One Technique

Okay.  Here's the deal. 

And there really is a trick, a bit o' magic to the creative process!  The problem, of course, is that the "deal" is different for every writer.  But lately I've found something, and while it's not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it's been helpful for me.

Back to the topic:  The Trick, The Answer, The Technique

As a former teacher, I'm used to thinking in terms of classes during the day, that kind of structure.  So many classes of whatever length, lunch, more classes, planning period.  That was always a very comfortable structure for me for some reason.  Who knows why?

Now, a lot of writers, notably Susan Elizabeth Phillips, as well as some others, have found the timer structure to work well for them.  You know, set the timer and work at the computer/the ms/whatever until the timer frees you.  It's a great technique as it leaves a writer free, so to speak, once released from the timer.  You've done your work, in other words.

I just couldn't make it work for me.  My own weirdnesses, that's all, because it's a fabulous way of focusing in on the work.

But. . . what has been working for me is setting up my day, sort of, loosely, in a school day structure.  While the "class periods" aren't English, math, and so on, I have been using that idea of class periods to get a variety of things done:  some cleaning in the basement, some filing, a whole lot of paperwork, and, of course, the real work of writing.

It's sort of as if my brain can wrap itself around the idea of, "Okay, now it's Creative Writing Class."  Or, "All righty, then, it's shop class (aka, tearing into some of the basement messes)," and when "class" ends, I move to the next class.  Including P.E.–or, in my peculiar mindset, my time at the health club or taking my walk or hitting the exercise bike.

I have to say that this feels very stupid even trying to explain it because it seems so basic.  But what I'd suggest is that you might think about the time structures that are comfortable to your natural rhythms for whatever reason–boy, I'll bet they won't be as doofussy as mine!–and then adapt that structure to your writing.

Because the real truth is that the writing is always there, the stories always insinuating themselves into your head, but real life is there too, and has to be addressed.

For me, it's the compartmentalization that seems to settle my brain right down so that I don't have to feel guilty or have to be angsting over whatever it is that I'm NOT doing while I AM doing something else.

I'm curious as to what time management structures work for other folks?  For you?

The Real World, aka Election Day

So.  Election Day.  So.

Well, I'm glad I live in a country where passion and disagreements are addressed by the ballot box.

No matter how the elections turn out today, there will be people dismayed and persuaded, nay, convinced, that the country is going to heck in a handbasket, that civilization as we know it will crash and burn.

But it's always that way, or almost always, during Crazy Time, aka, election time.

And our country survives good and bad electees.

We're a blessed, lucky country, but we need never to forget that our liberty is precious and needs to be guarded by an informed electorate, a conscientious electorate, an electorate committed to the needs of the entire country.

Okay.  Done preaching now.

Y'all go out and vote, hear?  Even if you don't vote for my dudes and dudettes, vote.  If I don't like who's elected, I'll survive.  If you don't, you'll survive.  Vote.  It's the backbone of our democracy.  Vote.

On the River

I was thinking today about my trip to Tokyo in the spring and some of the things my son, his friends, and I did. In spite of My Inconvenient Knee, previously mentioned, Rob planned some really great activities.

One was an afternoon trip for Mother’s Day (I said he was a great kid, didn’t I??) along the Sumida River in Tokyo. We could see the buildings and the city from such a different perspective after our departure from Asaksa, where there’s a great, though touristy, old Shinto shrine. It was fun for me to watch all of the folks on the boat, almost all Japanese, who were enjoying the long holiday by taking their children and dates out for the day. And enjoying a soft cream while they cruised along the river.

We saw this fantastic boat pass us, and all I could think of was “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Of course I wasn’t in Kansas to begin with, but you know what I mean.

I find Japan endlessly fascinating, and it’s so cool to me that I can use my son as an excuse to go there–and to have my own translator and tour guide.

Requiescat in Pace

Mr. Cletis O'Roarkey:  a good beastie, loyal and sweet and funny.  Big, grey, a thump-along giant friend.  Affectionate and, like a dog, he'd play catch and follow me from room to room.  Amazingly big feet, body, and head,  he could leap and somersault like an acrobat.  He loved to sleep curled on my pillow with one heavy paw thrown around my head.  Or my son's.  He was sixteen years old and had had diabetes for the last six or seven years.   He was the last kitty my husband, son, and I shared, and he was my husband's favorite pet.

Weirdly, Mr. Cletis chose to head to the giant kitty litter in the sky on the anniversary week of my husband's death.  I don't believe in woo-woo, but we picked out Cletis around October 19th or so, he died on the 18th, and my husband died a few years ago ont he 20th.  Life came full circle, as it often does.

What do you say about a furry buddy who shared so many good and sad times with you?   

Rest in peace, good buddy.  Rest in peace.   

Writers Conferences

Although I mentioned a bit about the recent NINC Conference I attended in St. Pete Beach, Florida, I wanted to add some more now that I’ve been back in the Fall of the Midwest. To wit: how some writers’ conferences end up sending me into a blind panic, into major insecurity about my creativity and abilities, and. . . why this one was different.

I’ve thought it was the location. I mean, shoot, shugah, there’s nothing like being on a gorgeous sugar and beach with brilliant blue skies and more brilliant blue water slurping at the sand. Restful. Of course the smell of pina coladas, aka sunscreen lotion, was a nice sense memory, too. But I do think the location, at least for me, contributed to the mindset.

The size of the conference was also conducive to thoughtful discussion of what’s going on in publishing, what it all means, and whether or not tweeting is essential to selling. Kind of is. As is the whole digital movement, but that’s another story and, I think, one that in another situation would have made me vey anxious and scared.

But not at this conference where the mood was optimistic and energized. Was that the result of the terrifically knowledgeable industry people there? I think that was part of it, sure, because to a person, everyone seemed hopeful about what’s ahead for the world of stories even despite the faster than Superman speed of change.

Part of it, too, was the chance to spend time with writers who weren’t pitching or promoting. That may have been the loveliest aspect as everyone was more low key, none of that desperate look-at-me, look-at-me intensity.

I loved this conference more than any I’ve been to in recent memory. In my Best Three Conferences, in fact.

At any rate, I’d go again. In a heartbeat.

Crazy Decisions, or My Bad Knee and I Visited Tokyo in the Spring

Do you ever make a really, really stupid decision because impulse and optimism just compell you forward?


Well, you’re smarter than I am, then.

When I decided to visit Rob-san, aka My Son Rob, in the spring, April/May, so that I could see the cherry blossoms, I just figured I could force my bad knee to behave. Ha. And ha again. Poor Rob. But he was a true Knight in Shining Euro-styled-clothes as he patiently steered me hither and thither in Tokyo so I could visit some of his favorite sites. He also acted as translator for me and a roomful of the delightful Harlequin Tokyo editors when I was fortunate enough to visit the offices.

I think he loved being the only guy in a roomful of charming women, to tell you the truth.

At any rate, I thumped along slowly and increasingly painfully until my return home–and immediately scheduled total knee replacement. Terrific decision. Still rehabbing, but next time I hit Tokyo? I’m going to be speeding along–not at Rob’s long-legged pace, but, hey, I’ll be faster than I was.

I’m including a pic of a gorgeous park Rob took me to on an all-day bus outing, something the Japanese retirees apparently do in large numbers, and which Rob and one of his friends scheduled for me because. . . well, as I said, I wasn’t walking far or fast. But I loved this beautiful little park with all the wisteria perfuming the air and dripping in stunning swaths. Hope you enjoy the pic, too. Just wish I could include the fragrance!

Oh, but I missed the cherry blossoms.

I’ll see them, though,’cause I’m going back and next time with a working knee.

Swept Away on a Blue Sea in August

I mentioned I was enthralled by Susan Casey's The Wave, her non-fiction book about rogue and freak waves in the oceans.  I also picked up her Devil's Teeth, another non-fiction set in the ocean, but this is about the great sharks.

No holds barred, I'm highly recommending both.  The woman writes non-fiction as if she were writing a thriller, lemme tell you.  If you're looking for a gift for someone, especially a guy someone, I'd sure think these books would rate.  They remind me in some ways of Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, which I gave as gifts to some male friends and which I also recommended to my women friends for them and for their husbands.

And, no, I don't know Casey a'tall.  Well, except for "knowing" her through her fabulous writing.

Go treat yourself to a great three hours of spell-binding absorption-and it's all true.

Books I’m Reading

Isn't it a fabulous feeling to be completely swept up in a book?  Susan Casey's The Wave did that to me.  Talk about "being swept away by a blue sea in August," to steal the old movie title, but this book takes on the fascinating subject of the ocean's waves and how little we know about them.  I mean, she discusses these rogue waves that take out supertankers perhaps twice a week or twice a month.  They're not quite sure on that statistic, but whether it's two a week or two a month, OMG.

And the chapter on the 1740 wave, yes, WAVE, that came into Lituya Bay in Alaska back in 1958 is riveting.  The pictures are mind-boggling.  What's most jaw-dropping, though, for me, is to know that earlier ginormous waves had also hit Lituya.

As if all that were not enough, Casey goes on to write about the surf gods who play on these monsters:  Laird Hamilton and others who are towed out in search of 100 monsters to surf.

All I can say is that this non-fiction book reads like a thriller.  Loved it.


JUST returned from a fabulous NINC conference!

So many smart, smart folks:  Al Zuckerman from Writer's House,; Alan Kaufman, a terrific literary attorney; the brilliant Caroline Pittis from Harper; Donna Hayes from Harlequin corporate; and a whole slew of other knowledgeable and in-the-loop publishing minds.

The theme was publishing and where it is today, and the consensus was that we're in an exciting, energizing, changing by the nano-second time and that authors need to get smarter and more involved in digital publishing, because, folks, THAT train's already pulled into the station!

The conference was at The Tradewinds on St. Pete Beach in Florida, a resort my husband, son, and I used to go to every year for his dental conferences.  It was both sweetly nostalgic and bittersweet to be there again without my guys.  However, the place was beyond fabulous and being there with my feet in the surf and toe deep in sugar sand was very therapeutic. 

And then I flew away from a lovely summer day and arrived two hours later in the chill of Halloween, autumn, and red adn gold leaves piled on the lawn.  Talk about time travel, right?

Diabetes Auction

Well, Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction is now closed to bidding, and Margaret and I will be doing a read for and lunching with the wonderfully generous author who bid $255 or more for our time.

We're happy to to it for such a wonderful cause, and it will be wonderful to meet a new author and get to know her/him.

Oh, and whoever bought our item will get to name a character in Margaret's book and in mine.

So, good food, a new friend, conversation about writing–how cool is that, huh?