Happy Morning everyone!

(trying to shake things up by replacing "Good" with "Happy"...living on the edge!)

So, here's my question to you:

Let's say that you are phone-less and stuck in a Doctor's Office waiting room, where you will be for the next fifteen minutes, and on a nearby table you see the following literature options:

  • Celebrity News Magazine
  • Photography Magazine
  • Easy Recipes Magazine
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (a novel by Jeff Kinney)
  • Safe Haven (a novel by Nicholas Sparks)

Which one would you choose?

Your honest opinion really makes a difference because I'd like to update this site with articles and/or stories that will be useful to you.

So, I invite you to take the poll below and let me know what kind of a reader you are : )

Thanks so much for taking the time to offer your opinion!!




 
 
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So...in the 90's there was this movie called Twister.

Anyone remember that?

Yeah, Helen Hunt starred in it as a scientist (I think she was technically a scientist) who chased tornadoes.

I remember watching it and thinking, "Wow, that's such a cool job- but kind of difficult to say the least." *

But you know what? In some ways, taking on writing as a career choice is very similar to becoming a professional Tornado Chaser.

Every day, you do your research to find out which areas have weather conditions that are perfect for the possible appearance of a tornado.

A writer, everyday, does their research in finding out how s/he can bring attention to their work- either through self-publishing or through an agent.

You pick an area that's not too far from your home base, travel there, set up, and yet keep on the lookout to either move to a better location or chase the tornado when it happens to pass through.

The writer decides on the most logical method of bringing attention to their work, sets up their website, their strategy, and yet keeps on the lookout for a better avenue, one that may work a little better...they keep writing...they keep looking...they work, wait, work, wait, etc...

So, it's a lot of waiting.

The smell of rain is in the air, the sky is dark, it even starts to drizzle, but is the tornado going to come?

You're tempted to move but you know, according to Murphy's Law, that if you move to a different location, she'll come and she'll be an F-5.

Writing, as a career, definitely has it's similarities.

Finding either an audience or an agent is the tornado that we chase and I'm thinking that I need to change my strategy because I've been standing in the rain for a while now.

Even my shoes are soaked.

Aww...I was going to end there, but that's so depressing! 

Sadness!

Instead of ending on such a sad note, I'll finish this with a picture of the most handsome*** man in all the universe- click here to be amazed.



*Footnote:
Please note that this was a paraphrase of my thought process.
During the time, I was but a wee lass (suddenly I'm an Irish chick from the 1900's!) so I was probably thinking something more like,
"I'm so hungry- oh he's cuuutte!! I wish I had a box of Pop Tarts- oh no...Mom's pulling into the driveway argh! Quick, turn off the TV and pretend you're doing homework**, ouch! Hate it when I stub my toe! Pain-pain! I'm so glad I'm not a tornado chaser like Helen Hunt in Twister, that's way dangerous and I'd probably stub my toe tons more than I do now..."




**Just kidding Mom.



*** The phrase "the most handsome" is used loosely. Very loosely.






 
 
Ever felt kinda ugly?Yeah, me too.

But it's okay because as an unattractive woman who is unsuccessful in every area of her life, I must confess that living in the land of ugly loserdom does come with a few perks!

Here they are:

Ugly Perk 1:    Most women are not intimidated by an ugly peer, so ugly women have lots of friends!

Having friends who aren't intimated by me is great. They know there's no reason to compete with me and therefore, feel comfortable enough to talk to me about things that they may not share with prettier friends. This makes for a great sisterhood of the traveling pants bond, although I'm usually too fat to fit into their pants...but whatever.
 
Also, when I'm  having one of those really rough ugly-girl days, I get to hang out with one of my BFF's, watch The Holiday or Pride and Prejudice, gossip about nonsense, and eat tons of chocolate (and then I really can't fit into anyone's pants- not even my own)!

Perk 2:     The Unattractive Female is Not Distracted By Hot Guys Chasing Her Down!
Yeah, so naturally, good looking men are attracted to good looking women. I used to feel pained when some hot guy would be like, "Hey Paula!" and I'd turn around, he'd walk up to me, look deep into my eyes and say, "So, where's your friend Llama?" (Noooo...I don't actually have a friend named Llama, I just figured it was a safe enough fake name to use)

To be honest sometimes it does still bother me when stuff like that happens, but I've also learned that being in a relationship is a lot of drama and instead of relationship drama, I get to fake-live all of my drama in the stories I write.

That sounds sad and pathetic, but it doesn't bother me, I like focusing on my work instead of on some real-life Jude Law look alike (yeah, I'm still thinking about The Holiday) whose got tons of baggage that he wants to dump on me.
 
Perk 3:     The Life of An Ugly Makes For Great Material As A Stand Up Comedian!
There have been tons of times (and maybe you, a normal-looking person, have also experienced this) when I've been in a really bad situation and I'm crying like a little girl (I know- sooo embarrassing) and then I stop crying and start laughing because it's so stupid it's funny.

In any case, there's a silver lining in everything.

Everything.

Even in having the face of a beat-up calculator that's lying in the middle of the street and has, clearly, been run over by a mac truck...even when, a monkey runs into the scene, screeching as he picks up the calculator, shimmies up a tree with it, and then throws the calculator into a lake.

Even having that kind of a face comes with a silver lining.

           




 
 
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Last week I read Precise by Rebecca Berto and though that week was a veritable whirlwind of activity during which I barely had time to sleep, I really didn't want to put this book down!

Precise centers around a very creative but emotionally insecure young woman named Katie Anselin. In the opening chapter, we immediately pinpoint Katie's main reason for insecurity and deep-seated feelings of worthlessness as the result of the way she's been treated by her Mother, who seems incapable of treating Katie with the dignity (and even love) that she deserves.

So, when Katie finds out that she and her young husband are going to have a baby, she has good reason to worry about what kind of impact her overbearing and emotionally-abusive Mother is going to have on their child...


Precise is definitely an emotional roller coaster and as I adore roller coasters, it won me over in a heartbeat.

Here are two reasons why:

Katie Is Easy To Identify With
While reading Katie's story I went from feeling sorry to her, to being annoyed by her, to rooting for her ...to finally identifying with her.

Though I've never experienced the kind of abuse Katie went through as a child, on some level I can relate to her and, really,  I think we all can. Most of us know what it feels like to be pushed away by someone we love. When this happens, it takes an amazing amount of strength to not only wrap our bruised heart and get back on our feet, but to accept the fact that we are lovable and that we're not as worthless as this person made us feel. So, seeing some of the same thoughts that I've had run through my mind during my "Ack! Am I even lovable?!" moments written down as part of Katie's internal monologue drew me to her.

Katie's Story Is Interesting
Secondly, as mentioned above, there were moments when Katie's way of thinking annoyed me but what kept me hooked was the story. As simple as this may sound, there's nothing like a book with a good story. I admire the way Rebecca Berto builds tension, it's as if the story of Precise is a staircase and Berto uses each chapter as an individual step, bringing us closer and closer to our destination. At the end of each chapter I had to know what was going to happen next!

Precise is a great read and I will definitely be on the lookout for Rebecca Berto's next book!

For updates on Precise as well as on Rebecca Berto's other books, follow her on Twitter!

 
 
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You know those days when you're stuck in traffic, and you're feeling, not terrible, but a bit in need of comfort and you start thinking, "Hmm...today would be a great day to re-watch my favorite movie."

Do you ever have moments like that?

I have a lot of them...I love movies because they bring together so many different avenues of storytelling.

First of all, the music tells a story. I love how composers use sounds the way writers use words- their music draws us into the main character's emotions by helping us to feel what they feel. Music, in itself, is a beautiful way of sharing a story.

The cinematography too uses lighting and camera angles to give us, not only a straight visual of the story's action, but clues into reoccurring themes and added insight into the character's emotions.

The actors too, are storytellers who after convincing us that they're the main character, sort of hold our hand through the story-telling process.

So, anyways blabbady blah aside, because I love escaping the utter yuckiness of reality, I like stories. Therefore, I love the the way the cinema brings together so many wonderful ways of sharing a story.

I've got a ton of favorite movies and most of them are Spielbergish (because I love his romantic optimism) but there are other movies that I like and I don't really know why...

These other movies may not be so great in the cinematography department and some of the actors may be the most convincing, but I've fallen in love and I can't get out.

So, I think my favorite movie is Anne of Green Gables, it trumps Hugo (which I love), The Tree of Life (sigh...so beautiful), Titanic (yeah, I'm a dork, I love that movie too), Spanglish (Adam Sandler at his best!), and even the 8 billion hour long version of Pride and Prejudice (which I absolutely adore).

It's old and some of it's a bit cheesy, but I will always love Anne of Green Gables.

What about you?

Your all time favorite movie that you can watch again and again is (...drum roll!...) ...?

Let me know what it is and what you love about it, maybe I can add it to my "need to watch list"!

 
 
So I entered the Pitch Wars writing contest and big surprise...I failed yet again.

That completely sucked.

If this had been the first contest that I'd failed, it wouldn't have hurt all that much but this is like...I don't even know...the tenth.

This makes me question whether or not my writing is any good and on a deeper level, if I even have any worth as a human being.

I know that sounds incredibly over-dramatic but when you splatter your heart across the pages of your novel and then someone (not just one person, but person after person after person...) reads it and shakes their head saying,
"Nah. It's just not for me."

Wow...that's like the ultimate rejection. The core of who you are has been dismissed as "not good enough".

A while ago, I watched an interview of George Lucas and he talked about how when he was a film student, one of his very first shorts won tons of Film Festivals. This is how he realized that he had innate talent, because other people saw his work and immediately fell in love with it.

When I heard Mr. Lucas say that, my heart sank.

I've never been that good at anything. Like, nothing. Not even...eating cheesecake. If there was an "Who Can Eat Cheesecake The Best?!!" contest- I'd totally fail and be in last place, even though I love eating cheesecake!

So, I'm watching George Lucas talk about how he did so well and was from then on able to achieve his dreams thinking, "This answers the question of my self-worth: I have no purpose and therefore no value as a human being, I might as well be a rock or a string of moss hanging from a tree, blah, blah..." and that's how I feel right now too BUT ...yes there is a Kardashian-sized BUT to this thought...

Later, I watched a documentary about how Star Wars was made (yep, I totally watched a two hour long documentary because I'm super-cool and not a nerd) and though Star Wars was a raving, super-unbelievable success...almost everyone who was anyone expected Star Wars to be a flop because very few people believed in George Lucas. There was footage of a young George Lucas wandering around the Star Wars set looking angry, depressed, ready to cry...a little bit psychotic even...and that made me feel so much better! There were even interviews with the Star Wars cast talking about how they didn't have much faith in George and they questioned whether or not the movie they'd gotten themselves into was a good idea.

But the thing that made it come together was that this young director who very few people believed in didn't give up.

He refused to allow other people's lack of confidence in him to set his standard, he set his own standard for the kind of movie he knew he had the ability to make- and he did it.

So, maybe some people read my work and find it to be the epitome of garbage.

Maybe, for this reason, I will never, ever win a writing contest.

Cool beans.

I know that I love to write and I know exactly what I want to continue writing about.

That's the beginning of my reality and the end of me allowing other people's lack of confidence in me to shape my reality.

I'm glad George Lucas didn't let other people's negative opinions set his standard for the stories he wanted to create.

If he had, we would live in Star Wars-less world that was chalk full of depressed nerds.



 
 
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Well, it's official- I can no longer sit through an episode of 30 Rock.

Everyone has a right to their own opinion and I totally respect the fact that some people watch it and laugh hysterically at every joke- that's cool- we all enjoy different types of humor.

In fact, there have been plenty of past episodes that I've watched and nearly died laughing.
Good times...great fun...

BUT along came the moment when I felt like I'd been punched in the face by a large, foul-smelling, hairy guy named Are You Black? Then You Must Be Stupid.

It was soooo weird!

I was watching 30 Rock, laughing and enjoying whatever flavored yogurt I was eating and then from out of no where BAM,  Are You Black? Then You Must Be Stupid shows up and just punches me, knocking the wind out of me!

It happened as I watched a scene similar to this one:

Here's a general synopsis of what thoughts went through my mind as I watched this:

"Uh...I don't understand...what's happening? " to

"Okay, that was kinda funny, I shouldn't feel bad, I'm just being too sensitive..." to

"Yeah, that was super funny, it's okay I can laugh- ha ha!" to

"ha ha ha- WHOA." to

"This...is... painful."  to 

"Okay, I'm going to change the channel and watch something else until this scene is over."


This began happening at least once during every, single episode of 30 Rock.

Despite Are You Black? Then You Must Be Stupid's presence (and his punches), I continued to watch because:
(a) I admire Tina Fey's tenacity and (b) Alec Baldwin is super funny.

But then I realized that I was becoming that main character (usually a Nancy or a Lily) on your average Lifetime movie.
Nancy Lily, timid and just coming out of a bad relationship, decides to give love a chance when she agrees to go out with clean-cut Clive. Nancy Lily and Clive hit it off and eventually enjoy numerous chaste yet fun-filled dates during which Nancy Lily falls deeper and deeper in love until the day Mr. Perfect loses his cool and suddenly becomes Mr. Abusive.
Nancy Lily stares at her black eye in a mirror and wonders, "Am I being too sensitive about this? Maybe this isn't as big of a deal as it seems..." and so she doesn't tell any of her friends whats going on...

That's kind of how I felt.

I mean, I try really hard to be open-minded, and it made me feel so weak to admit that I'd allowed a few jokes about black people being uneducated and bumbling idiots to bother me. So, I tried to keep my "weak" thoughts to myself when I heard other people talking about how funny 30 Rock is.

Then, about two weeks ago, I watched maybe five minutes of 30 Rock, heard myself say "No, just NO." and then shut if off for good.

I'd had enough of Are You Black? Then You Must Be Stupid's mean punches to my face.

You know why?

Because getting punched hurts.

Real life often hurts, especially for a woman with dark skin who lives in the south.

I'm going to be honest... I, personally, like the color of my skin, I think it's kind of cool. But, I also feel incredibly insecure about the way other people view this skin I'm in.

Why?

Well, because I live in a culture where strangers will often look at my coloring and automatically assume they know exactly what kind of music I listen to, what my political views are, and what my educational background consists of...not to mention that these assumptions lead to my being held at arms length and being denied certain jobs/opportunities etc...

Being treated in this way often ='s numerous tears because it lets me know that when people look at me, they often don't see me- they only see the color of my skin.

That hurts.

I watch television to escape the realities of life.

But if I plop my bruised self in front of 30 Rock, I'm not able to escape the prejudice that I'm surrounded by in real life- instead I'm punched in the face with it.

Humor is a fascinating gift that, when used properly, can actually dull the sharp edges of painful subjects.

But we have a responsibility to ourselves and to others to be careful with the way we handle this gift.

Using humor to mock the illogical nature of racism is great, but using it to highlight victims of racism as the butt of prejudice jokes is a great way to contribute to the proliferation of prejudice and make a mockery of the gift of humor.

So, to put it simply... the jokes on 30 Rock totally hurt my feelings and I can't stand to watch them anymore.

Sorry 30 Rock, you guys lost a viewer.














 
 
A few weeks ago, Nadine Tomlinson posted a pretty cool writing exercise on her blog.

She posted a picture and then asked interested writers to create a seven-sentence story based on the picture.
Writers who participated left their short stories in the comments section.

Check out Nadine's Seven-Sentence Story post here!

I thought it would be fun to try something similar.

While listening to the Itzhak Perlman piece below, what poem (that is about 12-15 lines in length) are you inspired to write?

There are no rules, feel free to write about whatever the music inspires you to express!

 
 
Some say it’s love that makes the world go round.

What a sweet thought…

Unfortunately, I found chocolate to be much sweeter than thoughts of love and for this reason, there was a dark time when chocolate was the shiny key to making my little world go round (no, that wasn’t a fat joke).

On a bad day (be it a freezing winter’s morning or the hottest afternoon in July), I’d pull into the drive thru of PJ’s Coffee, twitching with angst as I’d tearfully sob into the speaker, “Please, one Super-Duper-Grande hot chocolate with extra chocolate and extra whipped cream… hurry Bob!!*” 

Once the hot chocolate was in my hands, I’d drink away my worries and the universe, realigned, fell back into its orderly ways.

This frantic drive-thru scenario was reenacted at least once a day.

As any addict will tell you, feeding one’s addiction can be expensive.

In six months’ time, I’d spent at least $378 on hot chocolate alone.

Writing short stories heroically saved, not only my life, but my ability to pay bills and continue purchasing food other than chocolate.

Here’s how it happened…

One evening, after listening to This American Life (or some such equally grown up-ish radio show that makes me feel old) on NPR, I came to the conclusion that I had something in common with the overdramatized victim of the NPR story. I too, used food (and chocolate infused drink) as an emotional band aide.

I realized that it would be much less expensive and a lot healthier to, when frazzled, instead of grabbing ten snickers bars and a steaming cup of hot chocolate, simply write a short story.

After all, writing about a determined character who faces frustrating circumstances and pushes through until she reaches her happy ending is empowering!

So, instead of closing my eyes and nearly inhaling whatever piece of chocolate I’d bought, I kept my eyes open, wrote, and as the words began to flow, it gradually dawned on me that things weren’t so bad! My depths of despair weren’t as deep as my character’s and even more importantly, if she was able to overcome her obstacles, then so would I.

I’ve heard that when we dream, it’s as if our mind is filing away bits of random information (most of this information coming from our subconscious). I feel like the same happens while I’m writing. Worries, fears, and thoughts that I haven’t acknowledged (probably because, until now, they’ve been buried under layers of hot chocolate) surface and find their place in my stories.

 While I’m writing, I can’t help but look at my characters and see myself. In so doing, their happy ending becomes more than just a part of a story, their “happily ever after” becomes something that just might happen to me, if I keep trying.  

…and isn’t a happy ending a million times tastier than the best cup of hot chocolate? J

How is writing therapeutic for you?

*Please note that there is no such drink at PJ’s, I was usually just out of my mind whilst ordering.  There is also no barista named “Bob”, I simply said whatever name came to mind.

 
 
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Maintaining healthy relationships with the people we love requires consistent effort.

So, preserving a friendship with someone who is a serious writer requires effort and is, at times, beyond challenging : )

Listed below are three basic traits that we can put into practice when dealing with our "writerly" friends.

  • Respect the writer's time and privacy. If the writer asks that they not be bothered for a block of time or if they do not ask this, but are, all of a sudden, no longer responding to your phone calls/emails/text messages/tweets, you can assume that they are not upset with you but are writing and in need of privacy to continue writing. When the writer reaches a stopping point, they will notice their missed messages and get back to you. The best thing that a friend can do when this occurs is to not take offense, feel unloved, or pressure their writer friend to "get out more" but to respect the writer's need for privacy.
  • Always be honest. If your writer friend asks you to read a manuscript, it is a good idea to first, keep in mind that it took a lot of courage for the writer to share their work. Secondly, it is a good idea to keep in mind that to be helpful you must be brutally honest. Reading the entire manuscript and then giving your friend a short response such as, "Nice work!" or "That was great!" is not helpful. To be a good friend, show that you care about the writer's chances for success by pointing out, not only what you liked about their story but everything you did not like. You may think that you don't know much about writing, but if you have the ability to read, then your opinion is priceless! (if you didn't like their work at all, then praise the writer for their courage and ability to write, but be sure to detail what you didn't like about the manuscript- this is helpful because it is the only way the writer will get better).
  • Be Respectful of a Writer's Career Choice. If your writer friend works part-time so as to focus on their work, this may seem odd. You might even notice that, because of your friend's devotion to their craft, they do not have as much money as their other friends. Sometimes, watching the writer's struggle will fill you with the urge to encourage your friend to at least think about getting a regular job and having a normal life. While you feel this way because you care about your friend, such encouragement is not a good idea. When the writer chooses to, at the expense of personal comfort, pursue their art, close friends and family members are often quite vocal in their disapproval. This usually results in the artist struggling with feelings of incompetence (thinking, "if I had more talent, then they'd understand and support my decision" or "maybe everyone's right, maybe I'll never make it as a writer")  and even loneliness. What the writer needs is at least one friend who, even if they don't fully understand the writer's life choices, respectfully supports the writer's decision to go after the craft they've fallen in love with. 

I'm very grateful to have a couple of friends who are extremely supportive and I can't thank them enough for putting up with my weirdness! : )

What I love about these individuals is that they are honest, caring, and respectful.

I've learned a lot from them about what it means to be a friend and I hope to continue learning!

What about you? Whether or not you're a writer, what are one or two qualities that you look for in a friend?