Signing Off, Broken Process, and a Writing Experiment

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My Colorado vacation highlight was hearing Gary D. Schmidt talk about writing and publishing. His advice was similar to what you may hear from other sources e.g. write every day. He recommended 500 words. Disciplined. Committed. Daily. No excuses.

I considered my writing process and the rationale behind it. Early on I determined every day didn’t work for me. It was too much. I needed time to ruminate, rejuvenate, etc.

Then I decided that word counts could be weekly instead of daily since I wasn’t writing every day anyway. It made sense.

And then, I figured my writing goals could be worked monthly so long as I donated some of my time to it. It’s not like it’s my ‘job’ right? Who needs deadlines? It will get done in its own time.

Four years later …

When my writing process seeped out of its dedicated-routine sized pitcher and leaked into a-hobby-I’ll-get-to later sized bucket, I didn’t notice. Until I kicked the bucket over making a huge puddle sized mess to mop up. A puddle, I promptly pulled up my pant legs and stepped over it.

I thought, “I’ll deal with you later,” because it was like trying to drink the ocean with a straw. A salty impossible mess.

Better for it to be out of sight, out of mind. (But not really.)

I realized, my process was broken. And broken processes are an irritation, a pet peeve. Ask my husband the number of times he listened to my rants about this topic on vacation. Processes are meant to run smoothly and efficiently. When they don’t, they’re meant to be improved.

Stay with me …

Gary also talked about how he’s not actively engaged in social media. He stated (and I’m paraphrasing), if you only write 500 words a day, should it be a blog post? Or tweets or whatever? Or should it be 500 words toward your fiction or non-fiction pieces? At the end of the year you’ll have 183,000 words to edit into the story you want to tell. You can get it done.

Ouch! That hit home.

Remember, my blog was supposed to be the place where I practiced writing? Okay, maybe it’s become a distractor or an “out” from doing the “real work” that’s hard and terrifying.

Again, broken process.

I know, I know, I just posted that writer’s write and it doesn’t matter what they write, but hmmm … I am rethinking that philosophy.

While I was on vacation my characters came-a-calling. They’ve lain silent for almost a year, only to shake me awake at 5 AM when I could be sleeping in for a change.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” they screamed.

I was game. I sat in the dark of our hotel room writing feverishly while my family slept quiet and peaceful.

There’s something about this time of year. Summer and vacation, being away from my normal seems to unleash my creativity, the playful side.

Hold on, we’re getting there …

While I thought about my recent reads (which were so good) and all of Gary’s encouragement, I realized the story scope on my novel was too broad; aggressive for a newbie. I started in the wrong place. I needed to plot the plot even though I am a pantser. The list of first-timer mistakes I’ve made is long.

I tweeted my epiphany which came in one of those 5AM moments:

From 40K to zero because starting over feels right. #plotting #AmWriting

Yes, I am scrapping it all. I am giving this WIP a clean slate to reinvent itself.

In working through this I found a new beginning to the story (4 unique versions of the beginning to be exact). A new direction and manageable scale which can help me past my writer’s block. I hope.

There’s a new working title: The Way to Wonderland, which makes me smile.

Character names, purposes, and motivations will change. Locations will evolve. Villains and heroes will get an unexpected twist, I never saw coming. And somehow it will all come together.

Here it is …

The culmination of events leads to the real reason for today’s post …

I am signing off.

No, not forever.

I am dedicating the entire month of August 2014 to writing; working on the novel in progress which technically is a new angle on an existing idea. I’m in pursuit.

31 days of 500 words a day. No exceptions. No excuses. It will be my little writing experiment,

Let’s see if I can fix my broken writing process. I’m nervous but hopeful.

Wish me luck. Live in the suspense. I’ll chat with you in September around the 9th. Be well!

~Gail

NOTE: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, thinking the timing would allow for character development and plotting. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it done. I will spend the first part of August completing the important task of planning. Then I will write 500 words a day. I’ll still check in with you early September but it’s likely I will need more off time to hit 31 days.

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Postcards from Southern California: Family Fun in the Hot Hot Sun

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

It was like a furnace. Temperatures ranged from 90 to 105 degrees. Too hot to do anything other than lounge; which we did.

Trying to find a cool spot and stay hydrated were the top of our activities list while visiting my family in High Desert. [Side Note: Mom’s house doesn’t have central air-conditioning.]

We spent time with the family we don’t see often enough. Shopping and bowling. Eating our favorite Southern California foods like In-N-Out.

We had the opportunity to catch up with life-long friends and hit the beach.

Plenty of ‘selfie’ style photos exist. My boys will have pictures with me in them as well as their cousins, aunts, and Granny. Usually, I take tons of food shots but this year I promised myself, I’d feature the people. Interesting how different this vacation slide deck will look.

I read 3 books:

  • A Better World by Marcus Sakey, exceeded my expectations. It’s better than book one in the saga, Brilliance. Trust me a must read.
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, was amazing. Another must read.
  • The Secret’s in the Sauce by Linda Evans Shepard and Eva Marie Everson.

We saw 2 movies which were family dates with my sisters, niece and nephew:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction

We had 1 date without the kiddos. Just hubby and me. It’s hard to pull off when we’re home.

These are bonus tracks on the vacation album.

Cousins in the surf. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Cousins in the surf.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

There were lots of items on our ‘to do’ list that we never got marked off. We didn’t have our Read-A-Thon which the boys wanted to do in Colorado originally. I’m so glad we gave our books their own suitcase to travel with us. Oh well we will plan it for next month.

New meaning to book bag. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

New meaning to book bag.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Now we’re home, a little jet lagged and struggling with the return to routine, but color me grateful for the days we sat on the front porch in the setting sun with the people I love most in the world.

Postcards from Colorado: Adventures in Thin Air

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Greetings …

Today is post Tuesday and I haven’t had a chance to slow down enough to organize my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive narrative. But instead of missing post day I decided to bullet some of the highlights and share some scenic shots.

BACKGROUND: Colorado, the first week of our vacation is thanks to Calvin Theological Seminary, my husband’s alma mater. They offer a seminar to pastors, Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.

This opportunity is designed to allow said pastors to also have a family vacation i.e. sessions from 8-noon followed by time for family adventures.

The course hosted by Scott Hoezee and Neal Plantinga (author of Reading for Preaching), required my husband to do some serious reading:

  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Enrique’s Journey – Sonia Nazario
  • Collected Poems – Jane Kenyon
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems – Robert Frost
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert Caro

Of course my reading list is a little longer now.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

We had the pleasure of staying at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, which is a beautiful place to stay. AND it has lots of activities for everyone.

From a parenting perspective, I have to say my dudes surprised me. In particular, our oldest tried many things that if you’d told me a week prior that he would do so I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • He went on the zip line, some 30 feet off the ground, as did my husband. They each used one word to describe it. Dude said, “Fast.” Hubby said, “Fun.”
  • He climbed the rock wall. Again some 30 feet off the ground, even though heights make him nervous.
  • He also tried roller-skating for the first time; counting the number of times he fell as we went along. It’s been at least 15 years since I was on skates and I loved sharing it with my dude.
  • He navigated the cafeteria like a camp veteran, helping his brother along the way, making us think he’s ready for an overnight camp experience without us.

Both boys tried their hand at archery, which isn’t as easy as our favorite quiver-wearing-bow-wielding-heroes make it look.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest wasn’t as adventurous but he enjoyed:

  • Miniature golf
  • Volleyball for the first time. And,
  • Basketball, even though he told me, “I’m not ready for the NBA.” What a sweet boy!

Okay, I’d also like to say they wrote and mailed postcards to friends about our time in Colorado; giving a glimpse into our vacation. Yes, I am smiling for the handwritten correspondence, brief, as you have to be on a postcard. Their handwriting at 9 and 7 years old is priceless.

These moments made this momma proud.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My personal fave of our time was sitting in a small group around the fireplace listening Gary D. Schmidt and his editor daughter, Kathleen Kerr, as they talked about writing and publishing in today’s world. I didn’t say a word. Never asked a question. I was the weirdo in the back sporting the perma-grin.

My husband’s personal fave comes courtesy of Facebook. A friend posted that they were “camping in the Rockies” and the picture loaded the location of Winter Park, CO. Just 10 minutes down the road.

Hubby was able to catch up with three of his closest childhood friends and their families. Some we hadn’t visited in a couple of years, others in more than a decade. It was an unexpected and special surprise in our trip. Yay Facebook for bringing people together.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

LAST NOTES:

  • Check out Snow Mountain Ranch. You may want to plan a trip there. If you go there,
  • Visit The Foundry which is a great place: movie theater & bowling alley mashup. Order the caramel corn which is to die for; comfy leather seats, where we watched How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Stop by Dozens Restaurant if you make it to Denver. Oh how delicious the food. See my meal?
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Thanks to the altitude, my oldest son and I suffered from headaches and bloody noses despite drinking as much fluid as we could. And the hubby had trouble sleeping. It was still one of the best vacations to date.

In two weeks I’ll be back in Colorado for work but I am grateful I was able to experience it on vacation, otherwise I would have missed out on so much of this beautiful state.

Happy summer travels … be safe.

Postcards from Chicago: The Comic Con Event I Missed

Chicago Skyline 2008

Chicago Skyline 2008 (Photo credit: TomC)

We’ve been planning this trip since last year when my husband took my oldest on a “Daddy & Me” date to Comic Con 2011 in Chicago.

They had so much fun we though it would be a great 2012 family getaway. You know, one last hoorah before school starts. One last weekend road trip to bid farewell to summer. But it didn’t happen the way I envisioned, the way we talked about it.

Why?

Well first off, it was a gray cold rainy day. And then there was the fender bender with a black SUV. Maybe it’s payback for a certain post relative to a black SUV.  But I don’t believe in karma. Or maybe it was the mix up with our room reservation where they only had single king beds left when we reserved a two bedroom.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before that my youngest is petrified of people in costume? I believe I briefly talked about an incident with Ms. Green M&M at the M&M store in Las Vegas?

And the very heart of Comic Con … the fun of it … is seeing the fans and enthusiasts dressed as their favorite characters. But for my littlest dude it would wreak havoc on his fragile psyche… it would be a fear filled emotional experience. Forcing him to attend would equate to zero enjoyment for the family.

So we decided that Comic Con 2012 would remain a “Daddy & Me” date for my husband and oldest son. However, we will all traverse to The Windy City together.

Dare I say I am disappointed about not getting to attend the main event:  Wizard World Convention – Comic Con 2012. Sigh. So much for getting my geek girl on.

“How’d I spend my time?” you might ask.

Having a “Mommy & Me” date, which included lounging in our lovely hotel room with a 5 (and a half or is it two-thirds) year old. We watched movies, played Nintendo 3DS, and ate snacks that aren’t particularly good for us. I also had the chance to read and write and rest. Not a bad way to spend a day.

And we managed to do some family fun things as a whole. We went to the LEGOLAND to indulge the boys’ current obsessions. We ate at the Cheesecake Factory to indulge one of my obsessions:  Dulce De Leche Caramel Cheesecake (Sorry I didn’t get photos of it but trust me it was good. I did get a picture of my Over the Top Meatloaf Sandwich.)

Keep in mind though that the trip to LEGOLAND ended much like our trip to the M&M store in Las Vegas i.e. with a little one scream for an exiting. Blaming us for not knowing about the mascot which was celebrating his 4th birthday and making a special appearance. Don’t’ get me wrong there were some really cool things to see there:

The important thing is that we found ways to connect as a family. It really isn’t about what we did but the fact that we did it together.

We listened to the sounds of the city, the hustle and bustle of the people, the airplanes taking off from O’Hare and cabs zooming to and from. We enjoyed the smooth silver buildings against the golden sunset.

I hated the traffic and having to drive through the city but all in all a wonderful trip … I love Chicago for its fast pace, shopping and food, and gorgeous skyline. Next year I hope to add Comic Con to the list of Chi-Town loves.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: Fast Food Tour

Whenever I visit my childhood home I make sure to visit the restaurants, usually fast food restaurants that we don’t have where I live.  I create my list and systematically make my way through it.

I am highlighting a few of the favorites from the list (my meal choices and some pictures)… This is the first trip in which I didn’t hit everything on the list. Disappointed about it but I still ate really well.

Del Taco – My favorite meal here is a combination burrito (ground beef, refried beans, and cheese) with a salsa Verde. The meal comes with a drink (Cherry Coke) and fries. I request “secret sauce” which is a mayo sour cream blend.  I have to dip my fries in something.

Not only is the food good but Del Taco is the first place I ever worked that required me to fill out a W-2. Thanks to my older sister who worked there and was a good employee for recommending me.

I worked the drive thru window wearing my jeans and turquoise blue uniform polo top and baseball cap. Not attractive but that was also the first year I purchase ALL of my own back to school clothes and supplies.  I was 16 years old going into my junior year.

IN-N-OUT Burger – I order the Double Double with cheese no onions with fries and a chocolate shake. Yummy! It’s so worth it.

When I was in my teens I sang in the church choir and we’d travel to other churches to perform. One night we were getting back really late and our choir director stopped to get us something to eat. I hadn’t eaten at IN & OUT before but was grateful. They ordered cheeseburgers for all of the young ones. I inhaled mine I was so hungry. This garnered the comment:  “We should have gotten you a Double Double.”

Can you guess what my nickname was that Summer? If you’ve never had IN-N-OUT make sure you add it to your list when you travel to California.

I made the mistake of telling my husband about being called:  Double Double and now he and the boys call me that just for fun. My husband says, “After eating all these things on vacation we’re going back ‘Double Double’.”

Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheese Burger, which has onion rings and BBQ sauce.

Alberto’s – My husband only makes one request for the list (every trip) because he has to have authentic carne asada burritos. So of course I accommodate the visit to Alberto’s. This time around I ordered the nachos.

Weinerschnitzel – I always get 2 corn dogs and the chili cheese fries.

 

Jack-in-the-Box – Jumbo Jack with cheese, no onions.

 

 

 

 

 

The full list for Vacation 2012:

  • Del Taco
  • IN-N-OUT Burger
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Alberto’s
  • Weinerschnitzel
  • Baja Fresh
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Lee’s Donuts
  • Yum Yum Donuts
  • See’s Candy
  • Gloria Jeans Coffee
  • Rio Buffet

Sorry if you’re not a foodie but I had to share. Let me know what your favorite fast food haunts are … especially if you have to travel to get them like I did.

This, I believe, is the last of my 2012 summer vacation postcards. Thanks for letting me share some of my trip with you.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: The First Time Flyer, the Reluctant Flyer, and the Frequent Flyer

This is our first real family vacation in 5 years. It requires plane tickets, hotel reservations, a rental car, a block of time off work, and money saved up. It’s a big deal. We are all over the moon about this trip … except for one little thing … flyer fears.

Our five year old is a first time flyer. While he can’t wait to see our family on the West coast, he isn’t looking forward to hopping on a plane. He doesn’t like loud noises and claims to be afraid of heights.

His fears fuel my fears. I worry about whether or not the sounds of the engine will be scary for him. I worry that he’ll cry at take off and in turbulence.

I also worry about the crowded airport because he doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings. He feels safe in most situations to walk away from us and explore. It makes me long for those kiddie harness people put on their kids. It would be one less concern. Okay, not really. It was a fleeting thought.

The seven year old is reluctant to fly. Last time he was on a plane he was two and too curious to be afraid. He’s expressed his displeasure for us taking a vacation that requires us to leave our house let alone travel across the country. He’s a homebody, what can I say?

He needs to feel in control and needs advanced notice of anything that is outside whatever “the plan” is. It’s hard to manage his expectations. We never know what’s going to cause a loud and disruptive reaction.

I worry that he’ll have an uncontrollable outburst like Jeffery from Bill Cosby’s Himself stand up routine. Sorry fellow travelers.

I am a frequent flyer. I travel domestically between five and fifteen times a year for work. So I have the etiquettes down (or so I think). The idea of going through security with my two little guys makes me nervous. It will be slower than I am used to travelling on my own.

My husband doesn’t fly frequently but he’s not a first timer or reluctant … He’ll be great with the boys. He’s fabulous at relating to them and helping them through difficult things.

REALITY:  Their excitement far outweighed their fears. The giggled as we took off. They laughed as the plane tilted toward the West.

“I can see the whole world from here,” said the first time flyer.

“I know. Isn’t it awesome?” responded the reluctant flyer.

“We’re flying,” said the first time flyer.

“This isn’t as scary as I thought it would be,” said the reluctant flyer.

They were wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for better behavior. I was worried for nothing.

“We’re in the clouds. Do you see them?” asked the reluctant flyer.

“Yeah. Yippee,” said the first time flyer..

“They look like ice cream.”

After we reached cruising altitude they pretty much ignored me. Entertaining themselves with the goodies I packed in their backpacks:

  • Power Rangers Samurai coloring books
  • Crayola Twistable Color Pencils
  • Books from our Summer Reading list
  • Their blankets

Several people sitting around us and even our flight attendant commented on how well they flew. As a frequent flyer who watches parents struggle to care for crabby kids, I am thankful that my boys surprised me so wonderfully.