Tag Archives: Writing

Dogs, Cat, Book 1

Dogs, Cat, Book

Greetings from Boulder! After a couple of weeks housesitting outside of Taos, New Mexico, we are back housesitting in Colorado until next year. Haha! Can you believe 2024 is a little over a month away?! Seriously, though, we’re here through December.

There’s been a lot of new animals in my life these past several weeks.

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Friends, say hello to:

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Tobi, a sneaky German short-haired pointer with the snuggly heart of a little dog, and who nearly always has his emotional support stuffed animal with him.

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Gus, the ring-leader of the New Mexico pack, who zooms with style and gusto when we’re out on our walks.

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And Puddles, who may have some fluff for brains, but also wins over hearts with just one look.

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I’ve posted multiple times on this blog about my love for walking dogs (especially Annie and Dodger) in the woods. It turns out I also love walking dogs in the high desert of New Mexico. Few things in life have brought me as much joy as walking with Tobi, Gus, Puddles, and Heath on a one-mile stretch of dirt road that leads to a national forest. We walked together every day, and every day I felt connected to something greater than myself. Dogs really are magical that way.

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Although I was sad to leave our housesit in New Mexico behind, I wasn’t sad to leave New Mexico. It’s a beautiful state, and I saw shooting stars in light-pollution-free skies. But, it’s not a place I want to live.

Which brings us to Boulder ….

Friends, I would love to stay here for the foreseeable future! I’ve applied for so many jobs back in Connecticut, none of which have panned out, that I’m forced to conclude it’s not yet time for us to return there. Of course, I could get a job offer tomorrow and then we may be packing our bags and humming a different tune come January. Until that happens, Boulder is the place I (we) want to be. I have honestly never seen Heath happier anyplace than here.

Unfortunately, Boulder is absurdly expensive and has limited options for housing. We’re using this time housesitting to investigate whether we can realistically stay. For me, that means applying for jobs in the area. Monday I’m going to visit a few places in person to network and see if I can make some connections. I’ll also continue applying for remote jobs. So if you know anyone who needs a talented research psychologist with excellent communication and community engagement skills, feel free to send my information their way.

In the meantime, I’m savoring my time in Boulder. The house we’re staying in is at the base of the Flat Iron Mountains. We got a couple of inches of snow over the last few days and I’m filled with wonder and awe every time I look at them. To make my heart completely buoyant, I’m also walking one of the sweetest, lovey-dovey-est dogs I’ve ever known.

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Everyone, meet Foster:

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Foster is half couch potato/half love bug who enjoys walks as much as I do. I love taking him outside for our daily sojourns and we’ve become good friends.

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Foster also has a cat brother named, Joey.

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Joey is aloof most of the time until he absolutely wants your attention. Which, he then lets you know. He’s a champion mouser and very vocal about his trophies so I’m learning to deal with some circle of life stuff that I’d rather pretend doesn’t exist.

While in Boulder, I’m also sorting out what it means to be a self-published author. Yes, that’s right – I took the plunge and decided to self-publish an illustrated book about dogs (BIG surprise there) and the ridiculous ways we describe them.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know it’s my dream to be a traditionally published author. I’ve been working at it for seven years now and I reached the point where I wanted to see something published with my name on it.

So, I took this book of silly dog poetry I wrote nearly six years ago about doggolingo (the internet language invented to better describe our dogs), purchased some photos from Shutterstock, and hired a book designer that I connected with through Facebook. I’m thrilled with how the finished project turned out.

What’s not so thrilling is that the self-publishing landscape is not easy to figure out. For example, I don’t know why my book is available through the Barnes and Noble website (you can buy a copy HERE), but not Amazon. Lest I let perfection be the enemy of good, I’m simply embracing my I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing  ways and leaning into the discomfort.

At the very least, it’s a good (albeit expensive) learning experience.

Thank you to everyone who’s been reading this blog throughout the years. I’m grateful that you’ve been with me on this journey. Now, onward and upward. I’m excited to see what happens next.

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In Celebration of My Friends! 16

In Celebration of My Friends!

When Heath and I moved to Norfolk six-and-a-half years ago, I immediately looked to connect with local children’s book writers. I soon learned that Norfolk doesn’t always have a “local” option, and I ended up finding writers who belonged to a Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustators critique group that met at the Simsbury Library.

We read and constructively criticized each others’ work, attended conferences and retreats together, and supported each other through twists and turns on our respective paths to publication.

These last few weeks have brought some successes for my friends, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of them before we leave Norfolk in just six short weeks.

At the beginning of May, my friend Lynn celebrated the launch of her debut middle grade book, Chester and the Magic 8 Ball. I read chapters of Chester years ago. It’s about a toothless rescue dog who can predict the future with a Magic 8 ball.

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Author Lynn Katz

Of course, I loved the story and I never gave up that Chester would someday be published.

I’m not the only one who loved the story, as it got a starred Kirkus Review. Here’s a snippet from the review: An uplifting middle-grade story that meets sadness head-on and cuddles up to what’s important in life.

As a writer, a starred Kirkus Review is a big deal and I am so happy for Lynn.

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Left to Right: My handsome husband Heath, Me!, book coach Christy Yaros, Author Lynn Katz, Pam Kelly, Author Mary Munson, Rebecca Smith-Allen, and author Karin LeFranc.

This past Saturday, my friend Mary celebrated the launch of her debut picture book Love Will Turn You AroundThis bright and colorful story is about a heart who wakes up not feeling quite like himself. With the help of some well-meaning friends, all who are different shapes, Heart is able to turn himself right side up.

Mary’s book launch was a rousing success, complete with a rapt audience and lots of laughter and smiles.

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When Mary thanked me for coming (it was a 48-minute drive), I told her, Of course! You’re never going to be a debut author again. 

Six-and-a-half years ago, we were writers with dreams of being published as we sat in a conference room sharing our work and hoping that maybe this would be the manuscript that got us past the traditional publshing gate. Two of us have made it! Here’s to more successes and more books in our future!

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Left to Right: Author Lynn Katz (Chester and the Magic 8 Ball), Author Mary Munson (Love Will Turn You Around), Author Nancy Tandon (The Way I Say It; The Ghost of Spruce Point), and me!

 

Every 10 Years... 21

Every 10 Years…

A few weeks ago I attended a Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Conference in New York City.

I debated for weeks if I should go. The conference itself is expensive, especially if you schedule a professional critique (which I did). I’m also not a fan of NYC because I find the people, noise, pollution, and general BIG CITY ENERGY exhausting.

This would also be my first conference since before the pandemic. I haven’t used my brain in ways this conference would require FOR YEARS. There’s been no navigating a subway system or reading train tables or walking along city blocks. Any trips I have been on always included Heath, my best and favorite co-pilot.

Heath, however, needed to stay in Norfolk because we were taking care of Fergus for the month, so I was on my own.

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The conference itself took place at the Mid-town Hilton. I, however, opted to stay at my friend’s uninhabited apartment on the upper west side, which she so generously offered me. I celebrated my economical ways at the time of planning my conference trip, as well as my good fortune for having a friend with an apartment that overlooked Central Park.

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What I did not take into account was what it would be like to be at an all-day conference and not have a hotel room an elevator ride away in which I could take a nap. My friend’s apartment was two subway lines and approximately 30 minutes away.

So by the time I found myself in NYC for the conference, grumpiness had infiltrated every nook and cranny of my attitude. I did not want to be there. I did not want to be trapped in a windowless, below ground conference room for two days. I did not want to make small talk. I did not want to have to pay attention and focus on someone speaking for hours at a time.

Yet, I did anyway. I paid for the conference, and, by golly, I would participate.

By the time I got back to my friend’s apartment that Saturday night, I wanted Heath to come pick me up. Nothing about the experience was what I wanted, and I didn’t think it would get better.

Spoiler alert: I was right. About the conference.

But something unexpected did happen. That night in my friend’s apartment, I had an AMAZING night’s sleep. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling like a new person. There was no tiredness. No reluctance in getting up. No fractured sleep to weigh me down. No traumatic dreams to work through.

How did that happen? Not only was I in a bad mood, but the apartment was hot. I had forgotten my ear plugs. I ate deviled eggs I had bought at Whole Foods and gobbled a few up right before bed. Everything about my environment and my choices suggested a poor night’s sleep.

By Sunday night, I was back to truly awful sleep. Since then, I’ve had a few nights of okay sleep. But nothing like the magical 9+ hours I had in NYC.

Back in 2007 when the final installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, At World’s End, came out in theaters, I became incensed by the ending. I had invested four years in that story only for Keira Knightley’s character, Elizabeth Swann, to be separated from Orlando Bloom’s character, Will Turner, for the rest of her life. Oh, wait. No. He could visit her EVERY 10 YEARS.

That anger is how I feel about my sleep right now. Because the last time I had sleep equivalent to what I had in NYC was in October 2013 when I was dogsitting in Naperville, IL.

Have I been cursed to only get good sleep every 10 years?

I hope not. I can’t decide if my magical NYC sleep is a good thing or not. It’s awesome to know my body is capable of that kind of sleep. But for it to be so elusive, so unpredictable, and so unattainable on a regular basis is cruel.

I started having sleep trouble when I was three years old. Enough is enough, already.

Though I can’t help but wonder – what if living in NYC has been the answer all along for a good night’s sleep?

For someone who loves the woods, the mountains, and the rugged New England coast, that would be quite the kick in the pants. I don’t think we’re going to up and move to NYC any time soon. But it will be interesting to see if I can figure out what made that night so special.

If you have any hypotheses, please let me know!

Help! I’ve Been Lassoed.

There’s a new man in my life and his name is Ted Lasso.

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I’m pretty sure Heath approves because he’s the one who introduced us.

I had heard of Ted Lasso before. Headlines, especially during awards seasons, gave me some indication he might be worth getting to know. But I have enough going in my life, thank you very much.

Then on Monday, May 2, Heath put on Episode 1, Season 1 for me. He left for Planet Fitness. By the time he returned, I was done with episode 3. By Friday we were on Episode 7, Season 2.  That’s approximately 500 minutes of television watching in four days. I say approximately because episodes are between 29 and 45 minutes.

Did I know at the start of last week I would be losing over 8 hours to Ted Lasso in 4 days?

No, I did not.

Do I regret what happened?

No.

But, also yes.

I’ll start with no.

This show is outstanding storytelling. From the first episode, a viewer understands the stakes – underdog coach set up for failure. Because Ted Lasso is so dang lovable, you can’t help but root for him.

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He’s also surrounded by a cast of characters that you either love or love to hate! They’re hilarious, infuriating, pathetic, and diabolical. Yet, they’re also complete characters with their own back stories that fully integrate into the world of Ted Lasso in compelling and nuanced ways.

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After we finish season 2 and I have no choice but to wait for season 3, I want to go back and watch some of the first episodes with a writer’s eye and mind to see if I can pinpoint the who/what/when/where/how/why this show hooks viewers from the get go and wins awards. In 2021, Ted Lasso was nominated for 20 Emmys and won 7.

Here’s the problem though: 8 hours of television over 4 days is too much for me. I am a person who values rest. I like long stretches of time where I simply exist, looking out a window or lounging on a couch with only my thoughts for company. I enjoy reading books and journaling. I have writing that needs revision and unpacking that needs to be done now that I’m back at my regular housesitting house.

None of that happened last week. By Saturday, I felt so off and unfocused that I had no choice but to stop everything and go back to bed for a few hours in the afternoon to simply rest. I should know better by now.

Hats off to you, Ted Lasso. You managed to crack my carefully cultivated sense of mindfulness and well-being. It’s always a good day when I realize I’m not quite there yet.

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P.S. – Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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Farm Fun and Writing! 30

Farm Fun and Writing!

I recently found myself in the company of my friend, two goats, and a pig.

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It’s a good place to be because I enjoy my friend’s company, Frankie and Sheldon are hilarious and adorable, and Abe R. Ham adds a certain level of drama to every situation.

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I don’t know if all pigs are dramatic or just Hammy. Regardless, he been an excellent muse as I put the finishing touches on another middle grade manuscript that I will soon be querying. Yes, it involves a pig but that’s all I’m going to say about the story.

This manuscript makes ten total (not counting picture books), or over half a million words written in my quest to be a traditionally published author. I remember when I was a child with a notebook in my bedroom and I couldn’t get past the title and the name of the main character. How do writers do this? I wondered.

As I was writing the preceding paragraph, I couldn’t remember if it was nine or ten books that I’ve written and I had to make a list to count. So now I’m laughing because look at how far I’ve come!

Me!

Kelly!

I have written ten whole books in the last six years. For the record, only four of these manuscripts are high enough quality at the moment that I could actually send them out to agents to consider.

But, still. I had a dream to be a writer and here I am six years later and that’s exactly what I’m doing. When I decided I wanted to be a writer I had ZERO books. Now I have TEN. It really is something to wake up one day and realize that you are smack dab in the middle of your dream.

I have no intention of stopping. I write because I love it! I love creating new worlds in which anything is possible. Talking dogs — yes! Dramatic pigs — of course! Magic? You bet. Happily ever after? All. Day. Long.

Now I just wait for luck and circumstance to be in my favor. In the meantime, I keep writing.

I also keep getting out there and living life to the best of my ability. Yes, I’m looking at both of you, pandemic and narcolepsy.

Because how can you look at this photogenic pig and not think he doesn’t have a story to tell?

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Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2022 edition 34

Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2022 edition

A few weeks ago, I led a TED Talks discussion group using Candy Chang’s talk, Before I die, I want to…. You can watch the TED Talk here.

Two of my discussion questions were:

  1. How would you fill in the blank — Before I die I want to __________?
  2. How would your answer change if you knew you only had one year left to live? What about one week? One day?

A lively discussion ensued. One gem of wisdom shared by a participant was that a year was a luxurious amount of time. How grand to know you have a full year ahead of you!

Juxtapose that idea with the basic premise of Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, whereby the average human lifespan is only four thousand weeks. Four thousand does not seem nearly enough.

Since the reality is we really don’t know how much time we have left, I take time every year to reflect on my own death. This practice helps me ensure that no matter what happens, I know what’s important to me, which in turn, helps me make decisions in both the short- and long-term for living my best life. Previous death meditations inspired me to quit my tenured position as an associate professor of psychology, to volunteer for seven weeks at a science center in sub-Arctic Canada so I could see polar bears in the wild, and to recognize that my perfect day includes time for rest, self-care, being with loved ones (and a dog), some play, and some productivity.

This year, I reflected on my death while at a winter solstice sunset meditation program at Naumkeag. Naumkeag is a beautiful house in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, set on a rolling hill with the Berkshire Mountains as its backdrop.

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Picture taken on Autumn Equinox in 2021.

Having been there before, I knew Naumkeag is a magical place. What made the night even more magical is the house and grounds glowed with thousands of colorful lights as part of their winter lights festival. I could not have asked for a more perfect place to reflect on my past year and find inspiration for living my best life in 2022.

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2021 was a hard year for me. The grief of losing family, friends, and dogs in 2020 carried over, as did the uncertainty of the pandemic. Add to that a terrorist attack on the US capital in January, a constantly mutating virus because not enough people are vaccinated, and a debilitating sleep disorder that has been getting progressively worse for years, which, in my opinion was so stressful it reactivated a shingles infection in my body in August, and I’ve got a year that really sucked at times.

And yet, because I’ve taken time in the past to consider my time and mortality, I also experienced a pretty wonderful 2021. I have never been more in love with Heath than I am today.

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He is an amazing teammate, best friend, and husband. A lot of times when I panic that I’m 44 and if I live to the same age as my dad then I only have 30 years left, the panic is because I feel like that is not enough time to love Heath. Since there is literally NOTHING I can do about my eventual death, my way forward is clear: just love Heath to the best of my ability each and every day.

Last year, I also had a dog fall asleep on my head! Best. Day. Ever.

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In those moments, as Fergus snoozed away, I thought I might explode with joy. I also thought I might never be able to move again, because I couldn’t bear to wake the little guy up.

Knowing how dogs have a special place in my heart, I mostly kept up with my twice weekly walks with Annie. Even in my darkest days of sleep and health challenges, being with Annie in the woods was a wonderful tonic which helped me keep going.

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2021 is also the year that I learned how to write a novel on my phone. In my work at the Norfolk Library, I led a program on habit formation using James Clear’s Atomic Habits book. From his insights and practices, I finally let go of wanting to be a person with a habit of jumping out of the bed first thing in the morning. That kind of habit is impossible for me when I feel severely sleep deprived and depressed due to narcolepsy. Instead I used the techniques and information to develop a habit of writing on my phone, which makes a lot of sense considering how often I use my phone and how my phone is almost always within arm’s reach. Six months and over 37,000 words later, I now have the first draft of a middle grade novel that is just waiting for revision.

I also spent a lot of time querying agents in 2021. I received several requests for full manuscripts or more work. Although I was not offered representation, I did receive personalized rejections, some with encouragement to keep going. It’s not what I hoped for, but I’m certainly not giving up now.

In reflecting on 2021, one area of my life other than sleep also seemed out of balance: my work life. When I quit teaching in 2016, I never wanted to work full-time again. The hours and stress of working full-time did not seem possible while also trying to prioritize my sleep health.

In the beginning of 2020, I worked 12 hours at the Norfolk library and 10 hours for the Congregational Church. That combination seemed perfect for my personal and professional goals. By the end of 2020, I was working 35 hours a week — 25 for the library and 10 for the church. I needed to work 25 hours at the library so that after 1 year at those hours, I would be eligible for health insurance. During 2020, our market place health insurance monthly premium went from $60 a month with state assistance to $1,069 a month with no assistance.

Perhaps if I didn’t experience downward-spiraling narcolepsy symptoms in 2021, I may have been able to sustain a 35 hour a week work schedule. Unfortunately, my sleep health was so poor in 2021 that I knew I couldn’t continue working this way. I made the difficult decision to resign from my position at the church. I will still volunteer for various church initiatives, since they have such a wonderful presence in Norfolk and beyond. But I now have the discretion to say no when I am simply too tired.

Which brings me to 2022 — How do I want to live differently, if I knew 2022 would be my last year?

The answer to that question came almost immediately while I was at Naumkeag. On that cold dark Night, we were led through a rainbow tunnel of lights.

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During that walk the words colorful creativity popped into my head. I knew the instant I heard myself say those words that my creativity is missing an important component.  So much of my creativity goes to writing: I write for my job at the library; I write for the Norfolk Now monthly newspaper; I wrote for the church.  I also write in my free time in hopes of being a traditionally published author someday.

What I don’t do is use my creativity simply for fun. I don’t create for play. I don’t create simply to create. There is always a purpose. That stops in 2022.

This year, my year of colorful creativity, I will prioritize using color in creative ways. I never have considered myself a visually artistic person. I think that’s an important point. I am choosing to spend some of my time on artistic endeavors that have no higher goal, other than to simply create something colorful.

I find this idea both exciting and terrifying. I feel excited because it’s something new and different. It’s terrifying for a few reasons. One, I still think of myself as a minimalist and I’ve already bought some art supplies which creates cognitive dissonance with my minimalistic values. So that’s something I’m reconciling as I go down my colorful creativity path. Two, I know how precious time is. It’s terrifying to give up some of my writing time or otherwise free time to play. I don’t have to worry about giving up time with Heath because we know have art dates every Monday.

We’ll see how it goes. I decided to get a head start on my year of colorful creativity and made before the official start of 2022.

Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2022 edition 42I call it Polar Nights. Here’s to more colorful creativity in 2022!

Thanksgiving 2021 43

Thanksgiving 2021

I’m glad it’s Thanksgiving this week, because it gives me a ready-made topic to write about: Top 10 Things I’m Grateful for This Year.

  1. My husband, Heath. This year has been another challenging one, particularly with sleep issues. Heath is a constant source of unconditional love and support. The last time I struggled this much with my sleep, I was single. I eventually improved, so I know I have it in me to stay the course with my health as a single person. But I’m incredibly grateful I don’t have to.
  2. DOGS! Speaking of unconditional love and support, dogs are also up there at the top of my list. Dogs bring me such joy! I can’t imagine my life without them. This point leads me to …
  3. The people who let me love their dogs. This will be my first full year since 2013 that I did not live with one or more dogs. It’s been an adjustment to say the least, and I still find myself tearing up every now and again when I think of my furry friends I’ve lost along the way. So an extra special thank you to those people who ask me to take care of their dogs and love them like they’re my own.
  4. My mom. She is one of the most generous people I know. The only way my mom could get even better is if she got a dog.
  5. My best friend, Arlene. I met Arlene while on sabbatical in Chapel Hill, NC, in 2014. Arlene is almost 40 years older than me, and that doesn’t matter in the slightest. We understand each other, and every Thursday I call her. Sometimes we don’t chat, and I just leave a message. But we always know to expect a phone call on Thursdays at 11:30am.
  6. My BFF Michelle. Michelle and I have been friends for maybe 17 years now. We can’t really nail down the date of when we went from being grad school acquaintances to good friends. The pandemic, however, changed everything. We experienced a Frien-essance (the friend version of a Renaissance) this year through Zoom and that’s one of my silver linings of the pandemic. Also shoutout to Beth, who often joins us on our Zooms. I’m grateful my friendship with her has gotten deeper this year, too.
  7. My TPEP friends. These are the friends I made when working for the Tobacco, Prevention, and Evaluation Program way back in the mid 00s when I worked in the Department of Family Medicine, UNC School of Medicine as a research assistant. I doubt I will ever have such a dynamic and fun group of friends at work. We stay in touch a few times a year and I love them all SO MUCH!
  8. My imagination and creativity. These are my two greatest natural gifts. Because of my imagination and creativity, I am never at a loss when writing a story. In fact, I often have too many stories to write, and then have to choose which ones to write and which ones to let go. As a first world problem, I’ll take it!
  9. My mentors. There are some people in this world, such as Dr. Al Forsyth and his wife Peggy, and Dr. Adam O. Goldstein, who believe in me no matter. They’ve each contributed their own way to the person I am today.
  10. My improving sleep. Friends, I am cautiously optimistic in telling you that my narcolepsy medicine is working. I am no longer waking up every morning experiencing post-traumatic stress from my dreams. I no longer need a nap at 8:30am and again at 4:00pm. I am not heading straight to the couch after I wake up. I feel so different these mornings as of late, that sometimes I don’t even know what to do with myself.

As I was writing this list, I realized that Top 10 is too limiting. I immediately wanted to make it a Top 20, then Top 50. For brevity’s sake, I’ll stop here. Kinda. Because now I’m going to give a few honorable mentions: My niece, who is brilliant and creative, my writing group, who is AWESOME, the Norfolk Library, who provides AMAZING health insurance even though I only work part-time, my productivity club, where we provide unconditional support to each other, Ruth, who reads my blog regularly and is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, Dottie, who gives the best hugs in Norfolk, and Jeannine and Jeff, who continue to make me laugh.

There are so many more people and things I could list. I’m really going to stop now. At least for now.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Spring Has Sprung! 45

Spring Has Sprung!

Hello Spring! Now that we’re officially one full week into spring, I’m starting to see some signs of change throughout Norfolk.

First and foremost, bulbs are starting to bloom! Here’s the first little one I saw last Tuesday when I went to take Annie for a walk.

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Speaking of Annie, there is a direct, positive relationship between number of spring days elapsed and how muddy Annie gets on her walks. Here in Norfolk, spring is often referred to as mud season. These photos of Annie from our walk last week are perfect examples of why.

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I’m also feeling a sense of optimism and hope now that the days are longer and there’s more sunshine. I’m still grappling with the aftereffects of the time change, but it’s much easier to get out of bed in the morning when the sun is close to first light.

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Even with all my struggles as of late with narcolepsy, I’m delighted to report that I *finally* finished a writing project yesterday I started in November! I say *finally* because I thought I would have it finished by January. That thinking was ridiculously optimistic, considering my sleep challenges, and essentially working full-time again. Nevertheless, I am now the proud writer of the first draft of an adult fantasy novel. It’s for adults who miss the whimsical world of Harry Potter but want more romance and comedy in our fantasy stories.

I still can’t believe I wrote a manuscript that is over 96,000 words. I first started this manuscript back in July of 2016. Heath had given me a writing prompt of the word box. I then remembered one of my colleagues at Benedictine University telling me she thought there was a portal to another dimension in her apartment because her cat kept disappearing. I put those two ideas together and started writing. About 35,000 words and several weeks later, I stopped writing. I felt frustrated at how long the writing was taking, and I felt scared that I would never be able to finish a story of that nature because even at that time I knew it would be somewhere around 90,000-100,000 words.

So, I put the manuscript aside and started working on other projects. I have since written 8 books (!!!), the longest of which is 56,000 words (which, fyi, is a relatively low word count for adult books, but more on target for middle grade and young adult, which I was mostly writing). I guess that’s what I needed to do because I finally felt like I could re-commit to this project. Plus, Heath kept asking me to finish writing it because he loved the idea and some early pages I had shown him.

I re-started the project on November 1, 2020, with the kick off of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In NaNoWriMo, you’re considered a “winner” if you write 50,000 words in 30 days. I decided to start my story from scratch, but because I already knew these characters, and where the story was going, it was relatively easy for me to get those first 50,000 words. The only day I missed writing in November was the day Faith died.

After 30 days of writing sprints, my stamina petered out a bit. I made it a goal to write at least 100 words every day, just to keep momentum going. Even though 100 words a day isn’t a lot when you’re aiming for 90,000 words, it at least kept me moving forward. And, on most days, I ended up writing a lot more than 100.

Some days, I didn’t think I’d ever make it to the finish line. But on March 27, 2021, I typed the words The End and closed my computer.

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I did a victory dance around the living room, messaged Heath, and then life very quickly went back to okay, what do I do now?

At that point, it was close to bedtime so that’s what I did. For the next two weeks, I’m taking a break from writing. This blog post will be the last thing I write until April 11th. I’m kind of excited. I’ve never consciously chosen to take a break from writing like this, and I’m both terrified and relieved to give myself that kind of time.

Enjoy these early days of spring! And to those who celebrate – Have a happy Easter next week! See you in two weeks.

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View from the walkway outside the Norfolk Library

A Bold Prediction for 2020

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Less than two weeks into 2020, I am ready to make a bold prediction:

I, Cosmo, will be my favorite book of the year.

One look at this cover gives you a hint why.

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Okay, probably not what you were thinking in terms of bold. Except I have made it a goal to read 104 books (including picture books) so I think this is really saying something about how much I love this book.

I came across I, Cosmo, while reading Kirkus Reviews as part of my job at the library. Yes, you read that correctly: I get paid to read book reviews and then I make recommendations for which ones the library should buy.

For the purposes of my library job, I mostly stick with the adult books for recommendations since we have a children’s librarian. But when I saw the cover of I, Cosmo, I thought I’ll just take a look at this review. Here’s the first sentence: “Cosmo has the soul of a dancer.”

A story about a golden retriever with the soul of a dancer? Say no more. I already know I’m going to love this book. It’s not like I don’t already know and love two goldens in my life.

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Phyllos!

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Annie!

I bought the book the day it released on Christmas Eve at Oblong Books in Millerton, NY (the closest indie book store to Norfolk).

I, Cosmo, didn’t disappoint. Cosmo learns he has the soul of a dancer because his family leaves the TV on for him during the day and, one day, he watches the movie Grease.

This book is everything I want my writing to be. Funny, imaginative, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Carlie Sorosiak, really gets dogs and her descriptions of how Cosmo comes to make his decisions, like eating a sheepdog ornament on the Christmas tree, or inviting a stray cat into the house, seem so plausible, I’m now looking at Smudge and Faith with a renewed sense of understanding.

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Smudge!

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Faith!

I recommend this book to anyone who loves dogs. If any of you do decide to read, let me know! I would love someone with whom I could laugh about it.

Link

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Happy Birthday to my blog! And Happy 42nd Birthday to me!

It feels like I just wrote my second blog birthday post a few days ago. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, sure is on to something when she says, “The days are long but the years are short.”

So what have I learned this past year? Most importantly, I learned how to reincarnate.

This year, I died a metaphorical death on my Mount Everest (i.e., publishing). Nobody is more surprised about this turn of events than me. It all started back in December when I did my most recent death meditation.

During that time, I realized I was letting fear keep me from going all in with my writing.

I then decided 2019 would be my year of discipline and I would put everything I had into getting published.

So far, I’ve written a lot of new material and I’ve now submitted my manuscripts to more agents than ever before. I’ve had some requests for more material and although I receive plenty of form rejections, I’ve also gotten some really nice personalized ones. All good signs on the path to publication.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: I lost my joy for writing somewhere along the way. Talk about a kick in the pants!

Of course, there are ripple effects when you lose something you value. My sense of wonder and awe in the little things all but disappeared. My curiosity decreased. So did my sense of adventure.

I didn’t even have the heart to write on this blog for the last few months, despite some truly wonderful happenings in my life.

Since January, I have now had eight articles published in a local newspaper. Bonus: I get paid to write these!

In May, I spent time in San Antonio and Austin, celebrating graduation milestones for my nephew and niece.

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In June, an actual dream of mine came true when Norfstroms, Norfolk’s first and only salvage shed opened at the town transfer station. We had a salvage shed where I lived in North Carolina and I’ve missed having one here in town. I’ve been working with a local grassroots organization called Norfolk NET (Networking Everyone Together) and town hall to get one here. And it actually happened! You can read about it here and here.

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Also in June, I was invited to speak at the Norfolk UCC Congregational Church during the pastor’s sabbatical.

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As I texted Heath that morning:

 

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You can listen to the sermon here. At the age of 42, I can say with certainty that experience was one of the greatest moments in my life.

And in a few weeks, I’ll be starting a part-time job at that same church as the director of community and creativity. This is a new position designed to increase the flow of God’s love in this world through good works and relationship building. What a gift and, again — I’m going to get paid to do it!

And speaking of getting paid for fun things, I have another opportunity in the works that I can’t speak about yet. But it involves working part-time at another one of my favorite places in the world!.

Then there are the little moments these past few months: so many dogs to love and each and every moment with Heath.

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Cutie Pie Faith

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Smudge

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Chloe

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Dodger and Annie

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Labrador with guitar

Smudge “helping” Heath practice the guitar

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All this joy, and, yet…I let the cloud of being so hyper-focused on my publishing goal touch everything that I forgot to enjoy myself along the way. As I learned in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, this is how people actually die on Mount Everest. They get so focused on getting to the top, they lose sight of everything else. This includes how they’re going to get back down.

The funny part is, I realized I lost my joy for writing when I couldn’t write for a few weeks.

I’m currently spending the month of July in Birdsboro, PA, taking care of the ever entertaining and adorable Bonnie and Jasper.

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While housesitting here, I don’t have a car. Which has been mostly fine. Until my Microsoft Surface crashed.

It’s been two weeks. At first, I tried writing using apps on my phone. This is okay for jotting ideas down and short pieces, but incredibly frustrating for anything longer that requires formatting. Case in point: this blog post has now taken me over three hours to write, format, and publish. It’s for this reason, I included so few dog photos above.

I also tried writing by hand. But as someone who wrote an entire novel with a pen on yellow legal pads and has yet to type that novel up two years later, I know the futility of this practice.

So I filled my time other ways. Every day, I dance for fun and exercise, especially since it’s too hot to walk outside for very long. I stamp and watercolor, making cards and art. I watch YouTube videos to learn how to draw dogs.

My work may not be a masterpiece in the traditional sense, but I DID THIS!!

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It’s good to have the joy back in my life. I didn’t realize how hard life has been without it. And I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present!