WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday–Memoir

I am leapfrogging again to a different WIP.  All three that I have posted are in various stages of writing, and yes, I do hop around according to my mood.

This is from my NaNo rebel project in 2013, a memoir begun as catharsis, but which moved into exploration of early relationships.  10 sentences figured out thus: 7+16=23-14=9. The extra sentence is a gimme, to finish the paragraph without using a semi-colon (I love semi-colons, overuse them, and blast them from my writing as much as possible).


 

By the age of two, I’d perfected invisibility, without magic potion, industrial accident, or cloaking device. When my mother noticed my presence, her eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, reliving the difficult and unplanned pregnancy that produced me.  My father’s eyes skimmed past me at the breakfast table, the “extra” child who set awry his careful budget planning.  I had tried the “cute puppy” route with my siblings, but that had banished me from my brother’s room, and my sisters were almost magically inoculated against my charms.  “If you wake me up, I’ll tell the tigers under the crib to eat you,” my sister’s version of a bedtime prayer, made me a light sleeper at 18 months.  With nothing to recommend me to my siblings, who had to share already strained space and food with me, my best course was to disappear.

Poster child of being unseen as well as unheard, I hid under draped tablecloths, sidled along walls, never looked directly at anyone and only spoke when questioned.  I loathed winter.  Small, thin, and perpetually cold, I crept near any heat register hidden from the open sight line of parent or sibling.  In summer, I’d burst outdoors at daybreak to hide in the back yard’s pine brush and soak up the warmth of a Southern day.


 

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  Check it out–a supportive group of writers to be found here.

Creativity

My Writing Process

The lovely and supportive writer S.J. Maylee tagged me in a writing process blog hop.  I have four questions to answer, so let’s get started!

What am I working on?

My day job involves a fair amount of writing, but I won’t go into that.  The work closest to my heart is a novel set in 14th century France about the struggles of a young widow who runs a publishing concern.

A few days ago, I set this novel aside because I am so dissatisfied with my fiction writing. I have a novella simmering about a British WWII war bride, but I’m having trouble breathing her in right now.  I have therefore returned to a memoir I started writing as a NaNo rebel last November, but shelved in December.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My narrative non-fiction is more poetic or evocative than most, since I am allowed some of the little darlings that are edited out of fiction when they do not advance the plot or character arc.

My historical fiction is heavier on history, and tends more toward literary fiction, than that which leans to historical romance.

Why do I write what I do?

What else am I going to do with my graduate degrees in medieval literature? Seriously, I enjoy exploring the lives of strong women in a culture that was legally and socially set against them.

How does my writing process work?

I’m a plotter, although I often have characters who decide to take over, so I leave some flexibility in the outline.

I’m also an inveterate editor, so it’s hard to chain my infernal internal editor in the closet to let me write.  I often write a zero draft, then run through it, editing lightly as well as expanding and contracting where needed.  Then come the substantive edits.

In other words, lots of wash, rinse, repeat.

Thank you, S.J., for tagging me.  Who wants to carry on the torch?  If you want to post these questions and answers, let me know, and I’ll be happy to link to you.

ROW80

ROW80 Check-in Back Among the Living

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have checked-in.  April was a tough month for me.  It began with a mysterious sickness that lasted over three weeks, and ended with a trip to see my parents that was dispiriting and extremely uncomfortable.

So far in May, I’ve been trying to prepare for shoulder replacement surgery, getting ahead of the day job so that things would go well during my 2-3 weeks out.  Then I found out last Thursday that my surgery on the 21st has to be rescheduled. While I am bitterly disappointed, I should be able to get things back under control since I am ahead of the game in the day job.

So how have I been doing on my goals?  I’m fine on some, and far behind on others.  I’m concentrating on the half-full glass.

Writing:

Write one hour three times this past week. No, but I’m going to strive to meet this goal.

Community:

Visit my assigned blogs twice a week. I missed a week or so, but I am making it up the next two weeks.

Reply to all comments. No, but I have scheduled times to bring me back on track. I plan to catch up on my sponsor posts and guest post comments as well.

I did not reach the goal of non-blog related posts on Facebook or Twitter.  I plan to schedule these posts as well. 

Clutter:

One hour three times a week at home going through paper detritus of modern life. Done!

One hour three times a week going through electronic files–rename, delete, archive. Done! Luckily, both these tasks can be accomplished with less than full brainpower.

I also pulled, cleaned and put away all my winter clothing. I am in the process of cleaning and putting away my summer clothing, although the weather is quite volatile here lately, and I regret putting some of my winter clothes away.

Health:

Walk. Seriously. 30 minutes a day. My best lately has been three days a week.  My shoulder is a bother when walking, so I’ve taken it easy.

Follow-up on all the health issues.  I have followed up on several health issues.  There is only the surgery and one other problem to address.

Family day, no working and time with family, one day per week. Yes. Except when I was out of town on business, I spent every Saturday with my family.

Reading:

Update Goodreads at least every other week. Nope.  I need to put this back on my radar.

List and report on what I’m reading, even the dry, academic stuff. I haven’t been reading much academic stuff lately,  I’ve been up lots of nights, and read non-stop through many of them.

 For Wednesday’s check-in, I’ll list what I’ve read this past month or so.  In the meantime, please go encourage some of our participants here.

Renegade Reflections

WANACon, WANA International and Other Cool Things

I went to an astounding writers’ conference this past weekend. I want to share it with you.  I know, you may be asking, why would I tell you about a conference that was last week? I want to share for several reasons.  The conference was put together by the folks at WANA International, which is a community of artists that I highly recommend for throwing a lifeline of support and community to independent artists. Kristen Lamb, writer of the social media guide, We are Not Alone (familiarly, WANA), with a few instructors and other minions, has created the WANA International community. If you are an artist, check them out.

I am also telling you about the conference because it was virtual.  Yes, I sat in my little garret in upstate New York with my fuzzy slippers on, and attended a conference that went past my bedtime.

Finally, I am telling you about the conference not out of some “look what I did last weekend, and you didn’t,” but because last weekend was not the only WANA conference, nor is it going to be the only one this year.  Kristen puts it well in her announcement: “The Digital Age has completely altered the publishing world, and writers need to be equipped. Changes are coming faster than anyone can keep up, so we no longer have the luxury of waiting a few months or a year for a standard writing conference. With new opportunities come new challenges, and new predators.”

Interested? Check out the particulars: the speakers, the keynotes, and the parties, detailed in the rest of Kristen’s post.

I plan to talk about my experiences, once my brain has plotted paths to all the new information, which should take a few more days.

My brief ROW80 check-in is here.

ROW80

Chasing Success

Eleanor Roosevelt, power of dreams
From Brainy Quote http://www.brainyquote.com/

In the interesting juxtaposition that often happens in life, I ran across this quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt on the same day that my academic writing group had the following topic: What does success mean for you in the context of your Work, not of the employment or study within which you do that work?”

For most academics, research ends up taking the back seat to the more immediate demands of the job: syllabi, grading, office hours, and less so, committees, administration, and University or College service.  Thus, for most of the group, “Work” equals “Research.” For me, part of “Work” is my scholarly research, but a large part of it is the “off-the-clock” writing. I do find myself chasing success in the day job, which has its merits but is not fulfilling in the same way that my Work would be. I guard against falling headfirst into that rabbit hole by reminding myself that the day job does not reflect the “real me,” but merely something that I do well that pays reasonably well

The existence of public and private selves has set up a dissonance in my life, analogous to the harmonic resonance that shatters crystal. I’ve never been good at keeping the “important, but not urgent” goals in the forefront, finding myself far more persuaded by the “urgent, but not important” that pays my bills. I tend to say, “when I have a sabbatical,” or “when I retire,” which is less and less satisfying.

I’m finally to the point where my fear of failing is less than my fear of never trying.  As for my  ROW80 goals: slow and steady wins the race. I keep falling down, but I keep picking myself up, more importantly.  Excelsior!

What does success mean for you?

Please go visit some of the participants here. We’re headed into the dreaded middle of the challenge, which is almost as boggy as the middle of a WIP.

ROW80

ROW 80 check-in February 3, 2013

A delightful retreat from Wonderful Rooms

My husband sent me this picture, knowing that I would love the confluence of books and trees.  I dream of a writer’s cabin in the mountains that would have this feel.

First I must give my mea culpa, since I disappeared off the face of the earth for two weeks. I am behind on my sponsor visits, but plan to make them up in the next 24 hours.

Several days on either side of last weekend were spent at a library conference in Seattle.  Flying across the top quarter of the country in January is tailor-made for flight delays, insomnia, and general ill-will on my part. Having conference meetings on Saturday and Sunday for which I cannot take compensatory time off makes me grumpy. I did get to see my niece who moved to Seattle a year ago, which exorcised some of the grumpiness.

Writing:

  • Spend at least four hours a week on an article, in whatever configuration works for me.  Although I  usually write before work, I find that frustrating when I want to spend more time than I have between my comatose and rush-out-the-door states. Only partial success  In addition to whatever form of jet lag I had, several work-related things came due this past week.  Sigh. On a happy note, I did write the first draft of a guest post that is due the end of the month. Yay to an organized me. *throws confetti*

Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit blogs twice a week. No success here, but I have time blocked out to catch up.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.  Still more to do, but time is blocked out for this task as well.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  This one was easy, since I was grousing all week, and would have been horrible company.


Exercise:

  • I will walk for twenty minutes an evening. Success for the most part. I walked miles on end in Seattle, and in intervening airports, so I took one evening off upon my return.
  • I will continue to use the stairs. Done.
  • I will look into the gym at work.  The thought doesn’t appeal, but it is handy and cheap. Still in the planning stages. I barely managed to eat lunch at work this past week. Sigh.


Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.  I got nothing read in Seattle, but finished Alison Goodman’s Eona, and created a list of books by people I know through WANA and ROW for the next few weeks of reading.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best. Only partial success on this front. I’ve had some contact with some friends, but nothing in depth.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month. Partial success; we certainly spent several hours in airports and airplanes together!
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids. Done.

Please go encourage someone on the Round; all their links are here.

ROW80

Round 1 Goals for 2013

The following are my goals for the first Round of a Round of Words in 80 Days in 2013.  What is A Round of Words, or ROW80, as  participants like to call it? It is a writing challenge that “knows you have a life.”  Click here to read more about it from the creator of the challenge, Kait Nolan.

2012 was a tough year for a lot of people, including me.  I found myself having trouble fighting my self-doubt and staying on track, often thinking, “Oh, what’s the use? I’ve not got the chops for this anyway.”

This round I have to concentrate on non-fiction, finishing a couple of articles for the day job, since I have an annual evaluation coming up in March.

Writing:

  • Spend at least four hours a week on an article, in whatever configuration works for me.  Although I  usually write before work, I find that frustrating when I want to spend more time than I have between my comatose and rush-out-the-door states.


Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit my assigned blogs twice a week.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  


Exercise:

  • I will walk for twenty minutes an evening.
  • I will continue to use the stairs.
  • I will look into the gym at work.  The thought doesn’t appeal, but it is handy and cheap.


Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids.
Renegade Reflections, ROW80

Midlife Woes


Last Sunday, I wrote in the check-in the modified goals:

  • I commit myself to being a better sponsor for the rest of the Round;
  • I commit to spending half an hour a day writing something;
  • I commit to re-acquainting myself with Cinderella, (which for the moment, is what I am calling my writing)

So, how am I doing?

  • I have gone back to comment on the folks whose blogs I missed earlier. Check!
  • I have spent half an hour a day on writing.  True, for several days, it was the research article, but I write non-fiction as well as fiction. Check!
  • Cinderella and I have chatted; I’ve persuaded her to put down the poker.  I’ve explained why I have neglected her lately, as she seems to understand.  My muse is going nuts, throwing all sorts of ideas at me, some in dreams, some out of the blue, and some hard-won, but I’m glad to take them all, write them all down, and let them simmer. Check!

 

I will not claim that I am back on the wagon for good.  I’m still in the throes of mid-life crisis, with the ship yawing wildly in the oncoming waves.  It’s hard to see progress when the deck is rising and dropping in an uneven rhythm, knocking you on your butt every other minute.

I will say that mid-life crisis does tend to offer myriad opportunities for blog posts and savage short stories, as long as I can laugh at myself, so all those opportunities are going into the stockpile as well.  Dante wrote his Commedia at the midpoint of his life; what better precedent could I follow?

Please go encourage someone here.

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

Writing as Cinderella

Have you ever had to follow your own advice, when you don’t want to, because you will look hypocritical otherwise?  In the last Round, I wrote my inspirational post about not disappearing, even when you have fallen off the wagon, which is an apt description, since I should stand up  to proclaim, “My name is Elizabeth, and I am unable to stick to goals and timetables,” much like in an AA meeting.

Yes, I have had reasons to disappear. My brother ended up in the emergency room last Monday with pneumonia. His oncologist thought he’d have to operate last week to ease his breathing, but by the end of the week, my brother was breathing better, pulled off the “nuclear war” antibiotics, as he put it, and the surgery has been slightly postponed.

Also, I’m up to my nostrils in the blogging course, and have some draft posts in the hopper. I’ve been doing a lot of housekeeping of electronic files, paring back an overgrown inbox, planning for the arrival of my new boss in January, who will want to know what I’ve been doing with myself these last eight months.  I have entered the full marathon of new committees and supervisory assignments as well. One task force meeting was two hours away, and lasted from 10:00 to 3:00, effectively torpedoing one work day. I’ve been working assiduously on the article based on my Pierpont Morgan research trip.

However, I’m just not feeling much of anything this week. Flat, hollow, meh.  The topic of the week for the academic writing group was whether our writing is an ally or a foe.  One of the participants, Z, gave a compelling description of writing as “a prisoner of war.”

This image struck me, because writing has always been my ally, my confidante, my friend, something that understood me when my colleagues did not. Perhaps because I have worked in many non-tenure-accruing environments, I have always been a bit odd in enjoying writing, since many of my colleagues chose such positions in order to avoid writing.  In my current day job, I have quickly become known as a “great editor,” when I am really just a bit more practiced and efficient in my writing, and abhor institutional doublespeak.

Even among graduate students, a group that one would think would embrace writing, I’ve known many bright, engaged, thinkers who lost themselves when handed a compass and a canteen and told to journey forth into the great Dissertation desert.  Some, if not most, of their failure is due to mentoring or lack thereof, but there are many who just discovered they didn’t enjoy writing.

If I am honest, I have often thought of my writing as Cinderella, something that is largely ignored, forgotten, sitting in the ashes of the fireplace, but hard-working and able to shine if given a bath and some attention. However, I am guilty of pushing my writing back into the fireplace as often as not, complicit in keeping it ignored and dull.  I fall far too easily into the “It’s urgent, it must be important,” trap, as well as cancelling appointments with myself, or shorting goals because others are always more important than I am.  I should not be surprised that Cinderella sometimes refuses to work with me, sulking in the corner, or worse, picks up the poker and cuffs me upside the head with it.

I commit myself to being a better sponsor for the rest of the Round; I commit to spending half an hour a day writing something; I commit to re-acquainting myself with Cinderella.

The end of the Round is nigh; please go encourage someone in the group.  The blog hop link is here.