A New Year, A New Blog – Let’s Get Serious!

After a most tumultuous year, I’m ready to get back to work on my writing in earnest. I have two manuscripts that need one good revision each, and then some beta reading and feedback, and one final polish before I’m ready to shove them out of the nest to watch them soar to the sky or crash and burn. I also have one other manuscript with some exciting interest that I need to finish. Pronto. This means making some changes to my daily routine to ensure I’m focused and productive.

Every. Single. Day.

 

My office bulletin board before changes…
…and after! Complete with goal-tracking calendar and shiny stickers! (This is an older picture; there are a lot more stickers on there, now. Trust me!)

 

 

Another thing I’ve done is reviewed my outside commitments. As I’ve taken on a much larger role with my local SCBWI group, (I’m now the Social Media Coordinator for SCBWI Oklahoma and co-host for the monthly #okscbwichat we hold on Twitter) I’ve decided to pull back from participating in the group blog The Great Noveling Adventure. I will miss TGNA tremendously, but this will allow me to spend more time completing my manuscripts, and prepping them for submission – my major goal for the year!

I’ve also revamped my vision for this blog and have planned out some exciting ideas for the coming year.

Here are some of the changes coming soon:

With a reading goal for the year of 80 books and a starting TBR pile of 50 books, I'll have plenty of books to read.
A preview of my current TBR pile numbering 50 books at present. I hope to read all of these before the end of the year…and then some!

I will continue to read, read, read, and to encourage you all to do the same.

I’m participating in a few reading challenges, and I will share my progress along the way – as well as any fantastic books I discover. As always, I hope you share any books you fall in love with, too.

I will also introduce a read-along book club to share some of my favorite reads this year. Nothing too stressful or demanding, but a bit more interactive. And an excuse to re-read some of my faves of all time. (And get others to read them!)

Speaking of interactive, I have a strong desire to practice writing short stories. I know it’s an area that can help me expand my writing skills. (We should never stop learning or expanding or skills, right?)

To encourage others to write, write, write, along with me I’ll be introducing a monthly flash fiction writing prompt that might even involve some prizes to add some excitement.

 

One Flash Fiction prompt could be using a picture like this and prompting you to tell a story about this boy...
One Flash Fiction prompt could be using a picture like this and prompting you to tell a story about this boy…

 

I’ll still include the popular book reviews and craft posts and the odd personal story or interview from time to time to keep things lively.

One more new addition will be a monthly #TBT (ThrowBack Thursday) post where I will share some of my favorites that I originally posted over on the TGNA blog.

I hope you enjoy the changes, and join in the some of the more interactive activities.

Should be fun!

Here’s to a productive new year to all!

-Valerie

 

 

 

Thankful

Love Sun

This has been a crap year for me.

My marriage of 24 years ended painfully, as such things often do. The side effects caused by this, especially for my kids, have compounded and multiplied, and I don’t see an end to the trauma anytime soon.

I’ve had to dig deep to find more and more strength to keep going through some very dark days. Many times, it was my friends that helped me through.

I am terrible at asking for help or unloading my crap on others, so forcing myself to share what was going on with me was tremendously uncomfortable – almost painful.

I also have a tendency to go radio silent when things are at their worst.

I know I made the conscious (and again, extremely painful) effort to stay busy, to be social and to not stay home on my couch in the dark. I made the effort to answer the phone when friends called to check up on me, because they knew I was going through a tough time , and needed to talk (even though I really, really, REALLY didn’t want to talk to anyone), but I also know I wouldn’t have made it through without the support of my friends.

Even though things still suck monumentally right now, things won’t suck forever. I will get through this.

Because of them.

It’s the season of giving thanks, and to all of you who helped me make it this far, I love you and I am forever thankful.

Love Sun

The Return of #writemotivation – Thank God! (Someone Hold Me Accountable!)

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After almost a year on hiatus, #WriteMotivation returns!

If you need help sticking to your goals or need some encouragement when all seems bleak, this is a fantastic group of people to help cheer you on and help you reach those goals.

The rules are simple:

1. Make a list of realistic goals for the month – and achieve them.
2. Make a Blog Post every week (preferably Wednesdays, but if you don’t post on Wednesdays just add it to the next day you would normally post ). This is to help us keep tabs on our own progress, and for others to cheer us on if it’s a difficult week. Please link to the post in the #writemotivation hashtag
3. Visit your #writemotivation team mates blogs, and participate in the #writemotivation hashtag to cheer people on.

Sign up for this month will go through the end of the week. You can fill out the form to join in here.

I have a major project to complete by the end of this month, so this is perfect timing for me. This one is going to take so much focus for me to stay the course. I need my #writemotivation gang to help me through this!

Here are my June goals:

1. Make word count goal of 2000 words five days each week. That’s the minimum. It wouldn’t hurt to go a bit higher.

2. Completed requested project by the end of the month. Very excited about this project! 

3. Plan blog posts for the month and post weekly. I have been less than consistent over the past couple of months, what with the youngling graduating high school and other major life changes coming into play. Time to regroup and refocus.

4. Read & review at least two books. Have one books already finished and ready to review. This may be the easiest goal to complete.:)

So how about you? What are your goals for the summer? For June? Want to join in #WriteMotivation?

Art & Fear – An Exploration, Part I

We all have to face fears in our lives at one time or another.

My daughter drops whatever she’s doing and runs inside at the sight of any flying insect with a stinger (mostly bees, but on occasion she has run from butterflies by mistake). My husband has to put on his iPod and listen to Pink Floyd whenever he goes to the dentist. What can I say? He had a bad experience with a dentist overseas once who didn’t use anesthetic. I don’t really blame him for that one.

I recently faced one of my fears around Halloween. This one had to do with my son, Trevor.

I had been dreading Halloween for weeks. I remembered the year before how Trevor had been so much bigger than most of the kids going around the neighborhood and even though he went out with a family friend who was in grade school – something of a holiday tradition – we still got some puzzled looks. No one said anything mean, but I felt uncomfortable all evening. And I knew this year, with Trevor being even bigger and older, things would only feel more tense. I couldn’t get Trevor to understand that he was too big for Halloween and I’d tried the year before to have him stay home and help me pass out candy, but that didn’t work out.

My fear was that he would be turned away. Shunned. That he would receive hurtful stares or ugly comments – not that he was likely to notice (unless he didn’t get any candy), but I would. And it would hurt. No one wants to see their child be rejected.

So, I thought of a different strategy. I’ve been doing some part-time work for our local autism group and that inspired me to do some outreach of my own.  I’d open up and let our neighbors in. THIS WAS WAY OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE. I am not good at asking for help or reaching out to people, so this step was huge. But then, it wasn’t for me. It was so my neighbors would understand who my son was and welcome him.

Here’s the message I posted on our Neighborhood Association Facebook page:

Trevor Halloween Story

There was such a huge positive response to this post that I was overwhelmed. And even one other family in the neighborhood told about their young child with autism, too. They hoped to have their child be able to leave the comfort of his stroller and go door-to-door this year. (Stretching the boundaries of social difficulties that accompany autism.) How nice was that? Finding another family who shares our same issues?

When we went out trick or treating, Trevor was recognized several times by neighbors who went out of their way to introduce themselves.  Later people posted how nice it was to meet Trevor and how sweet and polite he was. Now, when we take our dogs for a walk, more of our neighbors say “hello” than before, and more greet Trevor by name. We even met an actual firefighter who invited us to bring Trevor down to his station for a tour. That made Trevor’s night.

One fear conquered.

Fear & Art

When it comes to dealing with fear in our writing or any medium of art, it can have a crippling effect. Even keep us from making art altogether.

Being a writer can be so thrilling when everything is coming out just right. The words are flowing, the characters are bending to my will, I am the master of my imaginary universe!

YES! YES! YES!

And then that tiny little voice of doubt creeps in. This isn’t working. I suck, my writing sucks, my characters suck, nobody will ever want to read this drivel. EVER!

Creative Process Pic

Sound familiar?

During our SCBWI OK Fall Retreat in September, Romney Nesbitt did a workshop on Conquering Procrastination & Self-Sabotage. One of the first things she had us do was name off all the different ways we procrastinate.

Some of the examples tossed out were fairly typical:

The Serial Projects excuse (“Just as soon as…then…”)

The “I don’t have time excuse” (too many responsibilities)

Perfectionism (waiting for the right conditions/right moment)

Social Media (worse than television)

So I voiced my own reason. The one thing that holds me back from moving forward on projects more than anything?

Fear of Failure.

Romney responded that this is actually a “problem with expectancy”.

That answer surprised me.

Expectancy meant it was coming from me. It made me realize I was in control of that fear. And that meant I could change it.

I also knew I wasn’t the only one who grappled with creating art and fear. Not just of failure. But of what others would think of what we created. Even of success.

I wanted to explore this further.

So, this month, I’m doing just that. I’m forcing myself to do some things to push past this fear.

One thing I’m doing is taking the NaNoWriMo plunge and vowing to actually complete the 50,000 words in one month challenge. I’ve participated for a few years now, but I’ve never made it to the finish line.

I’ve also started reading ART & FEAR OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING  by David Bayles & Ted Orland. I’ll be sharing some of my insights from that book later in the month. So far it’s quite enlightening.

How about you? What are you afraid of as far as your art is concerned? What do you do to combat that fear?

Accidental Vacation

While on vacation in Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New Mexico, I took an unintentional, but much needed and extended vacation from my blog. The company was too engaging, the scenery too inspiring, the WIFI too sporadic.

I took it as a sign.

I needed a break.

Then when I came home last week, I found the desire to write had not yet been rekindled. My muse was still lounging in her pjs, dreaming of southwestern skies. To add to my procrastination vacation, my modem died…or so I thought. It was actually playing possum until the repairman showed up to debunk its fakery. (I guess my modem also needed an extended vacation.) With just a few tweaks of some knobs or some such magic, the mighty repairman had my modem working, again.

Now, after a wonderful visit with some writer friends last weekend, all is back normal; writing fire rekindled and modem functioning properly. (My muse is still wearing her pjs, but frankly, most of the time so am I.)

Before we return to our regularly scheduled programming, I thought I’d share some of the beautiful sights from my vacation that inspired me.

Enjoy.

My daughter outside our hotel in Los Alamos one morning.
My daughter outside our hotel in Los Alamos one morning. (Yes, she’s was reading ALLEGIANT.)

 

 

Daughter and husband walking around in a park in Los Alamos.
Daughter and husband walking around in a park in Los Alamos.

 

 

Son greeting an elephant statue in the park.
Son greeting an elephant statue in the park.

 

 

Daughter with Dr. Oppenheimer statue.
Daughter with Dr. Oppenheimer’s statue. They love him in Atomic City.

 

 

Wildflowers on a morning walk.
Wildflowers on a morning walk with the husband. We snuck out while the kids were sleeping and even had breakfast together. That rarely ever happens.

 

 

My husband standing past the barrier to take a picture. Me documenting his possible demise. (He did survive, thankfully.)
My husband, Tim, standing past the barrier to take a picture of the spectacular view just outside of Los Alamos on the stretch of road I came to call Suicide Hill, with me documenting his possible demise. (He did survive, thankfully.)

 

 

Coming into Santa Fe where there are pueblos as far as the eye can see.
Coming into Santa Fe where everything is pueblos as far as the eye can see.

 

 

Walking through the Railyard district of Santa Fe with my best friend since childhood.
Daughter walking with her godfather and my best friend since childhood. We walked through the Railyard arts district of Santa Fe and spent the day there seeing the sights. We had lunch at a new local place run by a friend of David’s called Shake Foundation. The Adobe Mud shakes were excellent. Later Tim took the kids to see a movie so David and I could talk without distraction. It’s always good to catch up with him.

 

 

My son and David playing on the slides at the playground in the Railyard.
My son and David playing on the slides at the playground in the Railyard.

 

 

David preparing for his turn down the slide. (You can see why we're friends right here.)
David preparing for his turn down the slide. (You can see why we’re friends right here.)

 

 

Me and my bestie at lunch.
Me and my bestie at lunch.

 

 

Russian sage is everywhere.
Russian sage is everywhere in New Mexico.

 

 

The Plaza district has a mixture of old world culture like this...
The Plaza district has a mixture of old world culture like this, the Santuario de Guadalupe…

 

 

...and fantastic displays of art, like this gallery with, yes, a dragon on the roof.
…and fantastic displays of art, like this gallery with, yes, a dragon on the roof.

 

Art was everywhere in Santa Fe. It was beautiful to see and inspiring to the mind.

Another great thing about the long drive there and back, I had plenty of leisure time to read. I tore through four books in a little over one week, which was such a pleasure.

So tell me about your vacation plans. Have you been anywhere exciting? Read any great books this summer?

My summer traveling isn’t quite over. I leave for the SCBWI LA conference in one week. So much to do before then! And when I get back there will be loads to share. (Maybe even some signed books!)

June #writemotivation week 4

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Hmm, we seem to have skipped through a few weeks, didn’t we?

I’ve been very bad about checking in with my goals and that’s probably because I’m not so happy about my progress. Also because the middle of the month was a bit of a struggle all around. I’m making up for it with a fabulous finish and a knock out interview ready to post tomorrow.

(Stay tuned! You won’t want to miss it!)

Let’s get to the goals and see the damage/progress done, shall we?

My #writemotivation goals for this month:

  1. Work on suggested revisions for INSTITUTIONALIZED. Oh, boy. No beating about the proverbial bush. This hasn’t gone well. I’m moving so painfully slow on this. I maybe have a fourth of this done. I’m not very happy with the speed of my progress. However, I am making some pretty radical changes, especially to the front half. It might pick up once I get past that point. 
  2. If complete revisions, submit to interested parties/begin submission process. Not even on the table, yet. But I have promised myself I WILL have the revisions done before I leave for the SCBWI LA conference at the end of July. How’s that for a seriously solid deadline? I must have a singular focus to get through July – setting daily revision goals may help push myself where I need to be. This means less time for other distractions, but I think I’m ready to do this.
  3. Read 5 books. Surprisingly I’ve actually read 4 books and made a good dent in a 5th. I’m not sure if I’ll finish the 5th before the end of the month, but that’s okay. We’ll call this goal close enough accomplished. Even though I feel like I’ve been such a slow reader this month. Probably because I still haven’t finished wonder 2ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s not that I’m struggling with it, it’s just one of those books that begs you to take your time. I’m really enjoying the story and the language – everything about it, honestly. I’m not even going to worry about how long it takes me to. I may actually finish WONDER by RJ Palacio first. I’ve had it sitting by my bedside for months and I finally cracked it open this week. It’s off to a promising start.
  4. Plan out summer blog ideas/giveaways, etc. Done! Wow. One goal accomplished. I finally have my idea box refilled and ready to go. I have several book giveaways planned, starting with the first one tomorrow!
  5. Exercise 4 times a week. We are all doing really well with this at the homestead. Between walking and swimming and now the new gym membership, my muscles will never stop aching that (almost) happy pain of overuse ever again. Whee! And I’m spending so much time outside that for the first time in years, I am not ghostly pale. Yes, I have a (slight) tan. Friends who’ve known me for years will be totally shocked by this.

I hope you have all had a productive or at least motivating June. As I have some actual vacation plans coming up, (woohoo!) I won’t be participating in #writemotivation for July, but I will be active on this blog. We’ll be taking a break over at the TGNA blog for a couple of months, which will help me focus more over here and on my revisions. I’ll join back up in August and I’ll still be following everyone on Twitter.

Keep Writing! (And Stay Tuned Tomorrow!)

Great Literary Dads – a TGNA Post

tgnalogorevampToday is my day to post over at The Great Noveling Adventure, so I took the opportunity to give thanks to some of the most inspiring dads in literature. I find that dads can often be under-appreciated in novels and take a back seat to moms many times, but as I had a fantastic dad who had to go it solo in the parenting department for most of my childhood, I want to give a shout-out to all the great dads and other father-figures in our lives who helped shape us from the nebulous blobs of mess we started from into the creative amazing people we became.

Thank you, Amazing Dads, everywhere!

If you know of some great stories with phenomenal dad characters or want to see which books I selected, hop on over to the Great Noveling Adventure blog and join the conversation.