Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cover Me! I’m Going In!

A huge thank you to those who commented on my last post. I needed some writing community support, and it was certainly given. I’m very grateful to have connected with such a great group of writers, who are also wonderfully decent, generous, talented people.

One such person, whom I will call Mz. SuperFabulous, not only handed over her work in progress for me to read (FREE BOOK! Woo Hoo!), but also offered to read the YA fantasy I’ve been marketing for the express reason of discovering the source of the disconnect between my main character and agents’ hearts. Because ultimately, most of the feedback from agents has shared these items: great writing, compelling story, but didn’t connect with the main character enough to want to represent the work.

I am completely okay with revamping my writing and gladly hack things to pieces with a certain verve that might be worthy of an asylum. The trouble, in this case, was that I only knew that they didn’t connect, not why they didn’t connect. And in a first person story, it is a little overwhelming to consider changing who your main character is when you don’t have the foggiest idea who she should be to make her more lovable.

Enter Mz. SuperFabulous, who read my book with great speed (the absolute best quality in a reader... now, I will add that I read her work almost as fast because I know that is a golden quality) and then mulled, actually researched what worked in another friend’s book, and delivered to me completely workable action items for increasing the connection between readers and my main character.

Everything she said resonated and she even used examples in her explanation from successful books that I’d both read and loved. And I got it. So, I dove back in over the weekend, and actually went back to my obsessive writing style that I’ve cut back on of late (more than twenty hours working on it over two days). The lion’s share of the work is finished, but fine tuning will take place over the next couple weeks. I certainly don’t want to introduce typos into my work or leave puzzle pieces out.

What started as a fluke (since I really didn’t intend to edit this book again, favoring finishing the next one and getting that one out to market) has become a new adventure for a beloved book. I was ecstatic to be back in the world I’d created and causing all sorts of new trauma for my characters. Hopefully, this nudge will help the story to find a home. But even if it doesn’t, we writers, by investing our time in the work of others, are like bees, pollinating the landscape we love, and that, in and of itself, is a beautiful thing.

Quote for the Day from Mz. SuperFabulous

“It takes a village to write a novel.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Bump in the Road

Normally, I tend to be little Miss Shiny Happy Thoughts, but today, I’m going to admit that sometimes it’s hard to keep believing in this writing goal. And the funny, or not so funny, reason for this bump in the road is the beautiful rejections I’ve been receiving. They are gorgeous, incredibly complimentary, even going so far as to pull out specific lines that were powerful, and one included about ten gushing sentences about the specific aspects of my writing/story that were wonderful. Why the lovely rejections have gotten to me might be a mystery to some, but I bet I’m not alone in struggling with the feeling of being so close and yet so far from the promised land.

In one of the rejections, the agent shared that she enjoyed my story so much that, even though she knew it wasn’t right for her, she finished reading the full. That’s about the nicest compliment an agent can give, knowing how busy they are.

I know I’ll keep writing every day and keep working to serve my purpose, but I guess today, I just needed to hold up my hardship and say, “This is real and it hurts.” And share it with others who’ve experienced this struggle.

People outside the writing journey can be supportive but they can never really feel what we writers feel.

I wish everyone more happy days than sad ones and amazing friends to bolster them when the days are rough. I have them, some found via blogs just like this one. And I feel lucky for each and every one.

And here's to being on the other side of this bump in the road.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Characters Mock

I was raised to be a respectful person. You know, respect your elders... yada, yada, yada. Clearly, I’m not doing such a hot job of teaching said respect to my characters because they are lining up to mock me. Often.

Case in point: the leading man in one of my current YA projects.

During the first draft of this project, a second potential love interest created himself in response to the less-than-alluring way the leading man was behaving. Or so I thought. Said Leading Man blames ME for my less-than-stellar writing. The nerve! He says that I willfully misunderstood him, what he was really about, and I basically am a complete hack. Consequently, he’s taking charge in the rewrite and I’m wondering if I need to enlist the services of a de-possession expert of some sort. Seriously, characters running amok is messing with my chakras.

The trouble is... he might be right. In the rewrite, I like him. Okay, maybe a little more than like him. He’s a good guy, and, sure, he’s going to do some devious, human things along the way, but that doesn’t change his worth in the grand scheme. The secondary love interest is certainly running scared about now though. I might have a real fight on my hands. May the best man win... or the one who best complements my main character. For her part, she’s a little swoony for Mr. Rewritten (and seriously, who wouldn’t be?)

It is for this exact reason that I love rewrites. In almost every project, I write that gushing first draft as quickly as possible, let simmer, and then start the book over at page one (copying almost nothing from the original) to see where the story goes now that the initial discovery is over. I know many people (writers and non-writers) have questioned this strategy as being labor intensive, but this is how the story gets fleshed out for me. One of my books didn’t need it, but the rest really do. And the added bonus is that it gives the characters another chance to show themselves (or pummel me with a stick and take over).

First drafts, for me, are main character centric, as though the main character is the sun that blinds me to the finer points of the other characters. The rewrite allows me to wear better shades and see the other characters for all their different layers.

That said, I don’t particularly enjoy being called a hack by my characters. It’s rude. And I think he better learn to show some respect for the less corporeally challenged, otherwise Mr. Know It All is going off a cliff in a freak gnat accident. So there.

Do characters ever get all feisty with you? Do you misunderstand them and have to make amends? Or, and frightening for me personally, am I the only one who might need a therapy cocktail of some meds and shock treatments because I’m losing control of fictional characters?

Quote for the Day from Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How I Became a #twitterfailure in a Few Easy Steps

Twitter. Just the hint of mention and the crowds go wild. Right now, on a computer/smart phone near you, Twitter is alive and pulsing with an enigmatic fusion of feistiness and connection. People are communicating with strangers over what matters most to them (or bashing the wives of notorious #husbandfails), and in the writing community, never-before-seen access between writers, agents, and editors is being carried on 140 characters at a time. Heck, even the U.S. Library of Congress is getting in on the action and recognizing what a resource Twitter is.

And I am not on the bus (said with a regretful sigh).

Oh, I have a Twitter account and even a little birdie on the side of my blog, but that’s like me buying the toe shoes to be a ballerina, but never actually putting them on (or paying for a membership to a gym that I rarely attend—Oh No! It’s a pattern!).

But I am a #twitterfailure and I’m here to explain why, and possibly search for suggestions on becoming a #twittersuccess or to be called out for my reasoning (just be gentle, okay?).

I know that Twitter is an amazing tool for writers. After all, my BFF hooked an agent’s interest in 140-word doses, which led the agent to her blog, to contact her, and to eventually, after catching a glimpse at her talent, offer her representation. And so the BFF/Awesome Agent love affair began through Twitter, so much like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building.

Some of my favorite authors (Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr to name a few) are active in the world of Twitter, which makes me even more angsty about not participating. But I’m not sure what’s to be done. So, let me make my case.

The number one reason I am a #twitterfailure will come as a shock to some and will make others fall over laughing.

1. I can’t think of anything to say. #twitterblock

Yes, I know. I write. Lots. Someone who writes, say, more than 1,247,692 words in two years, isn’t the person you’d think would run out of things to say. But it’s true. There is a big difference between being friendly with words in a fictional construct and having short, pithy things to say on Twitter (at least that’s my position). If I were contributing 140 characters to a story, I’d be there. But sharing things about my life, not so much.

2. The things I do have to say, I really don’t think anyone wants to hear. #livingglitzfree

This might come as a shock, but I don’t live a very glamorous life. I get up early, go to work, come home, fix dinner, play with dogs, write, and fill my remaining time with taking the dogs to the park, exercising, watching bull riding, marketing my writing, researching agents, writing blogs, spending time with friends, etc. So, #lessthanscintillatinglife leaves me with not much to share on Twitter. And I’m certainly not knocking my life here. I love my life and how I spend the hours I have, but I really don’t think the Twitter folk would want to hear about my stellar dog walks. (I’m just as bad on Facebook. I admire those with things to share... with the exception of all those Farmville requests, but I just don’t share much for the same reasons as with Twitter.)

3. I’m shy when it comes to talking about my writing journey, especially the details about rejections and such. #colormetweetshy

As much as I’ve come to love my blog, it is still really hard to share my writing struggles, and yet I’m very open about the personal scape occurring behind the scenes. I’m not a very guarded person about most things, and yet Twitter just makes me nervous. I don’t know who’s reading them or if I will accidentally overstep and bug someone. And rather than risk it, I’m silent.

4. I might just have some issues with talking to strangers. #strangerdanger

I absolutely love how much community exists online for writers. BFF #TwitterGoddess Debbie (who is the reason I warmed to blogs in the first place) has regaled me with inspiring tales about the wonder of the Twitter writing community and the offshoots like YAlitchat, but I just can’t seem to find my way through the landscape. I did try to do the YAlitchat on Twitter, but the frenetic pace and multiple, simultaneous conversation lines made my head just about explode. Debbie did advise obtaining the transcript and said I might find that more helpful. To me, it’s very much like aerobics class (which I do not attend so that no one is injured due to the I’m-a-step-behind frustration that inevitably ensues). The chats go by so fast that I just can’t catch up and, because of number 2, I am just going to sit there even though I’ve read most of the books they discuss, have significant opinions on YA topics like fantasy world-building, and yearn to discuss them with other people familiar and interested in them. I just don’t seem to know how to begin a dialogue with strangers. Blogs are different because blog writers share more, have time to share more, and I can feel as though I know them enough to comment (though I still have blog-commenting anxiety).

I can actually hear BFF Debbie right now. “Well, you need to just get over that.” She’s big with the tough love, and I’m grateful for it. More than anyone in my life, she’s made me question and subsequently break dark and broody patterns that were keeping me stuck. And I recognize, without blogs, my BFF and I would never have connected. So, power to blogs, but Twitter... picture Bambi on the ice (in early spring).

5. I’m going to throw this one in even though I can hear some of the rebuttals already. Time is a factor. #twittertimefail

I spend 40 hours a week on a computer for my job. I write daily, so add an hour or two (sometimes three or four) a night. I can’t tweet while I am at work. So that means, to give myself the time to get comfortable with the process and maybe connect with others enough to have a conversation, I would have to not walk the dogs, not go out and meet friends, or talk to my far-away friends on the phone. I’m a person who rolls my eyes (internally or externally if I’m feeling snarky) when people tell me what they don’t have time to do. I truly believe that if you really want to do something, you will find the time. And I guess that is where Twitter slips. As much as I feel like I’m missing out on a potentially productive and fun adventure, I just can’t let go of my away-from-computer activities in order to become a #twittersuccess. (And FYI, my phone is anything but smart.)

So, if you have some advice to share, I’d love to hear it. I wonder if there are other #twitterfailures out there and if they question that decision. And among the #twittersuccesses, I’d love to hear your secrets. How do you know what to say? How do you find time to participate (especially if you work a full-time job, too)? And, I guess, most importantly, how do you connect with only 140 characters at a time?

Quote for the Day from Charlie Chaplin

“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Pattern Wars

And no, I’m not sewing. Really. I don’t need another goal. Seriously, all full here. Move it right along. In lieu of clothing patterns, I’ve been thinking about the patterns that form the blueprints of our lives. Patterns. Rituals. Habits. Are they all the same, or are there subtle differences? Are they positive or negative? Or both?

People have questioned my daily writing habit, and, as much as I love it, I wonder if it is merely my pattern and therefore uncomfortable to break. And yet so much of the past two years of my writing life has been solidly about breaking patterns. Previous to writing, I would have to say I was decidedly stuck. Living in the dreams I’d never chased, wounds I’d never allowed to heal, and disappointments that overwhelmed every part of me. I’d endured the most difficult year of my life, moving away from my family and friends to a place where I knew no one. For a while there, I was Eeyore, a drama-filled cloud following me everywhere I went so that I never caught any sunshine (not that it’s plentiful around these parts anyway).

All my life, stories had chased me (and sometimes haunted me) and there was never a time I didn’t believe that writing was what I was supposed to be doing. But there were other things I was meant to do as well, teaching being the most important one.

A strong part of my writing rehabilitation program began a few years before I found the nerve to dedicate myself to writing. I called it my Proverb/Quote Project. Every day, or every couple days, I would find a proverb or quotation and use it to spur a story. Any story. For three pages, sometimes more and sometimes less, I would write without judgment, anything that came to mind. Talk about a talisman against blank page anxiety. Just write. That was my motto. I have a couple hundred different story ideas from that project, and, interestingly enough, the YA fantasy I’m marketing right now was inspired by a Shelley poem that fueled a three-page story years ago.

It is clear to me now that I was unprepared for a full novel, which felt overwhelming back then (which feels really silly now), but that writing project connected me with the writing habit.

Writing is a deliberate pattern I accepted, and, somehow, that positive pattern caused me to question the other patterns in my life and some of the people in my life. I believe in patterns, discipline, and rituals (and I have plenty), but I now equally believe that patterns can be the blueprints for lives made of castles or prisons. Sometimes the distinctions between the two are a little too subtle, but the aftertaste always tells the truth. Before writing built me up, I didn’t know I was worth protecting from the negative patterns in my life, some self-inflicted and others direct hits from others. Writing, fingers clicking along a keyboard, gave me the courage to face up to the truth: the blueprints of my life were murky at best. Two years of construction/deconstruction later and I overlook a lovely framework, but not a solid structure, because I don’t want for patterns to root themselves in my life without being questioned. There is tremendous power in awareness, and leave it to writing to have woken me up—or possibly it wasn’t writing at all, just doing what I was supposed to be doing instead of fighting against the fears of failure that choked out all possibility.

Maybe we all want to believe (very Frodo-esque) that we have a purpose, a quest that only we can fulfill. Not only do I want to believe that, I do believe that. The connections I formed when teaching were unique to my students and me. No one anywhere could form those exact connections. That is not to say that they were better or worse than any other teacher’s connections to his or her students, just unique. For every person driven to the fictional plane, there is a solitary quest, a unique and never to be repeated connection. Sure, the big themes have been used and will be reused, but they are not at the heart of the words, the characters are, the connections are—connections formed between the author and her imagination; the readers, the very fount of all that is unique; and the mysterious, and maybe fickle, spark that connects us all.

So, the moral of the story, the thing I wish I’d learned much sooner, is to believe in the purpose you know in your heart, to not allow the bad patterns to diminish a single moment of this beautiful life, and to share with all of us that which is only within you to share.

And, in the spirit of the unique, I’m making up my own quote today.

Quote for the Day by Me.

“People are really marvelous, with the choices to be both ugly and beautiful in every moment, willingly empowered and imprisoned by each other, by faith, by hope, by dreams... it’s no wonder we write about them.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Maturity: It’s Not What You Think

Remember back to when you were in school, middle school maybe, and believed that 30 was ancient and anyone who made it to 40 was miraculous (though you might have wondered why anyone would want to live that long, while existing with absolutely no cool left). Respect your elders takes on a warped view in the minds of teenagers. I mean, really, how do you respect clueless morons (which everyone past the age of twenty clearly is)?

I remember looking at older faces and thinking that they belonged to mature grownups. All their senses of spontaneity and fun long dead and gone. The fact that I believed this is rendered ridiculous when I think about my mother. The woman is truly a keeper, and I’m going to make everyone envious of the fact that I got to be hers. This woman, more than anyone else in my life, inspired the story telling I devote my life to. To say that she is immensely creative is an understatement. Let me set the scene for you.

Throughout my childhood, story time was the best thing imaginable. Original stories flowed from my mother like love, shared with not only my brother and me, but with any children who came in contact with my mom. Characters were sometimes imaginary and other times characterized by her hand, shaped into the particular personality of the character, that could soothe, hug, inspire, or tickle. The lucky kids would get the honor of keeping the character safe behind their ear all day until they returned it safely to my mom. There is a story from camp one year, when a little girl had a complete breakdown when her flashlight fell into the stinky end of the outhouse. My mom stepped up to the task of healing the emotional, gravity-induced wounds of a stranger’s child. Characters and stories flowed and then, tears dried up, the little girl brushed her hair away to allow my mom to deposit the character behind her ear. My mother will never forget the maturity on the little girl’s face as she showed up at the end of the day to give the character back to her rightful owner. I was too young at the time to understand how special the gift my mother gave was, but I understand it now.

Tales of ugliness and parenthood gone wrong litter the news, each making me feel more grateful than the last, because I was raised with love, humor, and incredible creativity.

Strangely enough, when hearing the above tale, an acquaintance remarked that she thought it would be frightening to have a mother telling stories and to find notes from characters in packed lunches (notes I still have, thank you very much). How crazy is that? As if having a mother who could give J.K. Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or Beatrix Potter (Mom’s quite an artist, too) a run for their money was somehow a liability to my childhood. I’m thinking not.

And now, my mother is my number one writing fan. She’s read almost everything I’ve written (multiple times in some cases). She can be tough on me, such as when characters she loves behave in a too-human manner and disappoint her (the cost to me personally is high... I’m still catching the fallout from what a character did about eight books ago). Since Mom can’t argue right now, let me say: Yes, he did it, Mom. No, he’s not perfect and it was a terrible thing for him to do, but he did do it. And he’ll make it right. So, there.

Maturity, for some, is the end of storytelling, of fiction and all the wonder of imagination. For my mom and thankfully for me as well, not so much. My mom was still telling me stories into my twenties, and I loved them. Though I do have emotional scars from the time she had me sucked into a story about a wolf and a mountain lion, and a girl and a boy, and then, with a mischievous glint in her eye, she had a mountain crush them. A little bit twisted, I’d say. I’m glad that quality didn’t rub off on me. ;)

I was never told to grow up and let my writing dreams fade. Never. Not once. And now that I’m writing everyday, creating more stories, I actually find myself complaining about my mother’s voracious need for more (seriously, she’s like a twitchy addict when I don’t hook her up with something new).

The funny thing is that this blog post was inspired by part of my internal dialogue that reminds me of my mother. Yesterday, I was trying to decide whether to take the dogs for a walk or work out at home, or possible disappear into fiction and not be heard from again. As I was in a somewhat sad mood, I knew that walking would be best, but that would mean dinner would be later than my stomach could handle. And what did I do? I bartered with myself.

“If you take yourself and the pups for a walk, you can have a small almond butter and grape jelly sandwich (my favorite thing).”

Bartering with myself. I had to smile. And then I had to make myself that sandwich (enjoy every second of it) and get my little troupe to the park, which did improve my mood, made the dogs delightfully happy, and made me think of my mother and how finding humor in silly motivations to go to the park is a part of her I carry with me always. She just has the knack for making everything a game and bringing in the fun (and she wonders why I’m always pestering her to come for a visit).

Maturity. Don’t be in a rush to embrace it. And if you have, crack the shell and find the fun again. Even the hard days can be sparkly if we just accept that there’s a reason for the bumps, a reason we don’t have to understand. We just have to harvest our laughter and carry with us our own bit of sun, because that makes a life worth living and, thankfully, stories worth telling.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Must Dos

Tricia Sutton’s blog got me thinking about the Must Dos, you know, the things that everyone must do in order to achieve whatever goal they dare to chase. How real are the Must Dos? That’s what I’m wondering. I remember being told as a child that I was too short to be a prima ballerina. Height is a sensitive topic since we really have no control over it, which is why I remember the comment. Truthfully, height had little to do with why my (short-lived) prima ballerina dreams were crushed (lack of coordination and an unwillingness to practice might have had something to do with it though). But there are short prima ballerinas, just as there are exceptions to the Must Do rules in every field. I’m not saying that I could go join the WNBA at 5’2”, but other factors would rule me out even if height weren’t a factor (lack of coordination again and the fact that squeaky shoes on gym floors make me cringe).

Within the writing world, sources of wisdom share their versions of the Must Dos, but how real are they? Do you have to go to writers’ conferences, publish short works of fiction to gain your street cred, have a blog, network with other writers, schmooze with the fancy published authors, write every day, query widely, personalize your queries, not personalize your queries, or stand on your head and meditate while simultaneously writing and querying (maybe with a little yodeling for good measure)?

I’m sure for every one of these actions, there is a successful author who did them and others who didn’t. And this is where my philosophy comes in: we need to do what is authentic to ourselves, listen to our own voice, while being open to evolving.

When I first began to truly focus on my writing, I didn’t have a blog and hadn’t researched agents or the marketing process. At that time, it was crucial to quiet the publishing demons and write my book. And I did. That book was read by one of my best friends, the one who helped to inspire the dedication I’ve found, who gave me her honest feedback. Through that discussion, I realized that I had to start over again. That act, the process of starting over on page one after finally accomplishing this momentous goal, I recognized as the moment I became a writer. Other friends asked how I could do something like that. The answer: writers write. If we quibble about a hundred thousand words or so, that’d be crazy. That’s like a basketball player refusing to dribble the ball anymore. Or a tennis pro whining about having to serve. Of course, we have to keep writing, keep starting over, keep recognizing the ways to bring our stories to life in the most appropriate ways. It’s hard, but what worth having isn’t.

I finished that re-write, edited/hacked like it had done something wrong, and began marketing. At that point, I started the process of learning about the business and found that my book was too long. So, I chopped it in half, let the story guide me to a new ending point, and off it went again. And I kept on writing. Now, I’m marketing another book and writing others. I’ve been open to change and pushing my own parameters by attending a writers’ conference, starting a blog, and networking with other writers. But none of this was because of a Must Do, but rather because I wanted to.

I believe Must Dos are the equivalent of calorie counters, designed to rob us of the joys in our lives. Must Dos sap the fun and make everything seem like an assignment. Happiness along the path is the goal, not in the destination. Because, as
Kiersten White's very courageous blog shows us, even after you achieve one tremendous goal, there are still challenges that hit all the way to the core. Events tragic enough to unsettle our beliefs and yet send us back to where we are blessed to find understanding: through words and the connections they give us to others.

I’m sending out some powerful support mojo to Kiersten today and to all the writers who share their lives, energy, and talents through writing. Ignore the Must Dos and have some fun with your gifts today.

Quote for the Day from Katherine Hepburn

"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I.Q. points? Not so much. Total scored on Ms. Pac-Man in the 80s? Nope. Words written in two years of dedicating myself to my writing? Yup.

Funny thing is, that’s not all the words written, just the first drafts and complete rewrites in which I didn’t copy from the previous versions (edits were excluded because the numbers are too difficult to calculate). It’s a little mind boggling, and what got me thinking about it is the date today. April 1st, 2010. I know it’s not the day to necessarily believe the above mentioned information (though true), but it was April 1st two years ago that I decided to get focused on the goal I’d possessed my entire life but had never given its due.

And I felt like a little “Happy Anniversary to Me.” As writers know (and one of my favs recently mentioned to me), writing can, at times, be a very lonely experience. Sure, we have legions of characters mucking up the synapses, so often we feel too crowded out to realize we’re alone, but on some level, we know. We can share word count goals, completion victories, querying nightmares, and the “ughs, I’ve been waiting for word on this full forEVER,” but even our nearest and dearest can only tread in the shadows of our footprints, never quite in them. Even amongst our writing support teams, the best we can offer is support and acceptance because all of our writing journeys are as unique as we are. Some of my writing friends have agents, books on submission, and book deals, and I can celebrate their triumphs with great fervor, but I can’t truly understand the new stresses involved, the heightened expectations, the fears of failure, and how much more potent the waiting would be when they are so close to the promised land. Even with those limitations, I know that the support I provide is valued, just as theirs is to me. And I guess I was thinking that this two-year milestone needed to be shared, because, to me, it is the celebration of how much I love writing and every minute I’ve spent in this writing journey. Sure, there are moments of sadness, hurt, and everything that comes from opening up to all that is beyond our control, and yet there have been more perfect moments in these two years than in all the others put together, because I followed through on what in my soul I know I’m meant to do.

And I have more than 1,247,692 words to show for that hard work.

But wait, there’s more...

Following through on my writing spurred me to follow through on other things as well. And though not all strictly writing related, I’d love to share them. In the past two years, I’ve lost more than 30 pounds; become an open-water swimmer (roughly three miles was my top distance); written everyday without a single day off; attended a writers’ conference; climbed out of anonymity and started a blog; networked with strangers/writers online who have become some of my dearest friends; become a bit of a fashionista; gotten involved in social groups and made some amazing friends; paid off my car about 9 months early; sent close to two hundred queries (combined total for more than one project); become a nutrition-nut/health conscious individual; quit my life-long addiction to caffeine; stopped swearing (mostly... but don’t vex me cause I know where those swear words are lurking); become a slightly obsessed fan of professional bull riding; read about a hundred books; and I guess I should add that I also work a full-time job.

There have been downs for every up (including a near panic attack on my first open-water swim wearing the corset-esque wetsuit), but, for me, it’s all about forward motion. Breaking out of my shell with my writing empowered me to break down many of the unhealthy patterns in my life, and each time I find a new one, I just move forward.

That’s what my more than a million words means to me, proof of forward motion. And honestly, I really can’t wait to finish writing this blog so I can dive into a story and start the next year of my living and writing journey. The tagline of my blog is “Where Literature and Life Meet,” and I don’t think I really understood how powerful that concept is until right now. The words we put on the page have a wealth of power, but I think, it is in the lives we live while writing that our true power as writers lies. It’s in the entirety of our connection with our readers, our friends, our communities, and ourselves that 1,247,692 words matter at all.

And here are the 20 words that matter the most to me right now:

I am grateful for every part of my writing life, and thank you so much for sharing it with me.