Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Greetings from my little island . . .

No, I'm not on a deserted beach somewhere. I wish. Just trapped here at my desk, knowing there are 10,000 things I should be working on, but unable to do any of them. As I posted on Facebook earlier this morning, it's days like these that make me wish I had co-workers around. I do miss getting up each morning, putting on a nice outfit and makeup, and settling in at my desk with regular chit-chat breaks in between meetings and deadlines. Oh, and did I mention I also miss the steady paycheck?
Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for being able to work from home. But trying to drum up enough business in between my children's school and extracurricular activities is difficult, and I tend to lose enthusiasm and energy for my writing projects by the time the sun sets. I've had a hard time juggling everything lately and staying focused on what I need to do most -- prospecting!
Anyway, it's been a busy past few months. I've had a pretty steady roster of work that is now all turned in, and I realized my manuscript needed to be expanded, so it's been put on the backburner. I need to pick it back up again, but revisions are so hard for me. I'd rather just start on a new story I've got in my head, but I realize I'll never publish anything that way, so onward and upward.
On a fun note, I got to meet one of my musical heroes, Greg Laswell, when he opened for Sara Bareilles in Charlotte last month. I actually scored two free tickets to see him, in exchange for passing out his free music download cards at the show. It was a blast, and I got a new story idea from the experience. So many ideas, so little time! He's a great guy, and if you haven't checked out his music yet, please do so! I guess I should get back to work now!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stop the Spam!

I haven't updated in quite a while, and I have to confess it's because I'm getting extremely frustrated without the amount of spammers trying to infiltrate the comments on this blog. I finally had to set up a moderation on the comments section, and every single day I've had to refuse spam, particularly on the Greg Laswell post. I update this blog to keep friends, family and acquaintances on my current work projects, and dealing with all the spam is making me lose interest in doing so. Please, whoever you are, leave my blog alone or I will be forced to shut it down, and I really don't want to have to do that.
Enough said.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Music, Reading, Writing, Repeat

Greg Laswell

It's hard to believe how fast the summer is flying by. We've been fortunate this year to mix in few long weekend trips with our annual beach vacation (next week, Hilton Head!) so we have been having a blast. We went camping as a family for the first time and biked half of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a truly majestic experience. Another weekend was spent in the picturesque mountains of the Asheville area, which was great because that is where my novel is set, so I was able to pick up a few details to add into the manuscript.
I've been picking up more work as a newspaper stringer and just turned in my latest batch of local magazine articles assigned to me over the past few months. Summer always proves to be a challenge in freelancing with the kids home a lot of the time, but summer camps and structured activities have helped me get things done for the most part. My new smartphone helps too, because I can stay connected whenever we venture out of the house.
We've experienced an unusually early heat wave in North Carolina, and I've used that time to catch up on some reading. Right now I'm working on "South of Broad" by Pat Conroy, which, of course, is fabulous. My eyes are tired from doing so much reading but I can't put it down!
And of course, the manuscript revisions. The book is complete and I love talking about it with other people. I can't get over how many friends and acquaintances want to go ahead and read it. I already informed my husband (who typically doesn't read long works of fiction) that he will be reading the book next week while we are on vacation, and I hope to get a rough outline of my next novel fleshed out in the next few weeks. Next up, compiling a list of agents to query. I'm thankful to have the 2010 edition of Writer's Market my shelf and every issue of Writer's Digest from the past few years to assist in my search.
I'm adding the blog "Ask Allison" to my blogroll, as I recently read all three of Allison Winn Scotch's novels this summer and like the advice she doles out to writes on her blog. I really enjoyed the one where she talked about the playlist for her latest novel "The One That I Want," because I've had an ever-evolving playlist I listen to whenever I work on my manuscript, too. I recently added singer/songwriter Greg Laswell (see photo above) to it. I saw him play at a local venue in Charlotte about a month ago and fell in love with his music, which I had already heard a few times on "Grey's Anatomy." He writes a lot about relationships, and so many of his songs tie in well with the themes in my book, especially the love story aspect. If you ever get a chance to see this guy live, I highly recommend it. He tends to play in intimate settings, and he's very funny and engaging with his audience. His latest album is "Take a Bow," and the whole album flows together seamlessly. I can't begin to tell you how much his music has been on repeat while I worked on latest revisions of the book.
This is an exciting time of my life. The kids are getting older and cuter by the day. I love my job, and am hopeful that my foray into fiction-writing will pay off in the long run. And it's almost vacation time!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Goodbye, Sweet Odie . . .

The movie "Marley & Me" had a huge impact on me when I saw it in the theatre a few years ago. Holding my husband's hand, I sobbed during the final scene with Marley in the veterinarian's office, because I knew that day would come soon enough for our family pet, too.
That day came last Tuesday. The past few years had been hard for Odie, our spunky Chihuahua, when he lost an eye from glaucoma and had cancerous cells removed from his body in two different surgeries. But still, he plodded along, if a little slower, because I think he always knew how greatly his absence would affect our family.
I got Odie as a present upon my high school graduation in 1994. Yes, 1994! I am so fortunate to have had Odie with us as long as we did. Except for the four years I was in college and a brief period after graduation, he lived with me. For two years after I married my husband, he was our fur baby and in essence, our first child. He got a little depressed when our daughter came along, but eventually he settled into life with us and our two kids.
There will never be another pet like Odie. He might have been small, but he was fearless. One of my favorite memories is when he snatched a mini bagel smothered in cream cheese out of my hand when he was a tiny puppy. That was his favorite food. He also once charged a FedEx truck, which miraculously saw him at the last minute and stopped within two feet of him. Before the loss of his eye, he loved to take long walks around our neighborhood on his leash. And he always gave us extra love when we were sick.
Odie turned 16 in May. My daughter sang to him and drew him several sweet birthday cards. She loved to tell people stories about Odie. But we noticed he was losing his appetite and control of his bladder more and more, and moving very slowly. He developed an infection and was having trouble breathing last week when we finally decided it was time to let him go.
I'll always be grateful to my husband for being with him during that last hour in the vet's office while I was driving around town with the kids, crying and trying to tell myself he wouldn't be in pain anymore.
Now, the house is quiet. Sometimes I think I hear him scratching at the back door. I miss when he used to lie on his bed in the corner of my office when the kids were in school and I worked. I miss sitting outside in the sun with him while he rolled in the grass to scratch his back. I miss the feel of his smooth fur.
It is getting easier every day. I can' t think about getting another pet right now. He has always been the only animal in our home. We need time to grieve. But I will always be thankful to have experienced such a wonderful relationship with my dog, as difficult as it was at times. And I hope I'll see him again one day.
Goodbye Odie. I'll always love you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fixing Things

Writing a long work of fiction is so different from what I usually do. Typically, I write magazine profiles and service articles. A little background research, a few phone interviews, some time drafting the article, and then I turn in the completed piece and invoice. I only wish writing a novel was that easy. I felt really good about my first draft until I stepped back from it for awhile and came back and read it with fresh eyes. I did not like what I saw.
For one thing, it may not be long enough for commercial fiction right now. It also has one of those nice, "tie it up in a bow and present it" type endings right now. I realize there needs to be an additional chapter or more of conflict before I can conclude the story.
These realizations have left me feeling more than a little frustrated, as there are two opportunities rapidly approaching that would allow me to show a query letter and sample chapters to a few agents. I don't want to have to pass these opportunities up, but moving ahead means I'm going to have to kick myself into high gear over the next two weeks. Can I do this? Yes. Even with a few article deadlines looming over my head. No, make that YES!
I happened to be flipping through the channels this weekend when I came across an old episode of VH1's "Storytellers," featuring one of my favorite bands, Coldplay. This particular episode was taped right as they were promoting the album "X&Y." They played the very moving song, "Fix You," live for one of the very first times. Lead singer Chris Martin talked about how much they worked on the song to perfect it, writing it roughly at first and recording it while on a world tour. They eventually scrapped some of the original lyrics and rewrote it, and it remains one of the songs they're proudest of.
Hearing how hard they worked on that song cheered me up a little bit. It also made me very emotional because a few years ago, after listening to that song for the very first time, I began to get the idea for my novel. That song has always been on my playlist as I've struggled to outline the story of four friends who survive a devastating accident in high school, only to battle their own personal demons five years later instead.
It's funny how one thing can inspire such a complicated piece of work, but I will always be grateful to Coldplay for writing and producing that song. It finally gave me the inspiration to do what my friends and mentors have always told me I could do -- write a book.
Now, onward and upward!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Documenting the Process

While it only took a month to complete the rough draft of my first novel, it feels like the revisions are taking forever. Every time I look over it I find a new typo. Oh well. No one ever said this was easy! But it is exciting to see it all coming together . . .

In other news, I've finally rescheduled the freelance writing workshop I was supposed to hold back in January, before several weeks of inclement weather foiled my plans. This is part of the LakeNormanMommies Learning series, and will take place at my home in Huntersville on May 8 at 2 p.m.

Below are the details:
During this two-hour class (which includes coffee/snack time), you'll learn how to:
  • analyze the mastheads of local publications to see where writing opportunities are
  • brainstorm article ideas
  • find expert sources to quote in your articles
  • query a national publication
My writing credits include:
The Charlotte Observer
Lake Norman Currents
Charlotte Parent
Little Ones
Carolina Parent
Piedmont Parent
Huggies Baby Network
Funds for Writers
The Writer

You can find more bio information on my web page, www.FinishedPages.com.
The class fee is $20 and a portion of the fee will be donated to LakeNormanMommies as a fundraiser. There will be door prizes, too, and great opportunities to connect with other creative LKNM moms! Contact me if you would like more information.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Write Book, Check!

On March 29, I completed the rough draft of my first novel. It was a great feeling -- well, more than great, really. I've talked about this project for so long it's hard to believe I'm one step closer to being a published author. Now, the real fear of failure sets in. I've been afraid to even read the first few pages of the manuscript. This is the mental block that always kept me from writing my story down in the first place, only now it's bogging me down in what is supposed to be the revision process.
So I've had two weeks away from my rough draft, and it's time to pick it back up. I'm pretty sure the prologue needs to be revamped, and many of the first few scenes can be condensed into longer chapters. But deep down, I feel like I did a good job with character development, pacing, and dialogue. Only time will tell, I guess.
I just returned from a short vacation to visit family out of state, and I'm looking forward to diving back into all sorts of projects now. They include sending out more query letters for articles, setting up phone mentoring appointments, teaching a possible local freelance writing class, and maybe even an outline for my next novel idea. And of course, researching potential agents and fleshing out a query letter for my book!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

9,000 Words (more or less) Left and Counting . . .

It's hard to believe, but the first draft of my first novel is almost complete. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't starting to get a little tired. I love my characters and everything, but we all need some time away from each other.
Who am I kidding? I'm leaving for Texas next Saturday to visit family for spring break and what do you want to bet I'll be holding my completed manuscript in one hand and editing with a red pen in the other while we're up in the air?
I can't help it. I can hardly believe I've made it this far and will soon hold a semi-completed piece of work in my hands. And I even managed to do it without pulling any all-nighters. For me, that is a miracle.
But this final leg of the journey is a little bittersweet. I know that once I return from my trip I'll have to go back to pounding the pavement for freelance work and crafting article queries for magazine editors, which will be hard because writing fiction has been so fulfilling. I can't believe how much it has renewed my spirit and energized me. I am hopeful for the future, and anxious to work on an outline for a new story in the next few months. I highly recommend the Book in a Month program to any writer who wants to take their writing to the next level. It's worked wonders for me!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Home Stretch

Twenty-three days ago, I finally started work on my first novel. I received Book in a Month as a prize in a recent writing contest and used it to give me the final boost I needed to get started. I turned in a few paid assignments at the beginning of March and one yesterday, but other than that, I have been diligently cranking out 2,000-3,000 words a day to get me to my final goal of a 70,000-75,000 manuscript at the end of this month. This is a rough draft at best -- I'm envisioning weeks (maybe months) of revising and hair-pulling beginning April 1, but at least the hard part will be done.
I've had the idea for this book for a few years, but it's amazing how much the plot, tone and characters have changed since I wrote my first outline. It still surprises me how easily the words and dialogue flow once I make the commitment to sit down at my computer each day.
This has not been an easy process. Every now and then, I'll sit down to write and have a panic attack. What if the completed product is no good? Will I ever be able to actually show this to anyone? What scene am I supposed to come up with next? Is this too personal?
I'm feeling a little cranky as I enter the home stretch. The house is a wreck. The inside of my car looks like clowns have been living inside it. Dinner tonight is eggs. Lady Gaga is getting me through with a few dance breaks here and there and my heroine is getting ready to do something really stupid. I'm planning to finally read the Twilight series as my reward after I finish the rough draft. My family has been wonderfully supportive. This morning my 6-year-old daughter asked me how much I was going to get paid for my book. I wish! And I already have an idea for my next book, if you can believe it. Thanks to all my friends who have been cheering me on! And now, back to throwing together dinner for my hungry children.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Healthy Writer

In this week's issue of "The Prosperous Writer," Christina Katz addresses the issue of writers maintaining good health to achieve the ultimate success both professionally and personally. This is a topic I think about often, as my job often calls for me to sit at my desk drinking nothing but coffee for hours on end.
About two years ago I woke up one morning and took a good, hard look at myself in the mirror. While I had reached a point in my career where I had a steady flow of work and a job as a stringer for the local newspaper, my health was suffering. I was at my heaviest and my mood was all over the place. I wanted to be a better role model for my two small children.
Like many writers, I am a person of extremes. In college, I put in long hours working on the campus newspaper sitting in front of a computer, chain-smoking and often eating only one meal a day. Needless to say, I was the skinniest I had ever been in my life, but I was far from healthy, and it took a toll on my mental state as well. Two years ago, the opposite was true. I craved comfort foods, sugary, frozen coffee drinks, and I wasn't getting enough sleep or fresh air. Again, I was not as happy with my life as I should have been.
I made the decision to be a healthier person. I began working with a personal trainer who taught me a great deal about the proper nutrition. Within three months, I had dropped 15 pounds and was running road races and lifting weights regularly. I looked and felt great.
I've now incorporated what I learned then into my daily writing life. I have slip-ups, as do most people, but I try to make it to the gym 3-4 times a week. My mind is so much clearer after I've worked up a good sweat. I also keep cut-up vegetables and hummus and fresh fruit in my refrigerator for morning and afternoon snacks and plenty of water in the bottle on my desk. I still have a love/hate relationship with coffee, particularly around deadlines. I was even able to write and sell a few articles about my lifestyle changes, so my career benefitted from the changes along with my health. What good is a successful career if you don't live long enough to enjoy it?
We all need to be mindful of taking care of ourselves while we're nurturing our inner artist. It's all too easy to let yourself go in the name of a deadline or rough draft that needs revising. Take a look around you and see if there are any health changes you could stand to make. I'm sure we could all find a few.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who Really Gets These Jobs?

At different points in my freelance career, I've focused on scrolling potential job leads each day and applying for a multitude of jobs. These jobs range from article writing, blog posts, editing, public relations, copywriting, etc. I always hear that branching out and diversifying your client base is the surefire way to increase your income.
The problem is, I don't think I've ever gotten one solid job from any of these leads. Right now, the majority of my work comes from editors I've already worked with in the past. I've grown tired of tailoring my resume and writing the perfect cover letter to apply to all these telecommuting jobs I never get.
Are there too many of us out there? Do my cover letters suck that badly? Are the employers who advertise the jobs even serious?
I did recently get a bite from a local posting I found on Craig's List. The potential client e-mailed a group of writers (names were masked) who had obviously responded to the ad, described the project he needed completed and asked us all to give him quotes. I didn't think that was a very professional way to handle the situation, and I don't like quoting on a per project basis with someone I've never worked with before. I e-mailed him my hourly rate instead, and shocker, never heard from him again.
Who really gets all these jobs I like to apply for? I've decided to refocus my efforts on pitching magazines and working on fiction. Maybe I'll actually see results there.
Have you ever found a great gig in the online job boards?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Need More Hours, Please!

There's just aren't enough hours in the day, of that I am convinced. I think that even if I had eight full hours a day to work I still wouldn't get everything done. Who really does right? My husband, a notorious "list guy" always tells me to prioritize the top five things on my list every day and check them off accordingly. Then, carry over what you didn't finish the day before onto your next day's list.
If only I wouldn't keep misplacing my notepad. And post-it notes.
I am working on a big project right now (I'll spill more details later) and once again the house has fallen into a disarray. But having a big extra-curricular (READ: NONPAYING) project to work on in my spare time has helped me prioritize how quickly I get my paying work done, just so I can get back to the aforementioned fun project. It's funny how things sometimes work out that way, isn't it?
Read here for more tips on how to add more hours to your work day. I can only dream of being able to hire a virtual assistant soon to help me with administrative tasks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Query, Query, Query

I am exhausted. I gave myself the goal of sending out 10 new magazine queries this week and it is harder than I originally thought. Many writers don't realize the "pre-query" part of the process is more time consuming than actually writing the query. I've contacted several possible experts for my article ideas, and in two cases heard back quickly. While these two sources don't think they are the best fit to provide expertise for the articles, they referred me to more qualified colleagues, which I am very grateful for.
For national magazine queries, it is best to have a few experts already lined up before securing the sale of the article, thus all this extra legwork. But it will make things easier when you do land an assignment so you won't be scrambling to find sources before deadline. I also hammered out an article for consideration for a writing publication, so I did get to sharpen my creativity skills somewhat today. Hopefully the extra queries will result in some good assignments for the next six months. I get nervous if I don't have two to three assignments on my roster at all times.
What are you working on today?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It May Look Easy, But It's Not

I loved reading this post yesterday over at FreelanceSwitch. I can readily agree that while working from home is a great gig for a mother of two small children, managing the day to day distractions can be problematic. I've already blogged about how I've had to wean myself off my biggest social networking distraction, Facebook. But there are other distractions too, not related to work. Like the need to tidy up the kitchen or fold a few loads of laundry. Heck, I even get distracted some days trying to cue up the best choice of music on iTunes!
I've tried to implement a few new organizational strategies and so far they've been working pretty well. While my son is in preschool is when I am the most productive, given I have a large mug of coffee to accompany me. I try to spend that time checking e-mail, applying for jobs, setting up phone interviews for articles or simply working on assignments. I always take a lunch break away from my desk, even if it just eating a salad while catching up on a show I've recorded or flipping through a magazine.
In the afternoon when my kids get home, I take 20-30 minutes during their "downtime" and put away laundry and straighten up the kitchen for the dinner shift.
This week I actually made a meal plan based on meats and leftover sauces I had in my freezer and shopped for extra ingredients needed. Then I tried to be more efficient while prepping for those meals. For example, Sunday afternoon, while making pot roast, I cut up all the carrots and celery in the refrigerator and separated half of them for later use. Monday evening I saved some of the rotini I didn't use for my baked pasta. Tuesday I sauteed chicken, added it into chicken broth with the carrots and celery and leftover pasta and, voila, chicken noodle soup!
These little changes have led me to be more productive in my writing career as well as in my household.
How do you separate out everyday distractions when you're trying to work?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Facebook, I Love You . . .

but we need to take a break. You're as addictive as coffee and bad reality television. Since I began weaning myself off your lovely interface almost 10 days ago, I've become so much more productive, in both life and in my work. My house is tidier than it has been in months. Breakfast dishes no longer linger in the sink until 4 p.m. Laundry is as caught up as it can be for a family of four. I have created delicious, healthy meals several days in a row just by chopping fruits and vegetables when I would normally be updating my status. My kids and I have been having a blast playing "Go Fish," "Bingo," and "Uno Moo" after school. I've applied to more freelance jobs than I have in months and sent out countless article queries.
I love catching up with all my old high school and college friends. But I don't need to share with you what I'm doing every hour on the hour, nor should I be compelled to wonder what you had for lunch. It was a difficult first few days without you, but I've tried to be strong.
Now if I could only give up all those crime shows I love to DVR I would be unstoppable.
One day at a time, I guess. One day at a time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deciphering Devices

It's only February but summer camp registration has begun. This is always a time of year that I get anxious because I usually don't have extra money around for camp deposits but I know I won't be able to work during the summer if the kids aren't in camp! Oh, the quandary of being self-employed. So I've been metaphorically pounding the pavement the past few weeks sending out queries and applications for telecommuting writer/editor positions. Hopefully my hard work will pay off soon.
I've also ramped up my cardio work-outs lately and have been seeing a pay-off with my clothes feeling a little looser and my mind feeling much clearer. Did you know that exercise is a great creativity boost?
During my recent time on the elliptical I've had so many ideas for my novel tossed around along with my endorphins. It's been a great inspiration and I highly recommend it for anyone, especially a writer struggling with deadlines, rejection or writer's block.
I'm also reading up on fiction-writing techniques with Laura Whitcomb's book, Novel Shortcuts, a great resource, by the way! My husband asked me last night why I looked so intense and I said I was mulling over what type of storytelling device I was going to use in my book.
His reponse, "huh?"

"A device is part point of view, part style, and part tone, but it's more than that. What makes it a device is all three of those things plus props. Props can be anything from travel tips in The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler to entomolgy lessons sprinkled throughout Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer."

In Jodi Picoult's book Handle With Care, the character of Charlotte is a pastry chef and Picoult sprinkles recipes throughout the book as a way to use baking as a metaphorical language tied to the story. You can read more about why she chose to use that storytelling device at her Web site under the heading, "Enhance your book club experience - try baking one of Charlotte's recipes!"

I always thought to write a novel I would just have to sit down and write. Now I know there is so much more to it. For me, I want all the work I put into my story to mean something, and if that means putting in the extra work to make sure I do the best job possible with the most efficient techniques, so be it. This is why so many authors write their own novels while studying for an M.F.A.

Think back on some of your favorite stories. What is the best storytelling device you've seen used?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Prosperous Writer and Passion

I've been enjoying Christina Katz's new e-zine "The Prosperous Writer" immensely. This week she challenged readers to explore passion in their writing:

"Passion is like fuel + fire--it flares up and burns quickly. And what we writers more often need is a nice, slow, steady burn, more like a wood-burning stove that is going to get you through the winter.

But the nature of passion is that it wants to consume itself. Our job as writers is to recognize this and pace it out."

I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of pacing myself appropriately when it comes to my work. Unfortunately, most of the time, I act in the opposite manner. I'll jump into a project headfirst, burn the candle at both ends and then not touch it again for months. I think that's why I've been so afraid of actually starting my work of fiction, because I already love the characters and story so much that I don't want to see them fade out quickly by my own hand.
This week I'm finally trying to get my calendar organized and desk cleaned off so I can line up my paying assignments for the next few months and start my "book in a month project" hopefully in the next few weeks. I already straightened up the house yesterday and today, which always helps me breathe a little easier!
How does passion affect your work? Does it help propel you along at a reasonable pace or hinder you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happiness Is . . .

I'm not a rich woman by any means. I still have a long way to go in my writing career. But as I was walking into the gym this evening, I glanced at the magazine racks to see if any local issues with my articles in them were on display. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to do that. I feel like I'm finally gaining momentum and learning how to do things the right way. Case in point, the image on the right. Granted it was only a sidebar to the "Market Focus" section, but it's me! And they even graciously mentioned my name in the article description.
It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Today, happiness is my first piece in a national publication. Thank you, editors at The Writer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Almost Hugged Our FedEx Guy Today . . .

when he pulled up in front of the house. By the size of the box he was carrying, I knew he must be holding the books I won as part of the prizes in the 78th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. I have been waiting eagerly for them to arrive, and now they're here! Where to start? This could provide me with enough blogging material for months . . .

Today I've been reading the "Book in a Month" workbook by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. The philosophy is very simple, and the book includes checklists, worksheets and charts to help you outline your story as you go along. Finally, all the tools I need to pull my story together in one journal! Once I finish the intro, I'm getting started. This month. For real this time. Because at the end of that 30 days, if all I have is a rough, rough draft, it's better than what I have now, which is two measly chapters and a half-finished outline.

A few months ago I got inspired reading author Stephanie Meyer's Web site. I have to confess, I still haven't read any of the "Twilight" series, but I've seen both movies so far. I keep telling myself I don't need to waste any more time reading novels right now, but maybe I'll get to them this summer. Anyway, she talked about how she had a running "soundtrack" of the movie she listened to as she was writing the first book. I would post the link here but I couldn't find it when I checked back at her site. I've put together my own for my story, although it has changed slightly over the past few months. Want a peek? This is just a small sampling.

Sample Track Listing:
"Life is Beautiful" - Vega4
"Fix You" - Coldplay
"Beautiful Child" - Fleetwood Mac
"Cut" - Plumb
"Runaway" - The Corrs
"The Letter" - Natalie Merchant
"Sky Blue and Black" - Jackson Browne
"Lay Me Down" - The Connells

Yeah, can you tell there's a love story in there?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Today's Inspiration

I have a confession to make. I can't sew a button. I can't even thread a needle. My grandmother has always sewed, and I used to love hanging out in her sewing room when I was a kid. But I have never considered myself creative in any design sort of way and resigned myself to that. But in my job I get to cross paths with so many people who are wonderfully imaginative in so many ways, and I wish for once I wasn't just writing about them, but could be them for a day.
I'm writing about a local woman who buys clothes from secondhand stores, cuts them up to make new garments, and sells them affordably to give them new life. She calls it upcycling. She has the neatest sewing studio in her house, and I loved sitting there on her yellow leather couch watching the photographer capture her inner and outer beauty and her fashionable designs. It was a nice escape from deadlines and worrying about where the next paycheck will come from.
She is a cancer survivor, and recently lost her mother to cancer, and she finds solace in sewing. Some of the costume jewelry from her mother's collection adorned the mannequins around the room.
I think we cross paths with people for a reason. Devon and I found out our children attend the same preschool and we had never seen each other before being thrown together on this assignment. Now I can't wait to take my daughter to her home to try on some of the little girl creations and maybe even have her take sewing classes there in a few years.
Thank you Devon, for inspiring me today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writer's Resume

This morning I have the daunting task of cleaning off my desk so I can actually be productive for a change. But before I do that, why not distract myself even further with a little blogging?
I came across this article by Moira Allen at WOW! Women on Writing about the concept of a writer's resume. I've had to dust off my resume lately while applying for various writing and editing jobs and thought it looked a little convoluted, as it contains all my work history in chronological order. Luckily, in my case, much of my work history includes writing and editing positions, but I do also have a few advertising positions thrown in there as well. I know many writers who may not have previous writing experience are at a loss when it comes to sending in a resume for a job posting. I think I'm going to go back now and rearrange it per Allen's suggestion so it reads something more like this:

Contact information
Writing and editing qualifications
Work history
Awards and memberships
Personal information

How is your resume arranged?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Food for Thought

I finally watched the movie "Julie and Julia" this past weekend. It was pretty good, although it did drag in some parts because the screenplay had to weave two different people's lives together. I'd like to read the book now to compare. What most intrigued me was the deadline Julie Powell gave herself -- blogging about cooking more than 500 recipes in 365 days. I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say she succeeded, and landed herself a book deal in the process. (By the way, there is no way I could eat that much butter in one year and live to tell the tale). Maybe I've finally figured out what I'm doing wrong.
I have deadlines with magazine articles I write. But when it comes to anything related to "extracurricular" writing (such as fiction, blogging) I DON'T give myself deadlines for some reason. I've never participated in NaNoWriMo. A one-month deadline terrifies the heck out of me.
I was discussing my lack of personal deadlines with my husband and he reminded me that every spring, I take on some big life-changing project. The past few years has been related to training for different road races, but this year he suggested I finally hammer out my novel April-June, then work on revising it. If I put together a "training" schedule like I did when I trained for my half-marathon, maybe this could work.
Have you ever given yourself deadlines for non-paying work? How did it turn out?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Freelance Writing Workshop

As part of the new LakeNormanMommies Learning Series, I'm offering a workshop on breaking into freelance writing at my home in Huntersville next Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2 p.m. Below are the details:

During this two-hour class (which includes coffee/snack time), you'll learn how to:
  • analyze the mastheads of local publications to see where writing opportunities are
  • brainstorm article ideas
  • find expert sources to quote in your articles
  • query a national publication
My writing credits include:
The Charlotte Observer
Lake Norman Currents
Charlotte Parent
Little Ones
Carolina Parent
Piedmont Parent
Huggies Baby Network
Funds for Writers
The Writer

You can find more bio information on my web page, www.FinishedPages.com.
The class fee is $20 and a portion of the fee will be donated to LakeNormanMommies as a fundraiser. There will be door prizes, too, and great opportunities to connect with other creative LKNM moms! Contact me if you would like more information. We have 6 spots left in the class.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Productivity Pitfalls

Sometimes, you have to just give up and admit your weaknesses. I've realized this the past few weeks. I swear I would bring in so much more money with my writing if I could just get my act together. As the mother of two young children, I have precious daytime hours to work while they are in elementary school and preschool so I don't have to shell out additional money for child care. But lately I've been finding myself piddling around during their school hours and not being very productive at all. Sure, I may get to the gym, but what about all those perfectly crafted query letters in my head? I tell myself if I work out in the morning I'll focus on the writing business in the evening after the kids have gone to bed, but let's face it. By that time I've endured the afternoon carpool, run one or two errands with both kids, worked on school assignments, made dinner and generally ensured my brain has turned to mush. I end up in a daze on the couch watching whatever show is waiting for me on the DVR.
So here is my new method. For the next two weeks, I am not allowed to go to the gym during daytime hours until I have at least three writing-related tasks checked off my list. Next I have to work on creating a calendar so I can get specific tasks down on paper. We'll see how this goes.
Oh, and speaking of query letters, check out a great example of a query letter that rocked, courtesy of Linda Formichelli over at The Renegade Writer blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Letting the Words Fall Where They May

There are words inside of me that are calling to be released. I've kept them in my mind for too long. They keep me awake at night. They are a multitude of stories, childhood experiences, spiritual awakenings and realizations. They are fragments of songs that play inside my head daily.
There are different places for all these words. I struggle as I try to figure out where they all fit. My big resolution for 2010 is to actually make progress on my novel. I've realized that I'm afraid to write fiction. I think it's because every word that comes from me is personal and steeped in reality. But I must let go of that fear and see where I end up. These characters deserve to find their place in the world. They are beautiful and unique, and I love each and every one of them.
A few years ago I won a beautiful leather-bound journal in a contest. Very simply on the front, these words are engraved:
"If you wish to be a writer, write."
I carried this journal with me yesterday and wrote as I waited for my son to complete his speech therapy session. I couldn't believe how easily my character's story began pouring out. Maybe I have to take a more organic approach to putting this piece of work together. Later I can transfer these words onto my computer, but for now I feel free and ready to take flight. Stay tuned.