"I am alive and kicking"

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

I'm out if commission this week with the flu. Just a note to let you all know I'll be back next week. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Do you befriend your neighbors?

The other day, I read a short article detailing with whom we should not start friendships.
A psychologist said we should not be friends with our children (agreed) or with our neighbors (disagree).
I dismissed the article as hokum and moved on with my day.
This morning, however, I watched a Today Show clip on the MyIntent Project that whipped my mind back to the "don't befriend your neighbors" article. Chris Pan founded the project to create a way to bring more positivity, togetherness and happiness into the world.
The project provides a simple bracelet - which Pan gave away at the beginning - a metal circle stamped with a word of your choice and fitted with an adjustable bracelet.
So, why am I bringing up the MyIntent Project? There's always a lot of talk out there about the need for tighter communities, more compassion, better conversations and so on. Well, MyIntent reminded me that community is something that everyone needs.
Most who know me, know I'm not a big people person unless there's a specific purpose in interacting with said people. However, in a small group or one-to-one situation, I'm alright and enjoy a good conversation.
Which brings me to the fact that I strongly disagree with the opinion of not befriending your neighbors.
We're not buddy-buddy with our neighbors, but we have good relationships with them.
The family who lives directly behind us is so nice, and hospitable, and kind. It's hard not to like that. If Donny's outside, he'll yell and wave, and sometimes just walk over and chat for a bit. Each spring and summer, he'll kid us about our garden and how crappy it looks.
I wouldn't say we're friends, but we're neighborly and I consider that a type of friendship.
The older couple who lives to the east of us is much the same. They moved in last summer and we instantly got along. It was fun watching them transform their yard into something of an oasis, when it was absolutely bare before. They took to Jacob right away and often wave and talk to him as he zooms by on his bicycle.
When Derek accidentally ran over Jacob's bike in the fall (due to Jacob leaving it in the driveway), the neighbors noticed. One day, after I'd taken Jacob's bike to be fixed, Jacob and I came home to a boy's bike propped up by our back door. Our neighbors to the east had put it there. They found it at an auction for free and knew Jacob's bike was broken, so they just put it there, knowing how much Jacob loves to ride.
The former neighbors to the north, across the street, were our friends from the beginning. Although they only stayed about nine months, I got to know them the best and was sad to see them go.
The couple often, and sincerely, said if we needed anything to give them a call. They had three dogs and so we often had front-yard conversations while their dogs were outside. I don't regret getting to know them at all.
Those are just three examples of what it is to be neighborly friends. These people enhance our lives with good conversation, a helping hand and a friendly wave once in awhile.
Not befriend your neighbors? What a load of bull. There are some neighbors worth befriending.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Life is a Journey. Writing is Life.

Novel writing has always been my dream. It's hard to cobble together a decent plot let alone go over the story time and again.
Discipline is my journey this month as I begin a serious attempt to develop a novel and complete it.
I've procured a copy of The Novel Planner: A Daily Planner for Authors, created by Kristen Kieffer and am slowly working my way through physically manifesting my ideas.

I was super excited to get my Novel Planner
it in the mail. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
The back cover of the planner I received.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)

The planner is pretty cool so far, and with help from Kieffer's site ShesNovel.com (soon to be called Well-Storied) I'm really getting the most out of it.
Kieffer really breaks down how to dig into character, plot and scene development, even better than I experienced in college classes.
I've fleshed out my protagonist a lot better on paper than I ever expected. Usually, I'm the type that creates a fantastic plot in the shower, perfect characters just before falling asleep and amazing scenes while I'm washing the dishes. Of course, when I sit down to write it in a notebook --- BLANK. Who were those people I was thinking about? What was my story again? Damn it.
In a few posts I've read, Kieffer stresses discipline and the need for writers to make time to sit down and plan. Physically write down ideas, not just amazingly create them mentally only to let them slip away 10 minutes later.
Discipline. It's a tough word. I can't stress enough how hard that aspect of my writing is for me.
But The Novel Planner has so far helped me understand the importance of even a general outline .
Writing down the outline for my idea was actually super liberating. It was like my author eyes sprang open and I saw my protagonist's purpose, along with my antagonist's.
Outlining. Do it.
The Novel Planner will help me keep track of all aspects of my life with spaces for personal, work and writing project to-do lists; room for project goals and project marketing strategies; character sketches; room for doodling or jotting down different story ideas; and accomplishments like weekly word count. And, since I have an ever-growing list of books I need to read, there is a whole page dedicated to jotting down book titles and authors. :) Wonderful!
I haven't been so excited about a planner since I entered high school.
The Novel Planner will help keep me accountable and motivated so I can become a better writer. Who knows? My goals and plans might actually come to fruition with a finished novel in 2017.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Old authors and new will fill my 2017

My holiday was filled with binge reading. Well, as bingey as I can get.
I read two books - WATCH OUT! - "Speaking from Among the Bones" by Alan Bradley and "Took" by Mary Downing Hahn.

Hahn has long been one of my favorite authors and I now intend to binge on several of her other books. Despite the fact she writes for a very young audience, I still love her master craftsmanship.
I first read "Wait Till Helen Comes" when I was in second grade - age 7. Scared the dickens out of me, but also intrigued me to no end. I read it at least twice every year through middle school. In fact, I remember a substitute librarian asking me once in third grade (age 8), "Don't you think you're too young for chapter books?" when I placed the book on the checkout counter.
I looked at her and said, "No. I've read this book many times already. And other chapter books."
Even now, I often think of Hahn's writing and ponder how in the world I could possibly become that great of a writer.
So when I saw she had a new book out, I couldn't wait to read "Took."
Hahn is known for her ghost stories aimed at elementary-aged readers.
I read "Took" in an afternoon. It was not only easy to read, it was so gripping I couldn't put it down.
It is based on an old folk tale and is set in West Virginia, where a family relocates to a spooky old house that had been abandoned for 50 years. It's completely worth the read. If you're jumpy, try reading it in the afternoon, though, especially if the view out your window is the woods.

"Speaking from Among the Bones" is the fifth in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.
This is the first I've read of Bradley's work, which I don't think made a huge difference.
However, I WILL be starting the series from the beginning very soon. Flavia de Luce is one of the most intriguing characters I've read in a long time. Her obsession with chemistry is intoxicating, despite the fact I hated chemistry in high school. I'm not the sciencey type.
Oh, did I mention she's 11? She's a little genius living in a time when girls were expected to dress nicely, sit up straight, keep their mouths shut and generally settle in the background.
Flavia is unique in every way opposite the 1950s norm for girls in England. And I love it.

I do not make New Year's resolutions, because -- SHOCKER -- I never keep them.
However, a resolution I can keep is to read more books! I've got a list I have to keep so I can continue reviewing them online, but I also have a growing list of books for fun.
Watch out 2017! I'm super excited to add more and more books to my new bookshelf and to check off the ones added to my "to read" list.