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Herein, children's writer Molly Blaisdell raves, rants, and rambles about her craft. She also muses about juggling a job, motherhood and writing books, and there is a good dose of rallying, psyching up and inspiring for anyone who needs to seize the day.
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1. The End of the Tunnel

Hi folks,


I've traveled through a dark tunnel creatively, but I'm standing here now blinking at the bright light at the end of the tunnel. The best part of my life is that I am surrounded by tremendous people. It's insane to me how many wonderful people have blessed me with their friendship. I received a 10 page hand-written letter from an old friend this week (one of the treasures). The first two pages were quotes from letters over the decades. I wrote this many years ago.  It reminded me of what I am about. 

"I had a perfect mommy moment today. I was reading a book. I had rolled over on my side and had my legs bent. Slowly I realized I wasn't alone. A sweet child had tucked himself and his book in the crook of my legs. He didn't say anything. He just curled up and looked at the pictures in his book. I felt warm and glowing inside. I felt like I was fulfilling my life. I never have to do anything more."

I am a cozy sort of person.  I like cups of hot tea with lemon cookies. I love a ramble in the morning. I love watching stars of a frosty night with warm blanket. I love curling up with a book and being transported to other worlds, other times, and other minds. I love to scribble stories. That is enough. 

Our friends find us when we can't find ourselves. They keep us when we are lost. They make us remember when we have forgotten. They name us. I am so thankful that I have found friendship is the light at the end of the tunnel.  Making moments for others is a deep part of why I write.  I hope you light the world with your creative gifts this weeks. Art is truth beyond the words. 

I will be back next week with a new series. 

Here is a doodle: SHARD. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

—E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

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2. The Sink Overflowed

Hi folks, the sink overflowed this week. My son came home for lunch and found the mess. He didn't say a word to me and just cleaned up the water. I found a soaked roll of paper towels on the counter. Nice to have a family that supports creative endeavor.

What is this all about? Translated, my writing is popping. I'm back in the mode when I mean to sit down for thirty minutes of writing, and I end up writing for over an two hours even though I think thirty minutes. I know, I wish writing could always be this way. My story is Profit, a sci-fi epic. As usual, I so believe in this story. I'm leaving bits of my heart and soul on the page. I am inside a vast fictive dream that is so beyond me that it makes me tremble.

Here's the ramble. Chase after your creative dreams, folks. Don't worry. I know this can be tough, but always remember that the freedom is in the work. Every time you turn to the work you will find energy. I love to create. I love to see the work emerging, to experience it, and to bring it forth. I write words, but the important messages seem to be beyond the words. There is a hidden unseen part of creating. A great story builds something in the heart. It transfers true experience. It expands the world of the reader. It opens the reader to new ideas. It is bigger than me.

All creative work seems to do this. It connects us with the beauty of the universe. Consider this. Instinctively, we know that the chasing after money hurts. Our factories chug out greenhouse grasses, people fight for a buck on Wall Street, our green-less cities of steel are surrounded by isolated people in their ant-like cars, or worse bombs fall from our streaking jets, sending a message of --what? The best of us is in quiet souls toiling in corners often without pay or praise.  Every building that is more than square block of steel, every car with energy efficiency, every act that brings peace, and every creative endeavor opens the soul of human experience. Be in the business of making us more.

Do what you can with your life. Bloom in the pot you are planted in. Find ways to express yourself creatively.  Live mindfully. Live well.

I will be back next week with more meandering creative thoughts. This doodle comes from my husband Tim.  Yes, we all doodle at my house.

 


A quote for your pocket.

Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense. Marcus Aurelius

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3. Not Type A

Hi folks, this month there is no series.  These topics all stand alone.  It's my birthday month and I want to dig deep and be more. Here's one thing I've been thinking about. Welcome to my meandering.

I cringe every time I hear the dreaded words: I'm a Type A personality -- high achiever, driven, worker, leader, competitive. Man, if you need the most cookies, take them.  On my worst days, I'm a type D and on my better days I am a Type C.  I lack assertiveness.  Type As are always apologizing for being Type As even though they are thrilled by their achievements and are determined to achieve more. Uh, this is not humility.  Here's the deal Type As, every personality type has a downside.

Don't think this a Type A bashing post. Type As are getting the most cookies, so chill.  Type Bs don't care if they have any cookies or not. Type Cs would like cookies but are too shy to ask. And Type D, those folks needs therapy, drugs and understanding.  But I digress, back to Type As. They are missing out some good stuff.  I was with a friend at a yogurt shop nodding knowingly about not being a type A.  We both have felt that "odd person out" feeling about not being Type A. 

We were laughing about typical Type A stuff. They think that everyone wants to be them and are sold are on the idea that you must be positive and have it all together 24/7. The rest of us types cringe, continue to play Candy Crush,  enjoy the frozen yogurt, and wander off topic by discussing the hotness of actor Robert Vaughn from the old TV show Man from U.N.C.L.E. vs hotness of David McCallum, who is now a nice old man on a show call NCIS. This would drive type As crazy...but we were happy as clams. That's right, not stressed, not organized, and totally chill. YAY!

So how does personality play into my life: I would like a writing cookie, but if it means I can't smell the roses, do my own thing, and daydream days away, no cookies for me. I also need lots of time to read books, enjoy good conversations, and afternoons poolside. In kindergarten, Mrs. Crabtree impressed on me the importance of being yourself. She believed that every child would shine and made sure that every student in her class had a moment to do so. Overall she taught me that life is about our relationships and nothing else. 

You are needed. We are all needed.  So "Not Type As" take a deep breath. It is okay. 

I will be back next week with more. 


Here is a doodle. 

And finally

A quote for your pocket.
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Bruce Lee


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4. Cutting the Strings of Success

I've traveled a rough rough creative year. I found out pouring out my soul is not enough for success. That left me leaning against the walls, sobbing (I know, embarrassing but nevertheless true). I ache inside to write something that actually means something to a multitude of people. I still ache for this, but at to this point I don't really know what words will do that.


Publishing work is a tough thing. A writer scrapes down to the bone, and then goes even further, like stripping pieces of your soul and then handing it out. This is a difficult thing to face: a monumental creative effort of mine was like passing out flyers on the corner of some nameless city and, while a few people went into the show, most just tossed the flyers on the ground and moved on.

Very few care. Not an easy answer for an artist. My first reaction was childish. How dare the folks not love my work. How dare they!  There are no gimmicks or tricks in my bag.  I have no pile of money to lean on, no celebrity to tap into. I have to rise up on the merits of my words alone. Blue collar girl here, and few of us really get a chance to say anything. 

There is more to my story. I have integrity. I didn't just slap some stupid and uncomfortable sex on a page. I didn't try to titillate, seduce or toss on some bondage. I went with the stuff that means a lot to me: honesty, humanity, and small town values -- the golden rule, love your neighbors, and be yourself.  Surely this will rise. Surely!

I am really embarrassed right now. Have you ever boasted? I have. I thought for sure I was going to be a player in the writing world. Do you know how painful it is to rejected by an agent because you are just "a midlist author and never are going to be more than that."  To be told by really successful editors that your writing is fantastic but it's not likely to connect. I blindly believed  they were crazy. Then I put the work out there and find out that those voices were not messing with me. They were trying to be helpful. Why did humility have to be such a hard lesson? 

I am pretty sure there must be more truth that no one wants to tell me. They probably think I can't take it, and they are probably right.  I read Charlotte's Web, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Book of Three as a kid and thought surely I will find this magic too. People are going to read my books just like those. Now I am beyond 50 years old, and, guess what? Yet, I am still writing, but I have taken a paring knife and cut the strings to success--this kind of success: the attainment of popularity, profit or both. 

And here I am living the Blue Bird of happiness story. I found the magic of the stories. What I need is the golden rule, to love my neighbor, and to be myself.  I am some pig. I am terrific. I am radiant. I am humble. Love really does take the day and save those I love. And assistant pig farmers find out that that is really what they are and that isn't something to be ashamed of.  Everything shines.

Neighbors, because if you are reading this, you are my neighbors. I hope you find the magic in stories too.  If you want, my book PLUMB CRAZY is on sale on Kindle for 99 cents for my birthday week. I will be back next week with more musing about the creative life.

Here is a doodle for you.



A quote for your pocket.

When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. Fred Rogers

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5. Publish: Optimism and other lessons

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENS Publish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is almost finished with their masterworks. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENS Publish 2015 Anthology. Our revision letters are in and our last meeting is over. It was hard to say goodbye.


I learned so many things over the eight weeks we met. The first thing was the power of optimism. Your dreams can come true, ask anyone in the tribe.  It's just that easy. If you dream a thing and seek it, you will find it.

I loved that the writing tribe faced every bit of the writing process with an upbeat attitude. They expected to find the story they were trying to carve out. Failure wasn't an option. Critique was just a way to do better. Take a lesson from the tribe.  Assume your story will float. How can you do this? Buoyancy comes from your upbeat spirit. Here the deal: if you are writing, a place for that writing will form. That's just the way the universe is put together. 

Another thing I've learned from the tribe is if you are not excited about the next amazing thing you are about to do, you have missed the creative boat. The mind is flexible. Let it bend the way it wants to. Not knowing the "rules" is a major big blessing. Don't worry about what has come before. Don't worry about the next big thing. Trust your big old imagination. It is going to surprise you again and again. Yes, it may sound crazy. Go there. The tribe reopened me to the possibilities. 

Finally, not understanding what to do is okay. Asking questions is okay. Not knowing where you are going is okay. Trying all kinds of things is okay. Creativity is about the willingness to make mistakes, lots of them. It's fine to be where you are on your journey. Be glad that you have a journey. Embrace it. You never know what your mistakes will teach you. The writing tribe embraced the mysterious, the unknown, the uncharted country. 

Personally, I feel I will never face a writing project the same. I have a blank page in front of me. Is there any greater writing magic than that?  I hope you have enjoyed the series. Usually in August, I dig deep into my soul and explores some of my burning questions. I hope you drop in for some of the fire in my bones. 


Here is my doodle:Tree




Finally a quote for your pocket.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen  Keller

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6. Publish: Revision is not sexy.

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is working hard. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENSPublish 2015 Anthology. We have moved into the last phase of our project: revision.


Yep, revision.  It's where you take your precious pages and hack at them with machete.  Fun. Fun. Fun. And NOT sexy. It's about "we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster." If you saw The Six Million Dollar Man back in the day you know what I'm talking about. 

So what is the blessed technology that will help you on this journey? The first technology is language. I bet you didn't even know written language was a technology. It is. So time to tighten up the writing. Yes, this is just like going to the gym every day and working a circuit. 

This circuit goes like this. Ditch the "to be" verbs. Rip out adjectives and choose stronger nouns. Toss the adverbs and choose stronger verbs. Look for repeats and remove the "peats". Stop feeling things and just cut to the chase. Find white space. Make it all pretty. By the way this activity is like building a spiderweb. takes a while. Not so interesting laying out each little strand, but when it is done, it is a masterpiece. 

Oh, you get double extra charged writing if you vary sentence lengths. 

Now a second technology.  Grammar. Yes, grammar is a thing and getting it will help you create stories that sing. Go to OWL. Try Grammarly. Grammar Girl. The Blue BookBuilding Great Sentences. Add in some AutoCrit. Don't wing this stuff. Grammar, you will thank me. I liken grammar improvement to beating the dust out of rugs with broom. Hard work but eventually it is all cool  Here is a secret. It's not about making everything "correct."

Revision is hard work. It's tedious at times. It's not fast. It does lead to what you meant to say. And that is everything,isn't it.

I will be back next week with more revision stuff. The last in this series!

Here is a doodle. My son Jesse at age 3.



A quote for your pocket:

Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar. E.B. White

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7. Publish: Revise the Big Picture

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is working hard. The title of our anthology is A New Generation: TEENSPublish 2015 Anthology. We have moved into the next phase of our project: revision.


Revision starts with the big picture. I have written a rough draft. It's time to consider the big picture. I have written a terrible manuscript as it should be. This thing is worthy of being printed out and being used as a doorstop. That is all.  Now the work of revising begins. I squint my eyes and dive in. Why is my story boring? Does my story make sense? Does it have a beginning middle and end? I gotta fix that stuff.  This might take days. I will cut some of the boring bits.  I will rewrite some of the boring bits. I will add some bits so the story is less boring. I think I will buy a cupcake. Stress. Stress.

Cupcake is eaten, it is time my favorite game: Does this chapter really need to be a part of my book? I start out with assumption the chapter needs to be axed and then try to find 5 reasons that that shouldn't happen. Here are 5 sample reasons to keep a chapter.  The hero meets the villain. Check. The hero realizes he is just a sham and must find a way to change. Check. The hero hurts someone really close to him.  Check. The hero finds out a secret that changes everything.  Check. The hero snogs with a girl he never expected to snog with. Check. Gosh, I love this chapter. I am genius.

Here is the chapter I cut. The hero gets out of bed. (I didn't write that, did I?) The hero thinks about the scenery on the way to school for two pages. (I suck.) The hero does exactly what I expect him to do when he gets to school. (I really suck.)  The hero spends a long time at the water fountain and I don't know why. (Maybe I should take up a hobby like needlepoint.) The hero falls asleep at the end of the chapter. (Yikes. I mean Yikes!) Salvage not possible.

Some chapters are good. Some chapters are bad. Easy decisions. Many are in the middle. I put these on the organ donation pile or the fix later pile. Organ donation chapters are getting axed but there is some stuff in there I will use somewhere else. For example, one chapter was totally stupid, except for the part where the hero gets into that massive fight with his best friend. That I will keep. Organ donation, it's like recycling but better. Some chapters are not so bad but they do need tweaking. There is enough happening to keep them in the book, but it's not pretty. I will make them pretty later. These chapters go in the fix later pile. This revision is about the big picture.

I have just cut 10 chapters, and put 20 scenes on the organ donation pile, and have eaten another cupcake (the came two in a box). I will make a healthy smoothie now and think about going for a walk or watching endless Netflix episodes. Here is important news: PROCRASTINATION is part of the process.

Have fun revising the big picture.  I will be back next week with more on revision.   More fun ahead.

Here is a doodle.



And now a quote for your pocket. Praying we all unarm the truth and love unconditionally. 

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Martin Luther KIng

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8. Publish: Theme

Hi folks, I am writing a summer long series. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. The tribe is working hard. We had a committee meeting this week about the title of our book and here it is:  A New Generation: TEENSPublish 2015 Anthology. We also picked a trim size for our book.  Now on to the topic.

This week we dove into theme. I think some of this will relate to any creative life. We created word clouds through Wordle.net.  First we wrote a list of topics. These topics were used to create our cloud.  The word cloud image has to be posted somewhere and stared at on a regular basis as you create your work.  In other words, don't mess with theme while you are writing. Be aware of it but don't touch it.  You will end up on the road of didactic and moralistic.  Avoid at all cost.

We talked about how theme works.  You take a topic and then you say what the author is trying to say about that topic.  Here are two examples.  In Star Wars, a topic is destiny.  The road to destiny will show up when your pining for it, it won't be what you expected, it will rip you away from everything you have ever known, it will be harder than you ever dreamed, and it will be better than you ever expected. In Finding Nemo, a topic is fatherhood.  A father will go to the ends of the earth to save a beloved son; nothing will stand in his way.

Finally I mentioned some of my theme tricks. I drop quotes around to inspire me as I work on a book. I put them in junk drawers, tape them to the bottom of lamps, and tuck them between the pages of my favorite books, and when I stumble on them, I think about them. I also pick out a list of inspirational songs and play them before or while I am working. I also chose inspirational images and then stare at them when I get stuck.  These activities feed my theme. I don't know how and I don't want to know. The journey of writing a book is saying what you want to say and it something of a mystery, just like you.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into theme.  I hope you never think about and create it anyway. Dig into your soul and you will share what your theme. I will be back next week with revision.

Here is doodle for you:

\

A quote for your pocket. This is some inspiration for one of my books.

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” William Faulkner.

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9. Sprout Wings

Hi folks, I struggled with this blog. So many pressures from every side. Writing is not in a vacuum. It is in the real world, and this world is full of troubles, big and small.  I began to think about an idea I have always held this weekend.  If you fall in a pit, get up on the side closest to where you to want go, crawl out, and keep on going. A new idea came to me. 

Why don’t you just sprout wings and fly away?

How? I mean sprouting wings would be a pretty big miracle and this is the age of information and reason. We don’t live in a world that is NOT clinging to mysterious. I wondered about the idea of sprouting wings. It felt very evolutionary to me.  You know, life adapts, and a lifetime of crawling out of pits made me long for something more. An evolutionary step seemed better than the same old reaction to stupidity.

Perhaps this is the heart of what makes us human -- three dimensional thinking. Your stories will pop if you think about making your characters evolve.  We tend to the ordinary, consider the extraordinary.  I think the best writers don’t wrap it all up. They deal in imagery and theme.  The unseen world is how they live their days.  Writing is to akin to dreaming, except you are awake. Our dreams can be chaotic and meaningless, but they can also help us make sense of the chaotic meaningless world.  Those words you are putting on the page, you are bringing light into darkness.  Keep going!

Finally, I considered my idea of sprouting wings. There is nothing new under the sun. An old scripture whispered within me: They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like the eagles. It is strange how the words of the Prophet Isaiah from around 720  BCE  resonate within me today. I love writers. They are thinking ahead. They are reaching to the ages ahead.  They see into the murky darkness of the future and they see you.

As you write, think about shining into the darkness of the future. You have the potential to transform the world. 

I will be back next week with more of TEENSPublish. I hope that you keep writing. Someone needs those stories. 

A sneak peek at an illustration for my soon to be indie published picture book: CHICKENS DON'T TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN!


Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint 

Isaiah 40; 28-31.   Write this on your heart, folks.  

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10. Publish: Setting

Hi folks, I'm starting a series that will last for the summer. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. This is the fourth week and I'm covering setting. I think some of this will relate to any creative life.


One piece of the publishing puzzle is an authentic setting. The tribe attacked setting this week with fever.  Setting is about perception. It is the creation of the exterior world within a novel or short story. Setting is the sensory experience of a story. The best stories understand the importance of sensory experience. 

The first exercise we tackled this week was the bird's eye view.  Crayons and pencils were passed out; and the students were happy to take flight in their imagination and draw the bird's eye view of the setting in the first scene of their stories. This exercise is important because it forces the creator to go beyond the four walls. Is a nightingale singing outside the room of the house?  Is the wind picking up outside and whistling in the cracks?  Is there a rose arbor outside the window? Are ninjas hiding outside the window? The bird's eye perspective can enrich a scene.

Next we explored how language truly affects our setting.  Word choice is important when creating the mood of a scene.  We described our scenes with hard consonants with long vowels and then with soft consonants and short vowels.  The meanings of the words were similar but the scene changed with careful word choice. The upshot of this exercise? There is a poetic element to setting that must be addressed. 

Last we watched a video on world building.  Some of the tribe must invent partial or whole worlds to write inventive stories. This video is a good place to get started with is here.   To me what is important about world building is limiting what is different from the real world. What we love about other worlds is how they remind of us home.  You may travel to the far reaches but what resonates is when you meet someone from your hometown or you find out the banana pudding is just like home.  It's what brings us together that is important, not what separates us.  Good advice for world building and life, too, I think. 

I hope that you think about setting this week as you create master works. I research the settings of my books. Here is a public board on Pinterest for the setting of my book PLUMB CRAZY.  You might find this informative.  Click on the link in the side bar if you want to know more about the book.

Hope you create master works this week.  Next week we will take a break from the nuts and bolts and sneak in a contemplative blog about the universe, creativeness, and such. See you then.


Here is a art.

And finally a quote for your pocket. 
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. Abraham Lincoln.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

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11. Publish: Plot

Hi folks, I'm starting a series that will last for the summer. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. This is the third week I'm covering plot. I think some of this will relate to any creative life.


Oh, yes, when you tell a story, you must offer a plot. 

First up, an exercise, characters writes a letter to the writer about his or her journey. Try this. You might find something out about your character's journey that you did not know before. Plot is related to character. Who you are has a lot to do with what you want. What you want has a lot to do with what you will do. What you do has a lot to with who you are. Put plot and character together to write a compelling story.

You might want to check out these two videos. Matthew Winkler's video explains the mono-myth.  Next, from Glove and Boots is another explanation of the hero's journey.  Both of these are good stuff. If you want a deeper understanding of the mono-myth, enjoy. The play between plot and character is illustrated clearly in these two vids. Nothing like knowledge to perk up a story.

Finally we spent some time writing and sharing a section of work with each other. For me, this is essential for creating a plot. Watching for glazed over eyes or riveted eyes while reading your story will tell you much about how you are doing in terms of your plotting. 

The toughest thing for me to learn  about plot was the mid-point. This is a crucial part of plot.   In PLUMB CRAZY (me writing as Cece Barlow), my mid-point comes with the boyfriend fail. My character seeks her concept of the perfect boyfriend, but at the mid-point realizes her concepts are not working. She releases her preconceived notions and this leads her to something better than perfect -- a real boyfriend.

I hope you will come back next week for notes on setting.

Now a doodle. I saw this in a dream: two hats.



A quote for your pocket.

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter - a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue. Henri Matisse

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12. Publish: Characters

Hi folks, I'm starting a series that will last for the summer. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. This second week I'm covering characters. I think some of this will relate to any creative life.

This week I introduced the tribe at Ringer Library to creating authentic characters. We started out with the daunting task of filling out a character profile. I really like this one  from Martinaboone.com.  Here is the link.  These things are just helpful to me. I don't start out with blue eyes and end up with brown. I know what my character likes and dislikes. I know if they get on with their siblings.

Next we moved on to character personality test. I like the Meyers-Briggs test and the Enneagram test. I know some of the questions go over the heads of us all, but these tests give a good read on personality type. You take the quiz not as yourself but as your character. The resulting character personality type helps you make decisions for your characters.

Next we had some play time. Each tribe member walked into the room and took their seat. The rest of the tribe offered descriptors of what they were seeing.  This little exercises helps the writer understand the proprioception of his or her character.The whole thing about five senses is not strictly true. We have many more.  Don't believe me?  Check here.  

Finally we had conversations as our characters.We sat in circles and discussed our story journeys as our characters.  It's an interesting thing to inhabit your character and is informative in a special way. The exercise forces you to do what your character does, think as your character does, feel as your character does. You must leave yourself behind. When writing, this helps you hold to your POV.

I hope our exercises help you create authentic characters. Always look beyond the surface and get down to the bones. Dig deeper and find the sour. This is the way to go.

I will be back next week with more of Publish. We have a journey ahead!

Now a doodle.


And finally a quote for your pocket.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. C. G. Jung

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13. Publish -- Pre-writing

Hi folks, I'm starting a series that will last for the summer. It's called Publish and is in conjunction with my TEENSPublish workshop at the Ringer Library in College Station, Texas. This first week I'm covering pre-writing. I think some of this will relate to any creative life.  

Publishing is different than writing. The two are related but not the same. Writing is about splashing the words on the page. Writing can be personal, for yourself. Writing that will be published comes with an added zest. It's not about the writer; it's about the reader. Every word will be seen by others. Every word will have the potential to influence someone's life. Every word must grab the reader and shake them up. If not, the words won't be read.

The most important words of a story are the first five pages. If you can get someone hooked on the first five pages, they will read the rest of the book.  I mentioned if main characters were waking up in the first scene that there better be a sack of flesh-eating spiders about to descend upon them. I suggested the participants check out The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. This is a handy book to sharpen the hook.

As a part of pre-writing, we talked about the need for an interesting main character. If a character doesn't have redeeming qualities, no one will follow him or her to the end of the story.  Anti-heroes are popular right now.  Going against the grain is always popular.  Sadness is having a heyday too.  All this is fine but it is important to add likability to the main character. This is huge. Some quick tricks to garner likability -- save someone or something  in the first chapter, create contrast with exterior and interior self (i.e. hard criminal - exterior, wounded protector - interior.), finally, isolate your character by killing off everyone he or she loves.

Finally the last thing in pre-writing was the chance for each writer to discuss their story without interruption. We live in a world that is all about being heard.  The chance to speak without anyone immediately jumping and contradicting and offering an opinion is rare. Each participant was given seven minutes to share their vision without interruption.  How many times do we get the chance to be heard?  It is so rare. It's also a chance to listen.  Our society has lost listening to each other, and in this we have lost something of ourselves. It's so important to be quiet, to be still, and hear what is being said. Writers need to listen. To tell the truth, we all do.

I hope this journey into pre-writing was provocative to you.  I hope that you think about all this as you move forward with projects.  Next week, I'm going to cover characterization.

Now for the doodle. Cat Doodle




Quote for your pocket:

At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden

Bob Dylan

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14. Bloom: Flood!

Hi folks, last post in the BLOOM series.  Flooding has inundated Texas this month. I drove by the Navasota River yesterday, and it was at least a mile out of its banks.  I mean when it rains here it makes Seattle look like the sunshine city. My youngest nephew is spending the week with me because his house was flooded in Houston. I have been a busy bee.

It's a feast or famine situation in Texas. I have lived here for five years. Four of those years have been drought years. And finally we hit this year.  Yes, everything is blooming that isn't drowning.  My red daylily is just popping velvety bloom after velvety bloom, the first year that has happened since I planted them. I want that for my writing life.

Wait for your flood year. Life has a way of not clopping along at an even pace. This drives me crazy because I like a nice even pace.  I have had some dry years in a row.  I have big expectations of myself. I want to rattle the cages and shake the foundations worldwide. This is tough to do in the middle of a California drought.  I am working toward good climate change.

What can I do to bring water to my work? I plan to teach students how publishing works with my upcoming summer in my program at the local RINGER Library.  TeensPUBLISH for 7th through 12th graders. Wednesdays in June and July except July 1.Time: 2:30 to 5:00. For more info about this event and registration info, please follow this link. A creative experience like this will bring in some rain.

What else will I do? I'll convince you to check out my awesome book PLUMB CRAZY too! Here is a link to purchase it.  There is a lot of my heart on these pages. You might find a bit of your heart there too. I am always finding myself within the pages of a book. You need that!

So what to do while I wait for the flood. I keep working.  I hope you do too!  You are not alone, and the creative journey is worth it. I will be back next week with a summer series that is all about the journey to publishable works.   I hope you hang out for that. :)    Enjoy the sunshine when you can find it. Seize the day!

Here is a doodle for your life.  "Fire Sky"



Here is a quote for pocket.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Epicurus

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15. Bloom: Evolve

Hi folks, welcome to the blog. I'm writing a continuing series called BLOOM this month. It's all about how to make your work bloom. Not always an easy task. This week I'm going to chat about how blooming is really evolutionary process. Writing a book definitely starts a  with a spark of an idea and slowly over time a complex book appears.


Be confident in this process, my creative friends. Keep working and the work will get better. This is the most honest truth that I can tell you.  You are a unique creature on this planet. Your major adaptation is that you thrive in change. Don't allow yourself to stagnate in any way.  It's when you apply the pressure of change to yourself that you will find your work blooming. 

One way you can stagnate is by sitting on one project too long.  If you have been working on that first chapter for 10 years, it is time to put the project away and move to the next one.  I'm not saying you can never go back, but this particular project has drawn you away from your need to change. You must push yourself into dynamic work. It's messy. It's painful. It's exhilarating. It's unsure. Yes, you will bloom in the midst of chaos. Have you ever thought about about how that winter ends and spring bursts forth with life? Let the winter of your work end and allow everything to change. Today. 

Another place that will keep you from evolving as a creative person is to be stuck in a rut. You may have ended up writing romances but you always wanted to write gritty thrillers. You keep churning out those romances. The work has lost the gloss of the early times.  It is not blooming at all. It is not evolving into something better.  This state of affairs has you down.  Clear off the desk and take a new path.  Oh, now you are terrified. Good. You will evolve. You will bloom. 

Here is a third way to stir up the creative pot. You want to bloom.  Are you hiding in the shadows? Keeping yourself safe from critique, safe from rejection, safe from failure? That works for a while. When the work is young, it needs to be kept safe, but when your work is ready to bloom it needs conditions that force it to bloom.  The nutrients of critique, the water of experience, and sunlight. Exposure. Are you lurking in the shadows? Seeking that connection with others is important. You must be brave now,

I hope this helps you on your journey!  Come back next week for one more in this series,  Also remember that my book PLUMB CRAZY is out.  Please consider adding it to your shelves or the shelves of your local library. Here is a link.

Here is a doodle. Oregon Plains

Finally a quote for your pocket.

It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.
Nikola Tesla

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16. Bloom: The Happy Mirror

Hi folks, I am continuing my series called BLOOM this week. This month my series is about how to make your work bloom. Not always an easy task. For the artist, the story isn't really always so pretty. This year has been tough for me. My stupid brain has been letting me down. I've stumbled into a period of anxious depression. I've always been this internal optimist at heart, but gray clouds have rolled in.

Here's what it feels like. I sit at down to work. I've put the time aside. I focus but the feeling of jazz is gone. Bitter feeling have replaced it, and it's really choking my soaring spirit. It feels  like my window to bloom has passed me by. The winter is here and I'm just screwed. There is no money for a hothouse to force a bloom in this cold winter's walk in my life. Has my opportunity passed me by?  I don't know but I keep working.

To tell the truth, the only thing keeping me afloat right now is the work itself. I can see the years of crafting on the page. It's a happy mirror to me. I've never written better. How weird is that? Even if the brain is sort of messed up, the work is not. I'm bleeding onto the page.right now. This blood is rich stuff. This work is  the best of me. It  dodges all the feelings and the life is on the page. More than a few tears end up on those pages too.  I am so grateful for the work. So grateful.

I refuse to pause even on these cloudy inside days. Life feels too short to pause for them, and I plan to bloom. I believe that for me and you. I know that time and life isn't always on our side. And yet, dream for tomorrow. Dream another dream. Don't let the chance to create slip away from you. I know how scary it is to feel no one is ever going to see your work. Work anyway.

I have heard a saying. "April showers bring May flowers." I'm counting on the truth of this.  Showers are here. Flowers should be coming. I hope you come back next week for more of my bloom series.

One last thing, a request.  I hope that you check out my book PLUMB CRAZY.  Please read it, share it with a friend or a library, post a review somewhere.  I put a lot my heart unto this book. It will lift you up in unexpected ways.

Here is a doodle.



Here is a quote for your pocket.

Your coffee's warm, but your milk is sour
Life is short, but you're here to flower
Dream yourself along another day
Never miss opportunity    
Pete Murray


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17. BLOOM: Plumb Crazy is Up!

Hi folks, My novel Plumb Crazy has been released under my pen name Cece Barlow! Here are the links. Here is the Amazon link for paperback Here is the link of the ebook.


This is a day of blooming, but blooming does always work out the way you think it will.  Did you ever listen to Paul Harvey. He had these little radio segments called 'The Rest of the Story." He'd share little vignettes about real folks with an unusual twist in their lives. This story is one like that. 

I will tell you sometimes it may feel like it is not working out for your creative soul. Whenever I think this, I remind myself of an alcoholic and bi-polar sufferer. This guy wrote and sang songs. He had a small and devoted fanbase but success did not just jump his way. He didn't have a successful album or single and he had a tough time keeping his records in print. (A feeling I am sort of aware of.) His main stages were dive bars, backwoods cabins, or friends' couches. One of songs was performed by some friends and did pretty well. 

So here is the rest of the story, The song that did pretty well was called "Pancho and Lefty" and was a number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Townes Van Zandt's music has been performed by a galaxy of country music stars. The journey of art is worth it. Success can be strange. And finally, every little thing is going to shine.

Here is a link to Townes Van Zandt singing "To Live is To Fly."  I think you will treasure this song as much as I do. I hope that you Bloom anyway!  Just do your art. Don't worry about the rest. I will be back next week with more on the series Bloom.  

The doodle this week is fanart -- Exploding TARDIS. 



Here is a quote for your pocket

Well to live is to fly, all low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes
Shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes

-- Townes Van Zandt

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18. BLOOM: Addicted to Change

Hi, folks, yay for all the blooming flowers in my yard!  I feel like blooming too. Next Saturday is the release of Plumb Crazy by Cece Barlow aka me. :) If you have wanted a copy to tuck away in your backpack, purse or the floorboard of your car, that day is about to come for you.

This month my series is about how to make your work bloom. You have all seen it. Those roses by the back fence didn't bloom this year or those bearded irises just didn't show any color,or the dailies that languished with nary a bloom. What is going on?  Conditions just aren't right yet.

Blooming doesn't just happen.  Books don't happen either. If your works in progress keep on fizzling, you need to consider what you are cultivating. The soil of you just isn't allowing whatever you want.

Dang.

What is the creative soul to do?  Hint, the solution requires you be addicted to change.

Here is an idea. Change what you are cultivating. You might not be literary heavy that you have sought to be and instead are really a genre mystery writer. This kind of change takes chutzpah. I mean it is tough to dig out a flowerbed and replant. It is hard to rip out all your grass and shrubbery and put something else in. And it is excruciating to toss all your WIPs out and take a new direction, but this may be the only way you will bloom.

Here is an idea. Listen to what  your counselors are telling you. If they love your work keep with it. If there is no critique love, it may be time to change to something else. This takes humility to adhere to. I mean it is tough to follow someone's advice.  We all have feet of clay and more than one person has steered you wrong before. I have some news for you, creative endeavors involve high risk. Try engineering or something like that if you want a sure thing.

Here is one last idea. You might have to transplant.  The nutrients flowing into your life.  The support, the love, the encouragement, might not be there. You may need less feedback or much more. You may need to rent a cabin in the woods and work as hard as you can for a few days. You may have to start working in a local coffee shop instead of at your house where you keep getting caught up in stuff.

Want to bloom?  Get real about your work to find good success. Let me know how it is going! I will be back next week with more blooming.


Here is a quote for your pocket.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. Leo Tolstoy

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19. Lucky March: Life is full of surprises

Hi folks, I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. This month my series is Lucky March, where I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.


First, some lucky stuff coming up. Today is PI day, and this very morning at 26 minutes and 53 seconds after 9 a.m., we passed a date and time represented by the first 10 digits of π. How lucky is that? And how about this, on March 20 there will be a total eclipse by the vernal equinox sun. That happens about once every 19 years! So lucky. 

If you go searching through the books on my shelves you will find quite a collection (not just books). I tuck four leaf clovers, owlet feathers, interesting seeds, fortunes, weird money, leaves, flowers, candy wrappers, drawings by my kids, and whatever other little bits I find in the pages of my books. When I reread my books, I always laugh when I come across one of  my lucky treasures. These bits remind me life is full of surprises. 

What is all this about? One thing my parents instilled in me is to never lose your childlike wonder of the world. My 80-year-old dad still gets down on the floor and plays make-believe with his 5-year-old grandson. My grandmother taught me to knock on wood to help good things along.  I still wish on bales of hay. I will never be too old to play. I keep my eyes open  to the world around and embrace the lucky gifts it has to offer me.  I believe this practice enriches me and enriches my writing.  I am ready to believe  many impossible things before breakfast. I hope you are too. 

Don't listen to those who scoff at the salt over your shoulder, your love for the number seven, your Maneki-neko collection, your bamboo plant on your desk, or that huge helping of black-eyed peas on the first day of the year. Luck is about our lack of control, our need for meaningful coincidence, our hunger for Divine providence. Like the three brothers of Serendip, forge a path that mixes sound judgement with the lucky happenings of your lives.

I hope you stumble upon many lucky things this week and that your life is filled with wonder. I hope you try and find ways to express this wonder to others. I will be back next week with more Lucky March.  

Here is a doodle for you. 

Finally here is a poem for you pocket from Ella Higginson(1861-1940), a poet from Washington state.  

Four-leaf Clover by Ella Higginson

I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blooms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck—
If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
You must love and be strong – and so—
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.



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20. Lucky March: Write Your Verse

Hi folks, I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. This month my series is Lucky March, where I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.


Oh, March has brought waves of luck to my life. My book Plumb Crazy is almost ready to be released again as an ebook and in paper for the first time.  It will be under my alter ego name: Cece Barlow! I'm traveling to Washington state to visit with dear friends in April for a writing retreat marathon. I feel grateful and happy.  I am just glad to  be part of the verse.

This week I will respond to Walt Whitman's poem, "Oh, me! Oh, life!"  Go here to read his genius words. 

Here is truth to me. I don't really understand myself, and life is so far beyond me--like the stars to a speck of dirt. And yet I'm caught up with the mundane of my species. I see multitudes people gossiping, slandering, and back-stabbing. I live with folks who share knowledge to ends of the Earth and wonder: has it helped? Art has lost value, faith is fading except for the worst of it, and foolishness flows over the edges of every vision, in this  ad-driven, branded, socialized bumper sticker world. The sideshow prophets declare that written words are dying.

Don't think I'm not caught up in it all. I am in that multitude, my head turning toward the visual nonsense, the profane silliness, and the unholy devaluation, when I could spend this moment being so much more. Yes, I am just as faithless as the rest.

Here's the thing. I want light. I want meaning, I want purpose, but I am mired in empty useless years that I wasted for no good reason.  I did not open my eyes earlier, so I must open them now. I am woven in the fabric of my times. I am asking, shouting really at the great universe, struggling to not let the waves of sadness overcome me.

What good can I do?  I look out but those words fall on my beating heart. Life! What good can I do? My hands curl into fists,  and I shake like a leaf being ripped by a storm wind.

The answer comes to me, whispering, still, soft. A voice!  You are here, dear one.. You were born. You breathe. You are are. This is the great poem, and you are allowed to contribute one verse to it all. Write your verse. This is the gift of life.

Lucky me! Lucky you! I hope you think about the verse you are writing. I pray that you do the most with what you have to offer.  We all need you to do that. I will be back next week with more Lucky March.

NO doodle this week! But here is a sneak peek at my book cover for PLUMB CRAZY! I am so excited to share this with you!  I hope that you share it too!



Here is a an excerpt from PLUMB CRAZY for you to tuck in your pocket.

"The basic hidden thing that every Loser Girl knows—she has value, like every person, star, whale, rock, and slug. The whole universe has its share of risks. Slugs get stepped on, whales are hunted, stars explode, and people, well, people are fragile, easy to break. She was a secret unseen commodity, like di-lithium crystals found on planets that few would visit and even fewer could endure. Riches hid inside of her. No one had found them yet. But they would. It was just how the universe was put together."

                                

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21. Lucky March: The essentials of luck

Hi, folks, this is the last in my Lucky March series. I'm a novelist as well as a picture book author. I am especially fortunate that way, lucky, if you will. I am half a century old and over the course of my journey, the nature of luck has been made clear to me. I'm exploring the wonder of luck in our lives.

Today I'm going to talk about the essentials of luck. Ah, who doesn't want to be lucky. Keep that four leaf clover, that lucky baseball card, and that favorite number, but be aware that there is no magic amulet, no handy spell or any lucky charm that will work.

 However, there are four essentials that will help luck find you. Here they are:

Discover Opportunities -- This is about finding favorable circumstances. It's tough to find alligators in the desert.  To discover opportunities you have to find or create an environment that is favorable for them. Think about where your opportunities thrive then head over or terraform where you are.

Heed Intuition -- Intuition is the ability to know something with out conscious reasoning. This ability comes from making many tries.  This repetition imbues you with knowledge that will support you in future event. Follow your feeling, Luke.

Foster Expectations -- This is all about belief.  In spite of what you have seen, keep believing. This is the pathway to success. Reach out to people who cherish your dreams, Let go of the rest. Those lucky charms? Put them in your pocket. Whatever gives you  expectation, cling to that.

Nurture Resilience. -- The journey to intuition is fraught with missteps and failure. Flexibility in dreams, hopes, plans is a big piece of the resilience pie. Dusting yourself off when you fall is a huge part of moving forward. Durability and elasticity are gained  by being willing to try again and again.

I hope you seek the essentials of luck. I hope loads of luck finds you! Next week, I will begin a series about my PLUMB CRAZY writing journey. Maybe my steps will encourage yours!

Here is a doodle! Make a wish!



A quote for your pocket

Diligence is the mother of good luck.  Benjamin Franklin

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22. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent.  I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

This week I'm focusing on the good of writing my book PLUMB CRAZY. It was the fifth novel I've written (the other 4 are unpublished) and it is the closest to my real, every day life. There is much good that wraps into a book like this. Here are some of the layers.

One layer of good comes from basing a book in a world close to my own. The setting was easy to visualize. You really know the space you are working in. I know what it feels like to drag in after a seventeen hour day, my hands bleeding and back aching, even though I'm just a girl of seventeen. I know the heat of Texas and understand it is actually a character on the stage in this part of the world. I know how a drill feels when it jams and then beats against my fingers. This knowledge of setting saved some research hours, added authenticity, and gave this writer needed confidence.

Another layer of good that comes from basing a book on a world close to my own is all about mining memories.  I mean we all have gold in our hilly pasts or even mountainous pasts. It was good to reexamine my younger days from the perspective of adulthood. I see things differently now than I did then. The Dragons that roared at me as teen seem like puny lizards now. My drama feels bland.  I also see strengths in myself that I didn't realize at the time. I found myself celebrating who I am. Any journey that causes that is a good one.

The last layer of good that I'm going discuss (but by no means the only good I found) is all about the redo. Fiction is not exactly life. Life isn't always interesting. It doesn't always make sense.  Good doesn't always triumph in real life. Writing a story gives you the freedom of what if.  I found that writing PLUMB CRAZY reopened a few old wounds but then allowed them to really heal. Writing from the heart of my life helped me appreciate who I am. This is such a good thing. You might try it.

I hope you come back next week for more of the PLUMB CRAZY journey. I'm glad you dropped by. Happy creating.

It's Easter. Here's a whimsy doodle for you: Superhero egg designs.




Put this in your back pocket and bring it often.

CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.


Walt Whitman

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23. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Bad

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent.  I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.

This week I'm focusing on the the bad. That right! THE BAD! Every third person you meet ( not a scientifically proven fact but a personal observation) wants to write a novel.  They also want to spend between fifteen minutes to an hour explaining that novel to you at every event you attend.  Then they may suggest that you write it for them, for free of course, since you are a writer and basically have nothing to do. Writing a novel comes with the bad bonus that very few people respect your work. Anyone can write a book. If you are a children's writer, you work for peanuts, and that's if your lucky. Don't expect applause.

Writing a novel is no fun. Bad, bad, stuff. You sit in a chair. My sciatica is terrible. You stare at a blank page, then you write entire chapters that are totally worthless. The next day you repeat this experience. For me, I will repeat this experience 5 days a week for at least 8 months to reach Draft Number One! That draft has more holes than pumice. There will be many many drafts. I work hard. I spend months refining my work. Hours at critique group, hours reading support books, hours rewriting scenes and upping the stakes in anyway I can.  There is monotony in this work. No one  tells you when you are done. No one tells you when you should just drop this novel and work on something else. There is no way to know if anyone will ever read what you writing. And yet you write anyway.

I don't write novels in a vacuum. Novels are written in the real world. It can be very bad. I wish it were all about drinking cups of tea. I wish it were all about sitting in a beautiful spot and considering my imaginary world. It is not about that. It is about writing in a corner of a hospital waiting room. It's in the middle of a day job that is about a mindless as it gets. It's not just exterior stuff that will get you down. It's about writing yourself into a corner that there is no way out of and you have to scrap the whole draft and work on something else. It't about receiving tons of rejections and still pushing forward. It's about hoping against hope.  No easy road, folks..

I hope that you are kind to yourself this week. I get it. We all are facing battles. No work comes easy to any of us. We have to pour our our souls sometimes to find our way.

I hope this doodle makes you smile.  Yes, good work comes out of a lovely blobby brown mess.



Because sometimes you have to do something bad to do something good. Oscar Wilde

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24. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Ugly

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent. I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released at the end of this month.


I chatted last week about the BAD of writing PLUMB CRAZY, this week I'm going touch on the UGLY. No one want unpleasantness. No one. First I want to admit, writing PLUMB CRAZY was no chore. I loved it. I laughed so hard while writing it, I fell off the couch a few times. It was a joyous journey for me, but there were a few ugly moments.

First up, I love to prose on about the joys of plumbing. You may thank my critique group partners that my book is not  weighed downed with LENGTHY descriptions of how to bust out concrete with a jack hammer and the minute details of measuring lengths of pipe. Cutting my darlings was UNPLEASANT! Like any pruning experience in writing it hurts at first but then it is all good.  

Next, never start a story with a sunrise, unless that sun is about to go supernova.  You must be a seasoned writer with many awards to start with a sunrise (cough, Noman by William Nicholson) or a dark and stormy night (cough, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle). Believe me these writers got away with it; they didn't improve their stories with their choices. So, yes, PLUMB CRAZY began with a sunrise until I so got over it. Too many readers snoozing for the first five minutes. Start as close to something happen as you can.  Avoid the so-so, mundane, average start.  

Last of all, did you know readers like to know what your character is thinking? I am so close to my character Elva Presley Hicks that I feel like she may be one of my kids. So, this turned out to be some ugly stuff in early drafts of my book. Readers wanted to know what she was thinking. Um, did you know readers are NOT mind readers? It turned out that I wanted to protect Elva.  This is a human reaction but it is ugly in fiction. Making Elva vulnerable was an UNCOMFORTABLE experience.  I could NOT keep her safe. Remember that when you write: Don't do the safe thing. 

Next week I will dip into the transcendent of writing PLUMB CRAZY. I hope that you will come back. 

Here is a doodle: 


Here is a quote for your pocket: 

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
― Dorothy Parker

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25. PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Transcendent

Hi, folks, this month I'm focusing the blog on the writing journey of PLUMB CRAZY. I'm calling this series: PLUMB CRAZY Journey -- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Transcendent. I'm going to dig deep into the generation of my novel and dynamics of that creative journey. Be aware that I write as Cece Barlow for this work. It will be released in the beginning of May. :)


Oh, I have been waiting to write this post.  PLUMB CRAZY was a unparalleled experience for me. The things I learned are difficult to describe and that's why I call this part of the journey transcendent. These things are mystical, divine, and beyond all of my human experience. 

The first thing is about knowing your main character.Yes, I did the charts, the character surveys, the letters from the character, the picture studies, the personality tests, all kinds of stuff. All of it was necessary but not the most needful thing. The most needful thing was to give Elva Presley leeway. I let go of what I expected her to do, and you know what, she surprised me. She fought with me me. She told me things about life that astounded me. She was her own person. The process of giving her the lead was a little like pulling bricks out of a wall until the whole thing tumbled down. I found out what it means to follow a free spirit while writing this book. I think my spirit is freer because of it. 

The next thing has to do with pacing. Me, I want to write chapters about how to set a plumbing fixture and how much it makes your shoulders hurt when you work so hard. Pages and pages of that. I wanted to weave a plumbing manual into my book.  Yes, I had to cut a few chapters. I might post one on the Cece Barlow blog so you can groan with me. What a waste of writing time. "The devil is in the details, but so is salvation." Admiral Hyman Rickover said this and had something there. I found my best book by clinging to the details that move the story forward and letting go of the rest of it. 

The last thing that came to me because of PLUMB CRAZY has no name. It's something about the great meaning in friendships, the quirkiness of love, and the unusual gifts that life presents us with when we are not expecting them. Perhaps we find the best things off the beaten path. Do you know what it feels like when you end up lost somewhere and then stumble onto something that you would not have sought in a million years, but it is just the thing you need? PLUMB CRAZY gave me that. It was unexpected. It was out of mainstream. It was transcendent. This thing wrapped around my heart, my mind, my soul, I am so blessed because of it. I hope PLUMB CRAZY does the same for you. 

Well that is the end of this PLUMB CRAZY Journey series. I hope it spoke to you. Next week, I will beginning my blooming series. All about how to make your stories bloom. I am excited.

Here is a doodle: "Flowers"



My quote for today is followed by a rare and short political rant from me. Something has been bothering me. 

I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants - those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age. Our greatest responsibility, as parents and as citizens, is to give America's youngsters the best possible education. We need the best teachers and enough of them to prepare our young people for a future immeasurably more complex than the present, and calling for ever larger numbers of competent and highly trained men and women.  Admiral Hyman Rickover

My RANT: We don't need standardized testing. We will encourage teachers to be accountable by giving them generous pay and favorable working conditions. Burying them in regulations and paper work is offering a future of mediocrity to our kids. Not one test has ever made a difference in my kids' lives. Teachers make differences in my kids lives -- Mr. Chapman, Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Westberg, Mr. D. Mrs. Palmer...to name a few. The culture of the negative needs to stopped. Let's offer kids glorious, eye-opening knowledge, opportunities to apply that knowledge, and finally an instilled habit of  decisions made on VERIFIED facts and logical thinking. Let's give teachers the reins of the future and not bureaucrats. We are the captains of our fate. We are masters of our destiny. Will we stop this educational madness and pave the way for a future with a sure foundation? 

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