Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: Advice

MOPS 28-Day-Truth Challenge Days 6 to 10

I’m doing the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) 28-day challenge. This is day 6 to 10 (because I’m behind and trying to catch up). To read my first post about this challenge and the answers to questions 1 to 5, please click here.

Here is Day 6 to 10:

Day 6: Creating a Legacy: Okay, I can’t do Day 6 on here–because it is actually something you have to say to someone. And I don’t want to say it to that someone on a public blog. . .so. . .moving on

Day 7: Birthing Something New: What is something that is being birthed in you right now? 

Answer: This is simple! I want to write a non-fiction book of some kind–I just have to decide which topic or topics I want to cover. I have been thinking about a writing book and also a parenting book. Or a humorous parenting book–or even practical parenting/humor. Or a book about being a mom and divorced. I feel right now the possibilities are endless, and I am using this blog and my WOW! posts to see which topics seem to resonate with readers the most.

Day 8: Confidence Over Conformity: What does your name mean? Hit up Google to discover the attributes spoken to you via your given name.

Answer: Apparently, Margo means Pearl. So, I decided to look up pearl. Merriam-Webster said pearl means:

  1. a :  a dense variously colored and usually lustrous concretion formed of concentric layers of mother-of-pearl as an abnormal growth within the shell of some mollusks and used as a gemb :  mother-of-pearl

  2. 2:  one that is very choice or precious

  3. 3:  something resembling a pearl intrinsically or physically

  4. 4:  a nearly neutral slightly bluish medium gray

Let’s go with definition 2, since that’s the one that could apply to a human being also.  Hopefully, I am precious to my friends, family, and daughter. Or even a gem. 🙂 I do truly believe that all human beings are precious, and individuality is something to be treasured, just like a pearl. So. . .what have you learned here  today? Basically Margo means pearl, but you can just call me Margo.

Day 9: Breathing in the Light: Talk about a time when someone shined a light into your dark place. A time when someone encouraged you when you really needed it. 

Answer: I think I might have mentioned on here before that the absolute worst day of my life was October 31, 2010, when my 5-day-old daughter had to be transferred by ambulance to a children’s hospital in St. Louis City. (She had been in the NICU in the county at the hospital where I gave birth, and doctors decided due to medical testing that she needed to be at the better hospital.) I never knew fear like this before. I remember being with my mom, who was sitting next to me while I pumped with tears streaming down my face and saying, “If anything happens to her, I will not survive this.”

Luckily, nothing happened, and as you have seen in other posts, she is doing wonderfully today. But, that was a very dark day.

Once we were at the new children’s hospital, around 9pm, I was in her private room, and a doctor is talking over my screaming/turning red 5-day-old preemie to explain to her father and I all the testing she needed, why, and what it all meant.

I turned to him and said, “I can’t focus on what you are saying while my baby is screaming. We need to help her first.” (I’m not sure I said it this nicely or coherently. I might have just said, “You have to stop.”)

Then this wonderfully skilled and kind nurse ran in and put her hands on my baby’s head, applying pressure like you need to with a preemie (which I eventually learned) and stopped her crying; so the doctor, who looked absolutely taken aback when I said he had to stop talking until my baby stopped screaming, could finish all the testing talk.

And the nurses, during our entire 30-day stay were terrific, from teaching us how to bathe her, to making sure I was able to breast feed, to answering my phone calls every night at 3am–those NICU nurses are some of the most amazing people on this planet, who encouraged me and shone a light during a very stressful and dark time.

Day 10: Timeless Delight: Do you laugh or frown more? When is the last time you really lost track of time? 

Answer: I definitely laugh more; and more than ever before, I am learning to laugh more, to appreciate life, to feel happiness and be in the moment. This is a learning process, but I feel that I am further along on this journey than I have been. The last time I really lost track of time. . .I need to think about this because I am just not sure. . .I hate to say this, but I am so schedule oriented–so that I can “fit everything in.” I’m going to come back and revise this answer. . .after I have some time to think about it. (Blame game: I am writing this post very late at night, so I will blame my poor response on the fact I need to go to bed. . .)

What about you? Try looking up your name or telling us about a time someone shone a light in your darkness in the comments below. . .

 

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Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir (Review)

Nina Amir, the author of How to Blog a Book, has a new release out titled, Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas and Your Writing Career to Life . In this interactive book, writers will find over 100 exercises designed to get your creative juices flowing, move beyond writer’s block (if you have it), and stretch your mind. In other words, this is a book that gives you permission to be a little eccentric, weird, over the top and encourages you to be more creative than maybe you have ever been in your life. It’s a book we writers have been looking for because we have already read many of the fantastic books about the writing craft–how to construct sentences, when to begin a novel, and what to use instead of adverbs. 🙂

So how is this book set up? There’s a short foreward from Dinty W. Moore, and then an introduction from Nina, where she exclaims, “Become a visionary,” and explains how the brain works, including a diagram of the left and right brain–most of us know that creative people spend a lot of time in the right side of their brain. Nina says that in this book the exercises help you to use both sides of your brain. Basically she’s encouraging you to get out of the limits we all seem to set for ourselves when we say: I can’t or I’m too busy or I’m stuck. What writer doesn’t need something like this book in their lives?

After the intro, she gets into the exercises. You will want to buy a print copy of this workbook, in my opinion, because the pages are full of questions and activities; space is provided for you to write down your answers and ideas. There are even writing-themed coloring pages (I know some of you are going to get this book just because of that!) and affirmation pages, where you can write down how you are a successful author or how you promote your work well. She quotes Muhammad  Ali, who said, ““It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

The exercises are grouped into themes: Self-Exploration, Vision, Goals, Creativity, and Focus. Here are a couple snapshots of them:

nina-page-1 nina-page-2 nina-page-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I read through this book quickly for this review and only did a few of the exercises, I can not wait to start at the very beginning and take my time with every single exercise–it’s one of my New Year’s goals, although I’m beginning it now. My writing life has not been in the forefront for a while, due to all the stuff I’ve written about on this blog, and so I can’t wait to stretch my mind and find my creative self again.

If you want to join me, you can buy the book here.

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The Grueling Process of Submission: Advice to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Publishing Contract

I recently wrote a 3-part series of blog posts for WOW! Women On Writing, about the grueling process of submitting a manuscript to agents, editors, or contest judges. Here it is summarized, with links to each article, in case you find yourself currently submitting to these gatekeepers!

Part one: The Grueling Process of Submission: Hook, Proper Grammar, and To Be Verbs: Recently, I had a friend, David Kirkland, who is an editor of a small press, write and suggest a series of blog posts on mistakes he sees repeated in western, sci fi and fantasy submissions. As I read the list, I thought about the WOW! novel class I teach and the Summer 2016 Flash Fiction contest I will finish judging today and agreed with his points. These mistakes can make readers–who at the submission point are agents and editors–cringe.

I decided in October, before we get to NaNoWriMO and the craziness of writing 50,000 words in a month, I would cover the most important of these in a three-part series about submitting your manuscript. The following post is not just for genre writers, but for any fiction writers, and I would include memoir writers, too. To read more, go here.

qtq80-Q9YqEaPart two:  The Grueling Process of Submission: Backstory and Prologues: Backstory can be that annoying fly on the wall that’s saying you have to deal with me somehow, so how are you going to do it? The thing about backstory is the reader only needs to know enough to understand the story at that point. If it is important that the reader knows the main character went on a hunger strike for 30 days in 1972 in order to understand the story, then you must reveal that fact, even though it happened before the story starts.

But if this same character has had five dogs in his life, all bulldogs–this backstory fact may not be important to understand the story. As the author, you  might think that is interesting and quirky about your character, but you can not bog down the action of the story with the backstory. To read more, visit this page.

Part three:  The Grueling Process of Submission: Main Characters, Adverbs, and Adjectives: Before I give my final tips, I want to reiterate that agents, editors, and contest judges are looking for reasons to reject your manuscript. This is completely different from readers, who are usually willing to give your first several chapters a chance, if you hook them in with an interesting character, great writing, or a plot they can’t resist. Readers want to love every book they pick up. Agents and editors can’t afford to do so, and they don’t have the time. So the tips I’ve been giving you in this series are meant to help you AVOID giving these gatekeepers reasons, besides your plot or characters, to reject your manuscript.

So let’s look at your characters. We all know we don’t want stereotypical characters–no cute, snotty cheerleaders and jock football players who only want one thing; we all write unique and interesting beings. (I won’t say human beings because they could be animals or aliens, right?) David Kirkland, author and editor with High Hill Press, whom I’ve told you gave me the idea for these blog posts, said this about the characters in the beginning pages of your novel, “Ask yourself: Does it [your manuscript] open with important characters? Sometimes the opening pages [I’ve read in submissions] have mostly been about minor characters. That misleads the reader.” To finish this article, go here.

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Share Your Sayings With Me (1st Official New Blog Contest)

Although I haven’t pinpointed exactly what this blog will be about, I know it will be a mixture of humorous and serious posts about being a single mom and a woman, who plans to get herself back in the dating game after having a hysterectomy, and who likes to write. I originally had the idea for this blog when I started writing notes to myself this past year, after separating from my husband and eventually getting a divorce. These notes were often scribbled on a piece of paper, and tacked up on the bulletin board in my bedroom, so  I could revisit them periodically. Here’s one of the first ones I wrote:

advice-to-myself

Why is this life advice on its side?

I’m still working on several of those life lessons above, but one morning while I was drinking coffee, something said: WRITE THESE DOWN, and I’m trying to be aware and work on at least one of these each day.

When I talked about this on my Facebook author/editor page, I received some great responses. So then I asked several people on Facebook to share their advice and/or the sayings they try to live by every day–again, the response was fantastic, and I thought: I should incorporate this into a blog somehow. Here are a few gems from that Facebook post:

  • Don’t wish away your life.
  • Break a big challenge into small steps.
  • Always be the better person.
  • Not my circus, not my monkeys.
  • A wise man learns from his mistakes, an even wiser man learns from another man’s mistakes.

So, to celebrate the debut of my new blog, I thought it would be fun to have a little sayings/celebration of new blog contest with PRIZES. You can enter by doing any of the things in the Rafflecopter form below, and you can enter more than once! ***The main thing I would love for you to do is to write a comment below and share a saying–something you live by, something you’ve seen on FB or Twitter and liked, something your mom/grandma used to say to you, or something you say to your kids. ANYTHING that helps you get through this thing called life. Once you leave a saying in the comments, DON’T FORGET TO CLICK ON THAT BUTTON IN THE RAFFLECOPTER FORM. You are not entered to win a fabulous prize if you DON’T enter on the Rafflecopter form, too.*** 

The person who Rafflecopter randomly chooses first will get their first pick  of one of the prizes below, 2nd person picked will choose 2nd, etc. There are 5 prizes:

  • $10 Amazon or Starbucks gift card
  • 10-page (2500 word) content edit for free
  • One of the books written by me (I have a YA, a middle-grade, or a picture book.)
  • A journal
  • R-E-A-D magnets (4 separate magnets that spell the word READ)

The contest runs until the end of the month–September 30 at 11:59 pm CDT. So let’s have some fun with this. Any questions or you can’t get something to work? Please email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com.

Thanks for playing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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