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Writer Wednesdays … Literary High-Five

6 Sep

Sometimes you’re just in a funk, and you can’t find the right words for your characters or feel like that missing piece is never going to fall in place.  You have no idea where the writer inside disappeared to, then all of sudden you write a letter, an email, or do a different type of writing  and you get the groove back.

I’m getting my groove back.

 

Recently, I had a blogging buddy of mine Jacqueline Cangro edit one of my manuscripts and let me tell you, having someone read something like that gave me the butterflies. I mean I know that eventually it’s going to be out there for everyone to see, and some close friends of mine have seen parts, if not all of it. But Jackie was going to edit it … really edit it. So I was nervous. I was like … dude what if she hates it? Will she ever return to my blog? Or how will she let me down easy. I was creating all kinds of scenarios in my head, but none of them panned out.

Jackie was really nice about it and spoke with me about my concerns. Sh did an amazing detailed job with content analysis, story and characterization. I was so glad to have met Jackie. Her advice was on point and I could feel the missing pieces coming together.

But I’ll be honest with you, rewriting and rewriting after edits and edits became a daunting task, even with the awesomeness that is Jackie. I got a little nervous. I didn’t want to veer too far off course, I didn’t want to get lost in all the editing that I couldn’t find my way back. And then the universe sent me a sign.

A friend of mine asked me to write a grant proposal for arts programs at my son’s school. Now normally I don’t get involved with the Mommy Mafia or the PTA clicks, which she is a part of,  but seeing how this was a close buddy and it was for a great cause I thought it would be a great service for the community and a good opportunity for a pause in novel re-writing plan.

So I took a step back from my 100th rewrite and did something good for someone else. During that process I learned that tapping a different avenue of my talents, helped stir up the writing mojo in all areas of my life. Writing about advocacy and arts engagement helped boost my own focus. Being able to write a cohesive statement that had nothing to do with my crazy character and her journey, helped glue ideas together in the recesses of my mind, and make things click. I was making connections and feeling confident about the fine-tuning that was going on.

And this is where I find myself.

I find myself looking back on how I turned the corner and I never would have guessed that grant writing or executive summaries would have the power of a high-five, because that’s what it was … a literary high-five. After I finished writing it … I thought damn! That was me … I put these words together. I conveyed how critical arts were for inventiveness and out-of-the box thinking. I put together a piece that speaks to the heart of this school and the need for arts education despite financial cutbacks. I convinced someone, I persuaded them to give money … and just with words. They hadn’t even met me yet. All they knew were my words.

And that seemed to be pretty powerful stuff. That seemed to be the make-up of a writer. That seemed to put be back on the yellow-brick road pathway.

So while, I’m still working on the grant, which will be due in a couple of days, I feel that time away from my story, spent working on a different discipline, has helped bring the story back full circle. I don’t know if any other writers experienced something like that, because I figured people get inspired or back into the story, by being away from it for a moment, taking a trip somewhere and then coming back from that sabbatical refreshed ans zoned in, but it was my first way down that road. And I’ve got to say, it was interesting.

 

Buen Camino

 

 

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Writer Wednesdays on a Monday: Turning Things Around

8 May

It’s like hearing that song on the radio and you just stop because you feeeeeeeeeel the lyric.  You feel George Harrison. You feel Mavis Staples. You feel Springsteen. You feel Hall and Oates. You feel Phil Collins. You feel Chris Stapleton. You feel Juan Gabriel. You feel Ana Gabriel. You feel Katrina and The Waves.

It is in you. You feel like it was written just for you, and you sit there in your car at the stop light listening.

Them words.

You think to yourself, maaaaaaaan. They got this one right. The lyric, combined with the music. They got this one.

Then you go back to your keyboard, inspired, hoping that you can put something like that on the page. You want to make someone laugh, smile, feel your heart through your characters. And sometimes it happens … other times … you fail miserably because you just can’t get it. It’s not there. You thought you had it with all that inspiration jazzing you up, but then you lost it because of a phone call, bad memory, or wasted time. Lack of discipline attacks you on Wednesday after you had the umph to get you through Monday and Tuesday.

Burn.

I hate it when that happens.

So how is it that I try to turn things around? Especially on a Monday?

I try to remember that waking up wasn’t an accident. It was on purpose, for something bigger than just fixing lunches, dropping off kids, and racing through traffic. There has to be more that I leave my kids than memories.

Pieces of me in my writing out there for them to read and get. Whether on my laptop, in my notebooks, posts, or published writings. Something of me is out there for them to see, to get, that I’m on the star map chasing the Milky Way and hoping I land.

So when I feel like dropping it because I’ve dropped the ball as a writer and haven’t found the nooks and crannies of time to write every day, I remember not everybody is on the same ride. I’ve got all kinds of detours and stops on mine. It may take a little longer, but I’ll get there. As long as I don’t give up.

So I don’t.

I get the Andre Agassi in me … ready to make a comeback.

It’s bigger than me. That’s what I think … I can’t walk around six months from now and still be in the same spot, because it’s bigger than me. I’ve got my Zen back and it took me a loooooooooooonnnnnng time to rework my magic with this crazy environment and lack of support, with the failing of my awesome play earlier this year. I thought things would spark after that. It took a while to find my center … a lot of podcasts.

But I found it.

I woke up and remembered … waking up was not an accident. Turn the corner.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grabbing The Mic

22 Mar

It involved getting bailed out of county jail, stepping in a pool of vomit on the subway, riding in the trunk of a car in a zebra bathing suit, playing with a lighter and can of hair spray, and a dead cat in the wall of an apartment.

It was only an hour, but it was the most inspirational sixty minutes of the week.

Hanging out with a bunch of storytellers and a glass of wine proved to be a memorable evening. I came away feeling motivated to finish my own stories after hearing about these adventures. Something about hanging out with a bunch of creatives and listening to them craft their epic misfortunes into Silver Lining Playbook stories centered on friendship was contagious.

I came home ready to dig deep, although with my life I didn’t have to go far to capture moments. Although the one thing about these artists was that the stories were free flowing. No script. They had it in their head. They performed their stories. They were animated and I felt like I was part of the circle. I was there when he was making the call from county jail and no one came to bail him out. I was there watching the woman slip in a pool of vomit on her way to steal the elderly woman’s seat on the subway. I was there when the zebra bathing suit got pulled over by the CHP. I was there when the curtains caught on fire from the can of hairspray. And I was there when the girl had to break her lease because she kept getting fleas from a dead cat in the wall.

The stories came to life. These storytellers were the writers, actors, and directors themselves. They placed full confidence in their stories and their ability to tell it. They stepped on stage, grabbed the microphone, and began. Fear or no fear. They grabbed the mic.

Microphone-Whealans1

I left away with that feeling … the one with butterflies. They took creative control of their story and it was empowering to see. No one changed their timeline. No one added unnecessary  dialog. No one changed the integrity of their characters. No one changed their soundtrack. No one changed their stories.

It was great to see how their bravery helped maintain their creative control.

I watched. I listened. I learned.

I might be grabbing the mic soon myself, as I was invited to come back “try it out”.

And I just might.

After my experience with the play director, creative control seemed to matter more in my next endeavor. But I’m not rigid, I welcome constructive criticism, and collaborations. I like input that makes the story better. With every creative, story and characters matter. Every writer has this intention.

But not every project ends that way.

So my lesson learned during this inspirational outing?

Be brave enough to grab the mic and hold onto your creative control, but be willing to work with others, just choose people you trust when sharing your visions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer Wednesdays: The Voice

1 Mar

They’ve got 90 seconds to do it.

There they are sitting with their backs turned, waiting to hear the voice that moves them enough to turn around. Blake, Adam, Alicia, Gwen. Ready to give a somebody a chance. That somebody is there, waiting in line to be discovered. Some people put it out there, giving it all they got, vulnerability, pain, strength, happiness. Emotion. They leave it all out there and they get a chair to turn.

They’ve got 90 seconds to do it.

That’s the writer’s life.

We’ve got about 90 seconds to pull it off … maybe even less. 90 seconds for someone to care enough about a character, a journey, a story, a voice to keep reading, to keep turning the page.  Writer’s don’t have reality TV shows giving them a break, because our life tends to be a reality show with its on plot twists and dramatic downfalls, although if Project Greenlight came back I’d have no problem with that. I often wished we’d get a competition show for writers and wrote about that once. But the writing process is not all that exciting. Pajamas, bad ideas, taking over the Starbucks tables. Don’t know if people would tune in.

But regardless if we’re on air or not, writers do have about 90 seconds to connect with someone, connect enough that they read the next paragraph. 90 seconds for someone to hear our voice.

And the weird thing is, even though I hate reality television, The Voice tends to slip under the radar for me. Watching it often inspires me. It reminds me to cut the BS,to empty the tank, to leave it all on the page. I like the fact that I hear one constant theme throughout the seasons. Emotion. These coaches keep emphasizing emotion. If you feel it when you sing it, odds are people feel it too and the connection is made.

I see this in writing all the time.  If you’re honest enough and feeeeeeel what you’re writing, no BS, whether it’s comedy or drama, if you’re genuine about it, you’ll make a connection. You just have to be vulnerable and strong enough to take that chance. And sometimes chances like this pay off. So, when I’m in a rut, or fallen off my writing schedule and discipline was out the window, when I’m trying to get back on track, I remind myself of The Voice, of stories or movies that connected and ask how did they do that?

Emotion. Honesty. 90 seconds.

 

 

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

 

 

Writer Wednesday’s

7 Dec

I can admit to the fact that change is hard for me. I like my routines, I like the fact that I can count on certain details of my day following a certain agenda. I find comfort in knowing how things are gonna pan out.

However when it comes to motherhood, I sort of have to go with the flow or I’d have a breakdown everyday. I learned to loosen up a bit with expectations. You can’t stick with Plan A all the time, you’ve got to be prepared to kick in Plan B, C, and D at any moment.

That is something that happens with writing all the time. You come up with a genius idea in the middle of the night and realize after further review that this half-baked notion should not see the light day. Other times awesome is just awesome no matter when inspiration strikes.

Writing is one of these things where flexibility matters. Change will happen. Your first draft will not always be awesome, in fact most of the time it isn’t. So rewrites are part of your life. I know about writing changes, I used to work for a newspaper. Edits happen all the time, but the thing is when they happen … It’s a collaborative effort to help improve the story, preserve the voice, and and enhance its best parts, which is why I’ve always embraced the editing process.

Just makes things better.

However I’ve learned that not every change is for the better and that’s when you’ve got to take a stand, especially when you weren’t even aware that it was happening.

I’ve never worked with someone whose taken the liberty of changing my story without letting me know. In fact had they changed it for the better I’d probably thank them for it, but let them know that the manner in which they did it could have been handled better.

However these changes affected the kind of story I wanted to tell. My voice was changed and it was changed without permission. As you all know one of my pieces was selected to be part of a theater festival. I was extremely excited and proud that my work would hit the stage.

However, I find myself at a crossroads … well not really. I thought it was but I know what my gut was telling me to do.  I’m ready to pull out of the festival.

You see, the director that was chosen decided to change my piece and not just a small enhancement, but a pretty big change that for me changes the direction of the story and essence of my characters.

So I was at a crossroads …

But the decision wasn’t hard, I know I would pull out. It was just sad that I would have to do it. I didn’t want to seem like a diva who was storming out of a room, but I knew that this change was something I couldn’t let go. Don’t know if you writers out there know what I’m talking about. Ever feel like the story becomes a story that you wouldn’t have written? That’s where I felt this was going.

So I’m at the crossroads, but not really. There’s a meeting set for Friday to see if a compromise can be reached. If not … then it’s back to page one of a new project and a renewed sense of determination to make something happen.

 

DontGiveUp

🙂

 

So I’ll write on …

 

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

IWSG

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer Wednesdays …

2 Nov

There wasn’t just one, but two reasons …

Telling stories and making people feel.

I was reminded of my two favorite aspects of being a writer just recently. I wasn’t even looking for it, but the reasons came and I was super grateful that they did. Sometimes during writer’s block or a daydreaming marathon, where you only get one sentence on the page, you might lose your way for a minute, especially with the Madness of NanoWriMo in full effect. You get lost as to what your favorite part of being a writer is when the discipline of it all drives you to exhaustion during a word count check for the NanoWriMo marathon of November.

So I was humbled by the words that came my way from a young lady I have yet to meet, but she was kind enough to stop by and let me know what my stories had done for her. Anna over at Anna’s Rambles decided to stop by on a Writer Wednesday to explore some of my Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts and she found a little something I was hoping someone would find.

Hope and encouragement.

Some of my stories had touched her in some way and I was happy to know that my writing had made someone feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel something so much that they found encouragement and hope to continue writing themselves.

Writers often second guess themselves and are probably their toughest critics, I know I am. So when I get this kind of feedback, it’s very rewarding to know that my instincts were right all along. I don’t write for gold stars or pats on the back, although they are pretty awesome to receive and I welcome them whenever they knock on my door. But I write the stories so that my voice can be heard, so that people can feel, either by relating to, understanding, or realizing that someone else once felt what they felt. They were there, where you are now.

I write so that when I’m long gone, my kids can one day say they knew who I was and they felt my heart because I always put it out on the page. Funny. Sad. Frustrated. Angry. Ecstatic. Heartbroken. Proud. They’ll know me even when I’m gone, because my stories will still be around, on the page, in photo albums, or in their hearts, still connecting to them.

The people down at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group asked what’s the best aspect of being a writer? My response …

Telling stories and making people feel.

Thanks for the reminder, Anna.

Buen Camino.

 

 

 

 

Dia De Los Muertos Inspires A New Conversation

1 Nov

I think about the clicking-clocking sound he used to make when his tongue would hit the roof of his mouth. NUK! He’d knock-knock-knock my forehead simultaneously … you know during one of my McFly moments. My Uncle Erick.

And I think about my Dad and how he used to call me Canela  and how he’d start smiling even before I told the joke.

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My Dad and Uncle Erick back in the 70s

The two most important dudes in my life growing up, with the exception of the tallest Texan I know, he hails from Lubbock and has his own story, which I’ll share later. But today … today I talk about My Dad and Uncle Erick, today I talk about their stories because Dia De Los Muertos celebrates their spirits and everything they brought to my life.

image

They’re on my mind every day, especially when I feel how life could have been so much better if they were still around. And after surviving my Halloween Hangover (why was Halloween on a Monday anyway … KitKat overload) I took a moment to celebrate their lives by sharing some vintage Polaroids and Kodak moments with my kids, accompanied by the stories and adventures behind those pictures.

Whether it was hiking waterfalls in Guatemala, road tripping that had multiple detours, watching SC football on Saturdays, toasting pumpkin seeds on Halloween, or listening to the Bee Gees, Billy Joel, or KC & The Sunshine Band, each adventure added something to my life.

And I miss it, I miss them. I miss the conversations and the reminiscing that brought laughter.

As always it hit me in the pit of my stomach. I celebrated them, and talked about their lives, but was also sad in the end. So I was glad to have come up with a new story about them. A piece based on their lives, inspired by my Uncle Erick.  It’s a conversation. My piece is about a conversation they probably had while my Uncle Erick was growing up. It’s about the advice my dad would have given him and the interesting way he’d go about doing it.

It’s a comedy, of course.

And although this conversation never took place I can totally see it happening because I can hear their voices. I can totally imagine them going through this exchange.

So, on this very special Dia De Los Muertos celebration, I was inspired to write a piece about the two men in my family who I learned from the most.

I’ve even submitted it somewhere … so hopefully their conversation, their story, their journey continues and makes other people laugh in the process.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

.

 

Writer Wednesday’s

5 Oct

So how do you know when it’s over?

Like any relationship … you know, because there’s that tiny quivering feeling in the pit of your stomach letting you in on the secret, letting you know that the end is near.

After weeks of sleepless nights and Costco-sweat-wearing days, there’s a big exhale when I type THE END. It takes me a longgggggggg time to get there and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever see the finish line.

Doubt. Anxiety. Insecurity. They all creep up on me during the entire process. Never sure if it’s going to be good enough. Never sure if people are going to relate. Never sure if people are going to laugh. Never sure if people are going to keep reading. Never sure whether to send it out. Never sure if it’s going to pay off. Never sure if the daydreaming I’m doing today is gonna pan out in the story tomorrow. Never sure of a lot of things, but once I get past all these inner voices (as well as the outer voices who think I should just get a “real” job) and I get to the end, I know.

I do, because I feeeeeeeeeeeeeel it. Definitely.

There’s closure.

Stuff that’s necessarily missing from my current existence, I find in my made up world. My character, dead or alive, has come full circle. A messy and dramatic one, with multiple post visits to a shrink included, but never the less an adventure that has come to an end. It isn’t to say that another adventure isn’t waiting for them tomorrow, it’s just that the adventure they started with me, the day I was day-dreaming it up has finished.

So I put on a new pair of Costco sweatpants, and dig into my messy life archives and see if there’s another story that’s ready for the page.

Not everybody feels it, not everybody goes through the Costco sweatpants phase, everyone has a different journey. Difficult and emotionally exhausting, but we all get there in the end and high fives are a requirement.

 

 

Writer Wednesdays: Making an Andre Agassi Comeback

7 Sep

You woke up in the morning before the kids did, ready to write. It’s the only pocket of time you could find in the 24 hour period. You were pumped up with the I got this attitude!

But then you made the mistake of checking your email and then you saw it …

Dear Applicant …

Right there, right off the bat you knew something was wrong. They didn’t even have your name there. You were just “applicant” and then they followed it up with …

We regretfully inform you …

As soon as you hear those words, you know. You feel the punch in your stomach and a pain in your temples that makes you wince. The air is knocked out of you and a wave of sadness, insecurity, and doubt comes crashing in knocking you over. You turned in something you thought was one of your best works, you knew it, you believed it and the “congratulations,” would have validated that thought. But instead all the voices that told you, “maybe you should get a real job,” come rushing in and it hurts a little more.

You break a little, and your shoulders slump as the weight of the “No,” bears down on you as the sun rises. You feel broken and wonder if you should even apply to the other job or agent that’s sitting on top of your to-do pile. You wonder if you should even continue writing the next chapter. You can’t seem to find the writer in you and you a need a moment with all this heaviness that hit you this morning.

You don’t want to wallow in it, but all you do is feel the pain of the no.

But then something gets to you during a deep breath moment. Someone says something on a podcast that reaches your inner Andre Agassi and pulls him out.

“Let your dream be more important than any situation you got going on …”

You realize that you’re discouraged but not defeated. You’re looking for a comeback … an Andre Agassi comeback and it’s in you.

You remember how to pick yourself up off the floor, because you’ve felt failure before. Instead of being stuck in a moment that you can’t get out of, you break free. You lace up your shoes and go running. You grab your gloves and go a couple of round on the bag. You stop thinking I’m-not-where-I’m-supposed-to-be-right-now thoughts, and replace them with how-far-have-I-gotten moments.

You begin to turn the corner in between breaths.

The Andre Agassi comeback is on the horizon.

You turn on the computer and begin to type again.

You got this.

 

 

 

It’s Possible … Every Four Years

17 Aug

I hadn’t planned on it happening … but it did.

I’ve fallen off the WordPress wagon.

I’d like to say that it  was because of some amazing opportunity that has whisked me away, but no … not yet. And it’s not procrastination either as I wish I had extra time for procrastination itself.

No.

It’s been the epic involvement of watching Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and every volleyball match in existence. I’ve been pumped up with this Olympic coverage and suspended all Netflix watching. I’ve gotten so carried away that I’ve forgot to post on Monday.

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I’m aware that some people are so over it, but I’m not one of those people. I’m in awe of the fact that it took these people four years of sunrise and sunset dedication to get to where they are, some even longer. Whether it’s the podium, crossing the finish line, or touching the ball for a game-winning point that type of determination and sacrifice requires my full attention.

I admire that stuff in people, and like hearing about their journey. I enjoy watching the last shot, the clock winding down, or that stretch to the finish. I stand up, cheering like they can hear me. I get so excited to see their dreams come true that watching it happen, keeps the “It’s Possible” mentality alive.

They had big dreams four years ago with doubters, haters, and believers along for the ride. And in these last couple of weeks they’ve made it happen. They got there.

Believing in “it’s possible,” is always the first step. It’s an encouraging environment to be around, to watch.

It gets the writer in me juiced up. Seeing their dreams come true, to be at The Games, always inspires me to keep going, to keep the “it’s possible,” mantra at the forefront.

Four years … sunrise to sunset … thinking about your dream and making things happen in order to get there. That’s the kind of stuff writers are made of too. Although we don’t have a cheering section or medals, we still dream and work, even though some people consider daydreaming not part of the job. It is … it’s what keeps the possibilities alive.

Four years.

Setting my sights high for four years.