Pop! Fizz! Clink!

life-begins

At the beginning of the year, our social media swims with epic mountains overlaid with beautiful fonts spouting common phrases like “Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try” & “Dream it. Wish it. Do it.” The beginning of a new year always feels rejuvenating. There is an energy and pulse around everyone in January. As the year continues, the pulse fades rather quickly and everyone settles back into the humdrum of life. Why can’t our entire years be January – how’s that for a cheesy quote with a mountain behind it? Seriously though, for years, I’ve found myself saying, “Someday, I’ll publish my novel. Someday, I’ll publish my screenplay.” Well, my friends, 2017 is going to be my year because I am going to remove “someday” from my vocabulary and work towards my goals Every Damn Day!

In thinking about my personal goals, at the center is always my desire to create lasting happiness. I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life, and I have found that lasting happiness only occurs when I’m being creative and productive. Sure, I can eat healthier and lose some weight too, but I think if Happiness is my central goal, the desire to better myself physically and mentally will spiral from my pursuit of inner peace.

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the quest for inner peace

My 2017 Creative Goals:

  • Finish writing novel with editor/coach
  • Send off for publication by the end of 2017
  • Publish at least 5 pieces in magazines, journals, anthologies, or collections
  • Conduct at least 2 more writing retreats
  • Go on a solo writing retreat – I’m hoping for a solo teepee
  • Read publicly at least once this year
  • Register and attend Writefest in Houston
  • Successfully complete an on-line workshop
  • Attend Texas Book Festival in Austin (I’ve missed it the last few years)
  • Research potential MFA, PhD, and Writing Residencies
  • Continue posting on Instagram and Blog regularly
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo
  • Write. Every. Damn. Day.

Instagram & Blog Goals

  • Provide memorable and helpful content regularly
    • Instagram – at least 5 posts per week
    • Blog – at least 1 post per week
  • Host a reading and a writing challenge on Instagram
    • #2017WEDDBOOKBINGO – starting January 1
    • Create a monthly writing challenge during NaNoWriMo
  • Be authentic
  • Establish relationships with my followers

On New Years Eve, I posted my first reading challenge to my Instagram followers to help inspire their reading quests. I plan to send prizes to those participating in the Bingo and hope to complete it myself in 2017! The Bingo card is posted below. The rules are simple. You can strive for a regular Bingo (5 in a row) or try to Blackout the entire card by 2018. My followers should be posting examples of what they are reading for each category and sharing the Bingo card with others in order to win swag 🙂 All of the awards will be related to literature and writing 🙂 Be sure to follow me on Instagram at write.every.damn.day

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In order to ensure a successful completion of my personal goals, I’ve made several writing friendly spaces in my home. I fully intend to share those spaces with you in my next entry. Expect lots of pictures and creative ways to make every room in your house, the perfect space to write! In making your own space encouraging, it becomes easier to Write. Every. Damn. Day.

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On Submitting Your Work for Publication

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Tonight, I found myself hoping to write; instead, I revisited a few of my short stories and decided it was time to send them off into the great unknown. Considering how many publications to submit to and finding the write ones to send a story to is completely overwhelming. A fellow writer friend and I chatted on the phone for a bit this evening and we both feel that knowing when a piece is complete is half the battle. Once you feel proud enough of one, the second hurdle  (for me, the more difficult one) is reading and researching where to submit. I’ve found both Poets & Writers and NewPages helpful avenues to begin my search for the perfect publication to print my stories.

The first short story I decided to submit, is entitled “Words.” It’s tale told from the perspective of a cat who wishes she had the words to tell her owner her boyfriend is cheating on her. I’m especially proud of the voice I created in this piece and hope that someone finds my feline raconteur worthy of publication.

The second piece is a work of creative non-fiction entitled “In Every Other Universe”; this piece was harder to send into the cosmos because it is a personal narrative about a failed relationship. It describes the moment that I knew I loved him, but that we could never be together again.

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We were together. I forget the rest. – Walt Whitman

SPOILER ALERT: Last week, I went to see La La Land in theaters. The film is a musical meditation on how our own personal dreams intertwine and beautify our relationships. In love, we are often more likely to chase our destiny; however, when fate and practicality collide, love can fade, hearts can break, and the once harmonious melody that existed between two lovers can become a cacophonous misfortune. The metaphor of jazz as a respectful community of musicians that value the  individualistic talents of one another is carried throughout the film.  At the conclusion of the La La Land, Mia (Emma Stone) unexpectedly attends her former lover, Sebastian’s (Ryan Gosling’s), dream jazz club and envisions an entire future with the man she once loved.

“Every Other Universe” explores this type of junction from my own personal life, and as much as I would like to say those emotions no longer have power over me, I’ve had moments like Emma Stone’s where I envision an entirely different life for myself. This is not to say I am unhappy with my current life; fiction that explores these twinklings is powerful because it is natural to question, wonder, and daydream about the possible outcomes of one’s own life. Is this not why we tell stories? Or how we create relatable characters? 

The occasions where we find a bit of ourselves in other stories, or hell even in the ones we write, are what make us continue to read and write. These moments make us human. These moments make us storytellers.

These moments should make us what to Write.

Every.

Damn.

Day.

Winter Writing Retreat | Wimberley, Texas

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The Spirit of the Texas Hill Country is one unlike anywhere else. The rolling hills, the laid back lifestyle, and an expanse of dramatic sunsets and starry skies. Don Swander wasn’t lying when he wrote about his love of nighttime Texas celestial nirvana, “The stars at night are big in bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” Leaving the Hill Country and relocating back to Houston was one of the most heartbreaking decisions in my own personal life. For almost ten years, I could walk to quaint coffee shops to write and venture to campus to teach philosophy or attend classes and lectures to develop my own intellect. The loss of this community caused my soul to grow weary during my late twenties. The last few years, I’ve made space to write, but my practice is not what it once was. By hosting retreats and this website, I hope to reconnect with other writers, artists, creatives, yogis, intellectuals, and lovers of aesthetics.

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Texas Sky

We only spent three days in the Hill Country, yet I feel so rejuvenated. My passion is reawakened, and I feel like I have a clear purpose once again. I am a writer. I was meant to put pen to paper and create. The practice of writing transforms when you are in a novel place. All three of us felt that leaving our every day lives in the Houston area behind allowed us to focus. We collectively shared our desire to write and recognized how difficult it is to put pen to paper when you find yourself distracted by the mundane tasks of everyday life. We are all allowing “life” to interrupt our practice of writing, and need to live by the motto of this website.

Write Every Damn Day.

I’ve always been fascinated by how a sense of place can inspire your writing. As an undergraduate, I enrolled in a course called, “The American Novel and Sense of Place.” Our discussions were centered around how the landscape and culture influenced a variety of novelists writing around the same time in America, spanning across the continent. We pondered how a place could influence an Author’s voice and storytelling. In the novel I am currently writing, my characters reside in a town similar to the one I grew up in during the 1930s. Abra draws inspiration from the bordertowns of Texas; interestingly, the décor of our AirBNB inspired her writing as well. The home was a Southwestern style with tribal masks, Mayan artwork, pottery, animal prints, and earth tones. When she and I met to conference about our writing, she kept discussing how the snakes in the artwork around the house were inspiring her story and research.

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Our backyard

I found myself reading and writing near windows or outside in the morning. The backyard was covered in lush greens with the subtle mellifluous tone of wind chimes occasionally sounding. One of the reasons I selected this particular property was the ample mount of outdoor spaces to write. Unfortunately, a cold front blew into Texas, so we were bundled up outside – I took full advantage of the cold weather and used it as an excuse to wear my red panda kigurumi.

I think each of us found a time to enjoy the beauty of the property. Janeen spent a morning drinking tea and writing outside while Abra, a certified yogi, led me through a sequence that inspires creativity. She brought a book titled, Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, and began our practice with an edifying excerpt.

After we bowed to one another with Namaste, we decided to take advantage of the hot tub. Other than eating, this was the only time neither of us was reading, writing, sharing, or editing. I went on the retreat with the goal of writing 10,000 words. I reached 8,000, but I also received some valuable feedback, wrote poetry, read On Writing by Stephen King, and edited the first eight chapters of the novel. Overall, the three of us were incredibly productive, especially in the evenings.

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Janeen writing fireside

Inside, we all found a comfortable spot together in one room by the fireplace at night to write. There is something enchanting about writing by fireside. The glow, the warmth, the crackling – all of it kept me awake and focused longer than I had anticipated. We each had our own room if we needed to be in a space of our own to write or conference one-on-one privately without disturbing one another.

I found myself writing all over the house. I felt invigorated and uninhibited. Writing away from home kept me from thinking about the laundry list of tasks I need to complete daily. Green tea, yoga, nature, and surrounding myself with other constructive and creative women truly made me the most productive I’ve been in years. As much as writing is a solitary activity, doing it in the presence of others is energizing and refreshing.

The only negative about our retreat – it wasn’t long enough. There is nothing more inspirational than being surrounded by writers in a cozy space.

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Do we have to leave?

After checking out of our fabulous AirBNB, we explored Wimberely! It’s a eccentric, artsy town with adorable shops and a welcoming atmosphere. There are boots decorated by artists throughout, so each of us took a moment to snag a picture with a boot similar to ourselves.

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Exploring Wimberley

Personally, I feel like this is the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. I am a true Cancerian by nature,  constantly doing for others, but in hosting writing retreats, I’ve discovered a way to give to myself and others. If you are interested in participating in a rewarding experience, I intend to host another retreat in the Spring, as well as this summer. If you are interested in renting the same property featured in this post, Casa Grande – A Slice of Heaven in Wimberley, Texas , I highly recommend Mark as an AirBNB host.

Magic!

I haven’t actively written the last few days because of health issues, so last night, I decided to go through some old journals and revisit writing. Often when I feel removed from a current project, revisiting past musings helps me to ground myself in the process once again.

One of my favorite exercises from my Creative Writing class in college was the select a word at random and write about it. I found a journal from my 2014 trip to Colorado where I practiced this. I can remember being on the plane with headphones in wanting to write, but not having a clear purpose or idea. So I flipped open the Southwest Airlines magazine from the pocket in front of me. There was an ad for Disney and scrolled across the top was the word MAGIC.

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And like that, the magic happened. I tuned out the rest of the world and wrote furiously for the entire flight.

Last night, after feeling like I did not want to engage in my practice, I found this piece and decided to edit and revise it. I intend to share this piece with others at the writing retreat, and hopefully, I will post a revised product at the end of the retreat. By no means is it the finished product, but I thought I would post an example of what one simple word can yield. Magic!

Continue reading “Magic!”

Recognizing Writing Weaknesses

As I gear up for the writing retreat in a few weeks, I am collecting several documents into a binder that I believe might help writers with their process and product of writing. For myself, I’ve tried to list my struggles with my novel as I write, so I can find resources to assist me as I continue to craft my novel.

One of the habitual hurdles I continually face in writing my novel is finding the perfect words to connect characters to their dialogue. I keep relying heavily on “say/said” before and after dialogue while writing this draft. I’ve found several lists to help me replace the words when I edit, and I’ve compiled my own worksheet with the replacements I find most useful and sophisticated, since some of the resources were geared toward grade school writers.

Also, another one of my struggles is creating the atmosphere I am visualizing as I write. I’ve focused heavily on characterization and dialogue–which is most likely because my preferred style of writing is that of a screenplay–rather than using imagery to create the world around my characters. So often my notes to other friends who write and former students suggest adding more sensory details to help the writer envision a sense of place. However, I find myself lacking that as well.

I believe this is partly due to the fact that I am using a very familiar setting for the first novel in my trilogy–a town based on the one I grew up in. It’s easy for me to picture where my characters interact, but I am conscious that my reader will have a harder time visualizing just how quaint the town is because of the lack of description within my current draft.

A tool that I am using to help me build my world is creating a list of items I need to research related to the same time period and location. I’m collecting photographs, memoirs, historical documents, and lists of popular songs, names, slang, etc. Unfortunately, once my characters leave their world via portal and enter a liminal space, I will not have this type of research to rely on. When that occurs, my plan is to turn to masters of portal fiction and fantasy world-building like Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Phillip Pullman, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, and JK Rowling.

I am curious to hear from any writers who have similar struggles or need ideas to help them with their own. Our struggles should unite us, not stop us, and no matter what, we should always #writeeverydamnday!

Awaiting Winter Writing Retreat

I am hosting my first Write Every Damn Day Winter Writing Retreat in Wimberley, Texas in a few weeks. A group of four very different individuals will open their hearts, writing, and critical eye to one another for three days in the country. I’m excited to catalogue my journey as a retreat facilitator on this blog. I will be sharing strategies and feedback from those who participate in my retreats with my readers.