our money in quickly and find a seat. Then we’ll ride the train to meet Daddy.”

“Okay,” he says. “But, Mum, what does this do?” He asks, pointing to the route map and touching each stop like it’s a button.

Then it hits me. I am so focused on our end destination, that I’m forgetting how exciting just the trip is for Mister. He’s only ridden this light rail train one other time in his life. With new patience, I explain the map, the rails and the wires, the poles and lines on the platform, and the most exciting part of the station: the port-o-potty.

When we step on the train, I let Mister put the money in even if it takes a little longer and we’re already late. I let him choose our seat even when he isn’t quick to decide. When he finally settles in, the only thing he can say is, “I just can’t believe we’re here.”

“I know, buddy. We’re so lucky,” I say, but I’m the really lucky one.

What moment made you feel really lucky lately? Why?

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Details

 

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A Lull

In the midst of icing cupcakes like hydrangeas (for my sister’s bridal shower…I’m no Martha Stewart), re-facing my fireplace, and making sticky-note collages of my walls (see Monday’s post), I’ve been beating myself up a little bit. That’s because, while I was trying all sorts of new things and getting a lot accomplished, I wasn’t getting anything written. Or revised. Or brainstormed. Or even thought about planning to write down maybe some day.

It wasn’t writer’s block. Or that I was too busy (I mean, I was, but I did that to myself). Or that I didn’t have anything to write about.

I just hit a writing lull. That was something new.

A few years ago, I took a writing course from the local community college. The teacher called me one of the most prolific writers he’s ever met. With a few members from that course and a few more picked up at conferences along the way, I started a critique group. We meet every three weeks and at almost every meeting, I have something new to critique. Until lately. This lull was very new. And, for me, new things can be a little scary.

So I tried to let my brain figure out what was going on while I busied my hands. I did things like removing the crumbling mortar from my basement’s foundation block and filling it back in, buying a number of used doors and refinishing them for the basement (which is not even close to door-ready), and volunteering for a leadership position in Mister’s play group. These things were new. But they didn’t scare me. Instead, with each new thing my hands did, my energy renewed. 

So I approached my writing with the same idea: try something new. I applied for the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference. It was something I’d never done before. And I got in. I tried a different technique for revision. And it is helping. I even had a scene for a new story idea in a totally new genre (YA probably) eek out (gulp).

My hands seemed to know what my writing brain didn’t: to get out of a lull, I need to try something new.

So I’m trying something else new. I’m not going to beat myself up when my writing isn’t as productive as I’m used to. I’m going to go with the flow, let it work out, and try something new.  

Related Links:

6 Ways Out of a Writing Slump by Darcy Pattison: http://www.darcypattison.com/writing-life/6-ways-out-of-writing-slump/

Blog post on when to stop writing by K. M. Weiland: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2013/05/5-reasons-you-should-stop-writing.html

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Process

 

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