June 10, 2010 Modern Grammar
Do you know what an ellipsis is? I didn’t know by name what it was when my daughter brought up the subject, but I certainly know how they are used…
The strange and wonderful form of communicating that has come about in the last five years or so through text messages and emails has the population of the planet abbreviating everything, words and meanings included. The ellipsis…allows you to intentionally omit a word or meaning…leading the reader often to wonder…just what is was the writer was trying to say…know what I mean…?
Here are a couple of examples of two recent text message I received…
lkn fwd 2 a ccktl on prch…c u sn!
Wl u b mad if I flnk math…
In twenty years, hell in five years, will anybody be able to decipher these? Also, whr did vwels go…sty tned…
June 4, 2010 Fresh Perspectives
I recently had a healthy break from my routine when taking care of a three year old. After four days/nights, it took me several hours to orient myself back to adult life. How boring. It was way more interesting being on high alert, all senses focused on simply keeping him safe. Aside from the serious side of parenting, kids are hilarious. Take time and listen to a kid. Here are some random thoughts from this past weekend:
*Need to tire out your little guy? Have him play under a sprinkler with a dog and put a snorkel mask on him for adventure.
*When you are on the ground, reading a book, the clouds are mighty interesting, maybe more so than the story.
*When you run out of money for the bumper cars, it is okay to let them pan handle for tokens
*There just aren’t enough Nerf bullets on the planet; the 100 or so in every crevice of my house is an insufficient supply
Of course I did not write one word while taking care of my little friend. But when I got back to the keyboard, I had a refreshing, new perspective.
Be Well, Sally
May 31, 2010 Striking the Set
There’s an expression for when a theater troupe is finished with a production and they need to clean up the theater, when they remove all the props. It is called striking the set. The set becomes a clean slate and is ready for a brand new experience. One day there could be a booming musical complete with orchestra pit, and the next day the space could host a drama with only a handful of players. I love live theater and I marvel at the transformation of the space; to be in the same room and feel completely different from one night to the next is an amazing feat.
With my writing I try to accomplish much the same thing. I am not a formula writer, plugging in new locales and new names. I actually write completely different genres, from one story to the next. After completing a project I like to come up with fresh ideas to keep myself and my audience interested. So I guess my in-between-projects-period could be called striking my set while I prepare new and interesting ways to entertain myself and others. Hmmm…maybe a musical next.
May 24, 2010 Internal Dialogue
Several times in the past week when typing on my computer, a tiny window has popped up at bottom of my screen distracting me away from my work. It simply says “an error has occurred.”
This completely confounds me, and I am left wondering what could have occurred. Is someone trying to tell me something? Was it the last thing I wrote in the 3rd person? Should it be in the first person present? What error has occurred? My brain won’t let it go and I have to shake it off as bad karma.
A lot of my work with my characters involves internal dialogue. You know, the stuff that is constantly rattling around in our brains, adding up conversations in our head, trying to figure out the answers to various questions posed by the universe. Some questions can seem small but are really big; I have to dig deep to decide.
So, when something like “an error has occurred” pops up on my computer screen, I don’t just ignore it, I get caught up in the decision making process, is this a big deal or just a little distraction?
It’s difficult to be me.
Be Well, Sally
May 18, 2010 Spring as the New December Part 2
My deadlines come and go as fast the Red Sox win three in a row, and then lose three in a row. No season, to me, is as frenzied as spring for regular life as well as my writing life. I need to get more creative with how I corner myself into work.
I listened to keynote speaker and author, Nicholson Baker at the New Hampshire Writers conference last month. He discussed self-imposed deadlines and the need to be progressively more creative with how we motivate ourselves. Living a writing life is all about confidence, motivation, and deadlines. So here are a few creative deadlines…I will choose one, then another, until I find one that works.
1. No eating chocolate or drinking wine until my current writing assignment is complete. (I think I am finished already)
2. I will be done with my current novel’s first draft when the Red Sox get to the playoffs.
3. I will not speak to any teenager until I am a published author (I may not anyway)
4. I refuse to watch any more of The Tudors series until I complete a full-length historical fiction on perversions of the Kings in 15th and 16th century Europe.
Okay, I think I have some working motivation!
Be Well, Sally
May 17, 2010 Spring as the New December Part 1
The end of school year always brings lots of stress. Like the holidays at the end of the calendar year with all the rushing about, the end of the school year brings its own share of insanity. Kids look worn out from squeezing in ball games, plays, and projects. They prepare for field trips, elections for class officers, and oh yes, school work which includes tests and papers that are almost a daily event.
I see frantic parents driving this way and that, (some with more than a couple of schedules to juggle) to get everyone to the right event or game. I sit at a traffic light and wonder if the mom talking on her cell phone and drinking an iced coffee in the car next to me next to me will drop her kid off at the dry cleaners and her dresses off at the baseball field.
We wait a long winter in New Hampshire to see grass and flowers, to attend commencements, plays, as well as games in green fields. Spring arrives with our own to-do lists, and it all goes by so fast.
The trick is to take the moments as they come. Remember, one moment can change a day.
Be Well, Sally
May 9, 2010 It’s all Greek to Me
I’m always looking for connections in my writing, and this habit has seeped into my life. The print, television, and online news are a bit overwhelming these days; Sometime I feel connected to the stories, and other times I wonder, “How does this fit into my life,” and I end up feeling like a voyeur.
Recently a news report on the economic riots in Greece gave me pause. The newscaster was rambling off the dire highs and lows of the situation when he suddenly proclaimed, “Well, it’s all the Greek government’s fault. They were retiring female hairdressers at 50 years old and paying their pensions.” My attention now caught, he continued, “Because they work in a dangerous profession….working with chemicals, they are allowed to retire early.” He finished with, “all the payouts have built up and the government can’t meet its financial responsibilities…This is turn devalues the Euro, and in turn keeps Europeans from buying U.S. goods. This will ultimately affect 401K’s and all retirement savings.”
Finally we have someone to blame! Greek hairdressers who breathe in too many fumes at work! Because they are on vacation from 50 years of age on, I will have to work indefinitely because I will have nothing left in my 401K. I couldn’t have written a better connection in a novel. I guess I will start using the news as a fiction source; I will start right after I go out and get a hair cut.
May 3, 1010 The Man Closet
The other day I attempted something only desperate women do; I stepped into the basement room known as the man-closet. I couldn’t wait for my husband to get home to navigate the mysterious world of hammocks, coolers, golf clubs, and camping gear, so I bucked up and went forth on an adventure I felt sure would befit Sir Edmund Hillary. I don’t really want to know all about men; some mysteries are better left unsolved, and for years, I was complacent in my knowledge that he knew his way around the space and I would never have to journey forth to invade his world.
Sir Edmund would have been disappointed. The closet was an Avatar of my husbands’ thought process, a 3-D map of his brain. I am not the organized one in this family; helter skelter best describes any filing system, linen closet, or bureau drawer I have ever touched. And I know this exasperates Steve. But until I experienced his domain, I didn’t really appreciate the extent of his frustration with me. I guess he takes it all out in the man-closet which is categorically systematized to offer the visitor quick pickins and ample elbow room to all contents.
My motivation for the week intact, I am attempting to replicate such a space on my computer for the myriad writing projects I have taken on. Is it possible I won’t have to spend five minutes in Explorer trying to recall what I named a piece on Girl Scouting? What about my Gmail system for first draft, second draft, and so on. That was a great idea—at the time. Or that hard copy file folder to remind me what rejections I have received, contracts won and lost? Is there hope for me at 47 with a lifetime of disorder and disarray behind me? If only Sir Edmund were here, he would love me.
Be Well, Sally
April 25, 2010 Great Writing can be found everywhere
Some of my favorite writing I have read this week came in the form of notes. Notes from family member to family member left on the kitchen table are treasures that can be funny or poignant, but always they say to the reader, I am home.
Yogurt (can wait)
American cheese (cannot wait)
Cinn. Toast Cr. Cereal GET IT ASAP I love you Mommy.
These little family drama’s written down on rips of paper, willing to convey a thought or action remind me of one of my favorite notes that was left for me upon my return from college on a break. It was hung rather ceremoniously on the pull cord of the kitchen lamp simply because there was nowhere else to put it. You see, the note simply read: “Sally, We moved.” This yellow note floated carelessly on the end of the ceiling lamp in a room as empty as ski slopes in July.
It was a thread. I knew my family was thinking of moving, but these were the days when we communicated by written letter or occasionally a pay phone call. I didn’t even know how to get to the new town, let alone the new house. I figured it all out, but that little note, that lifeline in my mother’s handwriting stays with me; I think back to it on occasion when my family leaves me their sublime little notes for cheese and cereal.
Be well, Sally
April 20, 2010 Spring is Wonder-ful
With all the rushing about, I wonder if people still have time to wonder. Spring is a time of wonder with so many things being born shooting up out of nowhere to become trees, fruit, vegetables; baby birds are coming out of shells, think of it, it’s amazing.
This is what I am wondering this spring. I wonder how the little peeper frogs in my vernal pool out back know when I am approaching. I am not even there yet and they stop peeping the minute I am within 20 yards. I have tried hard to show up undetected and I have thus far been unsuccessful. I wonder if they have a peeper guard-frog, high up somewhere watching for me, alerting his friends of my arrival.
What are you wondering?
Be Well, Sally
April 14, 2010 Don’t Get Caught with your Pants Down
I am attending my fourth New Hampshire Writers Day this weekend. It is an annual conference with classes, keynote speeches, and schmoozing with industry insiders. Besides networking and a hummus platter lunch, I will “let my light shine” with a class on storytelling. This makes me nervous, which means I should do it.
Sharing my work is hard enough, let alone reading it to an audience. Performance, speeches etc. bring back memories of speech class in high school and college when my heart would race, my fair skin would give away my anxiety as I turned blotches of crimson, and speaking too fast was the only way I could get through it.
I can recall a specific incidence where a classmate of mine was making a speech when one of his bright red suspenders unclipped and sprung up and over his large torso, just missing his ear and resting on his backside for the duration of the speech. The only saving grace was that his pants remained in place. What I learned from that experience was:
- Don’t wear suspenders when making public speaking engagements
- If something unexpected happens don’t ignore it like it didn’t happen; address it, make light of it, and move on, otherwise the entire speech will be lost on the denizens of onlookers who are wondering if your pants are going to fall down.
Be Well, Sally
April 8, 2010 it’s snowing words
Spring has come and gone, and come back again. I don’t know if I should transplant perennials or put sun block on them. It is all too exciting here in central New Hampshire. My legs and back know it is garden time, even if the thermometer isn’t so sure. Just as I won’t question the sanity of Mother Nature when she chooses to shower us with rain, snow, or 90 degree temps all within a week’s time, I won’t question my stroke of luck as I seem to be plowing ahead quickly on my novel writing. It seems the ease at which I find the words arriving at my fingertips fluctuate like the weather, and when you begin questioning the unknowable, it just gets all kinds of messy. So just enjoy the rain, the snow, the good fortune, when it comes your way.
Be Well, Sally
March 24, 2010 Looking for Rhythm
A recent trip to a warm sunny clime has created havoc with my circadian rhythms. You know those perpetual internal beats that tell you when to expect the morning, the spring, or the next sale at JC Penny’s. My rhythms have skipped mud season (aka spring to you flatlanders) and are anxiously awaiting sandal season. I look out my window from my writing desk to a view of scrubby brown and green sticks that may eventually become trees when leaves appear, as well as a pond in my back yard that was not there when I left for my southern retreat. When my rhythm is off, the things that help the most are, and in no particular order, cocktail hour, happy hour, dinner out, and sales at the liquor store.
Now, back to the craft while I dream of the late afternoon. I wonder if there is a steel drum band playing anywhere in the state? I will wear my huaraches.
Be Well, Sally
March 15, Turning the Tables
Rejection: What a horrible word. Reject. Ject. The root ject means to throw. As in throw out my manuscript.
Those of us in the writing biz know this word well. When I first began serious writing, I was happy to see a rejection. I would read every word five times. For me, it meant somebody opened the envelope and looked, however carefully, at my work; “It’s not right for us at this time,” or “you have great potential…”
Then my happiness at rejection-correspondence turned to annoyance. I would read it once and think, “How could they not see how great an opportunity they are passing up?
Eventually (and currently), I see an email from an agent, or a letter in my mailbox and I feel ill. Hopeful and ill. I put it aside until I am all alone and can buck up to the inevitable. I tell myself what a great family I have, or I promise myself I will continue to write until that one person who cannot live another day without representing me to the big publishing houses offers me a deal. Then I open the letter, scan it for the important part, and toss it aside until I can read it in it’s entirety later, with a glass of wine in my hand and one in my stomach. Rejection.
Wouldn’t it be great if all the writers out there could have one chance at rejecting an agent or publisher? They would have to come to us, asking can I represent you? And we can collectively say, “Sorry, you have potential, but you just aren’t a good fit for us.”
In fact, isn’t that what we all want, writers and non-writers, a chance to turn the tables? What about when your teenager rolls his/her eyes at you for speaking to them? Next time they speak first, just rolls your eyes and let out a rather large sigh, letting them know that being in the same room with them is hard enough, never mind, actually conversing with them.
Try it and let me know how it works for you.
Be Well, Sally
March 2, 1010 What’s the word I’m Looking For?
I read a report recently about my brain…well, all middle-aged brains actually. Bad news is, I have tip-of-the-tongue syndrome. You know, that place you go to in your brain when everyone thinks you cannot remember a certain word, but you are actually having a cocktail at a beach cabana with Johnny Depp? The continuing bad news is our ability to multi-task diminishes as we age. So I guess I’ll have to put down that pina colada when Johnny asks me to dance the rumba. Bummer.
The good news? Our neuro-circuits are firing quicker than ever, allowing us mid-lifers to anticipate problems and use our reasoning skills better than when we were young. Also, empathy increases with age. Duh! I could have told you that. Those of you who remember your teen years (that part of the brain is apparently deteriorating) or who have teens (my empathy sigh here), already know that teens do not think ahead, don’t reason things out, they live for the moment. Consequences be damned. Isn’t that why we kick them out as soon as they are able to grab that high school diploma? If teens had our reasoning skills, they would be able to live at home for free indefinitely.
Now, if I could just remember where I put my…what’s the word?…oh yes, Johnny, I’ll be right there…
Be Well, Sally
February 23, 2010 Feeling Snarky
Waiting for a storm. The weather forecast is for 24 hours of snow beginning any minute now; to be followed by a brief respite of clouds, snowflakes, cold, then another storm. It is strange to have someone tell you what to expect, when most things in our lives appear out of nowhere. Those of us who do not like control, this forecasting can be a downer. Sure, it’s nice to know if I need to have my family home and safe, but I think I can make due with my common sense and my cupboards of groceries.
I much prefer surprise to forecast. Every time I try to organize my writing into a neat, concise, well-thought-out project, I end up chucking it. I like my characters to tell me what they are about as we go through the story together. Even if I have a good guess as to where they will end up at the conclusion, I am surprised by how they got there.
Ooops, here it comes! The expected snow is starting, right on time. How exciting! It’s like television. I bet I can find this snowfall listed alongside Gilligan’s Island and American Idol in the television listings. How interesting!
Be Well, Sally
February 17, 2010 How do You Spell Success?
Is it possible to go through the day and not be stopped by one red traffic light? I found myself in such a situation at about noon the other day, and by day’s end, I found myself racing to get through yellows. I was determined to finish safely, but with a perfect record. I succeeded. It was a quiet, personal victory. I spend so many hours in the car that I needed to know such things are possible. The small victories we attain, the ones we don’t brag about are important. We need to feel success for our own sake. How about getting through the self-checkout at the grocery store without any lights flashing and stern looks from the line of customers behind you? What about a whole day going by without your dog running away?
My small successes in writing involve putting my body in a chair with the computer in front of it. Success. Having enough coffee, water, and snacks on hand to keep me writing for more than an hour with no interruptions. Success. How about being able to spell the simplest of words, words I learned when I was twelve, without having to look them up. Success. I think I will get back to my writing, just after I look up “procrastination” and grab a snack.
Be Well, Sally
February 12, 2010 Back of the Bureau Drawer
Lately, there has been a lot of talk around my house about socks. I prefer Smartwool for winter/outdoors, but a friend recently gave me a great pair for everyday. I have no idea who makes them, but they fit better than any pair I have ever had. I was forced to confront all my other socks that are now pushed to the back of my bureau drawer. These “unwanteds” no longer satisfy my foot, so I am going to have to deal with them somehow. Was this a great gift? I love my new socks, but they make my old ones obsolete. I had no idea how bad I had it until I opened the new ones. I suppose enlightened is the preferred state of being, so I will head out shopping soon and look for more great socks. I hope I don’t find out that I have had the wrong coat, shoes, or car; I cannot afford an enlightened state on much else.
It is similar with my writing. I have been digging around the proverbial back of my bureau drawer, pulling out old pieces to work on. I have learned much in the past few years, and my old pieces feel obsolete, they no longer “fit” me. It is frustrating, but perhaps becoming enlightened, growing out of old habits, is like finding a better pair of socks, you wake up one day and realize it was a great gift, one I cannot afford to ignore.
Be Well, Sally
February 8, 2010 Are You Inspired?
Can you truly motivate someone? I am sure there are many age-old questions, but this one has been bugging me off and on for years. When we listen to a certain song, or watch a movie that hits home, are we simply inspired by it, or motivated to do something? When does inspiration turn to motivation?
I am thinking about this today, because it is Monday, and the weekend had it’s share of teenager moments. How do you motivate a creature who has a completely different view of the world? Can I even hope to inspire someone who has little interest in my life, let alone my thoughts? I hope, at the very least, that gleaning is taking place and the outcome is somewhere in the future. I know that I learned from my parents, as well as other adults in my life, but when exactly those “aha” moments occurred, I cannot really say; perhaps they are still arriving as I raise my own humans. One thing I do know for sure is what I have learned from teenagers.
What I have learned from teens
– don’t put party invites on Facebook
– when mixing a music cd, don’t put the same artist twice in a row
– energy conservation: don’t speak in the morning, speak at off peak hours like 11pm-1am
– it’s different if they want something from you, than if you want something from them, it just is, because
– apathy can only get you so far, you have to also really try to not do anything
Be Well, Sally