Look To the Western Sky

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

Tag: writing (page 1 of 2)

I Need To Write 500 Words a Day

All right, enough is a enough! That’s what I’m telling myself and you today. No more excuses. No more self-pity. No more being overwhelmed with life. I am writing 500 words a day even if this latest novel I’m working on goes nowhere!

What’s it about? Well, it’s for adults–that’s new for my fiction, most likely it would be considered women’s fiction. And it’s about a woman who has her first serious relationship with a narcissist in college, and she has an alcoholic sister. She doesn’t know who she is (maybe that’s the reason for my true self post the other day!) except for being connected to the narcissist her entire adult life and being a caregiver for her sister–so yes, she’s totally codependent. In this novel, I explore if it is possible to break free from these habitual patterns of unhealthy behavior and choose yourself over codependency.

And I need to work on this every day. I will write at least 500 words a day.

When I vowed on here to do Morning Pages, I did pretty well. I’m still writing in a journal in the morning several days a week, and it’s very helpful. So I think vowing on here to write 500 words a day will hold me more accountable than if I just tell myself I will do this.

Want to join me?

 

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The Sunshine Blogger Award Forces Me to Answer Some Personal Questions

Talented author and fellow blogger, Pat Wahler, who graciously comments on most of my posts (THANK YOU, PAT! BLOGGERS LOVE COMMENTS! ), nominated me for a Sunshine Award and assigned questions for pondering. The game goes like this:

  • Thank the person who nominated you. (Thank you, Pat.)
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate other bloggers for the award. (Cackles evilly.)
  • Notify the bloggers you have nominated them.
  • Hope they don’t block you, link to your blog in a nice post, where they answer these 10 questions. (I’ve made it 10 questions as that seems reasonable)

1. What do you love most about blogging/writing?

I think it’s an outlet for me. I always feel better after blogging and/or working on my novel. I love readers, but even if I don’t have any, I still feel better to get these words running around in my brain out. It’s an added bonus when someone says my words helped them.

2. Name a place you’ve never been but would love to visit and why?

Europe. Well, I feel like I really need to get out of the country and experience life.

3. Describe your favorite snack.

Chips and dips. Almost any. Chips and dips.

4. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

This is so hard for me because currently as a single mother, I see a lot of kids’ movies and/or watch 1 or 2 episodes of some Netflix or Hulu show. So, I recently saw A Wrinkle in Time, and I really did enjoy it.

5. What is your favorite season and why?

I love summer. I love doing summer stuff like swimming and long walks at night and snow cone stands with Katie. And it is much less stressful than the school year in the mornings.

6. Do you believe in ghosts?

I’ve always wanted to see a ghost but I never have. So I’m not sure about this…

7. What advice do you give but don’t take yourself?

Pat said, “Limit your time on social media. It’s a time suck.” That is a great one, Pat, which I also don’t follow.  🙂 I would say, “Stop worrying about the little things so much.” I am a worry-wart.

8. If you had to choose one favorite color, what would it be?

Yellow! Bright and sunny and beautiful.

9. When is the last time you laughed?

With Katie a few minutes ago when I was trying to convince her that she was the mommy and I was the kid–she could do the chores and I could play. 🙂

10. Do you prefer a tablet or actual book while reading?

Actual book reading. I just can’t get into the Kindle, even though I’ve tried several times.

 

Phew! Okay, now I’m nominating three bloggers:

 

Amy Willoughby Burle who has a new book out so check her out! THE LEMONADE YEAR!

Amy Harke Moore at “A Rural Girl Writes”. This blog is so good. Her latest post is on perfectionism. Check it out if you haven’t.

Kathryn Schleich at  Inspiring Women Authors to Find Their Passion and Live It. Kathryn is a great writer with a great message.

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What’s a Digital Nomad? 11 Tips for this Working Lifestyle

I work from home, although I do have a full-time job with an agricultural company. I can’t say I’m exactly a digital nomad, but I can work from my house or my favorite coffee shop or my parents’ house–you get it. Anywhere there’s Wi-Fi or I can use my phone as a hotspot. If you’re a writer, you also might be a digital nomad! Read this contributed article below for some helpful tips on this working lifestyle. 

Everything about the world is changing, and it’s due to one massive invention: the internet. It’s still too early to say exactly how big of an impact this complex system will have on humanity; but until now, the changes have been momentous. Nowhere is this felt more than the working world. Today, it’s possible to roll out of bed, open up your laptop, and earn your living, without having to ever set foot in an office or traditional workplace. This has spawned a generation of “digital nomads,” who can work anywhere in the world, providing they have access to the Internet. If you’re in a creative industry or involved in tech, then it’s possible that you might have this lifestyle. But how do you ensure that it’s all that it’s cracked up to be? Below, we take a look at 11 ways you can nail the digital nomad lifestyle.

Focus on your Profession

Yes, you might be driven by the idea of spending your working days on the beach, but that’s not the target; it’s the reward. If you want to be a successful digital nomad, then forget about all the perks – at least initially – and instead focus on doing your job well. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re travelling the world, and you might find that your work begins to suffer. As a rule of thumb, always ensure that your work receives your most attention. You’ll enjoy those beach afternoons and fun excursions more if you know you’ve already performed your job well.

Get Your Finances In Order

If you haven’t already begun your digital nomad journey, but are considering it, then you’ll have a lot to look forward to. However, before you begin thinking about the freedom and other benefits of this lifestyle, you’ll need to get your finances in order. It’s likely that you’ll have to take a reduction in income – at least temporarily – if you’re leaving a salaried position. Before taking the plunge, make sure that you have a few month’s worth of income saved up, to give yourself a cushion. It’s possible to severely reduce your expenditures when you can live anywhere in the world, but don’t forget that the flights to get there aren’t cheap and will need to be factored into the cost, too.

Choose Your Destination Wisely

As we’ve just said, when you can live anywhere in the world (visa permitting), you have the option to have greater control of how much you spend when compared to someone who has to live in a certain place due to their work. While you might dream of living in, say, New York City or London, you’ll need to consider just how expensive these cities are. On the other hand, you might look at Bali, or a Thai island, where it’s possible to live very inexpensively. However, in certain places, the low cost of living may mean that you don’t have the same amenities (think, slow or unpredictable internet) as you would in places that are slightly more expensive.

Make Yourself Comfortable

While it might seem glamorous to always be on the move, to have the freedom to up and move whenever you feel like it, it’s worth considering the reality of a neverending tour. You’ll always feel like a traveller! To be at our best, and even just to enjoy travelling, we need to have periods where we’re sedentary. As such, in each destination, it’s best to have a rental house for a minimum of one month, though three or more months is ideal. In doing so, you’ll be able to settle into a rhythm, discover the local culture, and have the space to think about where you want to visit next.    

Find a Coworking Space

Now, one of the biggest draws of this lifestyle may have been the ability to work in your pjs, but the appeal of that could quickly wear off. Sometimes, it’s too difficult to get into “work mode” if you’re super comfortable and working from a place that you normally associate with relaxing. As such, look at getting a membership to a coworking space at each new city you visit. The prevalence of nomad workers means most hotspots have multiple options. Aside from giving you a place to work with reliable internet, they’ll also form the core of your social hub as you look to make new friends; this is especially important if you’re travelling by yourself.

Making Friends

We’ve just touched on the idea of making friends, which is one of the main worries that people have when they set out on this lifestyle. It’s natural to think: “I won’t find anyone to be friends with,” but this is a misguided thought! Places that draw nomad workers are usually very open and friendly, so you’ll quickly find yourself in the thick of an active social group. If you’re wondering how to find people, take a look at meetup.com and any expat Facebook groups for your destination.

Work/Life Balance

If you’re currently part of “the daily grind,” the process of commuting to work, putting in a long shift, and then driving home, we’ll just say that you’re going to love the nomad lifestyle. You’re your own boss! However, this does bring on some extra responsibilities – it means you’re in charge of creating your work/life balance. Knowing how to switch off is just as important as finding the motivation to switch on!

When to Move On

All good things must come to an end. You could spend six months in a place that most people would call “paradise,” but eventually, you might find that it’s not quite doing it for you anymore; and that to progress personally and professionally, you need to move on. This is the freedom you signed up for when you adopted the digital nomad lifestyle, but that doesn’t make moving on any more straightforward. We say: take the plunge and head somewhere new. If you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again, and it might lead to something much better. In any case, your current destination will always be there!

Keeping Up With Life

You’ll be a creation of your own world, but it’s worth keeping in mind that you still exist in “the real world.” It hasn’t forgotten about you! That means, you’ll have to make sure that you’re paying any taxes that you’re liable for, that you’re still paying off any debts you have back home, and so on. It’s a pretty rock and roll lifestyle…but there are still duties to be taken care of.

Remember: It’s Not All Fun and Games

There’s much to love about the nomad lifestyle, but it’s not perfect. There will be struggles in this life, just as there are struggles in every other type of life. It’s important that you take care of yourself, and that you don’t fall into a lifestyle that you weren’t planning. It’s easy, for example, to stay up all night when you have no obligation to get up in the morning! It’s also worth keeping in mind that you’ll find it beneficial to go home every now and again, just to remind yourself of where you came from.

Go Global

It’s never been easier to manage the logistics of international travel. Look at getting an international bank account, so that you don’t lose money due to exchange rates, and get a photo that’s set up for an international lifestyle.

Finally, remember to be bold: it takes a bit of bravery to make this lifestyle a success, but it’s oh so worth it!

 

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Organizing Your To-Do List and the $10,000 Idea

I love a good to-do list. Who’s with me here? Without my daily/weekly/monthly list, I’m not sure I would get anything done. Actually, I think I may be a little addicted to my lists! I love to finish something and cross it off the list. Not only is it good to finish it, but it’s also rewarding to see all those items crossed off! Plus, as many of you know, in 2016, my word of the year was organization, so this all fits together. But where am I going with this post and what is a $10,000 idea? (It’s not, by the way, an idea that will make you $10,000! But don’t stop reading.)

The way I have chosen to organize the tasks I need to accomplish each day and week is on my weekly desk calendar, where there is plenty of room to write several items on each day. But last week, even this wasn’t working for me. I felt like some of these tasks I was simply moving from week to week, and they also fit in different categories in my life. There were tasks I needed to do for the house, for my day job, for creative writing, for freelancing, for Katie and Chester, and so on. So I took five blank sheets of 8.5 x 11.5-inch paper and labeled them:

  • Freelancing
  • Cleaning/House/Bills/Paperwork
  • Personal
  • Writing/Blogging
  • Day Job

Then I put the tasks that I needed to accomplish (some new, some left from my calendar) on the sheets in the appropriate category, so I could wrap my head around what I needed to do and what area of my life it would benefit. For some reason, this made my stress level go WAY down, and I felt like I could accomplish many of these things. Some of the items needed to happen immediately (like the laundry, critiquing my writing group’s work, and finishing my day job’s publications), and some of them were things that could be finished at some point (like writing a blog post and cleaning out my email inbox).

And then there were the $10,000 ideas. 

I noticed on each page, there were some ambitious goals, projects like: cleaning out the basement and finishing my novel that weren’t going to be done in a day or a week. They were also items that would make my life better and richer, and so I decided to call those my $10,000 ideas. I drew a spiky circle around each of these and wrote $10,000 idea next to it

This is very similar to making New Year’s goals; with these ideas, I’m saying: these are things I want to do, and they will make my life better, and I will do them eventually. I love how I have them on these lists in categories; and how every time I look at my list, I am reminded of these BIG TICKET items that will improve my life.

So if you see me around, ask me: how are your $10,000 ideas coming this year? And…of course, I must ask…do you have any of these ideas on your to-do lists?

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Having a Home You Can Really Write In

If you consider yourself a writer, whether professionally or not, you will probably be keen on having a home, where you can practice your craft. It is especially important if it is your living, of course, and that goes for you bloggers, too. The eternal question of what makes the ideal writing space is something all writers have considered at some point. As it happens, there do seem to be a few key characteristics which most writers would agree are essential. Let’s take a look at how you might be able to find a home that you can actually write in for hours on end or create this environment in your own home.

A Quiet Area

If there is anything that many writers adore, it is peace and quiet. Being able to work in a quiet, uninterrupted space is often golden, and it’s one of the first things you should look into at your home. This will usually mean that you need to try and find a room with a door away from a busy street, as being overly distracted can really detract from your craft. If you are lucky enough to be starting fresh and looking for a home or a condo, then you might benefit from using the help of professionals. Find a real estate agent and tell them what you are looking for. They should be able to inform you of a few key areas, which are likely to have what you are looking for.

Comfort

What do you need to be comfortable when you write? Make a list and see what you can easily fulfill. When you are uncomfortable, it can make it incredibly hard to keep writing, and certainly to produce anything of real value. We have all probably had experiences of writing in cramped little rooms in small homes or even in dorm rooms. While there might sometimes be a certain charm to such places, they are much less likely to be good for your productivity levels. What is usually much more beneficial is somewhere that is able to provide a good level of comfort with a desk, proper lighting, and a comfortable chair. The more comfortable you are as you write, the less distracted you are. This will enable you to not only get more work done on the whole, but also make it more likely to produce good work, too. After all, quality is everything.

Space

It’s possible that you will feel a need for some space as well, or at the very least, a space that you can call your own. This is not just in terms of being able to stretch out or walk around while brainstorming, although that can be useful! It’s also about having room for the many tools that often go hand-in-hand with the writer’s life.. As a writer, you will almost certainly build up a cornucopia of relevant (and not so relevant) paraphernalia. Having the room to store all of your books, papers, brainstorming tools, pens, and so on will mean that you can feel much more at home in the space. That, in turn, can most likely lead to more writing, which is something that everyone can truly appreciate.

It’s a great feeling when you feel you can genuinely write in your home without any worries – and for the professional, it can even be essential. In your home, what is your writing space like? Have you changed it over the years? 

(contributed article)

If you are in need of editing services, I am having a sale. Check out my other site, http://www.editor-911.com here. Prices are good through 1/31/2018. 

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Writing and Editing Packages from Editor 911

Besides blogging on here about parenting, writing, and whatever else comes up, I also run my Editor 911 business. I have a site for Editor 911 right here. In honor of Cyber Monday, the holiday season, and designing my new site, I am presenting a few packages and sale items–the prices are good through January 31, 2018. Here they are: 

These sales and packages are good through January 31, 2018. Email Margo at margolynndill (at) gmail.com to request your package and receive an invoice. Payments can be made through Paypal or with a check/money order.

20 percent off any editing/proofreading service

Check out the regular editing prices by clicking here to visit the Services page. Through the end of January, you will receive 20 percent off these prices. Email Margo at margolynndill (at) gmail.com to receive a quote for your project and find out how much you can save.

 NaNoWriMo Package

Did you spend November writing a 50,000-word manuscript, which may be the beginning of a novel? Did you get halfway done and think–this is a mess–what am I going to do with it? Are you lost on how to turn your draft into a novel? Are you too close to it? Margo can help! In this package, she will

  • Read through your draft (up to 55,000 words). (Printed pages snail-mailed are preferred.) (Value $200)
  • Create a bullet point list of what works in the draft and what doesn’t. (Value $25.00)
  • Write a one-page letter on suggestions for revision and what to do next. (Value $25.00)
  • Schedule a 30-min Skype, in-person (depending on your location), or phone call meeting to discuss suggestions and answer questions. (Value $30.00)
  • 25 percent off on future services on this manuscript only (no expiration date). (Value= hundreds of dollars in savings depending on your future needs)
Cost: $199.00

Writing Coach Package

Writing coach sessions can be used to discuss writing career goals, hold yourself to a specific deadline, figure out where (and how) to submit your work, talk about your brand and marketing platform, create a marketing plan, or brainstorm plot ideas. For example, writers have used writing coach sessions to discuss a novel and stay on track with word count, to figure out how to market a book and follow through on these ideas, to discuss where to go next in a writing career, and more. These sessions currently cost $30 for a 30-min phone or Skype conversation and $50 for 60 minutes. If you purchase a writing-coach package, you receive a discount on the regular rate, and you can use the sessions at any time, where Margo’s schedule and yours coordinate. Margo will meet people in person if you live within 25-miles of her and are purchasing at least an hour at a time, and you would prefer in-person sessions. (She lives in St. Louis, MO). Sessions DO NOT have to be used before January 31, 2018, only purchased before that date–packages do not expire.

Package 1: THREE 30-minute (90 min total) sessions  for $75.00  (Value $90.00)
Package 2: THREE 60-minute (180 min total) sessions for $125 (Value $150.00)
Package 3: FIVE 60-min (300 min total) sessions for  $200 (Value $250.00)

Blogging/Website Help Package

If you need help setting up or maintaining a website, Margo can help with this! She uses WordPress and GoDaddy for this site and margoldill.com. She also uses Blogger to blog for WOW! At one time, she was the MO-SCBWI webmaster, and she also updates some pages on the Missouri Writers Guild website, as a member of the board. Websites are a necessity for today’s writer. She can also help you come up with content for your blog/website and write it. She is NOT a website designer, so these would be websites/blogs using the tools provided by WordPress or Blogger.

Regular cost is $50 an hour. Through 1/31/2018, you can save 20 percent–cost is $40 an hour. You can purchase hours ahead of time to save and use later at the sale rate.
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What’s So Hard About Being Nice? A Guest Post by Author Mary Maurice

Today, I welcome a WOW! Women on Writing blog tour author, Mary Maurice, who is celebrating the publication of her book,  Burtrum Lee.

Synopsis of the book:

Coated with a life of lies and deceit, Burtrum Lee Conner is sick to her stomach. Dozens of times throughout her life, the feeling of not being who she is has tormented her. But she kept it to herself, believing that maybe it’s just a chemical imbalance of some kind, considering she is one of the first artificially-inseminated babies of the 1960s. Now, there’s more though, something much deeper, much more maniacal than she could have ever imagined. She’s not the first test tube baby at all, but the first….

Burtrum Lee Conner, born into a world of scientific mystery, discovers that the life she’s been leading for the past forty years, is the wrong one. Her parent’s Jed and Jane Conner, stealing her as an infant, brought Lee up as their own. Even her devoted grandmother, Clair Conner, kept this secret close to her chest until they were found out. And now, Lee Conner’s biological mother, Katie Lee, wants her back, but not before the diabolical Dr. Stone has his say.

Paperback: 219 pages

Genre: Scientific Mystery

Publisher: Silver Leaf Books LLC (August 28, 2017)

Check it out on Amazon here! 

About the Author, Mary Maurice:

When I was a child growing up in the Detroit area, I thought I wanted to be a painter; and then as a teenager, the idea of being a musician intrigued me. Then as a young adult, I realized that I’m a writer.

After attending Western Michigan University for two party-filled years, I decided to leave academia and explore the real world to learn what life is truly about. For fifteen years, I traveled the country working in restaurants, writing and doing readings wherever I was welcome.

While living in Minneapolis during my twenties, I was fortunate enough to be tutored by Dr. Jonis Agee, who was at the time head of the creative writing department at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul. Her lessons were imprinted in me for all of these years, and have influenced my writing ever since.

My adventures landed me in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oregon, finally leading me to the Land of Enchantment, where I’ve resided since 1994. Living in Santa Fe, and the beauty and isolation that surrounds me, has inspired my creative muse in ways that no other place has. While still working in the hospitality industry, my passion for the craft of writing has never been stronger. And I know with each sentence I write, and every paragraph I compose, my ultimate goal is to find the perfect word.

Find Mary Online:

Website: http://www.marymaurice.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marymauriceauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MMauriceAuthor

Now, a few words from Mary: 

What’s So Hard About Being Nice?

The other day I had the TV on and an episode of Leave it to Beaver was airing. I couldn’t see the screen, but I listened to the dialogue and found myself hearing words of politeness and kindness. I thought to myself how long gone those days are. There were no vulgar words or soft porn themes, no selfish acts, no tossing a friend under the bus, no grabbing one’s crotch, or calling a woman a bitch. It was all clean cut and tension-less.

I miss those days when our world was PG, slowly and surely turning into an R rated society, and now swaying on R/X.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in Pottersville from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. At what point in our existence did being nice not matter any more? When the cool thing to do is to be rude and insensitive to the troubles of others. Where did compassion go or empathy disappear to? Or just doing the right thing, not because you want to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Is it too hard to open a door, pick an item up that somebody dropped, tell a random person a silly joke just to make them laugh, buy a donut for someone just because they’re having a hard day? What is so hard about being nice? It’s very contagious, and I believe more people should be stricken with it. To me, there’s nothing better than making somebody feel good.

Don’t forget to check out her book, Burtrum Lee! 

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Making a Commitment to Morning Pages

I’m doing it. I’m making a commitment right here and now, to anyone reading this, that I’m writing Morning Pages every single morning!

What are Morning Pages? If you have read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you’re familiar with Morning Pages. OR if you have ever been to just about any writing conference or creativity workshop, you have probably heard about them. If not, Morning Pages are:

 Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.  (From Julia Cameron’s website/book)

I started today (and actually wound up with FOUR pages). Day one down. I’ve had a creativity block for a while now–although every once in a while I am inspired to write something like this post, “A Letter to a Narcissist” I wrote this week. So, today during Morning Pages, I came up with a first sentence for a short story. No idea where that will lead me, but since then, I’ve been thinking about this line and who could say it and what the conflict for the story could be.

I did a Google search for “morning pages”, and I happened upon Chris Winfield’s site. His tagline is “take back your life.” He has a free ebook (in exchange for your email address) titled How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week. His site is all about working smarter, not harder. But he also has this amazing page about Morning Pages, which you can check out here. He starts the post by saying he never thought he’d have time in the morning to write three pages by hand, but he made a commitment to do it; and since then, he says that some of these amazing things have happened in his life:

  • I’ve come up with ideas that changed my businesses
  • I’ve worked through issues that were bothering me and seemed overwhelming
  • I’ve been better in tune with my intuition and listening to my heart
  • They have shown me what’s most important in my life and helped me to focus on that
  • and more….(check out the link above to see what else he says)

Pretty amazing, right?

So I’m making the commitment. I also recently made the commitment to read something for enjoyment EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I read a lot. I read a lot of online articles, blog posts, unfinished manuscripts, emails, kids’ books (to my daughter), and articles about agriculture. But I haven’t been reading for myself. My creativity and writing have suffered because of this. So, since last Sunday, 11/12/2017, I said: “Enough is enough.” Katie and I went to the library. I found a novel written by an author my friend suggested. And I’m happy to say that I have read at least one chapter every day.

Surely, all these positive steps–reading and Morning Pages–will continue to feed my creativity and renew my spirit, and soon that first line I wrote during my Morning Pages will turn into something more.

By the way, for some people, journaling (which is what Morning Pages is) can give you results in your life. If you have never checked out Mari L. McCarthy’s Create Write Now site, then you should. Start with this post I did on her book–all the links you will need to find out her amazing story are in that post here

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What Is Something You Wrote About That You Never Thought You Would?

(Some of this post originally appeared on WOW! Women On Writing in September 2017)

I know everyone who reads this blog is not a writer, but you have had to write in your life for college entrance essays, papers for school, journal entries, or exercises for professional development days. So, have you ever found yourself writing about a topic that you never thought you would? If you are a writer, I bet this has definitely happened to you because as we change and grow as a person, our writing also changes and grows.

When I decided to pursue writing as more than just a hobby, I was set on writing fiction for kids. Short stories, poetry, novels, picture books–whatever a kid, who loved fiction, would read, I wanted to write. I was naive and didn’t understand how the writing world worked–that nonfiction sells better. If you want a paycheck as a writer, you might have to write something else than your dream manuscript.

One thing I did right was find a critique group of writers who did not just write for children, who wrote essays, articles, adult novels, romance, horror, and more. I began to dabble in nonfiction and short stories for adults, and guess what? I was having fun! I didn’t give up my dream of writing fiction for kids, and I did publish 3 fiction books for kids and teens; but I also expanded my portfolio and wrote about some subjects and for some publishers that I never thought I would.

I wonder what some of  you have written about that you never thought you would. I’m curious what your story is, how you got where you are today, what you thought at the beginning of your writing career if you are a writer, and how it turned out in the end–and how you feel about your writing. Maybe you wrote about a painful time. Maybe you wrote something funny. Maybe you wrote an editorial for the newspaper, and it received a lot of attention!

For example, I worked as a stringer for The News-Gazette in Champaign, IL, and I had a Sunday book review column for over five years. I never dreamed that I would do either one. I wrote about a 90+ year old garage sale volunteer, a reindeer ranch and a baby reindeer who survived only because she was bottle fed by the owners, and a beaver dam that was backing up a creek in a little bitty town–but there was nothing the people could do because the beavers were protected. I wrote a villanelle about the Trail of Tears, and it was published, as well as a funny romance short story for adults that won first place and $250 in a magazine contest.

And my point? I am a much better writer because of these experiences.

Even my personal blogging has changed over the years. When I first started a blog, it was called “Read These Books and Use Them”, and it was only about children’s books. Now, I am writing about being a single parent, practical parenting, self-esteem, writing inspiration, and more on “Look to the Western Sky.”

So…what have you written about that you never thought you would? 

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Learning From Margaret Atwood, Author of The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood (c Jean Malek)

On Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to hear Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale) speak and be interviewed on stage after receiving the St. Louis Literary Award, which recognizes a living writer with a substantial body of work. (If you want to read more about this award, please go here)

The whole experience was very surreal because tickets were sold out to this free event, and St. Louis (as many of you know) was in the middle of another round of violent protests over a police officer found not guilty of 1st degree murder of an African American male. As a matter of fact, three nights before, I was supposed to attend the U2 concert, which was canceled because of the protests.

If you have watched or read The Handmaid’s Tale, you know the themes are  abuse of power, feminism, sexuality, gender roles, religion, individual vs society, misogyny and more. Another huge theme is the rights of the powerful over the rights of the not.  But the funny thing about this experience, and trust me, I am not comparing myself in any way to Offred, is that people who did not request tickets (the not powerful) from SLU early enough received a ticket to sit in the Sheldon ballroom and wait. We started at a stage with a huge screen, which showed two empty chairs and two glasses of water, instead of receiving a ticket to sit in the concert hall (the powerful), where this famous author would be appearing in-person.  The idea was that if you wanted to hear Margaret Atwood, then you would be in the same building as her and view her entire speech and interview, as opposed to the segment of it, which will air on PBS sometime in October. And…if you had a golden ticket into the Sheldon concert hall, where she would be appearing live, you had rules you had to follow, or you were cast out. You had to be in your seat by 6:55pm, or they were giving it away to the hungry, feisty wolves up in the ballroom.

My friend, Lisa, and I arrived before the doors opened and received wait tickets–number 35 and 36. At first, we were told we were not allowed to even go on floor two (where the concert hall and BAR and bookstore were), but we decided to fight the establishment (HA!) and push button two on the elevator (instead of four). Believe it or not, there was no one standing there telling us to go straight to our ticketed ballroom. Yes, the Sheldon let us spend our money at the bar and at the bookstore before ushering us up to wait in the ballroom with the other lovely slackers, who also did not write SLU early enough to get two tickets to the concert hall.

While waiting in line for wine, I had decided there was no way we were getting in. Numbers 35 and 36?  How could there be that many people who didn’t show up for their concert hall seats? Yes, it was unseasonably hot and yes, we were in the middle of protests, but still…So Lisa and I would sit with the other disappointed folks, who decided too late that this wonderful, lovely, funny, humorous, important author would be amazing to hear, even if we were doing so on a big movie screen two floors above where she actually was.

And then the moment of truth came. A man with a wire in his ear and a device in his hand said, “Numbers 1 to 10 line up. You are going in.”

Lisa and I turned to each other–Oh well, we couldn’t have gotten here any earlier anyway. Traffic, work, appointments, heat. . .

And then that wired man went crazy–he started calling all kinds of numbers, including 35 and 36. We shot up from our seats, giggling and excited. We rushed down the back staircase (I am not joking about this–the people from the ballroom to the concert hall took the back staircase), and Lisa and I even found two seats together in the concert hall for the ceremony. I felt elated and lucky and shocked.

Let me tell you, Margaret Atwood did not disappoint. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, do it. I actually think that’s true for just about any author–I realize I am a writer, but I have never been disappointed about hearing any author speak. I always learn something about life and writing.

This post has already gone on long enough, but I’ll tell you that Margaret Atwood’s dedication to her craft, her career, and her life was inspiring. Her humbleness about being at the Emmy’s two nights before was refreshing. And her passion for literature and teaching were something I can only hope to show the world myself soon.

 

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