Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing Distractions


By Susan

A writer is simply one who writes. It should be that simple—putting words on paper, one after the other, until one produces a cohesive thought. String those thoughts together into a story, build that story into a novel.

Yet distractions abound. They are our excuses to not write. Here are some main distractions as we enter the summer months, and some solutions:

Distraction: Other People.
Children who are old enough to make their own meals but still insist it tastes better when you do it. Spouses who need help finding something. (Seriously? Seriously.) Neighbors, ailing parents, bosses with new deadlines, friends-in-crisis. Other people are my favorite reason to not write—after all, they need me. They want me. My fiction? Not so much.

Carve out your alone time and put it on a calendar. Hang a do not disturb sign around your neck. I've been known to hide in my car to write (in fact, I am doing that RIGHT NOW). Turn your phone off, set a small goal, and get to it. Treating your words as if they are your job (if they aren't already) can ensure that you find a way to say 'No' when you need to. Sometimes, you have to take your writing seriously. Give yourself permission to do that.

Distraction: Other Responsibilities.
We all have lives, and lives are messy. Housework and bills, careers and family. Protect your writing time. Remember that no one is holding a gun to your head, forcing you to write. You write because you love it, because you cannot NOT write. Sometimes, you have to treat your writing with love. Guard it, protect it, baby-talk to it if you have to. Choose words with tenderness, construct your paragraphs with care. Don't allow your life to keep you from your art.

Distraction: The Evil Internet.
Ah, here's the rub—the greatest distraction of all.

I believe the Internet's purpose is to frustrate writers with its abundance. We follow never-ending trails seeking clarity and detail to add realism to our fiction. We get distracted by the photos of a distant acquaintances' last vacation on Facebook. Hours pass and, although you've been sitting at the computer, the word count on your manuscript hasn't changed. Not by one word.

There are times when the only solution is to unplug. (Gasp!) I know, you don't think you can. You need it, right? Well, guess what? You don't. Remember all those short stories you wrote when you were in college? There was no Internet then (okay—maybe for some of us.) Remember all the handwritten pages that were the first draft of your first novel? No Internet there, either. Sometimes, you must unplug to truly get plugged in to your own work. Try it sometime. Turn off your wi-fi and turn on your own writing machine. Maybe just for an hour to see what happens.


We all have distractions, responsibilities and, if we're lucky, people who need us. It all comes down to discipline. Protect your writing. Love your craft, and avoid falling down the rabbit hole in your research. Set goals and stick to them.  Decide to write and don't make excuses. That's the only way to get to the end!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

As seen on the web

by Joan

We often grumble about how much time we fritter away surfing the internet or reading blogs (yes, like this one). Our minds are distracted, lured by words and pictures meaningful to us. We click on news feeds, writerly sites and online bookstores. Is this wasted time or research? A little of both, I suspect. 

For me, these tangents have inspired more than one story idea or plot twist. As I write this, my inbox shows ten emails from myself, chock full of gems forwarded from news apps or Twitter feeds. 

I find the BBC News feed fascinating. In addition to the expected categories, Top News, Business, The World, they run a Features and Analysis section with essays and articles on literature or cultures or lifestyles. Especially enlightening is the “10 things we didn’t know last week” column. 

Maybe you’re writing historical fiction set in fifteenth-century Britain and come across this:
 
Richard III buried in hastily dug untidy grave." Hmmm, a story from the gravedigger's perspective sounds good to me!
Richard III - credit The Independent
Do you know about Flipboard? You can find this app on your phone, tablet or computer. It offers an array of magazine sources and a way to personalize your page. Do you like travel and art? Photography? Film? 

I'm a newbie to Twitter, but follow a few groups, such as Random House, LittleBrown, NY Review of Books, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly.

Looking for the best new books from PW

How about an inspiring story about a Walmart employee in California who found a spiral-bound notebook containing almost two hundred handwritten rules in the parking lot. He decided to track down its owner after reading rule no. 154: “Protect this rule book.” Now Simon & Schuster is publishing the book, written by ten-year-old Isabelle Busath and eight-year-old Isabella Thordsen.

For all things literary, visit Literary Traveler. The top ribbon offers Articles, Tours, Travel, Gear, Hotels and, of course, Books. How about a tour of Thomas Hardy’s Dorset? Or a stay at this cool hotel

You might want to learn about (or visit) Britain’s The George, a famous literary pub that may or may not have served Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens.


Interested in H.G. Wells, spacetime, cosmic clocks, and timeless truths? Although I’m not a big sci-fi reader, time travel has always fascinated me (Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife anyone?). Perhaps if you’re going to tackle this in your plot, you might want to read a new book by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin about time and space: Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Writer’s Digest runs a column “Seven things I’ve learned so far,” featuring guest authors. And I always learn something from author Brian KlemsThe Writer’s Dig

And this post on writing historical fiction is a must-read for anyone about to embark on writing in that genre. The essayist is the Susan Sherman, author of The Little Russian, a book that I can’t wait to read.

What online treats have you found? Please share!






Monday, May 27, 2013

Honoring Authors on Memorial Day

By Pamela

The first official Memorial Day took place on May 30, 1868, when General John Logan proclaimed the remembrance of fallen soldiers; flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Today it's a national holiday, although many southern states still honor their Confederate soldiers on separate dates.

Over time, the meaning of Memorial Day has diluted from honoring war dead to the inclusion of honoring all deceased--even those who have not fallen in service to our country. In 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance was passed to help reeducate the public about the reason for the holiday. So, today, at 3 p.m., all Americans are urged to "voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps.'" I'll pause to pray for safekeeping of those currently serving our country.

I thought it was also fitting on this day, to recognize American authors who served our country during war times. Here is a list of author/soldiers I thought you might recognize:

E.E. Cummings, prolific author and poet, World War I*
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, etc., World War I*
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five, etc., World War II
Edward L. Beach, Jr., Run Silent, Run Deep, etc., World War II
Pres. George H.W. Bush, All the Best, etc., World War II
Norman Mailer, The Executioner's Song, etc., World War II
Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity, etc., World War II
Joseph Heller, Catch-22, etc., World War II
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, etc. World War II
Gore Vidal, Ben-Hur, etc., World War II
Richard Hooker, M.A.S.H., Korean War
Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July, Vietnam War
Gustav Hasford, The Short-Timers**, Vietnam War
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried, etc., Vietnam War
Sen. James "Jim" Webb, Fields of Fire, etc., Vietnam War
Tobias Wolff, This Boys Life, etc., Vietnam War
Anthony Swofford, Jarhead, Gulf War
Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds, Iraq War
Colby Buzzell, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Iraq War

Weston Ochse, Scarecrow Gods, etc., Afghanistan War

A more inclusive list of American author/soldiers exists online, and many non-American authors dutifully served their countries during war times such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I researched dozens more lesser-known American authors and was struck at how most wrote volumes of science fiction. If I'm somehow skipped over one you think deserves mentioning here, please leave a comment.

*Both Cummings and Hemingway were ambulance drivers.
**Adapted for the screen as Full Metal Jacket.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Break

The contributors of What Women Write wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. We will resume posting next week.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eating and drinking and writing ... oh, my!

A sampling of goodies at The Grand Tasting.
By Pamela

This past weekend I had the good fortune of attending Culinaria--a weekend festival in San Antonio devoted to food. Yep. It was a tough gig.

A group of about 15 of us spent Thursday through Sunday hopping from one marvelous event after another. We attended a food truck competition in a parking lot. Donned hats and aprons for a morning at culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America (or CIA, as they call it). Together we sat at private meals hosted by the hippest hottest restaurants in town. We even got VIP access to The Grand Tasting--which was aptly named, if you ask me. And did I mention wine? And tequila? And craft beer? No great meal goes down without the perfect beverage.

My fellow attendees were all writers--journalists, I suppose is more accurate, but that hat looks different today than it did when I started writing years ago.

Meet Ali, a young writer at GimmeSomeOven.com who just turned 30 and has successfully carved out an online niche for herself in the vast world of food bloggers.

Andie, me and Ali at culinary school.
And then there's Andie, another blogger who's not quite 30 and already has a book deal with a division of Random House--a memoir of her journey from overweight teen to svelte young woman. An ordeal that spanned a 135-pound weight loss. And did I mention she's graced the cover of Woman's World magazine? Check out her blog at CanYouStayForDinner.com.

Lynn and Cele, a married couple from North Carolina (they regularly hang with Pat Conroy!) who are travel journalists, were two of the best dinner companions you'll ever meet.

Another couple, Greg and Moran, work as a team as well--she as a graphic designer, he as a writer. Again, lovely people with a new baby on the way. (We were campaigning hard in Moran's corner for the name Flannery over his choice of Kit.)

I could list everyone but the point is--writers come from all walks of life and find work in all manner of venues. The one thing they have in common is passion. Passion for the written word, regardless of how it's read, and passion for telling their stories. I came away from the event inspired and hopeful for my own writing career. Part of that includes beefing up my online image and exploring options for travel writing--something I've always wanted to do. But most of all I realized once again that writing is not a solitary pursuit. Our work grows when we get out among other writers who share our crazy life and wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Flowers of May

by Elizabeth

I've often said whoever put Mother's Day in May was surely playing a sick joke. When my son began preschool, I quickly learned that May is crazy for mothers. Add in the second kid with school, soccer, dance lessons, etc., and it was nothing short of pandemonium. Then with actual school, teacher gifts, end-of-year assemblies, it was simply insane. I don't know how many times I uttered "May!" with disgust as I raced from event to event.

But this year has been different. Which has been a relief, a shock, and to my surprise, has carried a tiny (very tiny) element of mourning along with it.

I still have a lot of the usual stuff, the teacher conference here and there, awards ceremonies to attend at school (hooray!), and that last week of school I'll be cutting up pineapple and strawberries and hauling kids around to end of year parties. But without anyone in a dance class or a play or soccer or softball, this May has been less than frantic. As I stood out in the school field the other day, running a game for "Buddy Fun Day," I mentioned to more than one mother-of-youngers that come middle school, May was maybe not so terrible. (Though maybe it will be for them, if their kid is a multi-sport athlete. We have Tae Kwan Do, and no belt test for a while thanks to the achievement of the black late last year.)
My daughter and friends celebrate another tug-of-war victory.
 

It was sort of a revelation, and I've taken a moment a couple of times to wonder if this feeling of non-urgency where before had been rush is a little like moments when you finish up portions of a book. Not only wonder: I know. I remember that feeling of relief each time when I "finished" my two completed novels (though they were both revised, and revised, and in one case revised yet again, but that moment nonetheless occurred). I wonder if there's the same moment of "ahh" when it's sent to the publisher with revisions, and again when the galleys are corrected and complete. I hope so. I think probably so. (I should really ask Julie.)

And that's a pretty great feeling.

But so is the rush of May, a reminder of why I had kids in the first place. I didn't have them so I could sit on my rear all day and watch them grow. I'm realistic, and was before conception, to know, even if I didn't really know (because you can't), that it's not an easy road. May, I didn't know about, but each year when it rolled around with all its bustle and angst, I enjoyed it even as I suffered through, because that's a big part of what motherhood is.

And the rush and hurry and work work work is part of being a writer. In the groove, when it's going really well, you can feel that it's working (like when you land on the perfect idea for teacher gifts and think, "Of course!"), and it's a good feeling, busy as it may be. It's satisfying to do the work, get it done, and know at the end you did it well.

Then it's out of your hands, a breath expelled as you send it off into the world for a while, hoping it will come back to you with more work to do to get it further and further out into the world and finally to stand on its own.

There's a reason people think of their books as their babies.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reading Short

By Susan

Like most writers, I'm also a reader. Over the past six months, I've tackled several new short story collections that I can't help but pass on.

Here's a list of some of the compilations I've read so far this year.


The Tenth of December, By George Saunders
I cannot praise this compilation enough. Beyond his innovative style, incredible devotion to point of view, and his boundless imagination, George Saunders is a genuinely friendly, normal, and totally cool guy (I met him at his Dallas book signing last month and was impressed with his kindness.) Allow yourself the pleasure of reading all of the stories in this book. Once you understand Saunders, you can't help but love him. He's a writer's writer, and I can't speak highly enough about the perfection of his work.

Dear Life, by Alice Munro
She's simply fascinating. The 81 year old writer is a powerhouse when it comes to the short. I wish I could explain how she does it, but somehow each short story encapsulates a world that feels simple and familiar yet also incredibly complex. If you can only read one short story from this collection, I'd recommend "Corrie."

Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Ron Rash
If you don't know of Ron Rash's work, you will soon. He's the kind of writer I'd only dream to one day become-- a prolific poet, short story writer, and novelist, with five published novels, five published short story collections and four volumes of poetry to his credit. This September, the movie version of his novel Serena will be released with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in the lead roles. His latest short story collection feels so real and raw it's as if you've met these characters before. This entire collection will break your heart. He's got a great gift for ending each story with a turn the reader doesn't expect, yet appears so effortless you wonder how you didn't see it coming.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guest and Giveaway: Amy Sue Nathan on The Glass Wives

By Julie

Amy Sue Nathan's debut novel, The Glass Wives released Tuesday, and I've been looking forward to sharing about this novel for months. Amy and I met through Backspace years ago, and eventually both found ourselves in Book Pregnant, a group of debut novelists who blog together and celebrate the ups and downs of giving birth to first novels together. We've become dear friends over these many months since we sold our novels, chatting frequently on Facebook messenger about kids, dogs, cooking (or lack thereof), or anything else to procrastinate writing ... or cooking. It's been fun.

I was thrilled when Amy asked me to read her manuscript and consider giving a blurb
my very first! And, as it turns out, my very first to be printed on the cover of a novel. What a privilege for me. I loved the story. Here's what I said in that blurb:

“In The Glass Wives, Amy Sue Nathan examines what it means to build an unconventional family when the original families shatter suddenly and irreparably into pieces. Nathan's adept writing, wry humor, and authentic emotion carried me effortlessly from the beginning of this tender and hopeful debut novel to its satisfying end.” — Julie Kibler, author of Calling Me Home

(OK, I had to leave that last bit ... it still gives me a little ego boost to see that "author of" thing!)

Here's more about Amy:
Amy Sue Nathan lives and writes near Chicago where she hosts the popular blog, Women's Fiction Writers. She has published articles in Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and New York Times Online among many others. Amy is the proud mom of a son and a daughter in college, and a willing servant to two rambunctious rescued dogs.

About The Glass Wives (St. Martin's Press, May 2013):
When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?

I wanted to do a special interview with Amy, much like what I did with Sere Prince Halverson last year. As I read and contemplated The Glass Wives, certain themes and ideas emerged. I gave Amy a handful and asked her to choose what resonated with her. She talks about them here, and I love how her responses give the reader an idea of what is contained in this lovely novel!
photo by Jiri Hodan

Motherhood
Motherhood is a theme in The Glass Wives, for sure. Every major character is a mother, and how she parents her child is evident, even if it’s not the focus. Even Beth, whose college-age son is only off-the-page (although in an earlier version of the novel he comes home) it’s clear that when he was younger, Beth was an active part of the school and sports community in Lakewood, the fictional Chicago suburb where The Glass Wives is set.  It’s more obvious to look right at Evie, who might like to close the door on Nicole but won’t, because she knows it wouldn’t be what is best for her kids.  I tried to strike a balance for Evie that isn’t always present in my own life, and that was fun. Although it’s her priority, Evie doesn’t really lose herself in motherhood, and I know I’ve been guilty of that.

photo: Kicksave2930's Flickr photostream
Grief
Forget about stages. Grief sucks in any stage. What I wanted to accomplish in The Glass Wives was to be realistic, but to encapsulate the grief and healing process to show that it can get better, but maybe not in ways you’d expect. 

Photo: Christina Matheson's Flickr photostream
Compromise
Compromise has two meanings to me. A compromise can be meeting someone in the middle so both people benefit. A compromise can also be giving up, letting go, or undermining—yourself, your ideals, your morals, or your beliefs. I’d like to think that in The Glass Wives I don’t allow Evie to compromise herself in a negative way, but that she compromises and meets Nicole in the middle to make life better for herself and her kids.

Coffee
To me, coffee is something I do, not just something I drink, and I tried to incorporate that into The Glass Wives for Evie, Laney, and Beth.
Photo: Amy Sue Nathan!
It’s more of a label for getting together with girlfriends and talking, whether there is really coffee involved or not.  For the friends in the novel, they have their own special cups in Evie’s kitchen. I remembered a woman I was friends 
with years ago whose best friend lived far away.  They each had the same mug and that’s what they used for their coffee (or maybe wine?) when they chatted on the phone. I loved the comfort implied by Evie’s friends having special mugs in her cabinet. 

Forgiveness
Photo: Fammy's Flickr photostream
I hate admitting I had an “ah-ha” moment while watching Oprah years ago, but I did. I realized that what I’d heard was true. Forgiveness is for the victim, if you will, not for the perpetrator. In The Glass Wives, Evie is able to close the door on a portion of her life (when she can) to move forward for the sake of her children. She knows that if she holds onto what makes her angry and hurt she won’t be able to see the good things around her.  I like to think Evie inherited that from me, but maybe I’m being too generous.

Photo: Ehud's Flickr photostream
Holidays
I love holidays, especially Jewish holidays that include big family meals. I loved imagining the Seder at Evie’s house.  The beauty of fiction is creating something from scratch that you might wish was real but plenty of the fun of fiction is also writing what you’re glad isn’t real. As someone who lives far away from family and spends a lot of holidays at friends’ homes, it was wonderful to write for Evie a big holiday with family and friends at her own house. I don’t often have the chance to do that. 

Photo: cobalt123's Flickr photostream
Glass
Glass is strong, yet fragile; transparent, yet dirties easily. It’s also easy to clean and start over. No, this isn’t a Windex commercial; it’s how I saw the characters in the book and in retrospect, why the last name Glass fit them so well. I chose the name because it was one-syllable, Jewish (but not overly ethnic), and worked with the name Evie, which was always the name I preferred for the main character. 

I didn’t realize until well into the writing process how the last name Glass had multiple meanings.   To me that is beshertmeant to be.



GIVEAWAY:
One lucky reader is going to get a paperback copy of The Glass Wives. Simply leave a comment here before Friday at midnight, telling what resonated with you while reading Amy's answers. We'll randomly draw and notify a winner Saturday. Please leave an email address or link your comment to your website so Amy can notify you in some way, as I will be out of the country and unable to update the post itself. Your copy will be shipped as soon as possible!

Thanks for stopping by What Women Write. I hope you'll find and read The Glass Wives

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sliding In

By Pamela 


My softball girl (R) with her teammate.
Last week at my girl's softball game, as the third inning was about to start, the opposing team's catcher hurled the ball back to their pitcher, who wasn't looking, and it hit her in the head. Granted, the catcher didn't have an arm at all and it was more of a lob, but the pitcher was understandably upset and grabbed her forehead and cried. Possibly a little due to shock that the ball didn't bounce first before reaching the mound.

The pitcher's mom was apparently one of the five coaches in the dugout (it takes a village to herd a team of ten-year-olds), and she flew onto the field to assist her daughter. Mom's sprint to the mound ended as she slipped on the pitching rubber and wiped out, twisting her knee and ankle thus assuring she needed help off the field. After the game we saw her husband carrying her fireman-style to the car to take her for X-rays. Her daughter? She recovered enough to stay on the field and pitch. At the next game, Mom was wearing a boot--just one and it wasn't made of leather. 

This made me think about how we sometimes overreact to feedback when it comes to our writing. Someone we entrust with our manuscript doesn't like one of our characters, and so we storm into morphing her from a wallflower to a social butterfly. Another helpful early reader thinks our story would be better told from first-person, and so we slide headfirst into changing every 'she' to 'I', every 'they' to 'we'. The next person in line suggests the setting should take center stage, and we spend hours dropping in elements related to the weather, the landscape, the regional colloquialisms.

In the end, our critics think our story is much improved while we're the ones stuck sporting an ugly blue boot with noisy Velcro straps--not to mention the pain of living with a manuscript that isn't really ours, but the product of those around us.

I know my manuscripts have improved greatly from the advice of the women on this blog, but have I employed EVERY suggestion offered up? No, not at all. And I hope I take a moment to consider the changes before diving in with edits. Like the mom in the dugout who should have waited a moment or two or five before seeing if her still-standing daughter would be just fine without her assistance (a lesson I think would serve them both well later in life), as writers I think we're better served if we take our time in weighing the opinions of our early readers.


Friday, May 10, 2013

'Tis the Season



Photo by Deborah Downes
By Kim

There are two seasons of chaos in the Bullock household, not including summer, which deserves a stronger word. Pandemonium comes to mind.

The first season is comprised of those six weeks between mid-October and Thanksgiving called Nutcracker Madness. During this time, weekends are devoted to auditions, rehearsals, costume fittings, picture days and volunteer hours in wardrobe. (Since I can’t actually sew, I am the go-to woman for attaching halos to the heads of angels and paws to the hands of mice.) After this comes dress rehearsals, four performances, and cast parties, oh my! We have run this gauntlet twice now and I can honestly say I look forward to doing it again.

The second season starts as soon as we enter the homestretch of the school year. So far this week we have had three after-school Pre-AP-prep math classes, two major project/presentations, a teacher conference, field day, picture day, reading assessment tests, and two late nights of dress rehearsals for the spring dance recital. Tomorrow we may as well set up cots at the Eisemann Center because we are there from one to nine. (For any folks in the Dallas/Richardson area, Chamberlain puts on a great show and tickets are reasonably priced. The majority of dancers are seasoned performers in complex ballet, jazz, tap and modern routines. Show times are at 2:00 and 7:00.)

Photo by Deborah Downes
It can be a challenge during these times to get any writing done, though writing is often the best outlet to relieve the stress. This morning I looked over what I’ve accomplished for the week and was astounded to see I wrote about 4,000 words in four days. I generally don’t rack up that kind of number even on weeks when I have nothing planned. Here’s how I’ve done it:

1) Other than for dishes and laundry, I’ve let the house go. I don’t care that it looks like a tornado hit it. I’ll clean on Sunday, when everyone is home and I’ll get no writing done anyway.

2) If an errand or chore can be put off until tomorrow, I’ve waited.

3) If an e-mail does not require an urgent reply, I haven’t responded, even if it would only take a minute. Those two or three sentences could be in my manuscript instead.

4) I time breakfast and lunch preparation for those times that the puppy is outside and must be frequently checked on. No work will get done then anyway.

5) Any time I feel the urge to leave my chair, I remind myself that summer break starts in 27 days.

I’m sure other writer mamas out there have their own seasons of chaos and methods for carving out time to write. We’d love to hear from you and learn about your coping strategies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tired and Grateful

by Elizabeth

You know when you are really, really tired? Not necessarily sleepy, although that can be a part of it, but just deep down tired, like your bones need to sleep? That's how I feel right now. And I'm not even the one who really did anything.

Oh, I suppose I didn't do nothing. (Can I use that negative/negative structure? Who cares? I'm tired!) I've had some work being done at my house for the past couple of weeks, and the guys who fixed my floors and replaced baseboards and installed new tile obviously have way more right to claim exhaustion than me. Finally, yesterday, their part of the job was finally over, and my part really kicked in. Did you know that tearing out carpet and replacing it with tile means dust? A lot of dust. Stubborn, sticky, pervasive dust. Everywhere.

I armed myself with brooms, mops, microfiber cloths, spray cleaner, and went at it. And now, after a long day of tackling the dust, I am happy to report...that there's now less dust.

The good news is, the floors really look great. There was one glitch, though, and it involves...dust! Well, it sort of does: the flooring store accidentally put the wrong color grout on my contractor's truck, and no one noticed until after it was nicely set.

Instead of the chocolate-colored grout I'd selected to go with the wood-appearance tiles, they loaded up mocha. Which is, as you can see, the exact color of...dust!

Luckily for me, turns out there is a product that you can dribble into fresh grout to change its color and seal it all in one go. I'm going to tackle that project myself in the coming days. Hopefully, it will take.


In the meantime, I realize that this tiredness is really kind of a gift, dust and all. Having the good fortune to have the means to have someone else install lovely new floors, having the leisure to write fresh words while they toil in creation of dust, even the blood-tiredness I feel now after a day of attacking the by-product of that good work--it's all a reminder that being able to call writing work is really a blessing.

I'm tired, sure. It feels good to sit. Aren't I lucky? Something to remember, especially if the grout stubbornly clings to its color. Which really isn't all that bad once the actual dust is gone.
Can you believe that is tile?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Transformation


By Joan

Hair scraggly and dull, you slide into the swivel chair and peek at your neighbors, who, after all, are after the same thing you are. For a trim, highlighted locks or maybe an updated cut. A transformation.

While in the midst of lathering and snipping and drying, you hear lots of shop talk. Often you come out with a funny or tragic story, an appreciation for your own life, or some damn good advice.

I’ve been going to the same stylist since I moved to Texas. She’s changed salons a few times, but I follow her to wherever she hangs her blow dryer and flat iron. She does wonders with my crazy hair, is reliable and joyful, and tells engaging stories. After most visits, I leave the salon jaunty and uplifted, wishing my hair could look this good every day. 
Crazy 90s hair

While in her chair, I’ve heard about ghosts, heartbreaking events, hilarious holiday traditions and great one-liners. (“Anyone who uses the word suffer is mental.”)  

Today’s nugget from a neighboring stylist: 
“You can't please everyone. You have to remember who you are–don’t try to change for anyone.”

There’s a reason clichés are cliché. They are true. But sometimes I am brave and tell my stylist I want a new look.

As writers, what makes our writing unique is our own truth. We can’t change our past, can’t change our experiences that trickle into our own writing. But we can grow. We can change our future, if we are brave. 

As a writer still learning her craft, I know I must read widely and stretch out of my comfort zone. Susan recently introduced me to two brilliant authors: George Saunders and Cheryl Strayed. Talk about voice. Talk about change of style. I feel as though my hair has been tugged and braided and dyed platinum.

In the hands of a masterful author, your mind can be transformed just as an accomplished stylist would transform your hair. You learn truths and heartache, stretch and question your world view. Leave the chair with a new point of view.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...