Monday, January 30, 2017

January Writing Update

As a way to be more accountable with my writing, I will give a quick little update here on the blog at the end of each month. This past month has been a success, I believe. I was able to attend an SCBWI writing conference in Miami, which was great.

I took a picture book intensive at the conference from the marvelous Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple. To be honest, I was a bit star struck. But once I was able to gather my wits, I was able to learn so much. If I had to pick the most pertinent point I learned, it would have to be how to deal with writer’s block. Many times I just sit in front of the computer, or don’t even sit down at all because I am just stuck.

Jane Yolen has a simple solution: have multiple projects going at once. That way, if you’re a bit stuck on one, you have something else to work on in the mean time. This is helpful for me, especially in these early stages of my writing career because it is so important to be writing—that’s how I will get better. So, with that in mind, here are my January accomplishments and February goals.

This month is is was I was able to accomplish:

  • Rewrite a picture book manuscript
  • Post on the blog every week
  • Organize and attend an online critique group
  • Read 4 books
  • Successfully run a Kickstarter Campaign

These are my goals for the month of February:

  • Post on the blog each week
  • Attend online critique group
  • Read 4 books
  • Submit something to Highlights magazine for publication
  • Edit picture book + write rough to a new one
  • Begin work on novel

Friday, January 20, 2017

Love Is Stronger Than Strong

Tonight, as I put my 6yo to bed, I asked her what makes our family good? What makes it strong? She looked at me and smiled in a way that implied “Silly Mommy, that’s SO easy.” I asked her what she thought and she replied: “Mom, love is stronger than strong. We love each other.” My heart could have burst right then and there.

She gets it. Love is what makes us strong—as individuals, as families, as communities, as a nation, as the whole of humanity. Not divisiveness. Not looking within—to numero uno. We are strong when we look to others. When we lend a hand to lift those who need lifting. Strengthen those who need strengthening. Give voice to those who cannot speak.

I have no idea what the coming days, weeks and months will bring, but I know that I will be listening very carefully. And I will look for ways to show more love. It is one of the reasons that I will be marching with my fellow women tomorrow. I wish I could actually be in DC for the Women’s March on Washington--a new baby made the trip difficult. But I will be marching in a sister march in Sarasota. I stand not to oppose Trump, but to speak out for love, compassion and justice for everyone, no matter their walk of life.

Will Washington listen? I hope so, but if not, I won’t stop opening my heart and standing for what is right. Because I believe that love is stronger than strong.

Friday, January 13, 2017

101 Things in 1001 Days

What would January be without the obligatory post about goals? I love making goals. I make them often, even if I don’t always follow through with each one. This year, I have decided to try something a little different.

I was on a friend’s blog (Hi Lorren!) a few weeks ago and ran across a post about the Day Zero Project. Basically, it is 101 goals accomplished in 1001 days. I thought that it sounded super fun, and a different way to approach my New Year’s resolutions.

I found coming up with 101 things a bit challenging because I had a specific set of ideas for what types of goals would make my list. When selecting things for the project, I kept three points in mind:

  • The goal had to be measurable
  • The goal had to be achievable
  • The goal had to be fun

While scrolling through the list, you’ll see that it is somewhat organized by type. For example, the first 13 have to do with learning something new over the next 1001 days; numbers 42-52 all have to do with food, etc.

Periodically, I will do follow-up posts on completing this enterprise. I will also add a tab to this page so you can follow along with my progress. Starting today, I have until Oct. 19th, 2019 to complete everything on the list. Seems doable, right?

What would you put on your list? Which of my goals seems most fun and/or intriguing to you? Leave me a comment below!

1. Learn how to do a hand stand
2. Get CPR/First Aid certified
3. Learn to solve a Rubik’s cube
4. Learn 5 new songs on the Ukulele
5. Practice Irish tin whistle for 10 hours
6. Learn to identify 10 new constellations
7. Learn how to identify 20 new plants
8. Learn to identify 10 new birds
9. Attend a writing conference
10. Complete 4 edX courses
11. Learn how to swing dance
12. Teach kids enough Portuguese to have a basic conversation
13. Submit a novel for publication
14. Self-publish something
15. Submit a short story to a magazine
16. Submit a picture book for publication
17. Write 10 poems
18. Organize a critique group
19. Finish 2 novel drafts
20. Watch 26 horror movies that begin with each letter of the alphabet
21. See 10 movies in the theater
22. Attend a musical performance
23. Go to the theater
24. Write my Washington representative about something I care about
25. Write in my journal 101 days
26. Write and send out a Christmas letter
27. Write a letter to Sammy for her 16th birthday
28. Write a letter to Ben for his 16th birthday
29. Write a letter to John for our 15th anniversary
30. Write a letter to 3 people who have been influential in my life
31. Read 101 new books
32. Organize a book swap
33. Reread the Harry Potter series
34. Pay off credit card debt
35. Buy a scratch off ticket
36. Run a 5k
37. Go ice skating
38. Do the entire Legacy Trail
39. Do the entire Venetian Waterway Trail
40. Go roller skating at a rink
41. Finish a triathlon
42. Try 10 new fruits or veggies
43. Try 50 new recipes
44. Eat at a new restaurant
45. Make ice cream
46. No eating out for a month
47. Eat ice cream at Nokomis Groves
48. Eat sushi
49. Grow an avocado plant from a seed
50. Give beets another try
51. Buy something from a Farmer’s Market
52. Host a dinner party
53. Visit MOSI
54. Go to the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy
55. Visit Mote Marine Aquarium
56. Visit Gatorland
57. Go to Disney World
58. Visit a haunted house
59. Go to a Medieval Fair
60. Go to the Shark Tooth Festival
61. Do an Escape Room
62. Go to a classic car show
63. Visit a national park
64. Visit 5 state parks
65. Go on a cruise
66. Visit the Keys
67. Go on a getaway with John
68. Go to the Ft. Lauderdale temple
69. Spend 10 hours doing genealogy
70. Do a temple session in Portuguese
71. Finish my Grateful List
72. Update family photos in collages
73. Volunteer for 20 hours
74. Donate Blood
75. Buy a stranger something from their Amazon wish list
76. Take 365 selfies and put them together in a video
77. Post 101 jokes on social media
78. Go hunting
79. Go fishing
80. Go birdwatching
81. Watch sea turtle lay eggs
82. Watch sea turtles hatch
83. Go lobstering
84. Snorkel with manatees
85. Go scuba diving
86. Watch a meteor shower
87. Watch sunrise on the East coast and the sunset on the West coast on the same day
88. Find 101 shark teeth
89. Make a sand castle
90. Build a blanket fort
91. Go kayaking
92. Attend a drum circle
93. Go to a Ray’s baseball game
94. Go to a roller derby bout
95. Ride a roller coaster
96. Finish a sewing project
97. Paint a picture
98. Make something out of wood
99. Make a glass spoon rest
100. Get a massage
101. Put together a puzzle (750+ pieces)

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 Reading in Review: My Top 3 Books

2016 ended up being an interesting year of reading. Like previous years, I set a goal to read 52 books—one for each week. In that regard, I failed miserably with a mere 21. Between going back to work, being exhausted and sick for 9 months, moving across country, and then having a newborn at home, I just fell short. But it wasn’t a total bust because I broadened my horizons and explored a new format: the graphic novel.

I have attempted to read graphic novels in the past, but found them frustrating. Text heavy panels made the art feel secondary and sluggish. I felt like I spent so much time reading the text that I would only do a cursory glance at the images before moving forward. Simply put, the text was the driving force in the storytelling, which is fine if I am reading a novel, but why have the artwork? Clearly, I hadn’t been reading the right graphic novels.

This year, I discovered a number of graphic novels that had a perfect balance of text and art. In my opinion, a good graphic novel is a lot like a good picture book. All of the fat is trimmed off of the text so that the artwork is able to progress the story just as much, if not more, than the words. In most of the graphic novels I read this year, the text in each panel was necessary to drive the story forward, but allowed the artwork to shine and also further the plot. One graphic novel* even made my top 3 books for the year.

So, without further ado, here’s Becky’s Top 3 Books Read in 2016

Honorable Mention—Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Normally, my reading preferences are strictly fiction. I am slightly embarrassed to say I do not remember the last nonfiction book I read before this one. Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir of a Yale Law School graduate who grew up in Appalachia and later moved when his family attempted to escape the poverty of the region.

Hillbilly Elegy resonated with me because I saw my own family is Vance’s family. I grew up in Appalachia and my family moved to Florida for many of the same reasons Vance’s family moved to the Rust Belt. And, like him, the Appalachian culture followed my family when we moved. While the book doesn’t present any solutions to the problems facing Appalachian families, it does give insight into a group that is oft-times mistakenly looked down upon and disregarded as a bunch of illiterate hillbillies.

#3—The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

I stumbled across The Casquette Girls by accident while perusing the new Prime Reading on Amazon. I knew nothing about the book and borrowed it on a whim. My biggest problem-not-problem with the book is that I did not know that it was the 1st in a series when I started reading—and the next book in the series doesn’t come out until May! It is a Southern Gothic set in New Orleans after a massive hurricane demolishes the landscape. I especially enjoyed how Arden weaves New Orleans history into the story. This could have easily been my top choice for the year.

#2—The October Faction—Steve Niles and Damien Worm

So here’s the graphic novel* that made the list.  I loved this! The October Faction is Indiana Jones if he was a monster hunter instead of an archaeologist and if his family was the Addams Family instead of Sean Connery. The artwork is fantastically creepy. Honestly, I debated with making this my top choice of the year, it was that good. I guess I am just a sucker for good horror, and this one fits the bill. I already have The October Faction: Deadly Season (the next story arc) on order at my local comic book shop.

*To be fair, this is a comic book series but I am looking at the entire story arc—and the subsequent compiled volumes—as a completed, stand alone, work.*

#1—Shutter by Courtney Alameda

I picked this book up because it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and I am glad that I did! I love a fresh take on things that are overdone and Alameda really succeeds in adding some new twists to her paranormal tale. Shutter is a ghost hunter story where the ghosts are exorcised when their energy is captured on film. How incredibly inventive is that?! I can look past mediocre writing if the ideas in the book are highly original. Thankfully, this book was both unique and well written. Since Shutter was so enjoyable, I hope to read a few more from the Bram Stoker Awards list this coming year.

While I didn’t hit 52 books, I feel like I still had a successful year of reading. Below is a short summary of my reading goals for 2017.

  • Read 52 books total
  • Read 4 nonfiction books
  • Read 8 graphic novels
  • Read 4 books in genres that I do not usually read
  • Read 4 books originally written in a non-English speaking country

What are your reading goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments below!