Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Top 5 YA Novels of 2010

Here is my Christmas gift to you: I'm going to tell you about my favorite YA books of the 2010.They weren't all necessarily published this year, but I read them during 2010. I have to admit, I've read some fantastic books this year, so it was hard to narrow it down to five. I hope there might be something here that you might enjoy.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:

I stayed up all night reading this book. It's not even a romance (which s what usually keeps me up all night). But it's a beautiful book about friendship and hope and race. However, if you're offended by language and content, the book will probably offend. If you delight in truly beautiful writing, it will most definitely delight.

Once was Lost by Sara Zarr:

I had a dream a couple of months ago that I was having dinner with Sara Zarr and Sarah Dessen (another YA writer). I woke up extremely disappointed that it was just a dream. However, I have actually met and sat in the same room with Sara Zarr for a week; maybe some day I'll be invited to dinner with her.

But that's not why I love this book. Again, the writing is incredible. You might even say literary. It's about a teenage girl whose dad is a pastor, whose mom is drying out in rehab, and whose church congregation is reeling from the disappearance of another young girl. It is a fast read, but I kept putting it down and walking away so I could ponder it.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan:

This is a beautifully written, wait for it, zombie apocolypse novel. Seriously. It takes place in a world where people live in very closed societies and fear that the Unconsecrated will overtake them at any moment. With that, there is a love triangle and an awesome heroine who dreams about seeing the ocean some day. When I finished it, I sat and stared at it. I was in awe of this zombie novel.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin:

What can I say? I was bound to love a book that had its basis in the ballad "Scarborough Fair." It's a super-fast read dealing with rape, teenage pregnancy, love, and evil elves. When I read it, I didn't want to do anything else at home. All I wanted to know was if Luce would complete her impossible tasks.

Matched by Ally Condie:

I got this book on Monday, November 29. Today, Wednesday, December 1, I am putting it on my favorite YA books of 2010. It's a dystopian novel where the Society and the Officials make all of the choices. Even who will marry whom and when. And by some "mistake", Cassia sees that another option might be available to her. It also has some really great bits about writing and creating. Oh! And there's romance.

I hope you all enjoyed my December 1st Christmas present. I'm also working on my favorite adult books of the year for later on. Maybe you'll enjoy those too!

So...what have you read this year that you absolutely loved?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Facing my writing fears...

Last week on the Throwing up Words blog, Chris Crowe did a stint as guest blogger and wrote this post about writing as an act of faith and then there was a fabulous writing exercise about what keeps us from writing. Here is my response which, crazily enough, actually includes Chris Crowe as someone who helped me to face my writing fears. Crazy!

I used to believe that "life" kept me from writing. There just wasn't enough hours in the day to do everything I needed to do to survive and to write.

First there was college, where I had to write all those required papers and read all of those books. How was I supposed to write what I wanted and do well in school?

After a bachelor's degree came an LDS mission to Spain, a teacher's license and a master's degree, a husband, a teaching career, and three sweet little boys. Those things took up all my time and energy; how was I supposed to write?

I'd write a little. A poem or two here. A chapter or two of a novel there. I wanted to write. I yearned to write. It's what I needed to do in order to be truly whole. But I never really dedicated real time to the endeavor. It was something I wanted to do--when I had the time.

Then, in the summer of 2009, just a couple of months after TSH's deployment, Chris Crowe talked to us about his writing process. What I took away from his presentation was this: If you really, and I mean really, want to write, you will do whatever you have to to in order to write. You will make the time to write.

No excuses.

When Chris Crowe had a young family and was teaching high school full time (and maybe even after when he became a professor as well), he would get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to write!

4 o'clock in the morning!

In the months following that presentation, I thought about that. I started writing more. My TV was turned on a little less. In fact, now, my TV viewing time is so much shorter than my book-writing and book-reading time.

Last year, in November, Amy Jo and I decided to do NaNoWriMo. And it was hard. TSH was still gone and the time I had to write was in the evenings after my children had eaten dinner and done their homework and gone to bed.

But it was totally worth it.

What did I really learn from NaNo last year? I learned that I did have the time to do everything I needed to do and to spend some serious time writing.

So Chris Crowe and NaNoWriMo are to blame for what I've done: One NaNo novel partially completed (70,000 words and counting), another NaNo novel in the works right now, and the first draft of another novel completed in 6-7 months.

What was really holding me back, I discovered, wasn't not having enough time. Instead it was my idea of what I needed to be a successful writer.

I don't need a great computer and a nice desk; all I need is my netbook with an old version of Word and a placed to sit and write (preferably my bed or someplace quiet with yummy treats).

I don't need 8 hours a day to write. I need whatever time I can scrounge up.

I do need friends who write and family members who support me. And I have those.

How about you? How have you faced your fears and conquered your dragons this year?

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 12: An Update

It was day 11.

I had 22, 673 words written.

That's 80+ pages.

And I hated my NaNo novel.

That was last night.

I was tired of writing it and I wanted to start all over.

On the 11th day of NaNoWriMo (someone should make up a 30 days of NaNoWriMo song).

Here's the problem: I was bored. I was writing probably what should have been a thrilling scene. Bones were being unearthed. Boys were being sneaked into bedrooms. It was incredible.


So this is what I was thinking about as I drove into work today: How do I salvage these 20,000+ words? (If you remember, driving in the car and taking a shower are the times when I get my inspiration.)

And *bing* I realized what I needed to do.

I need to take out an entire sub-plot of my novel. I'm still really fascinated by it, but it just isn't working. I'll put it in the back of my head for another time.

I'm changing it from part first-person narrative/part third-person limited to entirely first-person, although I'll have first-person coming from two different people.

I'm cutting out a character sooner than I'd planned (she was going to be kicked out of the school anyway; I just hastened her departure).

I'm changing a character who was a Ms. to a Mr.

And I'm doing it right in the middle of my 50,000 word goal. Crazy? Perhaps. But it was the only way I could see to get through the rest of November.

So, essentially, what I am doing is taking this square peg, see? And see this round hole over here? I'm JAMMING this square peg into that round hole! And I'm excited about what I'm writing again.

But I'm going to have a huge mess to clean up from all of this square-peg jamming at the end of the month.

So, how is your November going? If you're doing NaNoWriMo, tell me how you're managing so far. If you're not, I'd still like to know how you're doing. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So, have you heard this one?

Thank you for coming to our celebration giveaway blogpost! Before we start tonight, I thought we'd have a little entertainment, brought to us by the fine children who send in jokes to Laffy Taffy. Here we go!

What pounds in your ears? A drum! Ba-dump-dump-ching!

What? An encore? Okay, here you go, kids!

What bee does well in school? A spelling bee! *wild applause*

Thank you! Thank you! And now, to reveal the winners of the 200th blogpost giveaway. I was going to have a few superheroes pull names out of a hat, but they're all in bed now. (Some wild trunk or treating will exhaust even the stoutest of comic book characters.) So, instead, I used And here they are!

#1: The winner of the signed paperback copy of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, the $10 Barnes and Noble gift card, and the cute little notebook made by moi is...

Kendra Leigh! (Remember that water fight in Alicante? Yeah, those were good times.)

#2: The winner of the signed copy of The Dark Divine, $10 Bath and Body Works gift card, and the cute little notebook made by moi is...

Whirligigdaisy! (Remember when you were the cool teacher's assistant who got to sit right next to Sara Zarr and I was in complete and utter awe of you, because, well, you sat right next to Sara Zarr and you made the entire class those adorable book marks? Yeah, those were good times.)

#3: The winner of the signed copy of The Princess of Glass, the $10 Applebees gift card, and the cute little notebook made by moi is...

Donnetta! (Remember when you gave birth to me and raised me and became my friend when I stopped being an annoying teenager? Yeah, those were good times.)

Hooray for you all!

Please email me at laguapatona [at] gmail [dot] com with your addresses and I will send these out this very week. Seriously. I really will. I won't forget to send them. And I won't lose part of it between now and then. (Kind of like I did with those sexy magnets, Kendra. I lost the y, and I wasn't comfortable sending you, well, you know...magnets without a y.)

Oh, except for my mom. I'll probably just bring yours over to your house. That's not a problem, is it?

Okay, well, there it is, folks!

For those of you who didn't win, don't give up hope! There will be more blogposts, I promise. And more contests too!

And maybe, if you're really lucky, more jokes from the back of my pilfered Laffy Taffies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Tip #1

You have a couple more days to enter the 200th blog post contest. If you haven't done it, do it now, and then come back here and read this post.

Have you done it? Okay, here's the deal: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts next Monday, November 1st. You only have a few more days to decide if you're going to do it. And you're going to do it, right? Good. Well, since you're going to do NaNoWriMo, I'm going to give you some helpful tips I've learned from NaNoWriMo and from writing in general to help you out.

Tip #1: Get a plan, Stan.

Even if your name isn't Stan, getting a plan is a good idea. There are several things you want to plan for during NaNoWriMo; thinking about these things now will help you avoid some (as in a teeny-tiny bit) of hair-pulling later on.

  • Get a novel journal. I use a journal/notebook for each of my novels to keep all of my ideas in. This works much better than sticky notes for me or any other method. Mostly because I have a two-year old who likes to eat sticky notes.
  • If you are the kind of person who plots out your novels, do that now! If you're not that kind of person (like me!), just sit back and enjoy the ride.
  • Plan to write crap. Seriously. If you're planning on writing the Great American Novel in one draft, NaNoWriMo may not be for you. But if you're willing to write some garbage, you'll discover diamonds among the word refuse.
  • Plan your word count. Are you going to be able to write every single day in November? If so, you should be writing 1,667 words a day. However, if you are planning to take a day or two off for Thanksgiving, or if you'd like to spend more time with your family on the weekends, you will need to take that into account. Figure out now how many days you will be able to write and then divide 50,000 by that number. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy (as my child's kindergarten teacher would say).
  • Plan for the unexpected. Your child gets ill. Your significant other takes you away to a secluded cabin for the weekend. Your brother wants you to move all of his furniture. These are things that may hinder your 50,000 words. Plan for these things now. Give yourself some leeway so that you are not scrambling to get your 50,000 words at 1o o'clock at night on November 30. That is stressful. I know. I did it last year.

So, that's how I suggest you start out. Get lots of sleep this weekend, because you won't get much in November. I'll be back next week with another tip. After I finish my 1,667 words for the day first, of course.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

200th Blog Post Giveaway Extravaganza!

Woohoo! It's finally here! My 200th blog post and giveaway. I hope the sheer awesomeness of the giveaway will make you forgive me for making you wait since July for this post. Yes. The awesomeness will bring me forgiveness.

So, there are 3 giveaways. They are equal in their awesomeness and yet unique in their coolness.

1. Signed paperback copy of Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox; $10 Barnes and Noble gift card; and a nifty little Alice notebook made by moi.

2. Signed hardback copy of Bree Despain's The Dark Divine; $10 Bath and Body Works gift card; and a nifty little Alice notebook made by moi.

3. Signed hardback Copy of Jessica Day George's Princess of Glass; $10 Applebee's gift card; a nifty little Alice notebook made by moi.

I KNOW! You're about to faint from the awesomeness and coolness of these giveaways. But don't faint yet. Leave a comment first. That's all you have to do to win. Have you left a comment? Okay, you may now faint.

The contest will go until October 29. At midnight, I will pull names from my magic witch's hat and post who won the amazing giveaways!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

199 Posts on the blog...

199 blogposts. Take one down, pass it around. 198 posts on the blog!

Whew. 199 posts. I've been blogging for over 2 years now and my next post will be 200. Stay tuned for a fun giveaway that includes artsy stuff, gift cardsy stuff, and a signed YA novel.

First, though, Carol is having an awesome contest on her blog (maybe even a little cooler than my 200 posts giveaway). I mean, she's giving away ARCs for Matched and Torment. I want them both...

Okay, since the next blogpost is going to be a contest/giveaway, I'm going to write 199 things you don't know about me on this post.

Ha. No, I'm not. I'm not sure I know 199 things about myself. Instead, I'm going to post my top ten favorite posts. Here they are, although not necessarily in order of favoriteness.

1. The Top Ten Worst Excuses for Not Doing the Dishes

2. To the Real Me...

3. All I Really Need to Know...

4. The Island of Yesterday

5. To Me From My Shadow Self

6. A Dear John Letter to A Soda Pop

7. What I Learned about Life from NaNoWriMo

8. 30 Things I Believe

9. Bucket List #55: Flamenco

10. Naming Ourselves

There you go: 10 blogposts that don't totally stink. If you have a few minutes, I'd love for you to read some of them.

What is one of your blogposts that you're proud of? If you leave a comment with a link to the post, I would love to read it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Got my blanket and my book...

So I'm ready for the Once Upon a Read-a-thon!

Once Upon A Read-A-Thon

I loved read-a-thons in elementary school. Who doesn't, right? So, I decided to join in on this one. It's from July 12 to July 14. They're even going to have some activities and *crossing my fingers* some prizes! Woohoo!

Here are some of the books that I'll be reading (hopefully it will be more; it just depends on how crazy the next few days are):

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl:

Once Was Lost by the lovely Sara Zarr (truly, she's a lovely, amazing person as well as an incredible writer):

I know you want to join us. I mean, doesn't a read-a-thon just shout "super-cool"? I think it does.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why I write

Back in May, I read a blog post by the amazing Kelly Rae Roberts and watched a video she wrote about. The video was geared towards business people and how they need to understand the "why" of their product. After watching it, I decided that I needed to figure out, for me, the reasons that I write. So, I did.

Then, last June when I was at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) Conference (which was totally worth the $), Jennifer Hunt, the editorial director of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers told us in a plenary talk that we should figure out why we write.

Then, my friend Amy Jo, created a Why I Write meme, so I decided to write a post about it. And so, here are 5 of my reasons for writing. (My list is much longer than this, but I'll limit myself to 5.)

  • Writing is sanctioned day-dreaming.
  • When I write, I'm in control.
  • When I'm writing, I feel like the real me. So many other times in my life I feel like I'm faking who I am.

  • My writing will never deceive me. It will never turn in a poem by Shel Silverstein for an assignment and claim that it wrote the poem itself.

And here's the last one. This is one that I actually discovered at WIFYR.

  • I write because I need to tell stories of girls and women who save themselves.

That's it. There are 5 of my reasons for writing.

So, why do you do what you do?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I Don't Review Books...

You would think with all the reading I do, that I would muse more about the books I read. But I just can't bring myself to actually review a book. I'll post the books I read on Goodreads and I'll give it stars. Once in a blue moon, I'll actually mention something about the book in the "review" section. Sometimes I mention something that I liked from a book I read here on the blog. That's about it.

There are two reasons why I don't review books.

1. Authors are people, too.

My mom always told me that if I can't say something nice, then I shouldn't say anything at all. I think that goes for books and their writers as well. As a writer and as a mother, I know how much writing is like gestation, birth, and raising children. Both are beautiful and excruciating experiences. A book, no matter how good or bad it is, is someone's child. So I try to treat books with as much care as I can. I might tell a friend or colleague or a student my personal opinion on a book, but I can't bring myself to review that book here on my blog or on Goodreads. I don't want an author to do a Google search of their name, stumble upon my blog with a review of their book, and then become distraught and never write again because of my opinion. My opinion just doesn't matter that much. Everyone should make their own opinions about what they read.

2. What if I'm wrong?

I also often wonder if I'm the only one who feels a certain way about a certain book, and I worry about what people might think about me if I LOVE a book they hated or vice versa. Honestly, I'd just rather have people judge me on what kind of person I am and not on my review of a book.

I like to read, and I'm going to continue reading for as long as my eyesight will allow me to do so(please, 80 more years or so!), but I probably won't be reviewing much of what I read in the near future. Unless, of course, I become a famous author and writers send me their ARCs to get a blurb on the back of their book. I might change my tune then...if I like the book.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Naming Ourselves

When I was in Seattle in March, I found myself in a used bookstore (actually I found myself in several) and this book was on the shelf at the bottom of a stack of other books. Of course, I have a thing for strong women and pirates, so snatched it up for myself.

As I read, I discovered that it was not just a history of Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen, but an amazing mixture of history, mythology and legend, and travel memoir. I now want to research more legends of sea witches who called in the wind for sailors--for a price. I would love to have a supposed sea witch as a character in a novel.

However, the part of the book that I found the most fascinating is that the author decided on her journey to change her name. At the beginning of her trip, she was Barbara Wilson. After her trip, she changed her last name to Sjoholm (sjo-sea; holm-island). Throughout the book, she ponders whether or not to change her name and what she should to change it to if she decided to change her name.

I began to muse about women and our names. There is the name we were given at birth; we weren't really given a choice in this name. We were given little more choice, if and when we got married, and if we chose to take our husbands' last names. We're given the name Mom and, later, Grandma.

We choose our own names when we choose the email addresses for our personal accounts and usernames for websites we use. Those of us who are writers have the chance to decide if we want to use our given names for our writing or if we will use pen names.

But what about other names we give ourselves through our jobs or other activities we take upon ourselves?

Teacher. Writer. Artist. Creative entrepeneur. (I'm putting it out the Universe!)

Then there are the negative names we give ourselves:

Slacker. Packrat. Inadequate mother. Sloppy housekeeper.

I think it's easier to give ourselves negative names, or to accept these names when they're given to us by others, than it is to give ourselves positive names that will help usour growth instead of hindering it.

So, today, I'm going to give myself these names:

Fulfiller of dreams. Believer in opportunities. Lover of all people.

What are some names you would like to give yourself today?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


My friend Amy Jo now has 100+ followers on her blog! To celebrate, she's having a contest with a very nice prize. Check out her contest and comment for a chance to win.

I, too, will soon be having a contest. I'll be celebrating my 200th blog post. Be ready for some pretty amazing stuff!

The "Let's Talk" Blogfest

So, I've decided to jump into the blogfest world with the "Let's Talk" Blogfest. The only requirement was to post a piece of dialogue to my blog. This is super-scary for me as I've only ever shared some of my fiction with the online world, and a bunch of strangers commented on it. But I know you lovely people will be kind, so I'm going to do it.

What I've posted below is the most recent bit of dialogue I've written for my current WIP with the working title of Robinella. (Can I italicize the title of a book if it isn't published yet? I don't know, but I'm going to anyway.) Louise has just been given a pair of fur-lined boots from Philip, the man who has hired her to steal back something that belongs to his lord.

“I’ve never felt anything like it.” She ran her fingers through the fur again. Philip smiled.

“What kind of fur is it?”


Louise gasped and pulled back from Philip as he reached for her foot. “But squirrel…that’s for the nobility to wear, not me.” Philip shook his head.

“You’ve more noble blood in you than Cashil,” he stated, “and look what she was wearing the night of the festival. And you must look the part when you arrive there. Winter will be coming on soon enough; it won’t be odd for you to be wearing boots. Come,” he beckoned for her foot, “let’s see how they fit.” Louise held her foot out to him and he slid the boot on. “Ah, perfect. Like a—”

“Fur-lined glove,” she finished his sentence, turning leg to take in the full effect of the boot. The soft leather was just a shade lighter than Philip’s eyes, and delicate flowers had been embroidered up the side on both boots, which would have required a strong, steady, yet creative hand. Philip was watching Louise, and she looked away. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Philip shook his head. “No, they’re from Nancy. I believe that my—” he paused and looked as if he’d forgotten what he was going to say, “—my lord’s mother gave her the materials to have a pair of boots made for Nancy’s daughter when she married.

“So they belong to Nancy’s daughter.” Louise had a difficult time believe that the harsh woman had ever had children but refrained from sharing that thought with Philip.

Philip spoke again, and Louise was glad she’d held her tongue. “Aye, they did, before she died.”
He looked into Louise’s eyes. “Taking her newborn baby girl with her.” Louise’s heart sunk. The horrid woman had lost her daughter in the same way Louise had lost her mother. The gift of the boots and that bit of knowledge made it harder for Louise to hate her.

Okay, so that's it! 330 words from my WIP Robinella. I hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Page-a-day Challenge

I heard the call and I answered. I'm going to do the Page-a-day Challenge. The rules simply include that I write only one page a day (admittedly, I'll probably write more than that some days, but at least one page a day) and that I keep track of my days here on my blog and/or Twitter.

I missed out yesterday because I was traveling, but I did write two pages on Saturday, May 15, the first day of the challenge. And so, it has begun!

May 15: 2 pages
May 17: 2.5 pages
May 18: 1.5 page
May 19: 1 page
May 20: 1.5 pages
May 22: 3 pages

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stories in my fingers

Last December, when I was finally finishing Noelle Oxenhandler's The Wishing Year (which I L.O.V.E. by the way), I read the following quote and had one of those moments where I felt totally in sync with the author. Kind of a cool "collective unconcious" moment where we shared the same brain.

"...I had the strange sensation of having paintings in my arms--it was a painful feeling, like a kind of racing pulse that wanted to find its way out of my body and into color and shape." (page 12)

I know this feeling! I sometimes feel the same thing, when there is a story that is itching to get out and my fingers kind of tingle because that story wants to get out of me into a world of black and white and words. Those are the times that I can barely focus on anything else; I just want to be writing.

What about you? Do you have these moments of creativity screaming for release? And do you let it out?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tag............You're It!

My good friend Amy Jo tagged me several days ago and it's taken me this long to think of answers for all of these questions. It seems like, towards the end of the school year, my brain turns to mush and I can't think beyond 2 minutes before...anything.

This game requires me to answer these questions 5 times with 5 different answers. Here I go. *deep breath*

Where were you 5 years ago?
1. I lived in Murray with TSH and Daniel and we were waiting for Andrew to be born.
2. I was in the classroom down the hall next to the preschool where I could hear, "Hot potato, hot potato!" sung every day and watch the four year olds playing outside my window.
3. I was in my bazillionth year at Wesminster and just about to start working on my action research project.
4. I was driving my 1999 Ford Escort. I loved that car.
5. I was in a world without writing or art.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
1. I'd like to be a published author.
2. I'd like to be writing and making art full time.
3. I'd like to be just about done with being an Army wife with no more deployments or weekend drills.
4. I'd like to be getting my youngest ready for 1st grade
5. I'd like to be home with my kids more.

What's on your To-Do list today?
1. Work on the WIPs.
2. Get the boys in the bathtub.
3. Clean out the garage.
4. Develop the curriculum for my Art Journaling class that will carry!
5. Get some flowers planted in the front yard.

What snacks do you enjoy?
1. Crackers with hummus.
2. See's chocolates
3. Weight Watchers little chocolate and lemon cakes
4. Lindor truffle balls
5. Potato chips

What would you do with a billion dollars?
1. Pay off my mortgage and remodel my house, adding a writing room.
2. Buy houses for all of my loved ones who don't have a place of their own.
3. Put away enough money for my children to go to any college they want and to go on missions.
4. Buy my Victorian mansion in Port Townsend.
5. Start a community center that focuses on the healing properties of writng and making art for at-risk teens and abused women.

And I'm tagging:
1. Heather at Audrey Eclectic
2. Nicole at The Nicole Show
3. Amy at The Island of Misfit Toys
4. Emily at Orange World
5. Becky at A Berry Good Life

Also, Amy gave me this nifty award!

Woohoo! Two years of blogging and I finally get an award! This is my year, I can feel it!

Now I'm giving this award to these 5 people:

1. Nicole at The Nicole Show

2. Liza at Middle Passages

3. Heidi at Pie Happens

4. Megan at What we call life

5. Amanda at Hidden Art

Enjoy!!! (3 exclamation points...I really want you to enjoy it!)

Washington Trip: Forks

Yes, it's finally here. The Forks edition of my Washington trip.

It's true what they say: it's always raining in Forks. Seriously, as we drove, it was sunny and fairly nice. Port Angeles was fine. But in was raining and cloudy. It really is the pefect place for vampires who sparkle in the sunlight.

Forks: Welcomes You

Well, thank you! I'm excited to be here!

Forks: High School

Gooooooo, Spartans!

Forks: Bella's truck

Why do you think Bella leaves her truck at the visitor's center?

Forks: Bella's House

The Swans' home. I think I see Charlie peaking his head out the window. Oh, no, maybe it's just a shadow.

Forks: Dr. Cullen's parking place

Calling Dr. Cullen! There are some ladies in the parking lot taking pictures of your parking space!

Forks: The Cullens' House

There's Emmett walking into the Cullens' house.

Forks: A note at the Cullens'

I have to wonder how the Cullens feel about having people stay in their house while they're gone. And how people staying in the bed and breakfast feel about staying in the home of vampires.

If you're planning your own trip to Forks, check out Amy's article on Associated Content.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Finding Your Fire, Following Your Bliss

Follow your own star and SHINE!

"Follow your own star and SHINE!" art postcard

I've been reading a novel titled Saving Ceecee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. It reminds me in so many ways of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, almost too much sometimes, but when I read the quotes below, I was so pleased.

"Everyone needs to find the one thing that brings out her passion. It's what we do and share with the world tha tmatters. I believe it's important we leave our communities in better shape than we found them[...]If there's one thing I'd like most for you, it's that you'[ll find your calling in life. That's where true happiness and purpose lies. Whether it's taking care of abandoned animals, saving old houses from the wreckin' ball, or reading to the blind, you've got to find your fire, sugar. You'll never be fulfilled if you don't."

[...]"But how will I know what my fire is?"

[...] "Oh, you'll know. One day you'll do something, see something, or get an idea that seems to pop up from nowhere. And you'll feel a kind of stirring--like a warm flicker inside your chest. When that happens, whatever you do, don't ignore it. Open your mind and explore the idea. Fan your flame. And when you do, you'll have found it."

I love these quotes. When I read them, I wanted to stand up and yell to all of my students, "Go, find your fire!" But I was afraid they would think I was saying, "Go, there is a fire!" and then there would be mass chaos in my classroom...even more than normal that is.

Certainly, Joseph Campbell would have agreed with Aunt Tootie. You've gotta find your fire and then, when you find it, you have to follow your bliss.

There are two things I have in my life that are my "fire." When I'm making art and when I'm writing, I feel like I'm not just living but that I'm alive. Okay, there's one more thing: when I'm teaching creative writing to people who really want to know and who aren't worrying about a grade, I feel like I'm on fire then too.

What about you? Have you found your fire? And if so, what is it?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Things I Learned By Watching Glee

Okay. You were right, Amy Jo; I love Glee! I spent two days this weekend watching it and laughing and almost crying (Have I ever told you how quick to tears I am sometime? I could write an entire post about all of the TV commercials that have made me cry.). I've watched the first three DVD of Season 1 Volume 1 (now I'm waiting for Netflix to send me #4), and I've already learned some important life lessons from it.

#1--Do not watch Glee and think that you'll get any writing done or art finished or floors vacuumed no matter how much you need to do all three.

#2--"You know, it's not a bad thing to want a real life, Bill, and to have a glue gun that works!" This lovely quote is from Will's wife (does she really call him Bill here? And what is her name? And why don't I know her name but I totally know the name of the guidance counselor who has a huge crush on Will? Yes, it's Emma. Yes, when I was pregnant with all three of my boys, before I found out they were going to be boys, their name was Emma.) and it is so true! It isn't a bad thing to want a real life. For me, a real life would be writing full time, making art, singing with the birds in the trees, and having a glue gun that works!

#3--"I don't think any one decision makes your life. Unless you accidentally invent some kind of zombie virus or something." Finn is the genius behind this quote. He's right. One decision doesn't make your life. And sometimes, you can make a decision about your life, and then you can change your mind later on and change your life completely. Unless you do invent some kind of zombie virus; if you do that, you can only hope that you run faster than the zombies do.

#4--I have a new love. Seriously. Move over Hugh Jackman 'cause Matthew Morrison is moving in! I really think TSH would enjoy this show, but I'm afraid to watch it with him because I might be drooling over a singing and dancing Spanish teacher. Madre mia!

Okay, since I don't have any Glee to watch tonight, I am going to write. But please don't blame me if my characters break into song in the middle of a scene.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Let's Debrief

My mini-writing retreat with myself went so well! As stated last week, I had TSH drive me up to Park City Friday after school. I stayed at the hotel that night and ate dinner at the Bar/Grille before going back to my room and writing. By 8:00 PM, I was halfway through my word goal.

The next morning, I woke up early, thanks to waking up early every other day of the week, so I got up and started writing some more. I walked several blocks to a bagel shop where I had some breakfast, walked back to the hotel, and finished writing before 11 o'clock, so I had p.l.e.n.t.y. of time to learn how to use the bus, go shopping, eat lunch, and go shopping some more.

In all, I wrote 4858 words, 2010 on my novel with the working title of The Quest and the remaining words were in the other book I've been writing, Robinella.

It's amazing how much you can get done when you don't have one or more of the following things to distract you:
  • Your children
  • Your husband
  • Your children and your husband arguing about bedtime
  • The kitchen floor which is calling out to be mopped
  • The curriculum for the art journaling class you're teaching in May
  • The books that are piled up in your bedroom which: a. need to be put away and/or b. need to be read
  • The cat who seems to think that your writing time is when she should be biting your face off

It brought me to this conclusion:

When I get to the point that I'm writing full-time, I really need a place to write that is not in my home. So, does anyone have a room they'd like to rent me? You know, when I'm famous?

Maybe There Is Enough

A few months ago, I wrote this post as I was wondering if there were enough blessings in the Universe for everyone who asked for them (and, selfishly, for myself in particular). Today, I received this newsletter in my email, which I think answers my question for me. If you all have had a similar thought, please take a minute or two to read it. It certainly gave me hope.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mini-Writing Retreat. Participants: 1

Yep, just 1 person will be at this mini-writing retreat: moi! I told TSH before he came home (he's home now; did I ever tell you all that?) that I would need a weekend off to just go and write by myself. He agreed, so I'm taking off tomorrow after work for Park City for my retreat with myself. Actually, TSH is driving me up there so he can have the car and so I won't be tempted to go to the factory stores and buy me a fabulous new Coach handbag. I may go down to historic Main Street if I get my words done and browse the stores (I don't ever buy much when I'm up there because a lot of the stores require you to mortgage your house to come away with something worthwhile) or find someplace fabulous to eat. Mmm....Thai food....Ahhhh....*drool*

I'm also going to give myself a goal so I don't just go up there and spend 48 hours vegging in front of the TV or reading fluffy romance novels (which I'm not taking in the first place). 4000+ words is what I am writing this weekend. I'll probably go back and forth between the two novels I'm working on, but I can't wait to see what gets accomplished.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends! I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Story First Liners and a Giveaway

About two weeks ago, I had my creative writing class (okay, shameless plug: My next class starts in 2 weeks. If you live in the Salt Lake area and you're interested, please see the link on the right side of my blog) write interesting first lines for stories, and I did the same. I just read through these again tonight and I really *heart* some of them and others, I'm not so in love with. But I started wondering which one really hooks you. Here they are (in no particular order of hearting):
  • Mary Louise wasn't quite sure how she ended up stranded on a deserted highway in the middle of known zombie territory, but she did know she didn't want to become someone's meal.
  • "Why do you think it's okay to call me up at 3 AM, Julie?"
  • The stink from the lake made my stomach turn, and I wished that I hadn't caved in when Pepper offered me that fourth corndog at the fair.
  • "There!" he shouted, pointing to an insignificant dot on the world map.
  • "I didn't say, 'Liberian.' I said, 'Librarian!'" (An homage to this blog post.)
  • She stood between the two teenaged boys, one dark like molasses, the other with honey skin, and pretended she wasn't afraid of either one of them.
  • Peter had crazy Einstein hair and Carrie had the feeling he was channeling more than the scientist's 'do.
  • Her hands flitted through the air, butterflies on the wrist of the flamenco dancer. (Yet another homage to another blog post.)
  • The monkey stood on his stump, hooting and hollering, and Jane had the strangest feeling that she was watching C-Span.
  • The Skittles-colored map lay in front of her as she planned her journey home.

So, which one of these first lines would you like to see, or read, as a longer piece? Vote on one (you can just put the first two words of the post in your comment). Who knows, your vote might influence my next novel (you know, when I finish the other two I'm currently writing).

Here's the giveaway. Tonight I made little "writer's kits" for my last creative writing class. They're not really fancy, but they're a little funny and they have some chocolate in them. I'll post one next week when I announce the winner of the giveaway.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blog Tour

And now, if you'll please direct your attention to the right-hand side of the blog, you will see two new "WIP" (or Work in Progress) widgets. These widgets will show you the progress Andria has recently made on two novels she's currently working on. Yes, you, in the back, with the red shirt and flip-flops?

Um, yeah, can you tell us anything about these novels she's working on?

Well, Andria's pretty private about what she writes. Whether this is from her fear that someone will steal her ideas and then go off and make millions of dollars or whether it's from her fear that if she tells someone about what she's writing it will jinx it and she won't be able to complete it, we're unsure. We can tell you these two tidbits about what she's working on: both have strong female protagonists and both of these women have evil stepmothers. Oh, I didn't see your hand raised. You have a question?

Do you know when she'll be finished?

Your guess is as good as mine. And probably just as good as Andria's. Okay, we have time for one more question. Ah, yes, the girl in the Twilight t-shirt. Yes, you.

Do you know who will play Andria in the Lifetime bio-flick?

Rumors have been flying around that Jessica Alba and Meryl Streep have both been vying for the part. The only thing I know for sure is that Andria has threatened to sue the network if they get Dakota Fanning to play her teenager self.

Thank you. That will conclude our tour for the day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Washington 2010 Trip: Artfest

Woohoo! I'm going to post about Artfest this year before June! I've decided to break the trip into 3 blogposts. This first one will be all about Artfest. The second post will be about our trip to Forks. And the last one will be about our day in Seattle.

Our dorm, #225:

My home-sweet-prison cell for four nights:

Yeah, it actually was kind of worse than last year, but my mom and I got to share a room and it was about two steps from my first class, so it really wasn't that bad.

I was greeted by my many wonderful friends...

...none of whom I took pictures of this year. Hello, Andria! Get your camera out, would you? I guess I'll just have to go back next year.

My first class was Tins Charming with Liesel Lund, a lovely, lovely person who I actually met last year and spent an evening together in the impromptu dance. We made fun jewelry pieces and other objet d'arts from cookie tins! I've collected so many cookie tins now that I'm ready to trip over them, so I better start working on some more fun things. Below is the necklace I made with just a few of the pieces I made on Thursday.

My second class, on Friday, was with Sunny Carvalho. We painted these lovely ladies with Genesis heat set oil paints, which I now have to have for myself.

artfest 2010

My mom put it very succinctly just a couple of days into Artfest when she said that Artfest was so expensive because, after the money it costs to get to Port Townsend and pay for all of the supplies, you then leave wanting to buy more art supplies! So true. Sunny is a truly radiant person and I'm so glad I took her class. I knew, as soon as I looked at the classes available last August, that I was going to take Liesel and Sunny's classes and they did not disappoint. Here I am with Sunny wearing the hat that I bought from her. (I actually kind of tracked her down the evening after vendor night to buy it. Love it!)

artfest 2010

The last class was with Karen Michel, and we painted and collaged and hammered and embellished these awesome house totems. The green one is my retirement home in Port Townsend. I only need about a million to buy it, so if you know anyone wanting to throw money at me...

And then it was adios! to Artfest 2010. I'll see you again next year!

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm packed and ready to go...

Tomorrow I get to spend a lovely day at work, scurrying to finish my grading and making lesson plans for the substitute before I leave for Seattle. Woohoo!

Before I leave, I thought I'd show you my trades for the Fest.
Here are all of my trades ready to go:

I made two different tags. The one on the left is made with the backgrounds I had planned on using for my ATCs, but I didn't get around to doing. The one on the right is made from recycled cardboard and images from a Little Golden picture book I bought at the thrift store

With the tags, I've included bubble rings with images from fairy tales.

I made a bunch of these charms for the Artfest charm swap, and then I made a few more for my Artfest friends.

Well, I need to get to bed. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. See you all in a week!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Best Places for Writing Inspiration=The Worst Places for Writing

There are 3 places where I get the most inspiration for my writing. These three places are not always the best for doing actual writing. One place could be quite dangerous if I pulled out my netbook and started getting down the perfect pieces of dialogue that come to mind. Another place is rather...humid. Soggy paper is not the best writing utensil. And the third place...well, it's really the timing with the third place rather than the location itself. So, in no particular order, here are my 3 best places for writing inspiration but the worst places for actual writing:

1. The Car: I really do come up with some of my best ideas for writing while I'm driving in the car. My characters have entire conversations in my head. Some people might call this schizophrenia; I call it amazing. Sometimes I'll pull out my digital voice recorder and try to get the basics down for the conversations. Other times I'll actually pull over, pull out my notebook, and start writing so I can get it all down just right. I try to do very little writing while I'm actually handling a car though. That probably wouldn't be much better than texting behind the wheel.

2. The Shower: It amazes me how often I can be stuck in my writing and then discover the answer while I'm shampooing my hair. I have actually, in the middle of writing, stopped to take a shower so I can get the ideas flowing. I've also started thinking about marketing dry erase markers for writers to use in the shower. I haven't tried it myself yet, but I will soon. So don't steal my idea! Please...

3. The Bed...just before I go to sleep: I actually do most of my writing while sitting on my bed. I do absolutely no writing at my writing desk in my studio. My bed is just so warm and comfy and ahhhhh. I do a lot of my writing just before bed time. Then I'll shut down, plug my netbook in, take my contacts out, and snuggle under my covers. After about 2 minutes, I'll have an epiphany about what I've been writing, and I have to turn on the bedside light, put my glasses on, and jot down the idea on the sticky-notes I keep on my night table. Then I'll take off my glasses, turn out the light, snuggle back down into my covers, and close my eyes. After another 2 minutes, something else will occur to me, and I do it all over again.

So, I ask you, dear reader, in what location do you get most of your inspiration for, well, anything?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bucket List #55: Flamenco

In November, I started my list of 100 things I want to do during my lifetime. Learning to do this is #55 on my list. Okay, watch the video first, and then continue reading the post. The video is a little long (a whole 8+ minutes, which seems long in a world where we have the attention span of 10 seconds...okay, I'm really just talking about myself here) but it is totally worth it. Watch all of it. Please.

Now, here are some of the things I was thinking of as I watched the video myself:

1. I'm going to have to lose a lot more weight to fit into that dress.
2. I wonder if she waxes her armpits. Ouch.
3. Can I be a flamenco dancer with my big bosoms?
4. Hey! She has my shoes! (#56 on my list is to own a pair of red flamenco shoes.)
5. I love how her hands move. They're so graceful, so poetic. Can hands be poetic? If they can, hers are.
6. I'm fascinated by how her feet move. How does she do that?
7. Is the tattoo on her shoulder the source of all of her flamenco powers?
8. Where did she get her magic flamenco powers tattoo?
9. If I get a magic flamenco powers tattoo like hers, will I also magically be able to fit into that dress?
10. Should I use my flamenco powers for good or for eeeevil?!

So, if you could learn to dance any dance, what would it be? And would you use your dancing powers for good or for eeeevil?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Learning to fly

"When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly."

--Barbara Winter

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Day of February...Finally

I don't know about the rest of you, but February has been a tough month for me. I'm grateful that it is finally over. Here's a quote that perfectly describes how I feel about this month in 2010.

The reason God made February short a few days was because he knew that by the time people came to the end of it, they would die if they had to stand one more blasted day.
--Katherine Paterson

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I'm eating a bag of crazy bread

I checked my email during 3rd period today and noticed that I received a message from the college I applied to for grad school. It was an automated message telling me that the decision for my application had been made and that I could view it online.

I shouldn't have opened it.

It was the standard form letter: "All of our applicants are wonderful and thank you for applying, but you really weren't as wonderful as everyone else and, on top of that, we think you need a haircut." Okay, that wasn't exactly what was said, but just about.

At first I just cried, all the while trying to look like I wasn't crying because I didn't really want to sob wildly in front of my ESL kids. Then I moved on to wanting to go down to that there school and use all of the four letter words I know, such as "darn" and "heck", to give them a piece of my mind. But I am holding myself back, because I keep thinking of Great-great-grandpa Brigham looking down on me, shaking his head, as I yell profanities at the university that carries his name.

So, I went to Little Caesars and bought pizza for the boys and when they offered me a second bag of Crazy Bread for just 99 cents, I didn't even bat an eyelash. I am now drowning my sorrows in Crazy Bread. Yes, I just finished off an entire bag of grease-laden Crazy Breadsticks, and I washed it down with a caffeine-free diet Dr. Pepper (and I already want another one).

I'm trying really, really, really hard to believe that there is something out there for me that's bigger and better, something more suited to what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I keep telling myself that it's been nice to have something to occupy my mind in these last months other than the day-to-day mundane realities of teaching and mommying. And of course I tell myself that I would have regretted it if I had given up and not finished the process (which I truly did feel like doing on numerous occasions).

However, I'm really just hoping to have the ultimate revenge by writing the great American novel and then making a note in the acknowledgements that the university's rejection letter is what spurned me on to finish my ground-breaking work. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Believe in Fortune Cookies

I might have to go back and ammend the thirty things I believe to include this one: I believe in fortune cookies. (I think this is going to be a hot new song: "I believe in fortune cookies; something good in every one I eat!" Sung to the tune of ABBA's "I Believe in Angels".) Well, I don't believe in the cookies themselves, really, but the fortunes inside the cookies.

Just a day or two before TSH left to do his basic training (over a year and a half ago now), we went to Panda Express and my fortune that day said something like, "You will have the strength to get through a tough situation." That day, I tacked the fortune up on the message board in our kitchen. And, lo and behold, the fortune cookie was correct! I never, ever thought that I would be able to make it through 6 months of training, let alone a year deployment after that, but I've had the strength to do it, just like the fortune cookie said. Fortune cookies are genius!

Currently, I have a fortune pinned to the corkboard in my studio that says, "Being aware of your fears will improve your life." Well, I've been facing my fears for awhile now. We'll soon see if facing them will improve my life. Another fortune is tucked inside the case to my iPod touch: "Your dreams of glamour and luxury will come true." So, I'm looking forward to free swag when I step on the red carpet when my book is made into a big Hollywood movie.

Last week, I received the fortune, "You will soon receive help from an unexpected source." I am now looking for help everytime I turn around. I'm pretty excited to discover what help I'll be receiving and who or what is the unexpected source. I'll let you all know what it is as soon as I find out myself!

In other related news, I no longer believe in the online magic 8 ball. When it replied, "Most definitely" to my question, "Should I take off my clothes and run around the commons naked?" I decided it was very flawed and no longer deserving of my important-question-asking business.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For My Valentine

Okay, I pretty much stink at taking pictures. These are the beautiful flowers that TSH sent me at the school on Friday. Today is our 8th Valentine's that we've been together. 8 years ago, he said that he had to get me the "obligatory gift" for Valentine's day. And he's still trying to make up for that comment. Probably because I keep bringing it up. But I did get a little teary-eyed when I went down to the office and picked this up, since it was so obvious that he had been thinking about this for awhile. What can I say? I lucked out 8+ years ago when TSH called and asked me out and I said, "Sorry, I have a date that night, but I'd love to go out with you some other time," and he called me back the next week and asked me out again.
Last fall I decided that I wanted to write him a love poem, but I had the hardest time doing it. Everything I wrote sounded...mushy. So, I wrote this for him instead and gave it to him for Christmas.
Well, I Tried

I wanted to write you a love poem
but I can’t.
I’m sorry;
I’m not good at the mushy-mushy stuff.
I wanted to write about the miles that
separate us but how there’s an invisible
thread between our hearts and it will
bleed if it’s stretched too far
But I was afraid it would sound too cheesy
And, besides, I think I’ve read that in
a book, so I wouldn’t be the first to write it.
Or, I thought, I would say something
about carrying you in my heart
But, again, I realized, that as well had already
been said before.

So, perhaps, everything that can be
said about love has already been said
and there is no unique way for me
to say it again.
And maybe that’s okay.
Maybe I don’t need to be clever or cute.
This isn’t an Austen novel
and I’m not trying to impress a potential

I was just trying to write a love poem
to the man who I’ve been married to
for seven years and who is thousands of
miles away.
But, I can’t.
There are no sweet words in my
soul/heart for the person who has supported me
and loved me
despite my angry rampages
and depressed moods
Who’s loved me even when I joke about
only sticking around until Hugh Jackman
becomes available
The guy who has given me more hope and more joy
and who has seen more beauty in me than I
ever knew was there.

That’s why I wanted to write you this
love poem.

But I’m blank.

Maybe I’ll go to the grocery store
and find an appropriate Hallmark card that says,

I love you
I adore you
You are my one and only
You are my beginning
You are my end
You are da bomb!
You are my everything
My everything
When I think about you,
that’s what I think of,
You’re my everything.
And if man or God decides to take
you from me
Have I lost everything?

Does Hallmark make that kind of card?

I suppose this is the part where a
better poet would write about how
our love will last forever,
how the sun and stars will burn out
and turn dark before our love ever dims,
but I don't know how to write that
without sounding clich├ęd.

I guess I won't bother to write you
a poem.
I'll have to express my love
some other way.
Happy Valentine's Day, TSH.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dumb Broad

That's what I am according to some random lady at Walmart yesterday. Here's the story:

I took my boys to the store with me because Daniel and Andrew decided that they wanted an alarm clock for their bedroom, so they can get up at the same time I do (oh, joy). We were in the alarm clock aisle, just minding our own business, looking at alarm clocks, when this couple comes strolling down the aisle. They were not, however, looking for alarm clocks, or even anything else on the aisle. Why they were there, I am not sure. My cart, along with the baby, was a little towards the middle of the aisle. When I noticed this couple was trying to pass with their cart, I quickly apologized and moved my cart out of their way. As they walked past, the lady said, not under her breath, but out loud, so I would not mistake what she was saying, "Dumb broad."

I was completely floored. Who calls a random person in the store a "dumb broad" to her face?! Certainly not me or, really, anyone else I know with even a pinky-full of politeness. I admit; my feelings were hurt by a complete stranger. I almost tracked her down to confront her after I recovered from shock, but I decided to let it go.

Now, I'm beginning to think that maybe she had some kind of excuse (not necessarily a good one, but an excuse, nonetheless) for her comment. So, help me out here: give this lady a good excuse for what she said. Be silly. Be outrageous. Maybe be even a little bit rude. I have a feeling she won't be reading my blog and getting offended. I am, after all, just a dumb broad.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Il Bel Far Niente

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
and last night I read as Liz (because we're tight, you know, I call her Liz. I also call Shakespeare "Bill", but that's for a different post.) explained about il bel far niente: the beauty of doing nothing. I loved this paragraph about Americans how we seek to be entertained and our inability to do nothing and wanted to share it with you.

"Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Our is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and loner and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. But as Luca Spaghettie pointed out, we seem to like it. Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal out of a box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don't really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype--the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax."

Whoa. How true is that?! So often, on the weekend, I feel guilty because I don't want to do anything. I don't want to go to a movie or even shopping. I just want to stay home and read a book or play with paints. I guess that's still doing something, but it's not something interesting or something important or even something with people. And when I go on vacation, I always want to be going somewhere, buying something, seeing something that I can't see at home.

Maybe, as Amercians, we can't dedicate a month or a week to doing nothing and/or seeking pleasure. We don't live in Europe; our world is very different from theirs (I know this to be true as I lived in Europe for 18 months), but we can learn something from them. Can we take a day and do nothing? Can we take a couple hours a day and do something that brings us pleasure? What do you think? What would you do if you gave yourself a day to enjoy il bel far niente?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Awakening the Heroes Within

Have I ever told you that I'm kind of addicted to self-help books? Okay, I'm addicted to all kinds of books really, so maybe it's more of a sub-addiction (I totally just made that up! Maybe I should become a psychologist...or a writer of self-help books!)

So, I won't tell you how many self-help books I'm reading right now, but I will tell you about the one I got in the mail today: Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World
by Carol Pearson. This one has been on my Amazon list for, well, probably years, but I saw that I could get it through my bookclub for much less, so I ordered it a few weeks ago.

First, I guess I should tell you that I'm also fascinated by archetypes. This fascination started when I was first introduced to the idea in a literature class my junior year in college. The idea of the collective unconcious floored me, and, I had to believe, that the reason we have this collective unconcious (this invisible background knowledge that people all over the world have!) is because we all did come from the same place, that this collective unconcious that is carried in the DNA of our spirits. These archetypes are character types that are found in the stories of cultures and peoples all over the world. Want a simple example (and probably my favorite)? Cinderella. All over the world there are Cinderella stories. Cultures that never interacted with each other have Cinderella stories. How is that possible?! you ask. The collective unconcious, is my reply.

So, I saw this book, I finally ordered it, I opened it up tonight and right away I see that I can take a quiz to see what kind of archetype I am, or, more accurately, which archetypes I am most like. My highest score was for the Seeker, so I promptly turned to the chapter about the Seeker. This is what Pearson writes: "The quest always begins with yearning. We feel discontented, confined, alienated, or empty." (Um, hello, is she channeling me? Sorry, I'll continue.) Often we do not even have a name for what is missing, but we long for that mysterious something. Cinderella longs for her prince to come; Gepetto longs to have a child; Telemachus searches for Odysseus; the prince seraches for a great treasure. The urge to sek the grail, to climb the mountain in search of visions, to seek wisdom, to cross new frontiers, to achieve the formerly unachievable in all areas of life seem endemic in the human race. The Seeker responds to the call of the Spirit--to ascend."

Seriously. This is so me right now. Probably, if I read every archetype in the book, or if I scored differently, I would probably say, "Seriously. This is so me right now." Despite that, I can't wait to see what more Pearson says. Maybe she can tell me how I can feed my children and be a full time writer. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If there were an Academy Awards for teaching...

I would not win it.

Especially after today.

Today I freaked out at one of my students. This kid, we'll call him K, would not stop interrupting me. First of all, he's from Africa and he's picking up on Spanish from all of the latino kids in my class (have I ever told you that I'm one of two white people in my 2nd period and the only white person in my 3rd period? Not that it means much, but that's the way it is.). K, while he's really a nice kid, was shouting across the room in Spanish all period long, he couldn't hear me because he had his iPod on (although I had told him to turn it off and put it away several times), and he interrupted me various times while I was reading a book to them (K: Did you say Liberian? Me: No, she was a librarian. K: My uncle is a Liberian. Liberia is in Africa. Me: Yes, I know, K, but she's not a Liberian; she's a librarian, like in a library. K: Then you should say library and not Liberian. Me: I DIDN'T SAY LIBERIAN! SHE IS NOT A LIBRARY; SHE IS A LIBRARIAN!)

But that wasn't the worst part of the period. I actually screamed at K when he interrupted me yet again to tell me that I needed to go slow when I was reading what I wanted them to write. I felt like I was yelling at my middle child for using the entertainment center door as a swing and breaking it while the oldest child sat and watched him do it. (I probably won't be getting any nominations for Best Supporting Mother either.)

If there were Academy Awards for teachers, there are several teachers in my school who not only would be nominated, they'd win. I can't even get my students to vote for me for Teacher of the Month, no matter how much extra credit I throw at them (Okay, I've never actually offered extra credit for it, but I do often tell them that they should vote for me for teacher of the month.)

I'm thinking maybe I need to make my own award and present it to myself. Maybe I'll even dress up in a fancy dress and lay a red blanket on the floor and have my children interview me. And I'll post my acceptance speech on my blog for the world to see. I can receive the "Best Reader of Friends' Facebook Status Updates" award. Or the "Most Valuable Michael's Shopper" award. What do you think? What award do you think you deserve?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Querencia--September and Now

Back in September, I had my high school creative writing students write about their "querencia" which, according to Georgia Heard inWriting Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way
is Spanish for "the wanting place." It's the place where you feel the most comfortable, the most safe. Below is what I wrote about my "querencia" 6 months ago:

I've only been to my querencia once, last April. And ever since that time, I've felt kind of lost, homesick even. When I dream of the perfect place to write, to create, I dream of this place: Fort Warden in Port Townsend, Washington.

I don't know what it is about this place that I've been to once that has entrapped my soul. Is it the cold, spring rain that tastes like sea salt on my tongue? Is it the beach that I walked along, making deep intentations in the sand with the heels of my polka-dotted rain boots? Is it the frost that lay across the carefully groomed green lawn and leafy treas of the fort, turing this place into an icy fairyland before the sun came up and melted it off? Or is it the silence that allowed me to think, to dream?

Really, I don't know what makes this place my querencia. But it is. And I know that as long as I live in this desert state surrounded by noise and little water, that I will always yearn for that other place. I dream of going home to rest.

Tonight, I shared this same idea with my adult creative writing class and I wrote again. Here's what I wrote tonight:

I've thought about my querencia a lot the past few months. When I first wrote about it in September, I had myself convinced that my querencia was in Port Townsend, Washington, a place I had only been to once. It seemed magical to me last April, a place that only existed to feed my soul. And I worried that I would only ever find peace at that place, that I'd only know true happiness there.

Now I've begun to doubt that, perhaps for my mental well-being, because I'm worried that if I never get to spend real time in Port Townsend, I'll never find true happiness.

So, I've begun to wonder if I can find my querencia here. Because it seems to me that maybe querencia is really inside you. Joseph Campbell said that the place of rest, Nirvana, can only be found within ourselves. I think that's what querencia is: it's the place where I can feel at peace, where I can feel the magic of creation, and it's inside me.

I need to find a way to carry my querencia with me all the time, like a little token in my pocket or a charm on a chain around my neck. How can I do this?

So, this is what I'm thinking about right now. How can I carry this peace with me, this comfort and this happiness, wherever I go? What do you, my friends, do? And where do you feel is your querencia?

Monday, January 25, 2010


I finished reading a YA novel called Need by Carrie Jones, kind of typical YA supernatural faire, quick and fun to read. But my purpose for this post is not to write a review of the book. Acutally, I wanted to share a quote with you that was quoted in the book. I think it's going to be my quote for the year:

" The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage."

I hope you like it, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing Challenge #2: What I've Learned

Here's a writing challenge from my beloved The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder
. It's short, it's sweet, and it's kind of fun too!

Set your timer for 10 minutes; then complete this sentence as many ways as you can as many times as you can: I've learned...

Then post a comment and let us know how many times you completed the sentence and maybe share one or two of the different sentences. On Friday, I'll share the sentences I wrote.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A little grateful writing...

I've been diligently working on my Bucket List for one of my writers' groups this week (I'm up to 68; I might even complete it by Saturday. Woot!). Last week, I ran across the following quote in my Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder, causing me to pause for a moment in the writing of things I want to accomplish before I die and helping me to see how much I already have.

"Odd, the years it took to learn one simple fact: that the prize just ahead, the next job, publication, love affair, marriage always seemed to hold the key to satisfaction but never, in the long run, sufficed." --Amanda Cross

The prompt with this quote essentially was to write about what I want but to only include what I already have. So, here they are (in absolutely no order of importance):

1. Healthy, happy, intelligent children
2. A good, loving (and loved) husband
3. A house
4. A job with some freedom
5. Friends who want me to be happy
6. Family who takes care of me and my children
7. Talent in writing and art
8. Enough books to last me several years.
9. My iPod
10. My computer
11. My studio/writing space
12. Original artwork from artists I admire and/or know
13. A backyard with a huge tree in it
14. A new car
15. An imagintive mind
16. A caring and concerned heart
17. Good personal health
18. A friendly ward

Really, I am very blessed. While it certainly has been difficult during the year and a half TSH has been in and out of our lives (mostly out of it, although certainly not by choice), and there are days that I'm ready to walk out of my classroom, get into my car, and never look back. I've had a pretty good life. And I am thankful for it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Announcing the Giveaway Winner!!!!

First off, thank you to the five people who made comments on the first Writing Challenge. Seeing your comments pop up on my blog really makes my day sometimes.

All right.

Are you ready?

Here it is.

Our winner is....

*dramatic pause*

Amy!!!! (Doo-doo-doo-doooooo!)

Here's what Amy said for her writing goal this year:

Does this work as a "writing goal" since it's connected to my writing? My goal is to actively attempt to get my novel published without giving in to fear and self-doubt (both of which crop up every couple of days).

Yay, Amy! And you may remember that I said in my last post that Amy has started her own blog, Ramblings of a Novice Writer. If you haven't checked it out yet, why don't you do so now?

And I wanted to take take a picture of the journal I made for the winner of the challenge, but I can't find my cable righ now. As soon as I find it, I'll post it for you all!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Little Reminder...

that tomorrow is the day that I'm going to do the drawing for the cool journal (which I am currently decorating myself). Make a comment on the Writing Challenge #1 post to be entered in the drawing.

And *doo-doo-doo-doooooo* (trumpeting sounds) my friend Amy (who I mention on just about every other blog post) has finally started her own blog! Check out Ramblings of a Novice Writer and tell her that I sent you (I wish I could say that by telling her that I sent you, you'd get some kind of cool discount, but I can't. However, it would make me feel good. :D).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Writing Challenge #1 and a Giveaway!

So, this year I want to throw out some writing challenges. Hopefully they will be every week, but they might not be; we'll just have to see how it goes.

Hot topic on the writing blogs right now is writing resolutions. I already said that I'm not going to make resolutions this year, so I'm going to make goals instead. (Do you see the difference? It's slight, I know--Okay, there's no difference. Stop mocking me!)

Here I go (and these are in no particular order):
  • Write every day. Even if it's just for ten minutes a day, I'm going to write everyday.
  • Finish the first draft of my novel and work through it at least once.
  • Publish an actual article in a Stampington & Co. magazine.

Your challenge is to make a comment on this post telling me what your writing goal for the year is. It may be that you want to write in your journal every day or even once or twice a week. Or you could make a goal to blog more. Maybe it's to take a writing class or to start a notebook of favorite lines from novels. Whatever it is, leave your comment here. On Friday, I'll have a drawing for a cool journal to help you start on your writing goal.

Woohoo, writing!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I've been hoping and wishing and dreaming the last few months. And doing a little work as well. And hope just keeps creeping up behind me, pecking at my heels, and telling me to keep on keeping on.

This is a page I did for a circle journal I am involved in. The theme was "birds" and I was supposed to use a bird image or a quote about birds. And my English major brain immediately turned to the poem by Emily Dickinson which begins "Hope is the thing with feathers." (Yes, the poem in my last post was inspired by her poem as well.)

Hope, in this piece, is perching on a branch (yep, that is a real stick) and with the feather and bird charm attached to it with eye pins. I love this piece! I hope the person it goes to will love it as well. And, now, that I think about it, I think I make make a larger piece that includes this line. And that one I WILL keep for myself. Unless, I guess, someone else really needs some hope.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hope's Flutterings

This is a poem I was going to use for my writing sample that I need to submit with my application to graduate school next week. And, since I'm a little bit crazy, I've decided to send some fiction work instead of poetry, so I guess I'll be working on THAT all weekend. And, since I am now not sending poetry for my writing sample, I'm going to share this piece with you.

My thing with feathers,
I'm so glad you're back.
I thought you’d taken an extra-long
southern vacation.
I’ve waited for centuries
To feel your flutterings inside me.
I was at the end of my rope
No light at the end of the tunnel
Treading water
Just surviving
When you sang your sweet song in
the nest of my soul.

No, I thought as your melody rang through me,
Not me. I can’t do that.
I’m not smart enough
Talented enough
Ambitious enough
Enough enough.
But you kept at it.
You made me think about a new future.
A brighter future.
I started to believe that maybe, just maybe,
What I had come to think of as only
daydreams conjured to dull the boredom
of grading papers
could be a reality.
A real life.

And when doubt, your scavenger relative,
Came pecking and chirping
You’re nothing!
You’ll starve!
You’re crazy!
I swept him out the window with the straw end of my broom

And there you still were
Hanging out in the perch of my soul
Urging me to complete the application
Take the test
Keep on writing.

It must not be easy to be my thing with feathers.
Certainly you wish that you belonged to another
Who didn’t constantly quiet you
with the mundane details of life,

But you’re still here
And your song pops up at random times,
In the middle of class.
In the middle of a sentence.
In the middle of—

Where was I?


And I want to shout

Hope, thank you!
Thank you for inspiring me to
Move on
Move out
Move up
To move.

No more imagined futures for me.
With you, I’ll realize my dreams.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

3 Wishes for 2010

I'm not going to make resolutions this year. Instead, I'm giving myself 3 wishes for the new year. I'm not a genie or a fairy or a talking fish, so I can't grant anyone else 3 wishes. Just myself. Here they are:

1. I wish for a year of following my bliss. A year that includes writing and creating art and being in my children's lives.

2. I wish for a year of happiness for my sweetheart. For him coming home safe in April, for him finding a job he can like and that can support our family, and for him to begin to live a life he loves.

3. I wish for a year of realized dreams for all those I love and care for. And, yes, that means your dreams as well.

As I said, I can't grant you three wishes, but you can grant them to yourself. What will you wish for in this new year?