writing

poor neglected blog.

Grounds of Dalvey House

It’s been a long time. I keep doing this. Sorry. The good thing is that I don’t have a huge following knocking down my door demanding updates. The bad thing is that I don’t have a huge following knocking down my door demanding updates.

Yet. *evil grin*

Anyway. You know me. Bullet points and gumdrops, so here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to since that amazing time in New York City where I got to talk to Theo James and he talked back to me for 45 seconds.

· planned my 2016 Disney trip! I’m going with my mom, Aidan, my aunt Geneva, and my cousins Janae and Terri. Janae, Terri, and Geneva have not been and Janae (who just became the first person in our family to get a Master’s degree) is beside herself. My mom is super excited to ride Soarin’ again (even though it’s all new), and Aidan and I are excited in general because it’s DISNEY WORLD.

· worked on novel revisions, and got amazing feedback from a few industry professionals. Just waiting on one final sign off before I take next steps. Eeeek!

· started watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix and fell in love with the first season. Having a harder time with Season 2, with this Frankenstein stuff. I want fairy tales, not sci-fi, so we’ll see where it goes. My favorite characters are Regina and Rumple. LOVE them. Especially Regina. Everything about her. The way she speaks and carries herself. Her style, with the black and white crisp suits. Her makeup and hair. Her decor. I live for her episodes.

· which leads me to this point: I think I’m starting to like villains better than the people I’m supposed to be rooting for? I popped in a DVD of the show Popular the other night and was fangirling like crazy over Nicole, when I used to be obsessed with Sam. What is this madness? Truly, I always thought the people who rooted for villains were just doing it to be subversive, but I don’t know. There’s something appealing about the bad guys and their complexities. It started with Snape, then the movie Maleficent where I fell for her too. Interesting.

· saw the movie WAR ON EVERYTHING and loved the villain in that too BUT I suspect that had a lot more to do with the villain being played by Theo James (and the 45+ second shirtless scene of him walking through his mansion) than character study, but then again, I remember being fascinated by his motives and his mental process and what drove him to be the way he was. I mean, you all know I love the man’s acting. He gives his characters such nuance and he did an awesome job in that movie.

Michael Pena, one of the stars of the movie, was at the showing. People were making a big deal. I asked a publicist if Theo was coming and he said no, but he’d tried to get them all. I wonder if it would have been nearly as laid back if Theo was there. I would hope so. He’s not that well known outside of Divergent circles and hardcore fans, which is a shame but which is also nice.

· the biggest thing though was that I WENT ABROAD! I finally left United States soil and went to the United Kingdom, where I spent a lovely week in a Scottish mansion drinking endless cups of tea, hanging with writer friends, listening to gorgeous accents, eating loads of snacks, being cold almost all the time, sleeping in a room fit for a princess, and writing and exploring. It was amazing and I am so proud that I did it. I was so nervous but I did it, and I cannot wait to get back over there.

Grounds at Cawdor Castle and me!
me in the wall garden at Cawdor Castle, Scotland

Dalvey House
Dalvey House, my home for that week

Dalvey House - Group Photo
These AMAZING and GORGEOUS people

Inside Dalvey House
Where I slept every night. I KNOW RIGHT?

Grounds of Dalvey House
So. Many. Flowers. *heart eyes*

Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle

And there are more pictures where those came from! [LINK]

· thought I missed the lilac bloom this year because of Scotland, but nope! They waited for me! And they smell heavenly. :)

· preparing for Aidan’s summer vacation! He arrives June 2 and I am so excited. Cannot wait to see that guy. His room is a hot mess. There is one part I will fix up, but the LEGOs all over the floor? Not. Touching.

· finally listened to Hamilton all the way through and I get it. It’s amazing and it gets stuck in my head like RENT. One of these days I’ll see it. Maybe when the demand dies down a bit. That could be ten years, though. :O

And I think that’s all for now. :) Probably the next time I write will be post Disney trip, ha ha. Till next time!

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right now.

#latergram Driving thru Indiana #winter #indiana #snow #white

Hard to believe we’re already into March, and that it’s been almost two months since my last update. Whoops. I have to say that this winter has flown by, and I’m glad. It’s also been super mild. Thank you, El Nino. We had some crazy cold days, but nothing like winters of past. I don’t have to go out a lot, but when I do, it’s nice that the wind isn’t stabbing my face. It’s also nice that I finally own Uggs, and that they feel like warm, fuzzy clouds on my feet.

It's all about that #ugg life.

No excuse really for me not updating here, except that there’s not a whole lot going on. I did go through that extreme exhaustion phase I go through every January, except this year it lasted clear through to almost the end of February. I’ve also been craving and eating meatballs like crazy. I am not sure if the two are related or not.

I’ve been working, writing, playing games on my phone and facebook, listening to music, sleeping, and watching Netflix. I visited my mom at the end of February, and brought almost all of the laundry that I hadn’t done since the last time I visited her in September. I KNOW. Sometimes I fail at #adulting. But now I have a lot of clean clothes and I vow to never go six months without doing laundry again.

(For the record, I’ve said this in the past so take that vow with a grain of salt.)

Visiting Mommy was nice. She’s doing well. We watched The Oscars (finally, Leo, dang), hung out with cousins and aunts, Aidan was there (!), and I got to eat good food. Corky & Lenny’s, Bob Evans, and Mommy made me Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and corn. Mmmmmm. So yummy. Her kitty cat is so sweet, and visiting Marc’s always makes me happy because yay for snacks I can’t get in Chicago and cheap spaghetti noodles and Tahitian Treat.

It was a nice visit.

On the writing front, I’ve been revising my novel, talking to lots of writerly people, making friends, and well, I’m getting there. In December, I got the news that I’d been accepted into the Writing in the Margins mentorship program. Super exciting. I got my mentor introduction in January and you guys, I adore her. She’s been amazing. It blows my mind that this super successful author is willing to take time to read my novel and work with me to make it the best it can be. I am so lucky and hope one day I can pay it forward. She says 1–2 revisions or so should do it with this novel. It’s crazy that it’s finally nearly done. I definitely did not work this hard on ONLY YOURS, but then again, ONLY YOURS never sold. Or maybe I did work so hard but I just don’t remember. That’s a huge possibility, now that I think about it.

So, I’m dealing with a lot of FEELS in regards to this. I don’t know if I want to go into them here because I need to process them in my own safe space first. Luckily, I have plenty of notebooks and journals such things.

Wanda made me a hat!

Don't ask. It's better that way. 😜

Isn’t it pretty? I get a lot of compliments on it and I wear it everywhere. (The hat, not the face I’m making!) Ha ha. :)

This year, I’m making a point to support #ownvoices YA authors, especially authors of color. I thought I could put a limit on the works by mainstream authors that I purchase this year, but well LOL NOPE. Aidan gave me a booklist last weekend and a bunch of them were Dan Brown books. I’m never going to begrudge my child books, so I got him three. And there are some books in series that I already have pre-ordered. But here’s the thing. Buying #ownvoices books by authors of color has been remarkably easy on my budget so far. Not okay. I’m not even going to get started now but I have a lot of feels about that subject too.

*takes deep breath*

So much stuff in the works over here. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest. But let’s think about it. When am I not overwhelmed?

Till next time.

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overwhelmed, intimidated, and inspired.

YA Lit 2015

This past weekend was the Anderson’s Bookshop 2015 YA Literature Conference. I’d had such a great time last year that I had to go again this year, especially when I saw that Huntley Fitzpatrick was going to be there. I didn’t want to be driving back and forth to Naperville, especially with the conference starting so early on Saturday, so I booked a hotel room at the same hotel the conference was being held. This was a Very Good Decision. Friday night I arrived, and I saw people hanging out at the bar, but I was too tired and sick to be social. I went straight to my room, turned on America’s Next Top Model, and eventually fell asleep. I was up bright and early for the conference Saturday morning, and snagged a seat at the front and center table. This never happens. Usually I attend these things with Adam so I feel kind of obligated to sit with him, but this time I was *free*. Ha. The tables were numbered, so we had no idea which author we were getting. We ended up with Ally Carter!

Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015

I will spare you the details of the conference, but I will tell you that it was wonderful and worth the $109 price tag. There were panels, keynote speeches, breakfast and lunch, and plenty of time to get books autographed and photographs with the authors. The most value for me came after when I got to hang out with the authors, where I learned remembered what I love so much about the YA Lit community.

  1. I’m still pre-published, so I don’t consider myself an author (yet). It didn’t matter. These people took me in and treated me as one of their own. I got to hang out with some authors who are a big deal (James Dashner, Michael Grant, Marie Lu, just to name a few) and none of that mattered. It was, at its core, a bunch of people who love telling stories hanging out and having a good time together.
  2. The YA lit community is like a family. These people have each other’s backs completely. The encouragement they gave each other, the affection they showed for each other, the friendships they have run deep, and run long.
  3. I want to be part of that successful, published community. I want it so badly I can taste it. In a way, I am a part, but I want to be *official*. I think other pre-published authors will get what I’m saying. Being around the level of success I was exposed to Saturday and Sunday was inspiring and fulfilling. Why not me too, right?

Someday. I know it.

While there, I made friends, especially with two amazing women, Dawn Kurtagich and Jenny Moyer. Sometimes you just hit it off with people, and that happened with them. I’m so glad to have found my writing “tribe” that I’m kinda over the moon about it.

<Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015

Jenny, Dawn, and Me

A couple of other things I learned:

  • James Dashner is the nicest, coolest guy I have ever met. (Well, 2nd to my son, anyway.) He is funny, kind, and genuine. I’m so grateful that I got to hang out with him.
  • Michael Grant is a well-known and best-selling author, and after talking with him for hours, it’s easy to see why. The man is a master storyteller. Talking with him is easy and fascinating.
  • New York Times Best-selling authors still worry that they’re not good enough.
  • Some authors take serious charge of their careers, and it’s fascinating to see how far they’ve come because of it.

Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015
James Dashner and Me

I was on a high over this conference for days, but as always, the self-doubt kicks in. And it’s kicking in now. I was listening to a lot of these people describe their work. The books they have published, the books that are coming out, the books they have yet to write. And I wonder if I will ever measure up. I don’t write epic adventures with huge plot twists and extensive worlds. I write love stories. Simple and straightforward. I start to doubt my writing—is it any good? Will anyone believe in it enough to put it out there in the world?

Will I ever realize my dreams?

And…I get quiet. Discouraged. And intimidated as hell from being surrounded by so much sheer talent, while I wonder if I’ll ever measure up.

I know I’m not supposed to compare myself, my path, my work to others. But it’s going to happen. I am human. So I sit here processing all of this, trying to figure out where I belong anywhere in this world.

So that’s where I am now. I’m writing, still writing. Still grateful that I reclaimed that joy back in 2013 and that I haven’t lost it again. Still chasing dreams. Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I think I know. I say “think” because I’ve been down this road before, and I got so discouraged that I quit for many years. But I’ve come back to it. That has to mean something. 1

  1. Plus, every time I attend an event like this, at least one person asks if I’m one of *the* authors. I always answer “not yet.” Universe, you heard me. Do your thing! I’m ready, even if I sometimes try to convince myself that I am not.

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This Girl Will Write Again

I miss writing. I miss it so much that I’m considering seeking writing help. I mean, I blog and that’s a form of writing, and those who have emailed with me know that I can certainly go on and on in a message. But writing fiction? Making up stories? I miss that and want to do it again.

I started writing when I was in sixth grade. I was eleven years old. I’d gotten this Michael Jackson notebook. He was wearing the yellow vest and white pants. You remember that picture, right? (It’s one of my favorites of him.) If not, here is a refresher:


[via]

Anyway, I declared “I’m going to write a story!” And I did. I sat at the end table and wrote a story about some of my classmates and me getting trapped in a haunted house.

I wish it was that simple for me again.

I have friend who are New York Times best-selling authors who write stuff just for themselves on the side. For fun! These days, it’s hard enough for me to get motivated to work on any projects I have floating around in my brain (and I have a lot, believe me), let alone do something just for fun!

I keep telling myself that I don’t have to try to get published, or that I don’t have to be perfect on the first draft even if I WERE trying to write to get published. I came so close to my dream years ago, when I wrote a novel in six months that I LOVED (and still do love, to be honest!). I worked on it every single second I could. When I wasn’t working on it, I was thinking about it. It consumed me and it FELT SO GOOD. I knew that was the one and that it was finally time to start pursuing publication for real.

That novel got me representation by a very well-respected agent. It didn’t sell, though, so it never got published. My confidence took quite a blow and it hasn’t quite recovered. And that makes me wonder if seeking help would get me back on track. I have no discipline or structure, and I need that. I don’t think I’m going to do it on my own.

It’s definitely something to think about.

[This is a sponsored post. That means I have been compensated for writing it.
But rest assured. This story is true and heartfelt. I am determined to be a writer again.]

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Adjusting (Pictures)

Aidan

Aidan’s finally here!!!

Thank goodness. It seemed to take forever for June 8 to get here! Even he said, when he got off the plane “I can finally see you!” I really hate living so far away from him. I know it’s not even that far, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. :(

I am trying to figure out how to readjust my schedule to keep fitting yoga and writing in, plus taking care of him, and getting enough rest. Not to mention staying on top of eating reasonably well. It’s been a challenge this week because Adam’s brother and sister-in-law are visiting, and we’ve been spending time with them. I kinda put all that life stuff on hold because how often do I get to see Eli & Melissa, you know? So I’ve been eating not as well as normal, and I haven’t been to yoga since last Thursday. Let’s not even talk about writing, shall we?

I need to just QUIT those games on Facebook. Or at least limit myself to a few. It’s out of hand again, how much time I spend playing. I know it’s an avoidance technique. If I’m playing, I don’t have to think about the “sagging middle” in my WIP. And maybe, just maybe a breakthrough will happen while I am virtually farming!

Right, even I don’t believe that anymore.

Anyway, even though I haven’t been doing yoga and writing, I have been doing other cool things. Tuesday, I got Aidan from the airport, and I learned that if someone is mean to a member of my family, the claws come out! No one was mean to Aidan, but someone was to Adam and I reacted in a way that I never expected. It was weird and a little bit unsettling. But nice to know that I won’t take any crap from people when it comes to members of my family.

Wednesday, Eli & Melissa arrived and we had dinner with them. Thursday, we went to the Art Institute of Chicago. I’d never been to an art museum ever. Well, the National Vietnam Vets Museum may count, but that’s such a specialized part of art that I can only think of it as the NVVM. AIC was completely different and amazing and overwhelming. You know how you see prints of paintings? Most of them never did much for me. We have a bunch of them in the apartment and to me, they’re just pretty or neat pictures hanging around. But seeing a painting in real life is so much better! There was some Van Gogh and a lot of Monet, but the one that blew me away was Saint Francis by Peter Paul Rubens. The way he painted it… the flesh tones looked so real and lifelike and vibrant, like Saint Francis was going to just walk off the panel and come stand next to me. In addition to that, the Thorne Miniature Rooms were incredible, as was all the South Asian art, which I didn’t feel I got to spend nearly enough time looking at. We even checked out the Matisse exhibit, and got to see some pretty famous paintings, like American Gothic. I can’t wait to go back to the Art Institute of Chicago. There is so much I am eager to explore there. The cool thing is that we can take out museum passes from the library (that are good for a week!), and the museum is open free Thursday nights. I get the feeling I’ll be there a lot.

Lion

Aidan LOVED the museum. As he’s very artistic, Adam and I thought he’d get a lot out of it–well, as much as a seven-year-old can get, I suppose. He loved seeing the Van Gogh, and he was totally fascinated by the Picture of Dorian Gray, but he really enjoyed giggling at all the naked baby Jesus paintings and sculptures. He did love the Thorne Miniature Rooms, though.

After that fun, we ate some lunch and then headed over to Millennium Park. Aidan enjoyed playing at Cloud Gate, as usual:

Aidan and Cloud Gate

On Monday, before Aidan got here, I hung out with Shannon, a former co-worker, and her family. They took me to the top of Sears Willis Tower, and I went out on the glass ledge. Oh yes. Check me out:

Me on the Glass Ledge

High In The Sky

In between all this, I am reading a book called THE BLUE GIRL by Charles de Lint, and I adore the main character. She’s just such a cool girl. This is the first Charles de Lint book I’ve ever read, but apparently, he’s written a lot set in the particular world of this book. I love when authors do that. When they have a world they work in for all of their books. Cause when you read the new ones, you see old characters and friends. Sarah Dessen does it, and so does Deb Caletti, and even Adam does. I tend to write in the same worlds too, or I try to, anyway.

Anyway, it’s already almost 2am. I don’t have to be up very early tomorrow (but someone little with curly hair might wake me up early. If not him, then the neighbor’s hot water heater [which bangs every time he takes a shower and happens to be located right above our bed–another thing the landlord won’t fix] will). We’re hitting Navy Pier, which should be fun on a Saturday in June. :O All I know is this: I AM GETTING A CHURRO. Oh yes.

So, with that, I am off. ‘Til next time!

I love summer!

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