Monthly Archives: April 2017

Memoir Monday, April 17th, 2017


After a very long winter with several snow storms and many, cold, dark, cloudy days, I’m feeling more confident that spring has finally sprung in Connecticut. I say this because we’ve had several days in a row of abundant sunshine,

Tobey in Sun 2

the snow has melted,

Faith in the dirt

SMudge Fishing

and I’ve started seeing spring bulbs pop up here and there around town.

Purple flowers

I have, however, been cautioned not to put the snow shovel away because that will jinx the weather and then we’ll most assuredly have snow one more time.

The timing of our spring resurgence here is coincidental with the celebration of Easter this year. My husband and I had a lovely Easter celebration yesterday with attending church, eating a delicious lunch of lamb with mint jelly and spice cake for dessert, and visiting a local farm where I got to bottle feed baby goats (best Easter activity EVER!).

Goats Copyright

But now that Easter has come and gone, that means Lent is over and I can go back to Facebook (which I gave up for Lent). Yay! I think.

One of the things I’ve missed the most about being on Facebook is knowing what’s going on with a lot of friends, particularly the ones that I don’t see on a regular basis. I miss reading about what’s happening in their lives and the adventures they’re taking.

I also miss the birthday reminders and without being on Facebook these past few weeks, I completely forgot to send out some birthday greetings.

Here’s what I don’t miss about Facebook at all: how much of my time it sucks up. Since I posted last week about my obsessive email checking, I have gotten somewhat better with it and several hours will go by where I consciously chose not to check my email because I don’t want to distract myself from the work I’m doing.

One of my worries with going back to Facebook is that this will be my go-to time waster when I’m feeling tired and don’t want to work on one of the activities that align with my goals of being a published writer.  These goals currently include reading middle grade fiction, reading Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Want to Write Them, listening to The Great Courses – Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques by Professor James Hynes (I’m up to chapter 5 and thoroughly enjoying), plotting the sequel to the middle grade book I finished writing several weeks ago, and working on a book of writing prompts that I plan to offer for free in the near future as a way to build my email list for when I eventually get published (apparently having an email list is a good way to build an audience).

My professional goals are important to me and then there are my personal goals, of equal, if not more importance: eating healthy (epic fails as of late due to Dairy Queen Blizzards, burgers and fries from Wood Creek Bar and Grill, and Dee’s One Smart Cookie sandwich cookies), meditating (doing good with this one thanks to my Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey meditation app), exercising for 20 minutes a day (also doing good with this one and I only missed a few days in the past 2 months), and being a good partner to my husband (although I think I’m doing quite well here, my husband has yet to give me a serious answer).

You’d think it’d be easy, then, to limit the activities that take me away from my goals such as procrastinating on social media and/or checking my email. The thing is,

goals require hard work and dedication, and that’s, well, hard,

especially when a lot of my goal-related activities don’t result in immediate rewards.

It’s so much easier to like my friends’ posts, add a comment or two, and feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. And maybe it is worthwhile to socially engage with my friends this way to let them know I’m interested in their lives and care about them. Some of them I haven’t seen for months and I be seeing them again for equally long times.

I suppose what it all comes down to is balance. Balance is something I struggle with day in and day out, although staying on track has gotten a little easier as I refine what’s most important to me in my life. I know where and how I want to spend my time and at the very least I am becoming more mindful of my choices.

I think this awareness is why I’m so eager for spring this year. Spring (and Easter for that matter) is a time of renewal and rebirth. This season makes me excited that no matter how unbalanced I let my life get this past winter (or in previous seasons), there is now a new opportunity to start over. I can reaffirm my choices to stay balanced and stay focused on my goals as much as possible.

With every new flower I see blooming or bird chirping I can be reminded to do my best. Even better, I can be inspired by the beauty around me to inform my writing and make conscious choices of how I spend my time. Nature is, after all, the ultimate testament to the success of balance. Now it’s just up to me. As always, I remain ever optimistic. Thanks for your support 🙂

Memoir Monday, April 10th, 2017

Time to Wait Title

One of the biggest problems I have with writing is the waiting. Time moves so much more slowly in the publishing world than elsewhere. Examples – agents may take 6 weeks to one year to respond to a query letter; from signed contract to publication can take three years (this is especially true for picture books with illustrations).

Of course, there are always a few outliers – the rare agent or publisher who responds within 24 hours to kindly reject my work – and then there are those who never respond (also a typical practice in publishing) and you’re left in limbo wondering if you should follow-up or let it go.

To add to the tension of this waiting game I’m now playing, I recently attended a conference where I had six 1-1 sessions with different agents and editors. One editor requested the entire manuscript of my Top Dog of K-9 Academy middle grade book (did I mention I finished my second book – only took three months to write the 37,000 words of which I attribute a large part of my success to the outlining method from Libbie Hawker’s wonderful book Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing) and another editor was so enthusiastic, she gave me a list of agents to contact and she said I could use her name (too bad this editor works at a press that doesn’t acquire middle-grade fiction).

As a result, I’ve been checking my inbox at a more than neurotic rate. I haven’t formally documented what that amounts to on a daily basis, but between when I woke up at 5:30am (the first time, that is, then I fell back asleep only to have an incredibly vivid dream about a jaguar breaking into the house and fighting it off to protect the dogs), got out of bed at 6:30am, and began writing this at 11:30am, I have now checked my email nine times in six hours (and for 1.5 of those hours I attended my creative writing group where I did not want to be rude and look at my phone).


Checking so much is not an efficient use of my time. Mounds of research suggests checking email like this severely impacts productivity. I already know this, yet I do it anyway.

So the question I’m now asking myself is why do I feel such a strong compulsion that I can’t seem to stop it?

Coincidentally, a possible answer came to me just a little bit ago when I took a break from writing this post to exercise (my latest goal is just 20 minutes a day of strength-training exercises; I’ll add in cardio when the weather gets warmer) and I started listening to The Great Courses – Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques by Professor James Hynes.

I’m a big fan of The Great Courses and for those of you interested in learning about the publishing industry, I can’t recommend Jane Friedman’s How to Publish Your Book enough, which I have fully listened to twice now. I’ll let you know about Writing Great Fiction when I finish all twenty-four chapters.

Anyway, here’s what Professor Hynes said in chapter 1 – Starting the Writing Process:

Few things make a writer more anxious than facing a blank page. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner starting your first story ever or if you’re a battle-scarred professional with many publications behind you. Having to fill that blank space with words is almost always a very intimidating prospect. Like any worker faced with a difficult task, a writer can find all sorts of ways to allay that anxiety. These include petty rituals of procrastination, like, say, alphabetizing your bookshelf, experimenting with different fonts on your computer, or sharpening all your pencils to just the right length. Some writers go further, indulging in such self-destructive practices as using alcohol or drugs to numb their anxiety. And ever since the advent of the internet, there’s been a vast middle-ground between these two extremes now that a writer is able to kill almost all his writing time by checking his email, making wise cracks on twitter, or watching adorable kittens on YouTube and calling it research.

Well, duh. I can’t believe I didn’t see this. Now that I’ve finished my book, it’s time to start another one. And what better way to put that off then suddenly being offered a representation/publishing contract where I can then turn my attention and energy to something I’ve already done? Wouldn’t that be the easy way out! I wouldn’t have to think of an entirely new plot, then write it, then edit it and re-write again. I don’t have to contemplate disappointment and failure in my writing process and I can remain blissfully a person who successfully started and finished two books.

Except I don’t want to be a person who just wrote two books. I want to be a prolific writer, writing across different genres and getting successfully published in a variety of different ways.

So I guess it’s time curb my anxiety the best I can and come up with different, more productive ways (other than checking my email) to alleviate it. There’s the obvious of actually starting my next book and yesterday I did start the outline. I’ve also come up with creating new content for my blog, visualizing how I want to brand myself as an author, and always keeping a book with me, so if I start to feel compelled to check my email again I can read a few paragraphs (one of the single best ways to improve your own writing is to read others).

I’m optimistic these strategies can work and I’m open to suggestions for other ways I can re-direct my anxiety in a more productive way. Any ideas?