Monday, June 24, 2013

Tonight's Writing Game

I have tee'd up the chapters in my WIP like dominoes: One good thump, just the right phrase and they will tumble through this well-plotted outline dot by dot, square by square, creating some fantastical shape that leaves you splayed and breathless at THE END. #thatisall #amwriting

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Today is one of those days when the thought, "I wish I could make more time to write," is quickly countered with, "But I don't wish I had less time with my kids." Writer's guilt I can conquer. Mommy guilt -- not so much.

Yet another life change occurred in my parental world today as my youngest child (known as Baby Girl and Little Bit to my Facebook friends) finished elementary school. It's a much bigger deal than my heart originally bargained for.

All day I've been singing Fleetwood Mac's song "Landslide." Especially the line that says, "I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my world around you... Time makes you bolder, children get older and I'm getting older, too..." And it asks the question, "Can I handle the seasons of my life?"

Well, can I?

I mean goodness, I've done this twice already. It should be old hat. But the third time's charm struck after we arrived back home and I sat down at my laptop somewhat paralyzed. With a span of 13 years between my oldest and youngest, I've had plenty of years to prep for each of my "last baby does X" moments. Yet they always catch me off guard.

When she was a baby and I was juggling middle school football, T-ball, a crazy a** job and breastfeeding, I wanted everything to go faster. I couldn't wait until everybody could do just a little more for themselves so that I could find a minute or two to breathe. In those early years of hers, she absolutely caught the brunt of my "hurry up and grow up" mental chant.

Then suddenly (not at all though), she grew, she laughed, she turned into a tweenage Mini-Me and I felt buckets of hourglass sand slipping through my fingers. She did hurry up and grow up. But not by my doing, that's just life. When my oldest took off for grad school I instinctively turned around to slow her down, but it was too late.

Thankfully, only theoretically.

She's growing up, yes. And I'm accepting that I am in a state of lifelong transition because change never ceases.

I know that one day (too soon) ample writing time will come. I'll be able to post about my knocking off word counts and counting up sales because -- God willing -- there will be long languid hours without soccer practice, sleepovers and the mountain of busyness that life with kids brings.

But meanwhile, I will be deliberately thankful for every single moment: to be able to have a child, and raise her, and love her, and to have enough sense to stop and smell the roses that we plant together.

No, the landslide won't bring me down. Today.

Stefanie Worth

Monday, June 10, 2013

Seven Pounds

Face it: Writing is a sedentary gig. I can't tell you how many blog posts and articles I've read about how this craft can be bad for my health. I even work for a health organization. So, I know all the "shoulds," right?

Maybe not.

Because I had my annual physical in early May and my doctor summed up my visit with a piercing up-and-down glance at my frame and the words, "You need to get rid of some of that."


I knew good and well that she was referring to the "few more" pounds I'd gained since my last visit. Of course, I blamed it on a salty meal a couple days before, lack of sleep the night before, things I should've done -- but didn't do -- before, like exercise and eat right.

Maybe I just needed to hear someone else tell me what I already knew. There's a definite level of accountability that came with my doctor's unflinching order. My mind immediately compiled a laundry list of the things I'd do as soon as I got home. And as my thoughts were racing, she rambled off her own suggestions: 1500 calories per day, an hour of exercise every day, and a follow up visit in three months.


I'd be lying if I said my gut didn't want to offer a few excuses or that I didn't feel the urge to be a tad bit defensive. (You know -- kids, job, life, time, yada, yada, yada). But apparently, the swift kick my doctor gave was just the extra motivation I needed.

I am proud to report that I have lost seven solid pounds in the last five and a half weeks. (Yay me!!!)

Now, as much as I've longed for a magic pill and snap-my-fingers solution to the 20 pounds (now 14) that vex me, I have to admit that no such cure appeared in these last 40 days. I just stopped eating too much. Granted, I first had to realize how much I was really eating. And I did that with the help of (thanks to my sis-in-law for turning me on to the site).

It only took two weeks of diligent tracking to learn how much -- er, how little -- 1,500 calories per day really is. And when I told the magical site what my weight loss goal actually is, it told me that I only need 1,320 calories per day to reach that number. Oh. Wow.

Thus, I tracked. Soon I found that one day, one mindless run-of-the-mill day in my life, I nibbled away 1,000 calories in snacks. WTH? That stopped. I countered dinner outings with two exercise sessions on those days. Once I saw the scale begin to shift, I got downright excited. Today, I happily -- and comfortably -- tightened my belt one more notch.

Nearly six weeks in, I'm no longer tracking my calories online. I know what 1320 is. I weigh every day because that's what works for me. I don't drink calories. I've learned that bread is absolutely my enemy. I've known for years that Chinese food doesn't like me, and I've reached the point where I'm okay with letting it go. And after 40 years of eating two scoops of Very Berry Strawberry ice cream at Baskin Robbins, I've switched to treating myself to one scoop of the non-fat Vanilla yogurt on a sugar cone. All the sweeter because I'm inching ever closer to that Better Me I strive for.

The bottom line is I don't like the number I see on the scale, though my goal is getting closer. I'm not quite obsessed, but I am finally focused. Besides, I'll be doggoned if I go back to my doctor's office in six weeks the same way I left last month. She won't care how sedentary my writing life is. And hopefully the scale won't let her know this time.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Fire the After Earth marketing team

First, let me say that I'm not really a proponent of anybody losing their job these days. However, despite my son grudgingly telling me that M. Night Shyamalan directed After Earth and reading countless naysayer accounts on Facebook, I took my kids to see the movie anyway.

We LOVED it! (Like 4 out of 5 stars loved it.) Especially my 11-year-old daughter. My 16-year-old son also enjoyed the challenges, effects and overall plot though he was a little disappointed that there wasn't more action from Will. So he gave it a slightly lower family rating. I noticed on my Facebook page that at least one other poster said her 12-year-old daughter went crazy over Jaden (and, of course, liked the movie, too) though the poster didn't care for it.

Lucky for me, I realized about 20 minutes in that this was Jaden's journey and not Will's story at all. Without any pre-set notions about what the movie should be, I was able to adapt to that reality and immerse myself in the rest of the flick from that perspective.

Apparently, most of the reviewing world is not that flexible. And here is where I fault the film's marketing team.

Why was Will Smith even on the poster? To sell tickets? Will and Jada have produced plenty of entertainment that doesn't splash their photos and titles. This should have been the case with After Earth. A poster featuring Jaden-in-peril aimed at the fantasy action-loving tweenage crowd of 10- to 14-year-old moviegoers would have made all the difference in this movie's success. In my opinion anyway.

I walked away wondering why the movie's marketers and promoters didn't target a Spy Kids or Percy Jackson type viewer. I told my oldest son (the one who forewarned me), that this was absolute Karate Kid and no Independence Day. Why couldn't the Shyamalan-Smith Powers-That-Be see the same truth? To me, it would have given the public the proper framework and allowed the movie to get the reception it deserved.

End of story: Take the kids, see the movie, forget Will, and enjoy.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Friday Eve Epiphany

Memorial Day weekend I saw an ambulance two doors down with a stretcher readied out front. It's the house of my elderly neighbor with the overweight dog who always stops to chat (and let her dog roll in my grass) when I'm doing yard work.

I've noticed new people, strangers, in her driveway lately. So yesterday I asked my immediate neighbor (a woman who tends to make me nuts) if she knew her and what had happened. We spoke for a while, she said she didn't know.

When I returned home this evening she'd left me a note saying the woman down the street had fallen down the stairs. She died on Memorial Day. It made me so, so sad. And suddenly -- immediately -- I was overcome with a sense of release.

There is so much going on in my life right now, but I just let go. I freed my mind of all the bs and took a deep breath and a step back. Life is too short to anguish over much that we do. In that moment, and now, I am thankful for the people who do love me and the life that I live. My God is an awesome God and He is good all the time.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sunday Morning Blooms

I'd like to say I woke up early today and did something productive; went to church, started writing, planted all those flowers I bought from Home Depot yesterday. Something. But no. I simply woke up early and starting...thinking.

There's an itch at the back of my brain -- one of those personal preoccupations one doesn't share in a public blog -- that's demanding more attention than I want to give it today. But man, it's loud. Peskier than that character conflict I need to heighten as I plow through this manuscript re-write, and certainly more compelling than the fact that I always leave my plants-to-plant in the garage or on the porch until they're on the brink of death before I turn gardener and save them.

So I've managed to ignore the "itch" by covering it with the guilt of not making it to church. Again. (Shaking my head here.) I even told the kids that today would be the day we return. The first for them since the divorce. (Except for a family funeral and birthday celebration they've attended with the other side of their family.) Maybe I was mad at God for a while. You know how we humans can be. But somewhere in the past few weeks, I've decided it's time for us to return.

Until I remembered -- this morning -- that I let my daughter ride her bike and make mud pies in the rain for a looooong time Friday evening. Wonderful for her. Trauma for her hair. An afro puff is fine for soccer, but not for church (to me anyway). I can just hear the old folks whispering behind the itch in my brain, saying, "Look at that baby's head," with an accompanying tsk, tsk, tsk. I let mommy guilt push me into the paralysis of analysis and here we are at home. The kids are not in pews. They are in bed until I finish this post.

It's been so long since I've strung a whole thought, I figured my poor Plotting Me blog was way past due for a new installment. And this is so much easier than that dagblasted re-write I'm submerged in. (Notice I did not say immersed. Very careful word choice there.) I love my story and its new direction, the growth and evolution of characters I am as attached to as my Mac lipstick, the anticipation of an amazing happy ending.

Yet, every other day I'm thinking it would have been easier to start an entirely new story. So, why didn't I? Because there were components of this one that I wanted to keep. At least that's what I thought a year ago when the book found a new home with Amazon. Now, the more I work on it, the more I realize how much I outgrew the manuscript I originally submitted. Little remains the same in this story aside from the title and the characters.

Now that I've admitted this factoid aloud to myself and the universe, I'll move ahead accordingly, deleting the old words and replacing them with new direction. After I plant. My daughter is awake and anxious to bring the color of God's annuals to the front porch and the back deck.

That's what Sunday morning thinking will get you: Prayers without church, new life for uprooted plants, heart-opening plot bursts, and a shower of words to help all of this bloom. Everything, it seems, becomes salve for the itch.