Here’s the column I wrote in the WilCo Sun about street art and the HOPE Outdoor Gallery in Austin. Take a look here.
Welcome to my blog. As some of you know, I’ve just completed my first novel and have moved into the “Writer Seeking Agent” phase of the process. After four years of squeezing in writing time, it feels really great to be on this leg of the journey. And I’m ready to start my next book—just as soon as I decide which of two story ideas I want to explore next.
My plans for this blog do not include:
- Reporting to you what I’ve eaten for breakfast.
- Posting videos of cats performing acrobatic feats.
- Wailing about what’s wrong with the publishing industry.
What you might find here:
- Writing tips. I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a lot in this process and I’d like to share it.
- Book suggestions and mini reviews.
- Links to articles and information you might find interesting.
- Ways to connect with me/writers/bloggers in order to get to know each other better.
- Humorous brain lint-type things. Feel free to skip over if you’re allergic to lint.
- Okay and maybe that fantastic recipe I have for granola. But I don’t always have that for breakfast.
Many people have asked me recently how I was able to write a book, so I wrote down a few things to share. That list turned into what could become an outline for a book! I’m mulling it over right now, but in the mean time here are a few tips to get you started.
Get Started on that Writing Project!
- What are you interested in—what do you want to read that you haven’t found yet? That. Write that.
- Start a notebook or a file of ideas. I prefer a notebook because I get more creative ideas when I write longhand. I used a computer for writing the manuscript, but I used a notebook for writing lists and ideas. Don’t censor yourself at this point. If you think it, write it in the notebook.
- 3. Set aside time every day (5 days a week, at least) and write. Elizabeth Gilbert recently had a great post on just this thing. She suggests using a kitchen timer, set for 30 minutes. I didn’t utilze a timer, but I did something every day. Every time I’d think about how daunting the task was, I’d just focus on what I could do that day. There’s that great quote from Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do.”
So, what are you? Now go do it.
For anyone who has had to wait for a prolonged period of time for anything, here are the things I’m doing to prevent percsription-worthy anxiety.
- Practice yoga.
- Tell myself not to check email.
- Meditate. Let any thoughts float by like fish in the sea. Try not to imagine fish taking bites out of me.
- Work on marketing/business plan for book.
- Exercise. Boost up the speed/incline on treadmill until I can’t hear myself think.
- Research topics for next book.
- “Write like a motherfucker,”in the words of the gorgeously talented Cheryl Strayed.
- Expand writer platform by following everything Christina Katz instructs.
- Read and reread books by favorite authors and try to figure out how they made it look so easy. A good list to start: Anna Quindlen, Elizabeth Berg, Maria Semple, Sarah Bird, and Anne Lamott.
- Stalk favorite writers on social media.
- Write something. Even if it is 15 minutes of typing, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.”
- Post something witty, inspirational or slightly snarky on Facebook. Avoid whiny.
- Update bookshelf on Goodreads. Try to figure out how to give a four-and-a-half star rating.
- Look for other paying work to augment writing work. Something part time that gives me time to write, yet pays $500 an hour to support book/writing habit.
- Enter writing competitions and calls for entries for anthologies.
- Write, write, write.
- Eat something crunchy.
- Eat something chewy.
- Eat something sweet.
- Get distracted by kids and dogs.
- Wake up.
- Check email.
While there are many book genres: literary fiction, popular fiction, women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, cozies, romance, and more, I’ve found the categories somewhat limiting. These terms tell us where to find a book when we go to the bookstore, but they don’t point to what to read when we’re in the mood for something smart, funny, moving and romantic.
What if you’re in the mood for a rom-com, sweet with a little sass and a whole lot of life lessons for you to ruminate upon? A story that’s shiny and fun with enough meat on it to sink your teeth into and get a good bite? A story you can see so vividly in your head that it seems like a really good movie. The best kind. The Nora Ephron kind.
If Nora Ephron had accompanied Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Coast Trail, she would have made a funny, warm, tender movie about it—the lighter flipside to Wild. This is exactly what someone should do with the book Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. Fleet and funny with characters you’ll remember—Center’s fifth book is a delight.
Helen Carpenter has a bit of a bad attitude, but she’s earned the right after more than her share of losses. At thirty-two she is divorced and the kind of lonely that cannot be assuaged by a new dog or her annoyingly effervescent younger brother. Especially when the rescued dog turns out to be vicious or at least perpetually in a bad mood and her brother is almost criminally undependable.
Knowing she needs to reboot her life, Helen sets her sights on a life-changing trip to the Absoraka Mountains with a survival group. She is sure that the trip to Wyoming will change everything and by everything she means herself. She plans to return to her home in Boston a different person—a person who has it together, a confidant woman, a woman who earns certificates for winning at survival camping. She’ll no longer be a woman who’s been kicked around by life, but rather, a woman who kicked butt in the mountains.
Her plans go awry, of course, when her brother’s best friend, Jake, joins her on the trip. Jake is ten years her junior and has had an oh-so-obvious crush on Helen for years. Jake is all but invisible to her, but when he hops in her Subaru for a cross-country trip, she begins to suspect there is more to him than unruly hair and well-defined abs. Will the dangers of the mountains change Helen’s life? Will she find happiness?
Like all of Katherine Center’s books, Happiness for Beginners has a heart of gold. Wise, charming and laugh-out-loud funny, readers will love this book.
I spent the better part of the last seven years on the board of a local nonprofit whose mission was, and is, to support the visual arts in my city. This was a start-up board and I was fortunate to be a member of the founding board and to serve as president twice. The goal was to open a center for the arts that made viewing, appreciating, purchasing and making art accessible to all. Lofty, right?
At times the goal seemed insurmountable, with numerous setbacks and several hard lessons along the way. But through the commitment of many talented people, the vision was acheived. The Georgetown Art Center opened in 2013 in the historic Fire Station 1 in our town. With gallery space, a large studio and a gift shop, the art center is another jewel in a town that has many wonderful assets.
This project took thousands of volunteer hours over the years, from myself and from many others. It was like starting a corporations from scratch with no capital and no employees. But the value to the community is immeasurable. Compelling, intelligent visual art is housed in our community and with free entry, anyone can have access six days a week. The center, with many free events for children and adults, is a hive of activity in the name of art. In the first year, many people have traveled to see The Georgetown Art Center from all aroudn the state and beyond. Vibrancy, cultural literacy and community have been expanded in the town in ways that are yet to be defined.
Volunteerism is vital to the growth of communities, but it is also an element of personal growth for the individuals who donate their time. Because of those years I spent working toward a goal that would serve my city, I learned many things. I learned how a municipality functions, how to present a project to city officials and see it through the process. I learned how much I had to learn about managing a large project and then I got to work on educating myself. I learned that many people will help you if you ask, if you make it as much fun as possible and if you make every effort to show your appreciation.
During those years, I made many friends and grew exponentially as a human on the planet. I learned to make a graceful exit—when I’d accomplished what I’d promised and when the entity had a life of its own. Most importantly, I learned that the value of community work is in bringing people and ideas together to improve the quality of life for all. And that is priceless.
When I was 10 years old, my teacher assigned an essay to the class. We were to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Immediately, like a cartoon thought bubble, “WRITER” popped into my head. This was confusing. While I was most definitely a straight A student, I didn’t consider myself a writer. After all, I had that pretty diary with the miniature padlock on it at the top of my closet for a few years by then and it only had one entry. A boring entry. Something forgettable.
Writer? Where did that come from? I didn’t know any writers. No one in my family kept a diary, that I knew of anyway. We had a lot of readers in the family and that is where I aligned myself. A reader. Someone who read the ideas and stories of other people, not someone who wrote her own stories.
In fact, I didn’t think I had anythign to say. I wrote only when assigned something like the weighty “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” essay. Really, isn’t that a lot to put on a kid? It sure felt like it to me at 10.
Some people say that we are born fully formed and then we spend the rest of our lives remembering who we are. And maybe that is true. Were you very sure at a young age that you were going to be a doctor or a farmer or a fashion designer? Did you become that? Or did life, new interests and school loans veer you onto a different path? I think that happens to many of us, we ignore that little voice inside or stray away from something that seems impossible.
And becoming a writer seemed impossible to me. Even though, I KNEW that voice inside was shouting as loudly as she could—I just couldn’t see how to make it happen. By that time in my life I had read a good many of the books in our elementary school library and there wasn’t one book on how to become a writer. There weren’t many how-to books at all. My reading preference then was historical biographies and Encyclodpedia Brown mysteries. I don’t remember books about writers or writing in our small library at all.
Just before the assignment, I had read a book about a ballerina. In my 10-year-old mind, becoming a ballerina seemed infinitely more doable than becoming a writer. So, that’s what I wrote about, not knowing that by aged 10 I was too old to begin a career as a ballet dancer. The book I’d read left out some parts, obviously.
Fast-forward thirty plus years and that thought bubble returned. In neon lights, “WRITER! WRITER!” At this point, having learned the hard way to never ignore my inner voice, I started writing a book. I wrote because I had a question that I couldn’t answer any other way except by exploring it through fiction. And now, I’ve completed it and have begun a second. I have another question I want to delve into through writing.
It wasn’t easy. Anyone who says something worthwhile comes easily is shining you on, but you know that, don’t you? No, writing a book wasn’t even in the same ballpark as easy, but it was, and is, something much better. It is what Iam passionate about, what I’m meant to do.
It has taken a long time to return to that child-like belief that I can be anything I want when I grow up. It’s as easy, and as difficult, as listening to that little voice inside.
The teen-ager and I have a new crush. We have gotten completely hooked on the Veronica Mars television series available on Amazon Prime and a few other streaming sites. The show ran for three years and has been off the air for seven, but it still seems fresh.
When it first aired ten years ago, I was elbow deep in diapers and the sleepless mights that come with newborn twins. I’d heard it was a good show and planned to catch up on it later. I was still buying diapers when it was cancelled.
Then, I heard about the Kickstarter campaign for the new Veronica Mars movie that came out earlier this year. The creative minds behind the series, as well as the star, Kristen Bell (of Frozen fame—another household favorite), wanted to make a movie for their loyal fans. They put it up on Kickstarter, a crowd funding source, and met their goal in less than 12 hours. My fourteen-year-old and I made a pact to watch all three seasons before we saw the movie. We love to binge on a new-to-us series. And this was the perfect kick off to our summer.
The show is smart, funny and has enough kick in the mystery department to keep even the adults hooked. Creator and writer, Rob Thomas, whipped up the perfect combination of modern-day Nancy Drew and the edgy, teen snarkiness of a John Hughes movie. Veronica is an outsider who manages to be hip, creative, hard-working and devoid of a victim mentality. For those of us who grew up wanting to be Nancy Drew, she’s a great character for our daughters to enjoy.
Each summer, our family chooses a theme for family watch nights. Past winners have been Pirates of the Caribbean, Jane Austen miniseries, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables and Malcolm in the Middle. We’ll watch the shows and movies over and over through the course of the summer, after long days swimming or bike riding. While Veronica Mars isn’t appropriate for the twins, the idea of a girl detective suits everyone and I’m now on the lookout for something suitable for ten-year-olds.
As a writer, I enjoy getting to know new characters and trying to see how the writers pulled off such great storytelling. I think Rob Thomas is a great writer and I’m picking up as many tips as I can from the series. You might be saying, “Jane, you’re not a screenwriter!” Yep, that’s true, but good writing is good writing and you can learn from it no matter the form or genre. So, we’re binging on our new crush. What’s your crush?