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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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Influence

One for the Murphys

I’ve read three more pieces of fiction for older readers (young adults and adults) and countless picture books (thanks to Mister) in the weeks since I read One for the Murphys. But I was still thinking about that book as I sat down to write Monday’s post.That’s probably because the book made me feel. It made me so thankful that I get to watch Mister grow up. It made me realize how lucky I am to have a husband who wants our family to work as much as I do. It made me remember my own childhood and how bits of that have shaped the person I am today. All that from a book. A work of fiction.

As I said, I’ve read a lot of books since One for the Murphys. Here are some of them and the influence they had on me:

The Day the Crayons Quit– makes me want to ask more “what if” questions throughout the day to find more creative stories

Reason to Breathe, Barely Breathing, Out of Breath– all three books in this series made me want to renew the romance Husband and I had when we were young

Tough Chicks– made me realize that what makes Mister difficult to deal with some days is exactly what will make him successful as he grows

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– in a weird way made me want to give a voice to those who are underrepresented in fiction

Notice that the list isn’t very long. Not every book I read makes me want to make a lasting change, but some do. Those are the books I need to read again. To study. To absorb into my being. Because those are the books I want to write.

Related Links:

One for the Murphys on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12926804-one-for-the-murphys?from_search=true

How writing affects the brain: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-does-writing-affect.html

A study that shows we are what we read: http://www.americanownews.com/story/19895957/personality-changes-reading-habits

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Emotion

 

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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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Super Power

Well, since I’m here to write this blog post, I obviously didn’t get whooped (though maybe I should have since I missed Friday’s post…sorry!). But I did get really embarrassed. Fortunately, I have a writing gift, kind of like a super power, that helps me through these types of situations.

I don’t know how it works. Or if it has always happened or started when I began writing, but I experience situations in two ways. Here is an example:

As soon as the word “whooped” spilled out of Mister’s mouth, there was one voice in my head saying, “This is awful. Please don’t let that lady kill me. Hurry up train! Where are you? What am I going to do with this kid?”

But there was also another voice saying, “Ah this is good stuff. You need to write embarrassed. Is your heart beating fast? Good. What about sweaty palms? Not this time? Are your cheeks on fire? Super. Why can’t you stand still? Aren’t you going to look at the lady?”

Because I’m a writer, sometimes I can experience the emotions I’m feeling and live in the moment, while still somehow taking mental notes on ways I can use that emotion in my work. And the part of me that can do that thrives on difficult situations. So that same voice that was seemingly taking notes on what my body was doing when I was feeling embarrassed was probably also rooting for me to get whooped. After all, I may need a fight scene some day.

This post will also lead to a question since I missed Friday’s post (sorry again! I was baking four dozen hydrangea-iced cupcakes…but look how neat they are!).2013-09-16_13-42-45_8

Anyway, on to the question(s):

What writing gift do you have? Does it have a downside? If so, what is it?

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Details, Other Stuff

 

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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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