disney 2017.

My Happy Place 2017

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, this is not news to you… but I went to Disney World again! :) We stayed in the Polynesian, which was my holy grail resort, and now I want to *always* stay there. Beautiful grounds, comfortable room and bed, fun tiki bar with yummy drinks, great service all the time, monorails, close to Magic Kingdom… it was just amazing.

(I asked Aidan if he’d rather to go Disney every year and stay at a cheaper resort, or go every few years and stay at the Poly, and he picked option 2. When I asked if he’d rather go every year and stay at the Poly every year [MY preference] he said that it was a lot of money and that I work too much and too hard as it is. I have the best kid ever.)

Some of my favorite moments:
– riding Avatar: Rite of Passage (omG AMAzING!) and seeing Pandora, which is beautiful
– seeing Bev at Garden Grill
– Lola getting a Bippity Boppity Boutique makeover
– awesome dinner time conversations
– campfire brownie
– Happily Ever After
– playing in the photo booths
– finding the rose gold Minnie ears!
– running into Josh & Kelly

It was a really, really, really good trip.

I put together a few collages for your viewing pleasure, and there’s also a link to a full album of photos. Enjoy, and I’ll see ya soon!

Magical

Very Magical

So Magical

The Magicallest

eclipsed.

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I did not plan on going to see the eclipse. I’d made a shoebox projector and had planned to go out during my work day, but joining the festivities at the planetarium? So not my usual jam.

But I had a migraine headache Sunday night that was intensifying, so I emailed work and told them I’d be out of the office. I also had an appointment Monday morning, another one Monday afternoon, and all the rushing around would have stressed me out! I still had an early morning (appointment #1 was at 9am), so it wasn’t like I was slacking.

My appointment was done lightning fast, and Adam said “Let’s check out the scene at Adler.” I was surprised, but happy. The main character in my novel is an aspiring astrophysicist, and it honestly did not feel right to be missing the eclipse because of her. But this surprise meant that I was totally unprepared. I hadn’t put on sunscreen. I didn’t have my nice camera. I was in a dress! But I didn’t mind. Not one bit.

Lots of walking and slow going, but we got glasses, a box of donuts, and found a beautiful spot by the harbor. My migraine was playing VERY nicely for once and keeping itself at bay, so I was able to enjoy the eclipse in all its wonder, even with the cloud cover battling peak!

IT WAS AMAZING!

It was hard to get pictures when the eclipse was starting—the sun kept looking round even though I could see that it was not. It looked like someone took a bite out, then it kept getting smaller and smaller. It got darker out; it was like twilight. And the temperature dropped. I was able to get more dramatic pictures (through my safe glasses, of course) as the moon started unblocking the sun, like this one:

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I am really glad things worked out the way they did. And my migraine waited until I got home to start poking at me again, so it really worked out well.

This really is such an epic summer. :)

summer 2017.

As the second half of August descends upon us, I can only sit here in a bit of disbelief. Seems like it was JUST June, and Aidan had just arrived, and we were ready for a fun, busy summer. The problem with fun, busy summers is that they speed by.

We kicked off the season with a trip to the Once Upon a Time Convention here in Chicago. Aidan is not into the show, so he hung out in the hotel room and played video games. I attended a billion panels and Q&As, autograph sessions, concerts, and photo ops, and even got to chat with some of the actors in the bar. Michael Coleman is a sweetheart to the max. In fact, most of the actors were amazingly gracious and open and friendly. A few of them seemed exhausted. I sprung for the GOLD package, which wasn’t cheap, but was worth it. I got 9 autographs, had an assigned seat in the auditorium, got free admission to the concert and karaoke, and got to attend special panels. I also sprung for a few photo ops. Those were cool, but I managed to look stupid in EVERY SINGLE PICTURE. *sigh* Anyway. Very amazing experience but also EXHAUSTING. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that again, but we’ll see. I’m glad I did it.

Once Upon a Time Photos

At the end of June, the ALA conference came to Chicago. Rena and I hit up the exhibition hall and got to meet/see a lot of great authors, load up on free ARCs, and network. It was tiring but worth it! And right after ALA finished, Aidan and I went to see Aladdin, which SUCH A GOOD SHOW!! We went to Stage Door and got to take pictures with most of the main actors.

Here are some of the ALA pictures:

ALA Annual 2017

July, Aidan and I headed off to the beautiful and peaceful mountains in Salt Lake City, UT. A writing retreat for me, and just relaxing for Aidan. We were there with Rena, Traci, Nia, and Anna and it was a really great week. I hammered out a lot of my revisions, got to be in a nature, and got to zip line!! It was a great trip, I did not want to come back to the hustle and bustle of Chicago.

Utah 2017

The next day, Aidan’s best friend Benito came to town to spend the week with him, and that was great. Benito’s pretty cool, and we did things like go to Navy Pier, go on a Shoreline architecture tour, and eat dinner at Sakura. Then Rena and I trekked out to Naperville to write and to attend the Angie Thomas/Becky Abertalli event!

Summer 2017 Collage

We had a week of regular life. I turned in my revisions to my agent on July 30, and spent the rest of the day packing for Disney World! We stayed in the Polynesian, my HOLY GRAIL resort, and had a wonderful time!

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One last week of summer, and then Aidan headed back to Ohio on August 12. He started high school on the 14th and seems to be doing well so far. I spent Sunday at the Four Seasons getting pampered, then spent the rest of the day shopping on Michigan Ave. It was a perfect Ronni Day.

In the midst of all this was working, dealing with a sick Fi, raising a rambunctious Charlotte, writing, and freelance. Trying and failing not to overdo things—I’m still technically recovering from surgery and I did feel the sting somedays. I really need to chill out.

Now, I am gearing up for a very busy fall. Travel, freelance, work, writing. September is going to be amazing, October is going to be busy, and then it’ll be time to plan for the holidays. 2017 is flying by and it’s bittersweet. But life’s good, and I’m so excited about what’s to come!

More soon….

breakthrough.

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When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Ten years ago, my novel, ONLY YOURS, got rejected by its last publisher.
I was drowning in debt and financial troubles.
I was a single mom, living in an apartment with the weirdest neighbors ever, and working in a job that was… hard. (The work was great, the co-workers were great, but the culture was challenging.)
My boyfriend (now poor husband) at the time was long distance.

My writing well was draining. I tried, and only produced crap. Well, there are a few good parts here and there, but for the most part? Nothing. No novels, not even short stories or poems. Just snippets and false starts and oh God, it was hopeless.

So I gave up on publishing.

That was ten years ago.

After I moved to Chicago, I decided to focus on “real” things. Things that made me money. It was hard at first. The job market in Chicago is tough. But somehow I found my way and now there are times I have to turn work away because I get so much. This is a blessing.

I worked in advertising agencies. Long, demanding hours. Six day workweeks. Plus freelance! I was making so much money but I was sick and unhealthy and stressed. I started getting grey hairs!

Lily Pads & Yellow Flower
 

I trained to be a yoga teacher. And while I will *never, ever* regret that year—really one of my happiest, most intense, and most amazing—I decided I didn’t want to teach yoga.

I was an extra in a movie, and decided I wanted to be an actress. That journey was one of the hardest things, and I don’t mean the trying to get famous or even book jobs part. I mean the research, the studying, the self-exploration, the creativity it takes to embody a whole new person and make that person real and whole and true. I liked acting, but friends, I just didn’t love it enough for the amount of hustle it entails. So I was content to work as an extra for a season, and hang out in the background, eating junk food and hanging out with my friends who were extras.

That last experience yanked me back to my writing roots. I’d been writing crap on and off this whole time, but often abandoned stories about five thousand words in. Then work got too demanding and I couldn’t write if I wanted to. But being on set? It’s like being IN a story. And I guess the combination of background work and acting classes woke up my creative mind. I also went back to my roots. I love writing love stories. The day I woke up and said “I’ll just write a love story,” things clicked. And the words began to flow.

I finished my first novel since 2006. It was a hot mess. It still needs work. But I did it. I DID THAT.

I started writing it without the intent of pursuing publication. I was rusty. I was out of the loop so I didn’t have critique partners or a writing community to guide me through. This story was meant to be fun. But then it kept growing and developing into something more. Something that someone else might want to read. So I changed my goal. And started working harder. I found critique partners. I began studying the craft again. I wrote and revised and wrote and revised… and there is STILL work to be done.

But it feels like home.

I often lament about the publishing journey. It’s hard, and the constant NOs and rejections and “go back and try agains” can really do a number on one’s self esteem and dreams. I tried to quit writing again last summer after a heartbreaking rejection. I moved all my documents to the recycle bin. I muted all my writing friends on twitter and facebook. And I grieved. and I can’t think of a time when I felt more WRONG in my life. I’m a writer. I have to write. So I decided, I can write, but I’m done with publishing. My manuscript was with agents and I was seriously considering pulling them off submission, and settling into my “real” life of freelance and contract editing, cleaning up cat poop and vomit, and trying to figure out where to put all my stuff. I have a lot of stuff.

But something kept giving me hope. My writing friends pulled me out and pushed me. They put things in perspective for me. They told me to send my work to them if I felt like deleting it again. (I did have to do that, quite a few times.) Those conversations often blew up into encouragement. And so I lived to fight another day.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

I had a few more close calls earlier this year. Not quitting writing, just publishing. But remember, I still had those manuscripts out with agents. Something told me *not* to pull them off submission. Instead, I focused on my recovery and brainstorming TWO new books (which is wild, because I was scared I had nothing else in me), watching Netflix, sleeping all the sleeps, and catching up on reading.

I’m glad I didn’t pull them. I’m glad I didn’t quit. I’m glad I saw a McDonald’s commercial with a little girl who reminded me so much of little me (with better hair), and a brown father. I’d NEVER seen that before. Ever, ever, ever. That commercial touched me so much and reminded me how much representation matters. I’m glad I kept going, and that I *will* keep going.

Because friends, I’m now repped by Caitie Flum of the Liza Dawson Associates, and I could not feel more excited to be working with her! I’m so thrilled that she gets me and my book, she is a fierce fighter, and looks out for her clients. I’m eager to see where this journey will take us.

I still have a long way to go to realize that NYT best-seller dream. A lot more work, a lot more angst. But now I have an advocate, someone who believes in me, even when I might not believe in myself. (That happens a lot in this industry.) In the meantime, I’m so happy to be part of #teamcaitie!

disney listicles.

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At the time of the writing of *this* sentence, Disney o’clock is this far away:

countdown

So CLOSE!!!

I booked this upcoming Disney World trip in February. Booking that far in advance (countdown 100+ days!), always makes it seem like an abstract thing. So long away, right? An entire season had to go by , and days of everyday life, work, etc. Even though there were these milestones to look forward to:

01. Booking dining reservations at 180 days (we booked with fewer than 180 days to go, so we were able to book dining right away!)
02. MagicBand customization
03. Booking FastPass+ attractions at 60 days
04. Online resort check-in at 60 days
05. Order grocery delivery (doing it at 60 days gives a slight discount!)
06. Payment deadline at 45 or 30 days (I’m not sure which–I always thought it was 45 but my travel agent, the amazing Lauren at Magical Travel–gave me a due date of 30 days before. I paid a week before that, though, cause nerd)
07. Pre-order Be Our Guest meal (we have an ADR for lunch!)
08. Arrival of MagicBand and travel documents
09. Arrival of Magical Express stuff
10. Arrival of special goodies from Lauren (seriously, use her, and then tell her I sent you)

So now that the trip is so close, I have that familiar feeling of angst I always get before traveling (this happens every time, no matter if we’re driving to Ohio to visit Mommy or if I’m flying somewhere epic like freaking Scotland), because:

01. I want everything to go right! I have travel nightmares often, like losing my passport, or missing my flights, or actually being at Disney World and not actually going into the parks or having my camera or riding any rides/enjoying the attractions.
02. When we flew to Disney in the summer of 2013, we were delayed several hours because of a mandated pilot rest period. Look, I am all for pilots getting enough rest. It’s important. But this was during the Airtran-Southwest merger and a lot of stuff was just not on. And watching the two flights after us board and leave on time, while we had to sit there for three hours (after having arrived two hours early, like you do) was super frustrating. And then, when Aidan and I flew out last year, we were pulling away from the gate when a big storm blew through and grounded us for at least two hours. So, I’m praying for no delays this time. (It’s also why I stopped making park plans on arrival day. It’s usually more expensive, and I’m usually too tired and delirious to enjoy it. It’s better to arrive the night before, take it easy, and wake up super early the next day!)

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And of course, to do lists are key when planning a Disney trip. Here’s all the last minute Disney prep I’ve done so far:

01. Hair salon
02. Mani/pedi
03. Preliminary packing
04. Incidental purchases, such as sunscreen, snacks, etc.
05. Made lists
06. Put a bunch of stuff aside to pack later when I’m not feeling so lazy/feeling more organized (I’d better get on the ball)
07. Made more lists
08. OOO message on work email
09. Travel playlists
10. Check weather

And here’s the stuff I need to do:

01. Pack the rest of the things
02. Charge all the things
03. Make sure Aidan packs all of his things
04. Send availability messages to freelance clients
05. Get $$$$ stuff in order
06. Try not to stress
07. Try to relax
08. Watch Disney Vacation Planning video(s)
09. Listen to Disney music
10. HAVE FUN!

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{aidan’s gonna be so much taller than me in this year’s photos}

I’m so excited to be there! There’s so much I’m looking forward to!

1. Riding the Magical Express
2. Eating at Garden Grill and Liberty Tree Tavern and Be Our Guest
3. Riding the PeopleMover, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean (it was closed for refurbishment last time I was there), Soarin’, Toy Story Midway Mania (1st time in years), Expedition Everest just to name a few
4. Seeing the new castle show in Magic Kingdom
5. Eating a chocolate dipped pineapple, and churros
6. Staying in a deluxe resort for the first time!!!!
7. The warm weather ;)
8. Getting exercise and walking
9. Buying souvenears!
10. Spending time with some of my favorite people ever: Mommy, Janae, Terri, Geneva, and of course Aidan

And I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) turning my brain off. Of city life. Of stinky kitty cats. Trying to decide on dinner when Adam’s not here. Of everything writing, editing, copy editing, and publishing for a while. Just enjoy 100% free time. (Brainstorming is always OK though.)

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I’ll be sure to write all about it when I’m back! Now it’s time to go do all the pre-Disney trip things! And also bug Janae on text and/or twitter to tell her how excited I am!

See ya real soon!

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