Better

This week for the first time, I met my new children’s lit critique group. I submitted two pieces for review: a nursery rhyme about a little girl trying to find a matching pair of shoes and a short story about two cats learning to live with one another. My group loved the nursery rhyme but schooled me on stress syllables. They ripped apart the story of the cats but they liked the theme of the story. I came away with hyperlinks to stress syllables, two book suggestions and a reminder of how far I have to go before I craft my stories into the best stories that they can be. My response? I’ve purchased one of the books on Amazon, I’m reading up on the subjects of stress and meter and I’m planning revisions to my stories. In the end, both the stories and I will be better for it.  

So much of our lives, in every area, are spent growing whether we want to grow or not. At work, computer systems are constantly being upgraded and new people always need to be mentored. Once you reach a level where you can mentor someone else, watch out, because that means you qualify for more responsibility. With additional responsibility comes additional correction which is stressful (not to use that word again), but without the correction we cannot get better. I’m learning to think of getting better as growth instead of a sign that I’m not good enough, and I’m learning that no matter how much I grow, there will always be hard work to do.

This morning, I was lazily sitting on the couch drinking my coffee when I heard a vehicle pull into my drive. I looked out the window and it was my father. I wasn’t surprised. On springtime mornings, he frequently arrives unannounced with his pickup truck, trimmers and weedeater in the back, to offer assistance in my yard. I pulled on a robe and walked outside, cup in hand, and smiled.

“I guess this means I have to get dressed,” I said.

We spent a couple of hours working in the yard. I rode my  lawn mower, and he did the weeding and trimming. At lunch, I got us a chicken salad from Zaxby’s, and we sat on the back porch and ate together. The time he spends working in my yard is for both our benefits. I need the help in the yard and he knows it, but it’s also something that we do together. And there is reward in the end. The yard cleans up nice and visually rewards us for our efforts. As for us, well, we are better for it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

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It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

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I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

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My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

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Daily Prompt-Record

So much of my time is spent recording. I’m a setter or goals. I’m a maker of lists. I record my progress through lists to keep myself tethered to the goals because if I don’t, I’ll forget what they  are…because I have so many.

 

I belong to a book club. I’ve set a reading goal for myself for the year. Everytime I finish a book, I update my progress so I can keep track of what I’ve already read. Then I think of three more books to read, and I write those down. In a perfect, organized would, I would focus on one book at a time, but generally I’m focused on a few at once. I read one. I listen to another. Then there are books that I’ll read over a period of time.

 

I have fitness and dietary goals which I may or may not consistently pursue. I have an app for running and a calorie counter in addition to another app that keeps track of my steps. I use them sporadically. Sometimes, I go through phases where I want to keep track of my calories so I plug in the data for my meals. Other times, I just want to keep track of my steps so I look at my pedometer. When I used to run, which has been a while, I kept track of my pace which is where the running app comes in. I have my running app, my pedometer and my calorie counter all synced so if I do happen to keep track of my food, the calories that I burn exercising will automatically be deducted from my daily caloric intake. Hopefully, I’ll never have to go on the lam. If “the man” ever to wants to find me, he will not only be able to track my location but also the pace at which I’ll be running!  

 

At work, I keep a spreadsheet of all of my daily tasks. I have them split up by tabs and color coded to indicate my progress.

 

I have a house with a yard, and many many overwhelming projects for my home. I recently downloaded another app that, get this, keeps all of my lists in one place. My grocery list, my home projects, groups I belong to, Health and Wellness, writing projects, etc.

 

This listing of lists is all very exhausting, in a way, but I know that if I don’t exert some effort to record my thoughts, they will pile up and after a while, I will use up my memory and some of them will disappear from my head. I call this a data dump. If you have an idea or goal then completely forget it, that thought was included in the data dump. It’s like your brain decided that it just wasn’t important enough to hold on to so it gets archived. Maybe it’s gone forever, maybe not. It might be on some elusive server in the recesses of your mind, but who knows if you will ever be able to retrieve it in a way that makes sense or if it will just come out in some crazy dream..which might create a good idea for writing…and so it would go on a list. Would that be recycling?

 

Don’t get me started on sticky notes…