Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Things

As the scintillating title states, today's blog deals with two different things.  Let's take them in chronological order:

First thing:  Thanksgiving Day.  Literally translated, it means a day to give thanks. Though its historical roots have been debated and muddied by political correctness and romanticized history, it still remains a uniquely American holiday whose sole purpose is to spend the day with a "gratitude attitude" for all the blessings we've received.

Some might question how blessed they've been when all the setbacks and losses they suffered through the year are taken into account, but one can't count a loss without having had a blessing to begin with.  This year, our family has suffered the loss of a beloved uncle.  It's hard to feel "thankful" knowing that our dear Uncle Sonny won't be at the table this year, sharing our meal, but we are thankful for the many memories we have of previous Thanksgivings--and Christmases and summers and other times we spent together.  That will be our focus. 

Some people have setbacks for which thankfulness evades them.  Losing a job or facing a serious illness are situations where it's hard to be thankful for what you had before.  I hope that for them, Thanksgiving Day is a day of hope for better times ahead... and things to be thankful for.

Second thing:  Small Business Saturday.  Yeah, laugh it up, since everyone knows I work at Walmart, but it's thanks to two small businesses that I have an interesting and fun-filled life and have the opportunity to do something I really love to do!

First off, a tip of the hat to Noisy Water Winery.  Up until about four years ago, my knowledge and taste for wine was defined by Boone's Farm and Arbor Mist (if I wanted to be sophisticated, I went for Beringer White Zinfandel.)  Thanks to Noisy Water, and many other small, family-owned and operated wineries in the state of New Mexico, my taste has expanded and blossomed.  What you get in a bottle of wine from a small vineyard or winery is more than just fermented grapes: you get a lot of love for the craft and art of winemaking, a history of the families who have cultivated the earth to produce it, the faith needed to undertake the task and business of producing wine.  And in Noisy Water's case, I also got a second job with wonderful people who love what they produce and love to introduce new people to it. 

Second, there is Oak Tree Press, a small, independent publishing house who took a chance on a new, unknown writer (that would be me) and brought her dreams to fruition.  It's the small publishers who are most likely to help a fledgling author see their work in print, who encourage and nurture beginning writing careers, who say "I believe in you" with a contract, not a Hallmark card, and help another voice be heard over the cacophony of thousands of competing authors.

So this coming Saturday, after you count your blessings and then turn your thoughts to Christmas shopping (hopefully you're doing those things in that order!), remember the small businesses.  They are run by dreamers and doers and put their heart into the things they produce and sell.

Here is my shameless plug for my favorite small businesses:

Visit in person or visit us on-line.  You'll find specials there to rival any "Black Friday" sale and the best part, you'll be giving a gift produced with love and care and pride, something worthy of the recipient!  As a bonus, you'll be helping to keep the dream of these small business owners alive and healthy!

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Downtime: What This Writer Does When She's Not Writing

Perhaps a better title would be "What this writer would LIKE to be doing when she's not writing".

The truth is that this writer has two other jobs in the "real" world and both jobs take a lot of my time away from home (including travel time) and other activities in which I'd like to engage when I'm not sitting at the laptop or with a notebook and pen (yes, I still use those!)  Here's some things I'd like to do more of:

1)  Read.  Yes, I already read voraciously, but if I had more time, I'd read even more!  I barely get to scan the news headlines on-line and I've cancelled magazine subscriptions because I just don't have time to read all the articles anymore.  Books are in piles waiting to be read.  I'd definitely read more!

2) Travel.  Not actual vacation trips, but road trips to various nearby places, just to get a change of atmosphere or satisfy my curiosity.  Even a drive in the mountains on a Sunday afternoon would be a real treat (especially at this time of year!)

3)  Cook.  Most days I barely have the time and energy to pull together a real meal for dinner (protein, starch, and two veggies), which I love to do, and have to make do with pre-prepared food or rely on the goodness of my family who lives nearby and often wants to share part of their meal with us... or else hit the only local restaurant in the area, five miles down the road.

4) Bake.  I love to bake and I'd do it year round if my kitchen didn't get so darn hot in the summertime!  But with the holidays approaching, the baking bug is biting hard and I just don't have time to do all that I'd like to do.  Like this:


 4) Spend time with my family.  Yes, even though I live (literally) next door to Paul's family and less than two hours away from my family, the work takes a toll on my energy and time to spend with them.  I'd surely love to find a way to be with our families even more!

What do you like to do when you're not working "the job"?

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Does it really work?

There is a never-ending quest among writers to find "the key" to getting published.

You can find articles, essays, and whole books and magazines devoted to ways to get published.  Very rarely do any of them mention NaNoWriMo as one of those ways.

This is my twelfth year competing in NaNoWriMo.  For those of you in the dark, NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, an idea born of a genius by the name of Chris Baty back in 1999 who wanted to encourage creative writing.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  This is where I question Chris' genius in choosing November for NaNoWriMo instead of, say, April which also has thirty 30 days and no major holiday (except for Easter, occasionally) in it or immediately after it that seems to require immense preparation.

The reason I entered NaNo the first time, back in 2004, was because I had one major obstacle in becoming a novelist... lack of discipline.  I was a world-class procrastinator (Who am I kidding?  I still struggle with this.) and had a hard time finishing anything I started.  I worked better with a deadline and since I was just starting out, toying with the idea of a novel, no one was really expecting anything of me--I certainly did not have a publisher waiting impatiently for me to finish my novel so they could publish it--there was really no "good reason" to finish the novels I started.  It was way too easy to put off writing time as well. 

So in October of 2004, I registered and on November first, with the encouragement of my ever-patient husband, Paul, I began. I think I got as far as 25,000 words before I tanked.  But somehow, I still managed to find the optimism to try again the following year.  And the following year.  In 2007, I finally managed to finish.  Not the novel (How many novels actually stop at 50,000 words?) but I "crossed the finish line" in that I wrote 50,000 before midnight on November 30.  And the overwhelming feeling was that of accomplishment.  I did it.  I finished writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  And a few weeks later, I picked up that manuscript and continued working on it.  And because I had developed confidence from meeting that 50,000 word goal, I knew I could actually finish the novel.  And I did.

That was the beginning.

Somewhere I have that first finished novel.  And the second one I finished the following year (yes, I actually "won" NaNo twice in a row!)  And with those two "wins" under my belt, I realized that I can do this; I can actually BE a novelist. I can start something and finish it.  And that was what set me on the road to writing for publication.  It doesn't matter how talented a writer is or how interesting the characters and plot might be; if you don't finish the project, whether it's a novel or short story or essay, no one will ever read it.  Especially a publisher. 

So whenever anyone asks me, "How do you become a published writer?" I always respond with "Have you ever heard of National Novel Writing Month?"
It's a testament to the power of persistence.