It’s Media Monday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and we are returning from our summer vacation. I’m discussing what those that are new to our blog can expect to find each day, along with a little motivational surprise at the end.
Here’s a preview:
Welcome back, everyone!
I hope you’re ready for a new season of great writing adventures. We at TGNA are ready, and we hope you’ll join us every week day for a different themed post as we travel along together.
For those who are new to the blog, here’s what to expect:
Media Mondays: These posts will share media gifts with a literary theme for our readers – downloads, printables, playlists, and more.
Travel Tuesdays: These posts will focus on guest posts, interviews, informative link roundups, and sometimes even posts that are actually about travel.
Writing Wednesdays: Excellent craft posts about writing, from beginnings to revisions, and for all levels of ability. You won’t want to miss them.
Things I’ve Read Thursdays: Book reviews! Posts where we get to talk about the thing we love most – books!
List of Five Fridays: Our most intriguing and surprising posts come from our favorite things. A list of five favorites can be anything that inspire us.
With the return of TGNA blog posts, comes the return of weekday morning wordsprints on Twitter.
If you’d like some company as you write, please join us! I host AM #wordsprints over on the TGNA group Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure weekdays from 6-8am CST. We sprint in 20 minute blocks with ten minute breaks in between each session. This season, I’m throwing in some fun challenges each day to keep things interesting.
Meeting a favorite author can be amazing. You get to hear about the story behind their novels, their road to publication, their writing process, how they keep themselves motivated, and all kinds of insider information about the world of publishing from someone who’s made it. And you don’t have to wait for a conference to hear an author speak. You can catch them at book signings, during book tours, or other events.
I’m often puzzled when I hear people say that they only want to come to conferences if editors & agents will be there. Not published writers. You can learn so much from someone who’s already gone ahead of you, so it only makes sense that aspiring writers should want to hear from published writers. Then again, these may be the same writers who think they don’t have time to read books.
It’s like expecting to walk away from your first conference with a book deal; it’s not very realistic. You may come away with fantastic ideas on how to improve your manuscript, and you may make some wonderful industry connections – which are both valuable, even crucial to success. And who knows? You may even come away with a green light to submit your improved manuscript to a closed house or agency. All great reasons to go to a conference.
But so is the opportunity to hear from seasoned writers.
Some of the most motivational, inspiring talks I’ve ever heard have been from writers. I’ve learned more about craft and why I want to be a writer and how I can never stop being a writer and why I should pursue the stories of my heart from hearing other writers speak than from any how-to book I’ve ever read. I love going to author events whenever I can. I always come away rejuvenated and ready to work.
So now that you know how wonderful author events can be, how can you get the most out of these opportunities? And where can you find them?
Familiarize yourself with the author’s work ahead of time. That doesn’t mean you have to read everything they’ve ever written, but at least read something so you have a feel for their voice. It’s like coming to class prepared. You get more out of the lecture if you’ve done the reading. You can also ask better questions during Q&A (or have something intelligent to talk about while getting your book signed).
Invite a friend or two. You’d be surprised how many of these events aren’t necessarily well-publicized. Especially library events. I went to one author event with only about twenty people in attendance. This author had just been interviewed on NPR the week before. Unbelievable. His talk was outstanding. I wish I’d thought to bring a friend. Now I know to spread the news and take a friend with me.
(You might even think about taking your child.It can be an invaluable experience – and talk about creating a love of reading! I’ve had the pleasure of taking my daughter to meet some of her favorite authors, and I know that’s made a huge impact on her. She could barely speak when she met her first author – Ally Carter, I think. But by the time she met Kate di Camillo, she was an old pro. She got to hear Kate talk about how she created the main character in THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX and when they brought out the microphone for the kids to ask questions, my daughter stepped right up and asked her how she came up with the idea of chiaroscuro. Kate smiled at her, complimented her creative attire, and answered her question in great detail. That kind of experience is unforgettable.)
Take notes! As I said, you can always learn something. If your memory is anything like mine, you will be glad you wrote it all down, instead of relying on your faulty brain.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many times, the author leaves space in their talk for a Q&A session. This is why you do your research beforehand, so you can ask an intelligent question. So be brave and throw that hand up! I’ve seen many Q&A times go unused when I knew people really wanted to ask questions. When they were able to ask questions later in a smaller setting, they couldn’t stop asking questions. So, just in case you don’t get that second opportunity, engage with the author during the Q&A and ask away. That’s part of the reason they are there.
Check with your local libraries and universities. Many bring in authors throughout the year to speak. Some of these events may even be free to the public or have a nominal fee.
Follow local event planning organizations. Tulsa has a great organization called Booksmart Tulsa that “offers top notch literary events” at a wide variety of venues. They’ve held events for Audrey Niffenegger, Chuck Palahniuk, and Ransom Riggs. And soon they’ll be holding the book release for our very own Jennifer Latham.
Follow your favorite authorson social mediaor subscribe to their newsletters. That way you’ll know when they’ll be appearing near you.
As many of you in the OKC area may know we just had author Jay Asher come through. I had to miss him, unfortunately, but many of my fellow SCBWI friends were able to be there and had a great time including Regina Garvie, who wrote a fantastic post about meeting him, here.
One author visit I WON’T be missing is Neil Gaiman’s. He’ll be in Tulsa on March 10th at the Tulsa PAC. For more information about this event or to purchase tickets, click here.
So how about you?
Have you met any of your favorite authors? What was your experience like? How do you prepare for an author event? And how do you find out about author events in your area?
For this Travel Tuesday over at The Great Noveling Adventure, I’m sending everyone to a few fantastic sites that will help ignite their imaginations and get those idea engines cranking.
Looking for some new story generating sites? I’ve got some great suggestions for you. Stop waiting for that next big idea to hit you upside the head. Find it yourself, today.
Have some fun and play with your imagination. After all, that’s what it’s for.
Stop on over and join in the conversation!
Remember, when you start working on that next big idea, I host AM #sprints every weekday morning on Twitter over at @Novel_Adventure. Join me if you need some motivation to get started or if you just need some companionship as you work on your own great novel.
Things have been moving at a break-neck pace ever since I returned from the SCBWI LA Summer conference earlier this month. My less-than part-time job has picked up substantially and the group blog I participate in is coming back from vacation next week with a bang – all new format, a few changes to the line-up, and one hell of a fabulous contest with a gazillion prizes, including books and critiques! (Details on that coming very soon.) Not to mention squeezing in all the important revising that must continue. And I haven’t even talked about our Fall Retreat that’s (ack!) in just a few weeks.
Despite all of the chaotic activity, I really wanted to get started with my yearly conference-inspired blog posts. To tease you all a bit with what I have in mind, I thought I’d start with some of my favorite quotes from this year’s event.
“Imagination and the ability to tell a story will make anyone better at anything, with the possible exception of politicians and accountants.”
– Meg Rosoff
“Craft means making choices. It’s part of the process.”
“Teletubbies, better than a valium.”
“There’s no such thing as writer’s block; you’re just editing too early.”
“When stealing from real life, there’s a process of subtraction.”
“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.”
– Megan McDonald reciting from famous E.B. White quote
“You never again love a book the way you do as a child.”
-Linda Sue Park
“I’ve always struggled with my own smallness.”
“Being an artist is the way you live your life.”
-Tomie de Paolo
“I was brave in my writing in a way that I wasn’t in my life.”
Yes! Judy freakin’ Blume! Her talk was the perfect way to end the conference, I have to say. I actually teared up just watching her cross the stage to the podium. LOVE HER!!! She’s so freakin’ adorable and moving and everything you imagine that you just want to hug her to pieces and then stuff the pieces into your mouth. Too weird? Sorry. But it’s Judy freakin’ Blume!
Snapping out of my fangirl fog, let’s get back to the quotes for just a second. See if you can guess how these fantastic little tidbits will play out as blog posts in the weeks ahead as I dole out the jewels of wisdom I received on my journey out west. Until then, I leave you with some vacation pics. Enjoy!
Today is my turn to post over on The Great Noveling Adventure. I share a list of five suggestions for How to Prevent Frostbite on Your Creativity during the longest month of winter, even though it has the shortest amount of days. Stop by if you’re in need of a spark in the creative department or share your own ideas if you have some. We’d all love to hear them.
As I gear up for the ultimate writing challenge next month, NaNoWriMo, not unlike a marathon runner prepping for that insanely long distance race, I find my brain filled with a haunting tune from the prolific rappers of the 80’s. Those poets in gold chains, sporting Adidas with style and grace.
Yes, Run DMC.
Photo Credit: from Wikipedia
♫♪This speech is my recital, I think it’s very vital
To rock a rhyme, that’s right on time
It’s tricky is the title, here we go
It’s tricky to rock a rhyme
To rock a rhyme that’s right on time
It’s tricky, it’s tricky, tricky tricky tricky ♪♫
Those of you who write in rhyme know that it can indeed be tricky to rock well.
I myself have never conquered NaNo. I’ve never reached the 50,000 word goal. I’ve never been focused enough. In the past, I’ve done more lip service to NaNo than actually participating and I’ve let anything bright and shiny distract me from reaching my goal.
But this year, I vow to make it all the way.
The number one thing I’m doing to make that happen is participating; making time to park my butt in the chair. That means I’ve had to clear my schedule ahead of time by preparing blog posts and arranging for childcare so I can attend write-ins.
Did you know that you can prepare blog posts ahead of time and schedule when they release? So convenient! How did I not know about this a year ago? (It pays to read all of the directions.) I’ve been prepping posts for the first half of the month to get me started on the right foot. I even have my premier post scheduled for The Great Noveling Adventure blog already in the queue, ready to go. Now I don’t have to sweat that. I can be nervous about something completely different.
Like what the heck I’m going to write about for 50,000 words.
I do have a beginning idea, but after that, who knows where this thing will go. Thankfully, if I get stumped, I can hit the NaNo Forums to find ideas for character names, adopt plot ideas, get help developing characters, etc. I’ve never really taken advantage of all NaNo has to offer.
I also plan on hitting a lot more of my local write-in events this year, including the kick-off event set for Halloween night. My costume? A dedicated freakin’ writer.
Another way I prepared for Nano was by organizing my workspace.
My office has slowly been creeping up on me, with ever growing towers of papers – notes from conferences, critiques of chapters, books on craft to read, etc. Things were getting way out of hand. And that was just on my side. My husband and I took about a week to tackle the clutter – midway through, I wasn’t sure we’d survive the disaster we’d created trying to organize our lives. Mass quantities of beer consumed settled my frayed nerves. Then an open space in the carpet appeared, the mountain of debris dissipated. My husband redesigned and built from scratch two fantastic desks that opened up the room and made me eager to get back to work. He more than earned his Xbox time at the end of each work day.
My husband’s side.
My desk is clutter-free and ready to see some serious action. My husband also helped me set up a studio microphone so I can pace around the office and do some hands-free writing to encourage me to write with less editing – which is what this NaNo exercise is really supposed to be about for me. I need more practice letting myself write that messy first draft without editing the crap out of it.
So how do you prepare for NaNo?
Are you participating?
If you are and you need another buddy, I’m litbeing. Add me and we’ll rock NaNo together.
And don’t forget, for all you picture book writers,you’re not off the hook! There’s a fabulous program for you during the month of November called PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) started by the lovely Tara Lazar. You should definitely check it out!
I may have lost some time from losing consciousness when coughing my brains out and then during the drug induced haze that followed, but I’m very much back in top form as we head toward the end of the month. I love it when a deadline approaches; it means it’s time to really get to work.
1. Participate, post, push, and praise much better this month, especially where #writemotivation is concerned. I did a fair job with this goal. I visited my #writemovitation friends’ blogs and hopped on Twitter from time to time, but there’s room for improvement, for sure.
2. Revise, revise, revise! I worked revising on my middle gradenovel this week and it is going very well. Some of the major changes I’ve had to make turned out great and actually increased the tension and added to the mystery element perfectly. I should have made those changes so much earlier.
Why are we so resistant to the changes that are the best for us? Hmmm.
For extra credit, I made some headway on critiquing my friend’s manuscript that I’ve put off forever. I hope to have that done by the end of the month, even though that wasn’t an official goal. It’s just way overdue.
3. Keep on freaking exercising. I actually picked this up again and did well this week. I’m feeling so much better as a result.
4. Read, read, read. I’m almost done with my second book for the week. Matt de la Peña’s Mexican WhiteBoy. It also fits into Banned Book Week as it was challenged by an Arizona school for its racial issues, which I find so ironic. This book is about struggling to find your way in the world when your biracial. I didn’t see it as racist in the least. It’s a very important book for a huge section of the population; kids who can identify with the main character and understand the struggle of straddling two worlds and know what it means to feel the guilt of striving for success, of trying for a better life while leaving your parents and relatives behind.It’s also about baseball. It’s a heavy book.
I had the pleasure of seeing Matt speak again this week here in Tulsa. One of the things I took away from this talk was how a single book can change a person’s life. He talked about how the right book at the right time can do that; change lives. For him, it was Alice Walker’sThe Color Purple. A professor at college gave it to him because she thought he would get something out of it. He did. It was the first time he really connected with the characters of a story. He thought his life, his childhood, had been awful. This story opened his eyes. This book changed his course and he became a writer.
Then, while he was in his MFA program, his dad was laid off from his job at the San Diego zoo, where he’d worked ever since dropping out of school when Matt was born. It was a devastating blow to his sense of identity and he was depressed for a long time. One day, when Matt was visiting, he asked what Matt was reading. It was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His dad asked him if he could read it. Matt had never seen his father read a book in his life, but he said of course. His dad read it and then asked for more books. Eventually, his dad started checking out his own books from the library, then secretly got his GED, went to college and is now a third grade teacher.
Wow. I love that story.
Books change lives. That’s why I’m a writer.
We’re taking a break from #writemotivation in October and will return in November, just in time for NaNoWriMo. I’ll probably have one more update for September. Meanwhile, some exciting things are coming up soon on the blog, so stay tuned!
And not just because he is ruggedly handsome. Or because he took the time to notice where I was from when I was in line to get my book signed and then asked me where exactly Broken Arrow was. He even talked to me about an upcoming author event he had scheduled in my area. Very nice.
And it wasn’t because he said it was great to meet me. See?
Or because he took the time to stand up to take a picture with me. Not many authors do that. So thoughtful.
Or because he gave me a copy of his short story, Passing Each Other in Halls, por nada. So awesome of him, wasn’t it?
Okay, okay. Ma-ybe he did that for all of his quasi-mental, yet adoring fans. Still, not all authors take this kind of time with their readers/stalkers/fans, believe me. Better than any fabulous swag I may have gained from the conference was the knowledge he imparted during his keynote speech and break out sessions. For that, I will be eternally grateful and a forever devoted stalker reader.
During his break out session on exercising patience, one of the first things he said was:
The first page is important but don’t mistake this for EVERYTHING has to happen on the first page.
You don’t have to cram all the major drama – the break up, the car crash, the gun shot – in that first page to make your story great and to keep readers interested. Allow your characters to tell the story; let it unfold naturally. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way and let your readers come to their own conclusions.
Which brings me to de la Peña’s next nugget of wisdom:
Not every reader has to get every thing.
He shared the opening pages from Denis Johnson‘s Tree of Smoke with us as an example of writing that allows the story to unfold without prejudice or narrator comment. The opening line is “Last night at 3:00am President Kennedy had been killed.” Within this passage, as the young soldier stalks through the jungle, there isa 2nd assassination with the death of a monkey, but the narrator doesn’t draw attention to it. If the reader gets the parallel, great. It adds another layer, a deeper connection to the story, but the reader doesn’t need to understand this connection to follow the plot.
De la Peña does the same with his own writing as well. In Ball Don’t Lie, a story about a foster kid who’s only constant in life is basketball, you don’t have to understand the game of basketball to appreciate it. In Mexican WhiteBoy, there are tons of Spanish passages that he doesn’t translate. You don’t have to know what’s being said to appreciate the story, but it enhances the experience. De la Peña says that when a kid who isn’t a big reader can translate a passage for a teacher who’s reading aloud to the class, he takes ownership of the story, which is what you want.
When reading a book, you are doing half the work; you take ownership of it. You picture the action in your mind.
I love that.
When de la Peña returned to the discussion of how we as writers can show patience in our work, he talked about his experience in his MFA program. At one point, he was trying to show off, be a real stylist by throwing everything he’d learned into his current writing project. His advisor told him the story was suffering because of it. She told him to slow the f*ck down.
Just slow down.
She was so right.
This advice has followed him throughout his career.
Sometimes the slow build is the best build.
When something big is about to happen in your story, slow that moment down. Car crashes, gun shots, even break ups can take seconds. You can slow it down in a book with many different strategies. Do you go with hypersensitivity? Backstory? Try different ways and see what works.
Sit there with the audience in the palm of your hand and make them suffer.
Ooh hoo hoo! Gives you chills doesn’t it? I’ve heard of hurting your characters, of torturing them until it hurts, but your reader? I’d never thought of their suffering while I write, have you?
But he does make an excellent point. Some of my favorite books have those delicious scenes that have kept me on that edge, prolonging the moment. It’s almost an agony, suffering the pain of the moment along with the character, but I find myself rereading these passages again and again, soaking up every bit, until I’m satisfied enough to move on.
If you are lucky enough to live in the Tulsa area, come see this dynamic author for yourself. Matt will be speaking on September 24th at the Martin Regional Library.
And not just because I get to run away every summer and play with my fellow writers in a celebration of children’s books. I don’t think I could make it through this grueling struggle towards publication without such a crazy-supportive community.
As Lin Oliver stated in her opening address of the SCBWI Summer conference, “Let’s admit that we’re all kind of weirdos”. That’s probably why I feel so at home when I’m there; the place is chock full of kindred spirits.
I always enjoy the parade of the faculty that follows her opening speech. This is when each speaker marches across the stage, introduces themselves and sums up life, the universe, and everything in one word. (Strangely, I have never heard someone use the word forty-two.) As usual, not all writers follow the rules.
Here are some of my favorites from this year:
David Weisner “Plastics”
Richard Peck “Surveillance”
Jay Asher “Subtlety”
Then Jay spoke for his writing partner who couldn’t attend the faculty parade: (in high-pitched voice)”Hi, I’m Carolyn Mackler and my word is Asparagus”.
Matt de la Peña “Honesty” and “Tequila” (I think the tequila helps with the honesty.)
Kristin Clark Venuti “Brain fart”
Ari Lewin “Bacon”
Laurie Halse Anderson made up a word, “Frenergy” which she described as frenzy and energy.
After wracking her brain all night trying to think of a word, Alyn Johnston was inspired by the talking elevator in the hotel : “L-lobby!” (Did I mention that the elevator has a very laid back Californian accent?)
After several other inspiring words, the conference got rolling with a great keynote from Laurie Halse Anderson that just made me love her forever. (Okay, I was already a fan of her work, but now it’s permanently carved into my heart: me + LHA = reader love forever and ever.)
I’ve felt an emotional disconnect with my writing lately. It’s all tied up in agent-submission fatigue and self-doubt. Anderson shot straight to the heart of that when she discussed her early writing struggles. At one point she said:
“Your fear is that you are a fraud with no talent.”
I wondered how she could see into my soul from eight rows back. I almost cried. She told us that there was a reason that we could hear dialogue and see in pictures. We have the gift of magic, of ‘Once upon a Time’.
“Books are proof humans can do magic.”
Amen! and Hell, yeah! I almost screamed out. She said that we are NOT like the other grownups; that we defend, protect, and celebrate childhood. We write books with integrity and honesty. In short, she said all of the things that recharged my writer’s heart and reminded me why I loved writing. She reminded me to forget about trends and to write what I love. It was the best way for me to start the conference – letting go of the negative crap and embracing the creative. Throughout the conference, this was the focus for me. I didn’t care this time about how to best market myself or which agents to pursue or what editors were wanting; I looked for things that inspired me.
I spent some quality time with my writing friends and sampled the local cuisine.
I checked out the art of a billion illustrators – not an original idea.
I may have even donned a costume and danced a bit.
I met some authors and took some awkward photos – they were all so generous with their time and kind words.
I may have gone overboard with the books.
(My bag weighed in at 49.5 lbs at the airport – score!)
I’ll be sharing posts in the weeks ahead about some great talks that helped me find the inspiration that made me excited about writing again. I hope you enjoy them.
As for my writing goals this month, I’ve toned them down a bit. Last month was a little crazy (which may have contributed to my negative state of mind).
1. Enjoy the SCBWI Summer Conference. DONE!!!
2. Revise, revise, revise. I have tons of critique notes from crit camp to review – not to mention my critique from the conference. I will be very busy with this.
3. Write, write, write. DITTO.
4. Read, read, read. I’ve indulged in this goal for the past few weeks and have read over six books already. More on that to come!
5. Keep that exercise routine going. Blech. Yes, I’m working on it. Stop nagging me.I’m just back from vacation, er, a business trip, whatever.
I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable summer and are rejuvenated from your various adventures. I know I am. Here’s to a productive and inspired fall!
Doing a favor for loved ones rarely puts one’s life in danger, but then it also rarely involves psychotic chickens.
Last week, the kids and I set off on a four hour road trip to house-sit for my folks deep in the Ozarks of rural Missouri and to experience what my dad kept calling an adventure (my first clue something would go terribly wrong).
I was greeted with a four page manifesto of chores – the bare minimum necessary to keep the place running smoothly. That’s okay, I thought, I wrote my folks something similar once when the hubs and I went on vacation many, many moons ago – a survival guide for babysitting the younglings, more than double the length of their instructions.
It’s all in the details.
I admit, I may have glazed over some of the details in that first reading due to road fatigue and children demands – What’s to eat? How do I work the TV? Why are there so many bugs here?
One of the details mentioned something about a rift in the chicken world with one particularly spiky chicken nicknamed “The Bitch” who had to be quarantined away from the younger chickens throughout the day so she didn’t terrorize them and peck them unmercifully. Good thing I didn’t have to start worrying about that just yet.
We started the next day with a brief introduction to the psychotic chickens. Entering the pen and throwing scratch on the ground. Don’t ask me what scratch is, I don’t know. I just measured it out of the bucket labeled “scratch” like the directions said and spread it around like I was told. I am not a country girl – as you may have guessed by now. The two oldest chickens met us near the gate to the pens, clucking in what sounded like a friendly manner. They went after that scratch the minute it hit the straw-covered ground. That gave us time to observe them and check out their surroundings – and most important of all, look for eggs. My folks had been gone a good twenty-four hours by then so we found a good haul. We made our slow departure, eggs in hand. I left the chicken compound thinking, hmm, maybe this chicken thing would be easy.
After that excitement, the daughter who has developed an extreme phobia to all flying insects, decided to stay inside while the boy and I enjoyed a beautiful walk along the countryside. I did remember the one detail in the instructions about bug spray; if you’re going to spend any amount of time outdoors, spray, spray, spray. Or you’ll get nasty chigger bites. Spray we did, then off we went to enjoy nature.
Trevor walking up ahead.
Wildflowers in the morning sun.
If only I hadn’t forgotten how steep and rocky the hills were on the return trip. Who needs an elliptical or treadmill? This hill was set to extreme cardio level 10!
By the time we’d walked a little over a mile, I was breathing so hard it hurt my chest and my calves were singing in pain. I thought I was going to die. And I hadn’t even begun the daily chores. Nice. When we climbed the final steep hill back up to the house, my son decided he’d had enough. Time to take a shower and call it a day. I tucked him in to his favorite spot with his favorite things and started a movie. He was back asleep before I went out the door. I envied him.
It wasn’t so much that the tasks were difficult – mostly there was a lot of watering garden areas and moving hoses around, carting water buckets to flowerbeds, that kind of thing. What killed me was climbing up and down to those rocky hills about thirty times to get it all done. I was a sweating, drooling, zombie-shuffling corpse (complete with incomprehensible moaning) by the end of the day.
And I haven’t even mentioned dealing with the chickens.
The instructions said around noon I’d have to corner The Bitch and pick her up – I was told not to worry because she was used to being picked up and this should be fairly easy to do (another warning sign that things would go terribly wrong). Once I had a firm hold of her I would then need to let the younger chickens out of the coop into the open area of the pen. After they were all out in the yard, I would gently secure The Bitch in the coop and lock her in for the remainder of the day after making sure there was plenty of food and water inside.
Let me just tell you that is not what happened on the first day. Or the second. Or the third. Not even on the fourth.
I brought my daughter along to help me corner said spiky/bitchy chicken. After a few minutes, it was clear she wouldn’t be fairly easy to pick up no matter how “used to it” she was. All of our chasing did manage to direct her into the small dog crate in the chicken yard – also used for chicken separation. Sweating and panting, we made sure she had food and water and locked her into solitary.
I was exhausted. And my chores were only half-done at this point.
For the rest of the day, there was just more water hauling, kid-wrangling, body-aching to contend with. The younger chickens actually put themselves to roost in the coop that night so locking them back in and releasing The Bitch, as we now affectionately referred to her, into the main pen was much easier than our noontime adventure. The only other notable event came when we were wrapping up our final evening chores. We had to bring in the leftover cat food for the outside cats so it wouldn’t attract raccoons. A little after dusk, I had my daughter shine the flashlight along the walkway while I retrieved the food. (Have I mentioned she’s also an arachnophobe?)
At the first sight of this…
…she screamed and the light went out.
I froze and asked her what happened.
“Spider!” she yelled and pointed at the harmless loping thing as it made its way across the deck.
“Turn the light back on,” I said. She did and then promptly screamed again.
There was another one, a little closer, but still just as harmless, moseying along. At this point, my light source companion bailed on me, not waiting to see what other horrors lurked in the darkness. She high-tailed it back into the house.
I sighed and wondered if she’d ever get over her irrational fear of all things creepy and crawly. There was just enough light that I could still make out fuzzy outlines of most things so I just soldiered on. I was almost at my destination; the end of the deck. I grabbed the food dish and then screamed even louder than my daughter. Inside the dish, coming towards my hand, was the largest daddy long legs I’d ever seen (trauma of the situation may have warped my recollection of events and size of said arachnid). I dropped the food dish with a mighty clatter and spilled out all of the remaining cat food. The raccoons fed well that night, I must tell you.
I bolted into the house even faster than my youngling and slammed the door. I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and the entire day. My daughter, once learning what I’d done, joined in laughing at me. This, of course woke up my son who just looked at the two of us like we were insane. At that moment, I’m pretty sure I was.
Day two was pretty much a repeat of day one, with the added bonus of pain. Copious amounts of pain from all the work I’d done the day before. I knew I wasn’t in great shape, but it wasn’t very nice of the Ozark Hills to advertise this fact so maliciously. Also, the chickens were much less cooperative.
The Bitch didn’t fall for the old, let’s go into the dog crate routine so easily this time. Instead, she hid underneath the back roosting nest after leading us on quite the aerobic chase around the pen. I finally had to go get a long stick to prod her (gently) to come out. Her response was to run around the back side of the coop where only a slimmer, younger chick could fit. Let’s just say she got herself stuck in an embarrassing position – literally stuck between the coop and the fencing.
That wasn’t in the manual.
I pulled the fencing out as far as I could to make it wider for her and she still remained stuck, flapping her little wings and running her legs in mid-air, like a chicken with her head cut…er,I mean, to no avail. I gave her a loving, gentle prodding with the stick (I swear, it was loving and gentle) and she finally came out. Still, it took another ten minutes to get That Bitch in the damned dog crate. Another day in the hole.
That night, way past their bed time, the younger chicks decided to test the new babysitters. They weren’t ready to go quietly into the coop. I reread the instructions and it said we were supposed to chase them in to the coop – and that they were used to this. (HA! And again I say, HA!) As this was night time, and I thought this was a quick chore, like it had been the night before, I did the unthinkable – I forgot to spray, spray spray before going out to do this simple task. It took at least fifteen minutes to corral all of those damned psychotic chickens into their coop. And don’t think I wasn’t a little bit tempted at my weakest moment to bring out The Bitch to finish the job and chase them into the coop for me.
The other chores went a little smoother, although I did drop the cat food dish, again – less to spill this time. I think it was just a little PTSD from the night before. Or maybe from my entire experience thus far.
One nice thing about this day…
…It ended with a bang!
And we only set one little small fire that was put out in a second. No problem.
(Did I mention that I woke up with the worst chigger bites all over my arms and legs?) Apparently, toothpaste works wonders for the itch when nothing else does, also you smell minty fresh. I thank my daughter for that home remedy she learned while watching some science program. You rock, even though you abandoned me in the dark. All is forgiven.
So what if the nice, relaxing country vacation where I could hang out with the kids and get some writing done didn’t happen exactly the way I thought it would. We eventually got into a better rhythm with the homestead and all of its creatures, even the psychotic chickens. By the fourth day, I woke up and didn’t feel crippling pain, just good, honest muscle ache – that I could work with. We all three had our stations in the chicken coop when it came time to put The Bitch in solitary and she went in with much less stress for all involved and in record time.
There were some really good moments, too. We made time to visit our favorite eating establishment there in Gainesville, Missouri. Antler Package & Pizza, otherwise referred to as The Antler, where they do indeed decorate with antlers and the heads that came with them.
Regardless of the décor, the food is to die for. Trevor devours the famous cheese pizza and my husband swears they have some of the best burgers around.
On the final day, once the sore muscles faded and the itching stopped, the chores were done, and there was time to just be, I had time to absorb my surroundings and this is where I was…
and I did find some inspiration. So in the end, even the psychotic chickens were worth it.