Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Road Trip

The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.
Author Unknown

Some of you may recall these photos of my middle son, Jordan. He spent the summer before college graduation interning on a ranch in south Texas, hand raising baby deer. As you can see, life with these babies was rather intimate.

When he graduated from college with a biology degree - fisheries and wildlife emphasis, he found a job working for an exotic deer ranch (where people pay to come hunt the deer.) He was to care for the 170 fawns due in the summer.

As his mom, I secretly knew he would not like this business aspect of raising wildlife. Suffice to say, by the time any of the fawns born in the wild came into his care, they were only moments from death. Other than tagging the new fawns, he spent most of his time building fences.

I didn't say, "I told you so." I say those words to my husband every chance I get, but I try not to say them to my kids. After two months on the job, Jordan moved home and began an employment search in the fisheries and wildlife field - for something on the conservation level instead of killing for sport. (So much for empty nest - he overlapped youngest brother headed off to college.)

He signed on doing the same thing as me - substitute teaching. At night, he painted the local YMCA. The subbing part was most interesting for when our paths crossed at the same school, I got to see my son as an adult. Watch how he conducted himself. Watched how the young girls would raise their hand and say, "Oh, Mr. Anderson, I have a question." When he'd walk over to their desk, they'd say, "Oh, I get it now," in sweet voices I never heard on my watch.

On those few days when I was the teacher in the back of the room working with some of the special students, I could only chuckle to myself. I understood why he rarely had trouble like I did in the substitute teaching world. After all, much more fun to mess with an old lady than a young, good looking man. As for the boys, well, he's 6'3". Bring it on.

In February, Jordan flew to Montana to attend a convention of the Society for Range Management. Since he didn't have money to rent a car while there -- or stay in the hotel where the convention was held -- he had to walk a mile to attend the job fair and smooze for a job in a bad market. Have you ever been to Montana in February?

In late April, Jordan landed a job with the Nature Conservancy in Wyoming. He would work to redesign wetland areas and organize a fish restocking plan. Although only a four month job, my husband I encouraged him to take it. When you're 23 and everything you own fits in your paid off Honda Civic, go for it. (Again, overlapped little brother coming home from college. Empty nest is a joke around my house.)

He has loved it up there. He lives in a little cabin beside a creek. The deer, elk and other wildlife don't sit in his arms, but they most certainly welcome him in the morning.

What's for breakfast, Jord?

I haven't been to Wyoming since I moved out of Salt Lake City 23 years ago. Guess where I'm going? My husband can't travel yet, but I told Jordan on the phone the other day - wash the sheets and clean your bathroom. Your mama's coming to visit.

(Taking my computer so I can try to keep up with my novel. Still writing each day. Yay!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Going Swimming

Eighty percent of success is showing up.
Woody Allen

Friday - 1:39pm

In reference to my last post, so eloquently entitled Butt in Chair, please note that the photo presented here shows that particular chair pushed into its resting nook at the table. For you see, dear E.S. Carlson, I took on your challenge. I've written a new chapter in my novel in progress. (Six years in the making?) Look in your email inbox for you will find not only the next chapter, but an additional reworked 30 some previous pages leading up to it.

Alas, my heroine, dear Lily, is out of the wheat field in South Dakota and long past her panic attack. Still in South Dakota, but, oh, in such a different place.

This week I took a huge mess and pieced it back together. I spent Monday, Tuesday and half of Wednesday reacquainting myself with what I'd written over the past few years. Then I read all the journals of notes I'd taken, my character sketches and their long lists of conflicts. I reviewed some of my research and resource books.

I spent Wednesday reorganizing what I wanted to keep of the writing, throwing out some 20,000 words which held scenes that no longer will occur in my story, along with what I first thought would be the ending.

In the words of the most talented Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird - I'm 36,000 words into a very "shitty first draft." (If you haven't read Bird by Bird, I highly recommend it - even if you are not a writer.)

Even though I'm no longer certain where my protagonist Lily will end up, I do know it will be a most interesting ride. And I'm so glad to be back with her on that horse, er, Airstream trailer.

Even better, I know what I will write tomorrow. And the next day. My goal for the remainder of the summer, except for a couple of side trips, is to plow through all the way to the end so that I can spend next school year rewriting and rewriting and...

Thank you, ES, for the ultimatum and thank you to my blogging friends, new and old, for your support. Happy am I. I put much more pressure on myself when I'm alone, focused, challenged. Of course, things have certainly calmed down in my summer, which helps.

Cheers to my family who has left me to myself at the lake this week. (Hope you guys got the laundry done, watered my plants, went to the grocery store, fed the cat... yes, we have a cat.)

Dear Family,
Looking forward to seeing you this weekend.
Bring food and toilet paper.
Love, Mom and wife

Up to me to keep it going, but right now, I'm off to float for the rest of the day.

P.S. Can you believe it? I just sent ES that email and before I've finished this post she has already sent me her next set of pages. That woman is a slave driver. Chop, chop.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Butt in Chair

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Once upon a time I was a writer. Not one that made millions off a bestseller as that is such a fluke of nature, unless you're a star or cute politician. No, I was someone who made daily journal entries and did timed writings in a big blank book. I took classes on the craft of writing. I practiced. I joined a writing group. I wrote paragraphs. Essays. Short stories. I wrote a novel. Worked hard. Took it through many, many drafts.

I volunteered at the Writer's League of Texas. Worked on their Programs and Services committee. Ran the annual manuscript contest. Read 100's of first chapters from anxious writers, eager to to discover how their work might fare in an open venue. I studied query letters and wrote a good one which received great response. Sent my book out to 52 agents, 20 of whom replied with a standard rejection letter. The other 32 were kind enough to type a rejection letter addressed to me or in very special cases, a handwritten note telling me my book wasn't for them. I felt pretty good about my rejections.

In the meantime, I sent out my essays and short stories - won some contests, had a few published. Helped spearhead the publication of a book of women's stories and poetry and served as coeditor. In that process I learned along with several other women how to write a book proposal, get an ISBN number, beg authors for blurbs, and ask the lovely Liz Carpenter (may she rest in peace) for a foreword. The generosity of writers is most heartwarming.

When the book was finally in hand, we organized readings at book stores and literary organizations. Coffee shops. Sold books out of our trunks. Donated all the proceeds to NAMI - The National Alliance on Mental Illness. One of the authors in our book had succumbed to depression and we wanted to honor her memory by choosing a worthy charity.

All those aspects of the writing life filled my days when I wasn't being a full-time housewife, civic do gooder, and mother. Having learned tremendously from the rejections of my first novel, I took a few more in depth writing classes and began a second novel. One hundred pages in, I fearfully found work outside of the home due to business not going well in my husband's line of work. The recession sent me back into the workplace, with old, worthless or non-existent credentials. My writing dwindled to crying into the pages of my journal and an occasional timed writing. I edited/critiqued work for others and did some pro bono editing for a few publications. Other than that, my writing mind took on other junkets.

Come to today. My dear friend, ES Carlson, has issued an ultimatum. Emails me that she will no longer send me any of her work to critique unless I send her a new chapter from my novel in progress. A new chapter - due Friday. Bitch.

I just blew the dust off the pages I have. I'll let you know if I succeed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Slow Down

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.
Sam Keen

The other day a friend of mine said, "Seems like summer is coming to an end."

No, I cried out. I'm thinking it just began. After the whirlwind of spring around my house, this past week felt like the first breath of summer's air.

I've spent the time reading, reading, and reading. Swept the floor, read a chapter. Watered the plants, read a chapter. Pulled all the pieces of my WIP novel out of its basket and organized it on the table, read a chapter.

Somewhere along the line, I've lost my camera and failed at a fresh squeezed vegetable/fruit diet with my youngest son. Hey, we made it through breakfast and lunch. But, last night, looking at the lovely green glass of goodness we'd prepared for dinner, we took little time deciding to pour it back in the pitcher. (Moms have to be supportive, you know.)

Anyway, here are some photos I took (before I lost my camera) of my bougainvilleas and some other moments from the summer.

Middle son trying out his new clothes for a new wildlife job in Wyoming.Prepping the crawdads.A summer feast.A crowd in the kitchen.
(Please note the placement of my granddog's head.)
New friends in our backyard.
Hope you're finding some lazy moments in your summer.


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