I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology on and off since mid-October. I did a ton of research up front, then wrote a way too long time travel story based on a shipwreck. A week later I came back up for air and discovered that I’d missed key ingredients needed: Fun! Summery! Not mentioned in written documents I had for the anthology, but in the group chat afterwards, it seemed emphasized.
So I started new research for a lighter version. Picked a subject to base my new story around, dug out the parts of the original story that wouldn’t work, and started re-writing. It was going slowly. My problem was that I loved my location and it was problematic. I didn’t want to use a different one, but this one was hard to make summery.
One night I had a dream about a little girl in a closet full of dresses from every era. I tried to put her out of my mind until later, but she popped up now and again.
I was super busy with other things last month, so I had very few writing days on this project. Last week I gathered up all my research, pulled out the bits of the original story, and started playing with the ideas. The little girl from my dream came back and told me exactly where she fit in.
Yesterday I sat down and wrote 7,000 words for the new story in about four hours. Today I spent another nine hours trying to whittle that back down to 5,000. Tonight it goes out to my critique group for round one of critique edits. I’m hoping the heart of the story shines through, even with the cuts. We shall see.
My spouse and I have been together since 1997, so when he’s out of town it is deeply weird. This time he’s in Houston for a few days, then will be back for a couple, then gone again for a few more. I have lists of food I’ll make for dinner, things we will do in the evenings, but it’s never easy when 2/5 of our household is gone.
Nights like this, I tend to draw back into myself. I read a book (tonight’s is for the UU book club: Memoirs of a Geisha) and listen to my favorite female musicians (Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, Jewel, Alanis Morisette, Juliana Hatfield, etc.) by candlelight while the children wander in and out, foraging for food or bidding for my attention in new and exciting ways.
Sometimes I indulge in long phone calls with old friends or family members. Tonight it was my birth family. I was trying to explain about my youngest wanting a piccolo for Christmas and how that was a wonderful thing. They said it would be so loud and off-putting, but to me, it’s music and comfort and safety because I can hear the melody and know exactly which kid it is playing and where my kid is and what they are doing. Their traumas are different than mine. I am terrified of not knowing what is happening to my children, of not being present, of moments unacknowledged. My goal as a parent is that my children never spend a moment wondering if they are loved or seen or acknowledged. I spend my days making sure that they know that they are welcomed and loved and seen for who they are, and that they know that however they may change, they are still loved. There is more about all that in the memoir I am writing, of course.
Tonight there was also a brief storm, so the youngest and I wandered outside and danced in the thunder and lightning, a tradition we’ve had since he was little. The rain drops were huge and we were quickly soaked, but it is what we do. We danced and sang and when we became too cold, we came inside and burrowed in blankets on the couch, listening to the midkid practice his French horn.
And now it is growing closer to bedtime, but I am unable to sleep. I never do when my spouse is gone. I will probably stay up and watch movies he would not enjoy, while listening to one of my kids sing his Region Band music, which is identical to music I and my friends played when we were in high school. It’s funny how things go around and come back to themselves.
Tuesday, I got up and was so hopeful. Sure, I had my Spiritual Practices class that evening, but I had all day to write, so it was going to be great!
Nope. Due to some not-quite-disclosable things that are in the works, I got caught up in not one, but two different side projects. One is writing adjacent and in the end won’t require as much of my time as some of the things I’m doing now, but there was a wrapping up of one set of things in order to hand them off to someone else so I’d be ready for the next thing. I know how vague that sounds, but that’s the way life is sometimes, right?
The other thing is not writing adjacent, except in that I am writing up minutes for a group that I had thought I wasn’t taking part in any more. So there was catching up for that group’s information and making sure I still had access to all the notebooks and cloud storage that I need to do that work.
By the time I completed both things, it was time to hit the gym. On Friday, I rejoined the one that is walking distance from my house, instead of the one that I only go near on the way back from taking kids to school in the morning (which isn’t a good time for me to write, due to my ADHD meds timing). I went and learned where all the new stuff was, which machines I could still comfortably use, and which ones are still out of my happiness zone. It was a good workout, and I felt better for having done it.
The rest of the night zoomed by (literally haha!). Wednesday I had two meetings scheduled, so I knew I’d have to make the most of my in-between times for writing. Unfortunately, by the time I’d gotten home from the first one and eaten lunch, a problem had sprung up.
My kids school had a potential shooting threat. They informed parents right at the same time the 504 coordinator called to ask me if we could postpone our meeting for that afternoon. Because of the way our high school sends out alerts (first in the form of a phone call from the school’s main phone line wherein a computer voice reads the entire body of the message, including the URL’s – letter by letter; then almost immediately as an identical text message, an identical email, and then as a link to an identical letter in our district app), and the fact that 90% of the more than five a week they send are either about buying football tickets or that the PTA is selling Chik-fil-a at lunch on Friday, I have stopped answering calls from the school. So I missed that phone call and drove directly to the school. It was a madhouse. Literally hundreds of parents had driven there to take their kids out of school. Since there’s only one way in and out not on lockdown, they were all in the same foyer I needed to check into in order to get to my appointment on time. I was speaking to the woman guarding the door about my having an appointment “Honey, everyone is saying that,” when the 504 coordinator called me again. Since I was already there and the coordinator was meeting me at the inner door, I was ushered right inside. I heard the scoop on everything potentially threatening that was going on, had my kids 504 meeting, and offered to take the kids home anyways, even though it sounded like there was nothing actually going on other than the parental mayhem out front. Both my kids declined. One didn’t want an unexcused absence and the other wanted to go to Writing Club (oh my heart!).
They both wanted me to keep close “on standby,” so I ended up hitting the nearby stores and doing some early Christmas shopping to keep busy, since I had no computers or iPad on me to write with in the parking lot (the notebook I’d brought for the meeting literally had two pages left and I used them during the meeting). Scooped up the first kid out, then sat in the car waiting for the second kid for almost an hour.
I was exhausted, physically and mentally, by the time I got home. I ate dinner and was just heading to bed, when a kid -the one that has never in his life sat still for a movie – begged me to watch a silly Disney movie (Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge) with them. Of course I had to.
Today was an early-to-school day for the kiddos, but I had all the chores I hadn’t gotten done Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get to work on, plus grocery shopping, so I did those things first. Then I had critiques to do for the Pineywoods Critique Group (which has a new website with a forum and blog here), along with hitting the gym again so I don’t turn into a stiff blob like I was all last year). I also needed to finish one last bit of an old transcribing project that I had promised someone ages and ages ago.
All of this is a long way of saying: it’s late Thursday and I’m still at 684 words for NaNoWriMo. *sigh*
I am doing NaNoWriMo as a rebel this year. I am working on adding about 35000 words to the second draft of my current novel, writing a 3500 word short story, and restarting what I’d quit working on during last year’s NaNoWriMo. You can find my profile for NaNoWriMo here.
Today I felt exhausted after a super busy weekend chaperoning my kids band at Area Marching Contest and the whole Halloween extravaganza. I didn’t think I’d get much done.
I only opened the first file for editing just to let myself stare at it while I finished my tea. Then I was going to get up and reheat my breakfast burrito. I noticed a couple things to fix, then a couple more. Next thing I knew, my tea was gone, so I took my burrito out to warm it up and when I glanced at the clock on the microwave it was three hours later.
I ate some lunch with my husband, who came home about five minutes later and told him about my magical morning. Then I told him about my plan to go to the gym in the afternoon. He left for work and I went back to the bedroom (which is also my office) to use the restroom. While in there, the computer made a weird noise, so I stopped to investigate for a moment before leaving for the gym.
Next thing I knew, it was 3:30pm and time to pick my kids up from school. So I stopped to do that and went back to writing while they were working on homework.
In all, I wrote 2,200 words on the current WIP. Of course, I also edited out about 1500 not so great ones. So I’m at 684 for the day. This is the last editing day this week, so I should still be able to make it up with just a hundred extra words a day this week.
It was a good start to National Novel Writing Month.
There used to be many places I liked to write before the pandemic, but several of them have either closed, or only have indoor seating right now. One of the places I still like to go to write is on the patio by the lakes on the UT Tyler Campus on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. The campus is quiet during those times, and the weather right now makes it a lovely place to go for writing. You can hear the sloshing of the water and the quacking of the ducks. It’s just a quiet and comforting place.
I’ve also been enjoying sitting on the patio at The Foundry Coffee House, near the square in downtown Tyler. They have made it very pretty outside with a lot of plants and strings of lights. During certain times of the day there is shade, but this time of year with the temperatures finally cooling off, it’s nicer to sit in the sun.
Today’s Spiritual Practices class discussion was so apropos. It was on “Waiting.” There was so much good commentary on that. My favorite quote of the night was this one:
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” —Anne Lamott
As a writer, waiting is the hardest part of the story process. I mean, yes, some days writing is a slog and I want to quit, but that is nothing compared to waiting to hear back from another author or editor. Some days it feels like writing is all waiting – waiting to get the research done so you can start writing, waiting for the critique group to reply to your manuscript so you can see what else needs work, waiting for cover art, etc. I have tried to improve my patience over the years, but am still not proficient at waiting.
Yesterday I finished most of the edits on Caro’s Quest Chapter Nine, which wasn’t as dire as I’d believed it to be, thank god. I have a few last little bits, but should be ready to send the chapter out to the Pineywoods Critique Group on Friday afternoon.
Today I edited, then submitted three short stories and four poems various places for October 31st deadlines. I have a few more short stories to send out tomorrow and probably even more poems. My list of tabs opened for submission guidelines right now far exceeds frivolous tabs, which is saying a lot. Some have said I’d hear back just after the first of November, but others had dates as far out at the end of January 2022. Ah, the wait is upon us.
This will be short. My dad has gone home, my kids are back at school, my husband is at work, and I have three and a half hours all to myself for writing. I’m reworking Caro’s Quest Chapter Nine after a couple weeks away to let me feel not so terrible about the utter disaster that the ladies at the Pineywoods Critique Group thought it was. To be honest, it was probably not great. First draft and all that. Back to work!
AKA: How I managed to spend a whole week NOT writing
This was a hard week for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my half-brother Ray passed away last month. Last Thursday I drove to DFW and dropped my car off at Katherine’s and she drove me to the airport. I hopped on a flight to California in order to help out Ray’s widow, Susan, and kids getting reading for the memorial service. I’d brought my writing stuff with me, hoping to get to spend some of my free time writing, but there honestly wasn’t any minutes to spare.
I got to their house after a long day of driving and flying and with a negative time change, I was so very tired and it was only 8pm. I tried to stay up and talk with everyone, but it was no use – I was in bed by 9:30pm PST.
The next day I woke up at 4:45am, but managed to coax myself back to sleep until about 6:30am. I went to make coffee, but my nephew ran out and shooed me away, telling me that his dad always got up and said “Make the coffee, Joe,” and he was determined to keep on making the coffee, even without his dad around to remind him. Just like that, I could hear my brother in my little nephew’s voice and see him in his every movement. I had to shoo myself away before I cried all over the little guy.
We spent the rest of the day taking kids to and from school, organizing, then cleaning rooms of the house and the patio so it could be all ready for the memorial service the next day.
The next day I was again awake at 4:45am, but this time I got up, made my own coffee, and spent some time taking photos of photos in my birthmom’s room (which was where I was staying). Her walls are absolutely covered in photos, many of which I’ve never seen before. I stood up on a stool and angled myself this way and that to get the best photos possible. Once the other’s were up, I started decorating the house with photos of my brother and his family, and then put out the tablecloths, and washed up all the dishes and platters I thought we might need. An hour before people were due to arrive, the first visitor showed up. He was the ex-husband of my brother’s housemate and since he was early, we put him to work carting drinks into the house, setting up the coolers, and re-installing the door to the garage that Joe had taken off a few weeks ago (and was unable to put back up alone).
After that, everyone else started arriving and over the course of the day I manned the buffet table, meeting many members of the housemate’s family and Susan’s family. There were even some little kids there. Everyone brought fruit. It was fruitopia. The day spun by so very quickly. We were unable to have the main part of the memorial service, due to some clerical errors that kept Susan from being able to get Ray’s death certificate (and therefore also his remains), so the little tree she was going to plant in his honor remained on her front porch. A few of us spoke about Ray, even his little son Jeff, and we all cried. It was nice to meet so many people that loved my brother and sister-in-law.
Because it was also the busiest day of the band year back home, I skipped out on the early evening’s visitor (who had come late due to his work schedule). I went back to my room and watched the livestream of my kids marching at UIL Contest and then looked for photos of them from the Rose Parade earlier in the day. I texted with them, congratulating them on their Sweepstakes win. And then I went back out and joined the conversation.
The next morning I did not get up early. We all got up a little later and then moseyed over to church, which was part Southern Baptist-part rock band church-part surfer dude speak. Everyone there was really nice and no one bugged me about my mask. After church was lunch and after lunch my best friend from high school came and scooped me up and we ran off to Starbucks for a while. I was sad to leave her when our time was up, but I love how easily we slipped back into that friendship for a couple hours.
After that, Susan and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for Joe and I to get thoroughly soaked from the waist down and for Jeff to lecture us on the improbability of us turning into merpeople and Susan to get creeped out by some weirdo. A couple hundred beach pictures in ten minutes, really. But it was good. I always feel better at the beach.
Susan dropped us back at the house and stayed just long enough to say hi to the chair lady. Then she drove back out to pick up Angela. I made my “famous” chicken spaghetti and “Aunt Mandy’s” green beans for a late “fancy” dinner. I laughed at that. Chicken spaghetti is the easiest thing ever. I taught Joe my secret sauce, just in case they liked it. Oh boy, did they! Jeff said I took him to “Flavor Town” and “Delicious Land.” I’m so happy it was well-receieved.
We went to bed very late that night, in some part due to a conversation that needed to take place out of the earshot of the children. We had to wait for Joe to fall asleep. In the end, an agreement was reached about what would happen with the kids if something happened to Susan. It was a hard conversation, but necessary. I was really glad to be included.
The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn so Susan could drop me off at the airport and then take the kids straight to school. I waited in the longest TSA line I’ve ever seen, but made it to my gate all right. The flight itself was mostly okay, but there was a medical emergency towards the end in first class, so we ended up spending quite a while at the gate waiting for that to get sorted out. Then Katherine picked me back up and we had a late lunch and then went to rest at her house for a while before I drove home. I was feeling so foggy and out of it, I was worried about driving home. I did end up making it home okay, but I had to stop for a while halfway home and walk around for a bit to get my brain back online. So I didn’t get home until about 7:30pm (I’d expected to be home by 5pm).
Tuesday I spent cleaning my entire house. Being away from home on a super busy weekend makes the mess so much worse. But I was also still feeling so groggy and weird that it was hard to get anything done. I started to worry that I was coming down with a cold or something. I attended my Spiritual Practices group, but I absorbed none of the conversation, alas.
Wednesday morning was my pill box refill day. I couldn’t find the pills I needed to fill the box. I finally realized that the reason I was so out of it was that I had picked up my medicine at the pharmacy before I left on the trip, but had forgotten to put that one in the box I took with me. So I’d skipped it for a couple days by accident. (And now I know just how essential it is to my health and well being.)
I taught a lesson at the Wednesday Whatchamacalit group that day and it went well. That is detailed in an earlier post. Later. I spent the rest of the day resting/spending time with my younger kids because I knew that the next day I had some more big cleaning to do.
Thursday I went over to the David House and helped him get it cleaned up because my dad was coming to visit. David was supposed to have finished moving rooms before my dad came to town and he had not finished. Plus there was resetting the room he’d moved out of and resetting the closet of the room that stored the stuff that used to be in that room and putting stuff from the room he was moving to into that closet. If it sounds circuitous, it really was.
After that was the recycling. I don’t think anyone has taken the recycling out of the house since January. I filled my entire Jeep up from top to bottom and back to front. It was only about 2/3 of the total recycling. I had other errands to run, though, so I did that and never got back to check on the David House.
This morning I got up and realized that I’d never gotten around to doing the critiques for the Pineywoods Critique Group, which was just as well because I hadn’t sent anything in over the last weekend, either. So the spouse and I went and got haircuts, which we have literally never done at the same time before. Then we ran a couple errands and ate lunch. One of the errands was picking up all the boxes of history for the ETWG Historian position before the current Historian moved and took them with her.
This was the last thing on my To Do list for the day besides feeding and chaperoning the band. It’s also the first real writing I’ve done all week. I’m not sure I’ll have time during the weekend to write, unless I am very careful with my time. We have the game tonight, my dad in town, an afternoon church party tomorrow, dinner at my dad’s and games, then church Sunday morning, and an ETYO concert Sunday afternoon. I may not get anything sent in to the critique group this weekend either. Chapter Nine of CQ needs re-drafting. Maybe I’ll send them some more poetry.
I spoke today at the Wednesday Writers Whatchamacalit. I had gotten a slide show and topic prepared, but we got a little off topic, as sometimes happens with the WWW. Instead, I got to coach a group of ladies on Gender Identity, Personal Pronouns (and how we don’t say that anymore), and how language change can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention. Eventually we got around to my topic, but we came at it sideways, so I never got around to my slides. We had a great time helping one of our writers figure out how to redraft parts of her novel, so the midpoint was really the midpoint and what to add that would carry the rest of the story on through with the theme she wanted. It was a really good experience and I still have this slide show in my back pocket for another speaking engagement. 🙂