Back to School, Back to Work

This whole summer was one big logistical nightmare. We got the kids all moved, got my writing studio space all finished, and I mostly sat around and tried to breathe like a normal human being. I couldn’t, so I started seeing all the doctors and having x-rays and heart testing procedures. I ended up not doing any teaching at the library at all and quit a couple of other volunteer board positions that I just couldn’t physically handle as well.

I spent a lot of time just sitting and scanning or taking photos of my old journals, digging through and purging old files of art and school notes from when the kids were in elementary school, and making Scrivener files for all of the random writing I found within every stack of paper I touched. It was all very interesting to me from a “I’m always writing something, even when I shouldn’t be” perspective. I enjoyed that project a lot, even though my family got sick of me asking them to lug boxes around or to take another stack of papers to the recycle bin or “Can you read this thing that I wrote a decade ago that I can’t quite make out?” In the end, I counted 76 used notebooks and planners, plus two giant 3 inch binders full of loose-leaf paper and page upon page of stuff written on the backside of something else.

The floor plan of the house for one of my stories written on the backside of a page of PTA notes from 2013.

Summer band started a month ago and I’ve spent all of my time either taking two kids back and forth and back again between high school and college campuses for band practices and student orientations or in doctor’s offices letting them take yet more of my blood or more pictures of inconceivable places inside my body.

Now everyone’s back to school. My youngest started his sophomore year in high school last Monday and I thought to myself “Oh, I’ll get so much done!” But our black cat had other plans. I ended up taking him back and forth to the regular vet and then the emergency vet and then his regular vet again. Once he was better, my youngest slipped on the band field and had to go to Urgent Care for a sprained ankle. So this very wet Monday morning my midkid started his freshman year of college, but I was walking my youngest into school, carrying his enormous amounts of stuff while he swung in on crutches. My eldest took the midkid to his first day of college. I did get a “first day of college” selfie via text, so there’s that.

After that, I had nearly four hours to myself. I checked in with my Accountability Partner, and then I got to work. I made myself a more reasonable schedule of writing and writing related work (for those non-writers among us: finding short story and poetry markets, matching already written work to those submission guidelines, editing those pieces to fit word counts or to play up a theme, then writing cover letters and packaging my work so I can send them off, communicating with publishers and/or editors, doing edits for the places that bought my work, looking over proofs before things go to print, making images for new things and updating my webpage – hahaha – and my social media with images and links to the new books that have my work in them, etc.). I put everything into my Google calendar and Tasks list, but also wrote them into my paper planner, which helps me remember things better than the online stuff does (but the online versions keep me from getting too paranoid about losing a planner again, like what happened 5 years ago).

The Goals corkboard above my writing desk. I have two corkboards, but the other one is filled with things I like to look at, which I do not own the rights to for posting purposes, so we’ll leave that one just for me. 🙂

All of the planning now out of the way, I can get started with the first goal on my list: make a list of markets currently buying the kinds of stories I write. Off I go!

I also worked out weekly goals for the last six weeks of this quarter and all of the final quarter of the year. I’m hoping that I added in enough rest and recuperative time. I basically doubled the amount of time that I gave myself for similar things last year. We’ll see how that goes.

Painting and Moving and Painting, Oh My

My middle child graduated from high school last month. He’s starting out at the local community college five minutes down the road, which is known for its fantastic band program, with the intention of heading to an even bigger band program a couple hours down the road to get a music education degree and become a band director. In any case, he is moving this week.

For those of you new here, my father has a house around the corner from me, in addition to his main house in College Station. Our eldest son moved over there his second semester of college, just before Covid hit. We never got his room repainted, he eventually decided he liked a different room better, and he never completely unpacked in either room so now he has stuff in two different bedrooms.

What the room looked like when my eldest lived in this room.

So last week we started consolidating the eldest back into one room and prepping the walls in the other one for painting. My husband and youngest kid primed the deep maroon walls with Killz.

This week we (my husband, me, my younger two in pairs over three days) painted the room mint green. The midkid started packing up his room at this house, in between Freshman Orientation and working at Studio Movie Grill. So far, he’s entirely his mother’s child and has only packed books and stuffed animals.

So refreshing now! To be fair, we haven’t really moved anything in yet.

In the meantime, his little brother, who is taking over his room here, has been picking out paint for his new space. Just imagine the opposite of this happy light green. This kid wants to live in the depths of the evil forest. He’s already weeded through all his worldly goods and is halfway packed. Yesterday he stood by his brother most of the day and made him keep putting things in boxes. I love him so much.

halfway packed and has .

I’ll also be moving — all my office equipment, writing, and craft stuff over to the youngest’s old room — so I have been picking out paint samples of my own, buying decor, and trying to find some bookcases that don’t have to be built by me. I was sorely tempted by a color called Love Poem just to be silly, but I don’t think I should live in a color so lurid.

No writing has been done in the last couple of weeks, but I have touched nearly every book in the house at this point. Hahaha. It’s exciting around here, to say the least.

My mailing list: Lisa’s Literary Landings

I’ve been working hard to get my writing business set up this week, since I have several pieces coming out later this year: a time travel story in a multi-genre beach themed anthology, a memoir-style essay in an anthology about parenting, and a couple poems in a literary journal. Today’s set-up involves getting my mailing list started. So, if you are interested in keeping up to date on where to find all my publications and to get a free short story, please visit this page: Lisa’s Literary Landings

NaNoWriMo 2021, Day One

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.

Writing and Waiting

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.

Today’s Speaking Engagement at TPLWC

I spoke today at the Tyler Public Library’s Writing Club Facebook Group on “How to Do a Writing Check-Up.” I spoke about what to include in the check-up and how to use the results to make goals and improve yourself and your writing business. I included some exercises geared towards that and then also some regular writing exercises, just for fun. It went really well! If you are a member of the group, you can see the replay of the live video here: {link}

NaNoWriMo 2020

Another year, another NaNoWriMo. I prepped all October to finish up the rewrite for last year’s Nano novel (Caro’s Quest) but then there’s been this other story this last week (Lady Air Pirates steampunk thing) that I cannot get out of my head, so I changed courses this morning and started on that instead. I’m in a mood, what can I say?

I’ve written 1711 words so far on the weird steampunk thing. It’s really weird, man. I had to stop for lunch (frozen cheese pizza for the third time this week – Greg’s trying to get it out of his system before he goes back to in person school tomorrow), but I feel like there’s more story in me and I’ve already done all the other personal life stuff I needed to today, so I think I’m going to write some more while my brain is still good.

I am still working on Caro’s Quest, though. I have thirty days of re-writes planned out, so I’ll do those and use this new story as a bargaining chip. As in, “do your rewrites, Lisa, and then you can write the crazy lady air pirate story after.”

I’ve made myself a crazy excel spreadsheet of all my projects and am going to track and see how many words I write a month overall. (A kid came through just now and wanted to know how many projects that is and I’ve counted four fantasy novels, one mystery, one memoir, all the short fiction I do during my writing group times, and this blog.) I’ve been curious about what that number would like for a while now. Maybe I’ll share that with y’all later. 🙂

What are y’all working on this month? Doesn’t have to be writing. What’s your passion project? Tell me about it in the comments.

Keeping the Sabbath

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So this week in Spiritual Practices class we covered “Keeping the Sabbath.” If you know me well, you know the phrase “keeping the Sabbath” weirds me out. I spent a long time trying to shove my big round self into the little square hole of my husband’s religion and “keeping the Sabbath” and “keeping the Feasts” where big phrases in his church community. It really makes me shudder.

With the Unitarian Universalists, keeping the sabbath seems to be an easy affair. It can be done any day or any time. It doesn’t even have to be all day, apparently.

What is a Sabbath practice? The Hebrew root of Sabbath is a word that means “to cease.” So the big question here is: What do we want to turn off in our lives to make a Sabbath? What do we change from our regular lives?

For me, a Sabbath looks like turning off a lot of my responsibilities. I don’t do PTA or volunteer work on a Sabbath, nor do I attempt to get any serious writing done. If a great writing thought comes to me, of course I’ll write it down, but I won’t sit in front of my screen with my mind on my plan and my plan on my mind.

In thinking about it a while, what I realized is that I need more than just not doing things, though. I need things to do. So I thought about it a little more and decided that the things I could do that would make the Sabbath a little cozier were adding in good music, making gratitude lists, reading from my spiritual books, and spending time on self care that I don’t usually get to during the main part of the week (like fun nail polish or teeth whitening or other spa like treatments).

What are some things you do to make your Sabbath a great experience?

Organizing all the things

Over the weekend, my family cleaned out our garage. All four of us at once. Usually it’s just me and one kid or the other, dragging things out and throwing them in the trash. It takes all day, sometimes two. This time I put my foot down and made everyone work together at once. Two hours later we were nearly done. Two dumpsters were filled with trash, the van was filled with donations, and more donate-ables were put out at the curb for people to take. Later that afternoon, I pulled some memory boxes inside, one by one, and dug through them. More papers were added to the recycle bin, old bills were shredded, and folders were made and labeled with dates and kid names. I knocked out 3 of the 7 that were left before the end of the day.

While I was going through all that paper, I found 6 new poems, notes on two novels that I’d never seen before (one which tied up a plot hole I’ve been edging around for months), and a rough draft of a short story I cannot remember writing (but it’s in my handwriting). And all that doesn’t include the four notebooks I found that I hadn’t had a chance to dig through yet.

This afternoon, I typed all that into the computer. Between the random sheafs and the notebooks, I ended up with 14 poems across the last decade. While I was putting those in order, I discovered 22 other poems that had been mis-foldered at some point in the past. Since I was on a roll, I went through all the rest of the notebooks in the bedroom and checked for poetry. Found 5 more pages of one novel, written longhand, and three pages of notes on another one.

After all that nonsense, I opened up my old yWriter files from the current novels and translated a bunch of character/location/item templates into Scrivener, then updated my three current Scrivener novel Outliner Columns/Keywords/Custom Meta-data so they all had matching information to work with.

(I also went to the doctor and shopped at three stores today. I’ve been hyper-productive.)