With Summer Before Me…

With Summer Before Me... literatelives.wordpress.comI write this on the last Saturday of the school year. Just four more school days to go, and it will officially be summer. Hooray!

Excitement and Caution

I look ahead with both excitement and caution.

Why excitement? Because this is the beginning of a new writing life. I have resigned my teaching position and look forward to investing more time in crafting fiction and poetry.

And the reason for caution? I have been quite sick these last six months and therefore lost a lot of strength and stamina. I long to fling myself into projects around the house putting away messes that have accumulated during this difficult school year, and earlier. However, last summer when I was recovering from mononucleosis, I learned that it’s great to have goals and to work toward them, but I cannot hold myself to stiff deadlines when my health is so unpredictable. Last summer I ended up pretty depressed that I did not get enough done.

However, this year will be different because my “deadlines” can extend past September for the first time in five years.

What I am Looking Forward to This Summer

Sleeping in! I am still so very tired and often sleep twelve-hour nights when an alarm is not required. But, once I wake up I will be eager to either begin or resume:

  • daily reading (multiple topics, most blog or web-based) each morning as I enjoy my mocha
  • exercising to rebuild my strength and stamina
  • road tripping with my husband (He is an awesome travel partner!)
  • spending quality time with my delightful grandkids–over-nighters, lunch-dates accompanied by trips to the bookstore, crafting together….
  • finishing the final revision of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel
  • finishing revisions on my Mt. Rainier middle grade poetry book, Wandering Mt Rainier, and beginning the submission process
  • putting my guest/library/craft room back together (We packed everything, moved new things in, and made messes last summer but did not even come close to completing the job before school started last September.)

And in the Fall?

In addition to continuing any healthy practices developed in the summer and completing my summer goals, I plan to:

  • expand this blog
  • begin hunting for an agent to represent my fiction
  • write, research, write, revise, edit, and write some more!

Your Turn

What are your plans for the summer? What are your dreams for next fall? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

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Kristen Lamb and How to “Diagnose” a Writer

Kristen Lamb & How to “Diagnose” a Writer: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/I love Kristen Lamb’s Blog. She is one of my favorite bloggers. A post from last month (Diagnosing a REAL Writer: Do You Have Terminal Inexactitude Syndrome?) had me laughing out loud. Please, go and read it. I can wait.

Is Writing a REAL Job or a Mental Condition?

As she muses whether or not writing is a real job (spoiler alert, it is) Lamb considers that perhaps writing “may be a mental condition” which she labels “Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome” and describes as “a compulsive need to tell stories.” Then she lists the symptoms.

Do I Have Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome? Do you?

T.I.S.” in Youth

Of the 6 symptoms Lamb listed for children and young adults, 4 definitely would characterize my childhood, and even my life after:

  • “Preferred reading books, writing stories or drawing dragons 74% more than sports”—although I would have to change that percentage to 100.
  • “Had a 300% greater likelihood of being found in school library when compared to non T.I.S. peers”—This was particularly true during high school. It was so much easier than attempting to socialize! (As an adult I have, more than once, served as a library volunteer, and am now the “librarian” on my one room school site.)
  • “Displayed a 92.4% chance of ‘royally sucking’ at Dodgeball (data is inconclusive about skill level or simple desire to be ‘OUT’ so as to return to reading Goosebumps)”—Again, for me, the percentage would need to be raised to 100. Also, since I never willingly played Dodgeball (the only occasions when I did were for P.E.) there was, alas, absolutely zero chance of getting back to a book when ‘OUT’.
  • “Demonstrated early addictive behaviors with office supplies. Parents who suspect their child might have T.I.S. should look for noticeable pupil dilation when shopping for school supplies”—My favorite toy as a child was my size 64 box of Crayola Crayons. To this day, I love browsing stationery stores, the school supplies sections of stores, and the paper and art material sections of crafts stores. I love paper, notebooks, journals, index cards, glitter gel pens, mechanical pencils, and Prismacolor colored pencils.

Am I a Writer?

According to Lamb, “a primary symptom of T.I.S. is that writers angst over what makes them ‘real.’” Yup, I have been guilty of that and so have many of my writing friends.

Of Lamb’s 8 diagnostic questions, I confess to having committed 6:

  • “Display visible signs of distress, pain, and at times, explosive violence when shown sentences such as… Their are no more donuts in the brake room’”—Yes, I confess these kinds of errors can make me crazy—but only when committed by people I do not know and love. I am grateful for any communication from any of my friends and loved ones and would never, ever mentally edit their writing.
  •  “Exhibit significant cognitive-tactile impairment when texting (refusal to employ ‘ur’, ‘IDK, ‘BRB’ or even the seemingly innocuous ‘lol’)”–Yep. See the next trait.
  • “Insist on using full sentences and proper punctuation”—Yeah, guilty. However, I have begun to have fun with emoticons. I particularly enjoy hearts, kittens, flowers, and suns.
  • “Can become agitated with certain trigger words such as bae, turnt or fleek”—My biggie is the news media’s abuse of the word “troop” when they use it to refer to a single individual.
  •  “See nothing wrong with discussing rates of body decomposition, history of guillotines, The Black Death, or bot flies at social functions involving food”—my most recent exploration for the novel I am working on was figuring out when rigor mortis sets in, and when it goes away, however I have not had opportunity to discuss it at a social function.
  • “Are known to choose mates based off vocabulary, intellect, appreciation for Monty Python, and ability to operate, repair, and set up laser printers (leading to an abnormally high ratio of writers choosing engineer ‘types’ as partners)”—Now this one is only partially true. My guy, while being a math teacher and our home “technical expert,” also likes music and books similar to what I like, is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and trustworthy people I know, and is simply an awesome life partner; I would have been a fool to let him get away!

 My Conclusion

I definitely have T.I.S. (Terminological Inexactitude Syndrome). Not only do I have it, I embrace it. I love to write; it helps me make sense of the world. And I love to write fiction because it’s just, plain fun.

Your Turn

Do you struggle with T.I.S? Well, there’s no better way to deal with it than to write. So, tell me, what are your symptoms? What are your joys? Please use the comment box, below, to share your thoughts. I am so eager to hear from you. Let’s encourage one another!

Keep Writing

Keep Writing (Or Reading) Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesWinter, which felt like it was going to last forever, is coming to an end. Leaf buds are swelling and apple and cherry trees are blooming. So how’s your writing life going?

I know. Odd question. What does a writing life have to do with spring?

For me, the constant lover of fresh starts, it represents renewal.

Renewal and the Writing Life

There are so many things in life that can derail the best of writing plans, but the good news is, they do not have to stay derailed.

A blog post I read this week has really renewed my writerly determination and positive outlook.

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

On The Write Conversation with Edie Melson, Melson listed 12 lifestyle tips for a successful writing life. Tips 1, 3, and 12 really resonated for me.

  • 1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us.
  • 3.  Take care of yourself physically.
  • 12. Keep writing no matter what.

The dreary days of winter are always a mind-challenge for me. Furthermore, this has been a year of health issues as well, and when ill or tired I find it a challenge to both work on my writing and maintain the proper mindset to work on my writing. Melson is right. Taking care of your mind and body is key to producing solid work. My default tends to be to neglect myself, however I recognize the wisdom of her words and will strive to take care of my body and mind in the months to come.

I found her final tip, though one I’ve encountered and valued in the past, even more inspiring. Keep going. Keep writing.

Here, I must extend my appreciation to you, my readers. Knowing I have built a relationship with you and have a responsibility to you has been a great spur to keep writing, at the very least, these weekly blog posts.

My love and gratitude goes out to my critique group as well. I once quipped, “Anyone can bring one page.” Since then, I do not dare show up without something to read. (I will be eternally grateful to them for many more reasons than this, but that is a topic for another post.)

Keep writing. Keep going. This will be one of my themes for this season in my life.

Renewed Commitment

Therefore, I commit to keep writing here, to you.

In addition, I will finish the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, my novel that is 98% done already and then launch into the next phase of this novel’s life—the great agent quest!

Then I will move on to a number of other projects I’ve got waiting in my queue. It is very exciting to think of the work that awaits me.

Your Turn

How will you renew your writing life this spring?

Please share your plans in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!

 

 

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Fairy Tales and Me

Yesterday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. I know. It probably would have been nice to know that yesterday. However, fairy tales are something that can be appreciated any day, right?

Here are a couple of cool quotes about fairy tales:

“If I am honest, I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales, and I like them best of all.”  Audrey Hepburn

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  Albert Einstein

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but that they tell us dragons can be beaten.”  G.K. Chesterton

Fairy Tales and Me

Like Ms. Hepburn, I have always loved fairy tales. Here’s some fun facts about me and the fairy tales in my life.

  • National Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Fairy Tales and Me; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesMy favorite book of fairy tales: The Princesses: Sixteen Stories Selected by Sally Patrick Johnson
  • One of my most shameful confessions: I checked The Princesses out of my school library and never returned it. Yes, that means I’m a book thief.
  • My favorite fairy tale: “The Light Princess,” by George MacDonald
  • My favorite fairy tale movie: Disney’s animated version of “Sleeping Beauty.” I know they got a bit creative with the storyline, however, due to this film, I fell in love with Gothic architecture and art before the age of 5!
  • My first publishing credit: “The Frost King’s Dowry,” a retelling of a Russian folk tale, published in Cricket magazine
  • My most recent publishing credit: a poem, “Dishwater Dreaming,” a poem inspired by the tale “Donkeyskin,” published in Enchanted Conversation Magazine, June 28, 2018
  • My favorite fairy tale blog: fairytalemagazine.com

Your Turn

What are some of your fairy tale favorites or the fairy tale milestones in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment box. Let’s inspire and encourage each other!

Pinterest Interest: Writing, Settings, History, and More!

I love Pinterest. Pinning and seeing what others have pinned is one of my favorite activities when I ‘m feeling tired.

What do I pin? What don’t I pin!

Okay, really, what do I pin? I pin posts from this blog, of course. I also pin in the topics of reading, writing, history (I love history!), art, crafting, and more. (You can visit my pinboards at Debby Zigenis-Lowery.)

Some of my pin boards were getting so full, that I would “weed” them so they would not be unmanageable to browse. However, much to my delight, this winter Pinterest enabled categories within boards, and I am now working to combine some boards using categories within them (to keep down my overall board count) and to categorize the contents of my bigger boards.

It’s been a big job, but I’ve finally organized my “professional” boards (Writing, Settings, and History), so now seemed like a good time to share.

Writing Boards

These boards, as the title suggests relate to writing, both personal and professional, with a focus on fiction, in general, and fantasy, in particular. In the writing section of my Pinterest collection you will find topics such as:

…and more.

Settings

I have an entire section just for setting inspiration. It includes different types of landscape/ecosystems, as well as settings created by or populated by people, such as:

Most of these collections contain categories, some as simple as “interior” and “exterior,” others as complicated as grouping “types.”

History

Because I am fascinated by history, and most of my novels are some form of “folkloric” or “historical” fantasy, I was thrilled with the ability Pinterest provided, first for collecting information and images on the topics of history, society, home & family life, and fashion, and now for actually categorizing them neatly within their eras.

In addition, I keep learning more and more about history as I collect. (I love it!) My history boards are arranged semi chronologically. This section contains boards for:

As a bit of a medieval, Jane Austen, and turn of the 20th Century fan, I am still working to make my boards more inclusive of all the cultures of the world. I’m a long way from succeeding. However, as I would not feel qualified to write about these cultures, my boards will probably always end up being more Euro-centric.

More, More, & Still More!

I also have boards for other activities and topics. Feel free to pop by and visit, but be warned, I have not had time to combine and categorize everything.

Your Turn

Are you on Pinterest?  What kinds of items do you love to collect? Share the name of your Pinterest board in the comments section below, and tell us a few of the topics you favor. It would be so fun to visit and see what you have!

The Value of Writing and Reading Fiction (And Maybe, Non-fiction, Too)

Last weekend I read a blog post that was so provocative, inspiring, and engaging, that I decided I couldn’t wait for a monthly round-up; I had to share it now.

5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World

In this post, on HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com, K.M. Weiland shares the experiences that made her a writer, the questions that had her doubting her career choice, the wisdom of others that provided answers to her questions, and the five reasons she is able to conclude “writing is important to the world.”

Don’t take my word for it. Go read the post now, and then come back.

Wasn’t That Inspiring!

I’m tempted to quote so much of what she said, but of course, you’ve already read it. Instead I’d like to comment and elaborate on her 5 conclusions and how they resonate for me.

5 Reasons I Agree Writing, and Thereby Reading, Stories, both Fiction and Non, is of Value for Us Personally and for Our World:

“1. Stories give us good truths.” They show us how the world works. They inspire us to be better and often show us how. Stories, both fictional and non, are therefore empowering.

“2. Stories give us bad truths.” Stories, again both fiction and non-fiction, can serve as warnings. They provide a training ground for discovering strategies and ways of being that work and ones that do not. Better yet, as a reader, you get to discover these things vicariously, rather than have to suffer the consequences of dangerous, foolish, or selfish/narrow-minded actions.

“3. Stories open our minds and teach us empathy.” Effective educators know that reading fiction and experiencing life through a character’s mind and heart, expands our and our students’ wealth of experience. They show us how other people’s feelings and thought processes work, as we experience them through character. Thus story, both fiction and non, helps develop empathy for others.

I love this Merriam Webster definition of empathy:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :the capacity for this

In a world that seems to be growing smaller, more crowded, and more conflicted each day, empathy is an absolutely essential skill for living together in harmony.

“4. Stories offer us archetypal role models.” Weiland asks “if you’ve ever been in the midst of a difficult experience or faced by an overwhelming decision—and you were helped in remembering a character who endured something similar?” Have you? I know I have. At one very difficult time in my life inspiration provided by a fictional character helped buy my children 15 more years with an intact, functional nuclear family.

“5. Stories teach us to hope.” In our messy, messy world and our imperfect, challenging lives it can be tempting to just give up. But stories show us the effort to not just survive, but thrive is worthwhile. They remind us that light and hope remain in our world. While we cannot live lives of unadulterated bliss, times of joy, of love, of peace do exist, and if we make wise choices on our journeys, we will experience them and carry their memories within us along the way.

Your Turn

What do you feel is the value of reading and writing? In focusing on Weiland’s post, is there anything you think I missed? Please share in the comment space below. I love to hear from you!

 

Papers, Papers, Papers

Papers, Papers, Papers, www.literatelives.wordpress.comIf you love the literate lifestyle, you probably end up dealing with lots of paper: notes about books you’d like to read, cool quotes, ideas for journaling, and if you’re a writer, ideas for articles and novels, and lists of names for places and characters, real or imagined.

This weekend, my basket of papers (more like snippets: pages ripped from notepads, index cards, business cards, pages torn from magazines, and even a restaurant place mat, … none of which really qualifies as a lovely, full sheet of paper), stored in a place best described as out of sight, out of mind, finally caught my attention and I actually organized it!

Amazing, Ha Ha!

Why?

Because I never intended to keep all those papers. What I really wanted was to capture and hold them until I could enter them into various data bases, etc. (which I never did).

Now, they are chopped to their smallest size and filed in mini files in a pretty basket beside my favorite chair. From here, I can easily grab one or two when I have a spare minute and enter it. Paperless future, or at least an increasingly paperless future, here I come!

A Sampling

So, what work lies ahead of me? Let’s take it in alphabetical order:

Notes to “Add” to existing files–ex. Scene Opening Requirements: opening hook, setting, viewpoint…and when done, a closing hook.

“Books” I would like to read–ex. The White Lion Chronicles by Christopher Hopper

“Journal” prompts and scribbles-ex. From “4 Steps to Turning a Writing Dream Into Reality,” which recommends writers refill their “well” by enriching other parts of their life. The note to self: “Journal a variety of ways you can refill your creative well.”

“Markets” (I do make an effort to sell my writing now and then–ex. Check out L2L2, Love 2 Read Love 2 Write Publishing

“Names” (I collect them so when I need a secondary character or place-name for a piece of fiction I can just pull an appropriate name from my collection)–ex. Danilo (male), Alyphalet (female), Christakis (setting)

“Novel” notes for my existing or future projects–ex. Possible title for Book III: Heaven and Hell… Multiple tie-ins: the idyll is heaven and the return is hell, the idyll is hell and the return is heaven, I chooses heaven and T chooses hell… (I really don’t think I like this as a title.)

“Poems,” or beginnings of poems–ex:

I come from
Beerocks and baklava
A red-headed, Greek speaking, Irish grandmother with a mysterious past,
And peasants,
Immigrants,
No royalty here…

“Quotes”–ex:

“A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content, according to the circumstance and time in which it is used”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“Websites” to check out–ex. AuthorTechTips.com

Your Turn

Do you collect odds and ends of paper? Using the comments box below, tell us, what kinds of paper piles grow in your home? Better yet, share a snippet from one of your “someday I’ll want this” notes. Maybe another reader will find it just as valuable as you do!

 

Eclipse Day!

Eclipse Day: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesToday is Total Solar Eclipse Day in Salem, Oregon, and for the citizens of Salem and outlying towns, it is a BIG DEAL. Hotels and Motels have jacked up their rates, restaurants have created special “Eclipse” menus (One of which includes an Eclipse Burger, a hamburger “eclipsed” by a fried egg.)

People with acreage have divvied up their land and are renting space to campers for hundreds, yes, it’s true, hundreds of dollars per night, and some private schools are doing the same with their sports fields and dorm rooms.

As for me and my hubby? We are staying home. We bought a pair of “eclipse” glasses, then got two more for free with an eye exam (so we gave a pair to the grands). I’ll wake up with my alarm clock to make sure I do not sleep through this long-awaited phenomenon, and hubby and I will view it from the yard (or across the street if our trees appear to be obstructing the view).

If you are anywhere you can see it, enjoy this astronomical phenomenon. Savor the moment. Human beings for thousands of year have viewed eclipses a portents of things to come. What might this eclipse bring for you?

And writers, be inspired. The awe and wonder the Hale Bopp comet lit in me ended up adding a whole, additional dimension to the plot of my middle grade novel, Set in Stone.

Your Turn

If you believed in signs and portents, what do you think this eclipse could be signalling for you personally, for our society, or for the world?

Writers, how can you leverage your experience of the eclipse into your work in progress?

I’m Back

I sat out in the front yard in my comfy camping/recliner chair, with a cool glass of juice, my sun hat, my solar eclipse glasses, and a notebook for making observations. The full event took about two hours. The full eclipse lasted minutes. It was awesome. Not only did it get dark, like dusk, but it got cooler as well. You can bet, somewhere, someday, there is going to be an eclipse in one of my novels!

Addendum

When visiting with my grandkids, with whom I’d recently been talking about poetry, my eldest granddaughter contributed this:

Every hundred years we see
A big star in the sky,
but covered by the moon,
so birds don’t like to fly.

Along comes a guy
and he says
I want to fly
But that would be bad for my eye.

 

Summer, Travel, and Places of Enchantment

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: Summer, Travel, Places of Enchantment

I love this Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ quote. What is life, what is summer, without moments and places of enchantment?

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a road trip with my husband. (He is an awesome road trip pilot, ready and willing to stop anywhere interesting or necessary, plus he is a fantastic photographer.)

We traveled from Reno, Nevada, to Sonora California, to Eureka California, through the state and national coastal redwood parks, then home.

Summer Isn’t Summer Without Places of Enchantment

For me, there are several requirements that must be satisfied for me to feel like I have actually experienced summer.

  1. Fireworks: satisfied on the 4th of July
  2. Sitting beside a rushing river or gurgling stream: satisfied last week with a little stop alongside the Waller River. We did some rock-hopping (what I used to call it, now it’s more like scrambling and balancing after my recent health set-backs), rock-gathering–“Come see this!” “Oh, isn’t this one beautiful!”, and lastly, just sitting with my feet in the cold water, listening to the river’s roar. Ah, peace.
  3. Walking in the forest: also satisfied last week as we made stops to amble in the beautiful California coastal redwood groves. They are so majestic, huge, and old! It really puts our little lives in perspective. We even had the pleasure of enjoying some mysterious morning fog!

The Literate Lives Joys of Road Tripping

Road tripping is fun, renewing, and feeds my imagination.

As we drive, I collect names for places mostly, but as my husband and I joke and engage in wordplay, for characters as well.

Road tripping refills my “landscape well,” providing me with a reminder of the wider range of settings available to draw on when writing, and the links between settings and names.

And, road tripping can inspire actual scenes and stories. Don’t be surprised someday if one of my future projects includes a love smitten gold miner and the glacial object of his affection!

Summer’s End

A week into August, I can accept that, like every year in the past, summer will end, and I can be at peace with that knowledge thanks to mine and my husband’s summer wanderings and savoring of places of enchantment.

Your Turn

  • What does it take for you to feel you have experienced summer?
  • How does travel fuel your literate lifestyle?
  • How do places of enchantment feed your soul?

 Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts. I love to hear from you!

Reading and Writing: Work, Spirit, or Health?

Last post, after reading Writer’s in the Storm , I blogged about this quote:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – workfamilyhealthfriends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

In my reflection, I talked about my reading/writing life as if it were “work” (and that is how I tend to treat it in the summer when I am off from my job as a teacher).

However, upon further reflection, reading and writing, for me, cannot be labeled only as work, but rather as spirit and health as well. Why?

Writing as Spirit

I truly feel writing, and the reading necessary to be a good writer, is my calling. When I am writing, I feel as if I am doing precisely what I was created to do. The stories that drive me and the poems that sing through me feel like “gifts” received, not something I came up with on my own.

Furthermore, as a praying Christian who has served a long writing apprenticeship, I talk to God about it rather frequently. Many, many times I have considered quitting. (Once I actually did, but not because I didn’t want to write anymore, but rather as a newbie teacher, I could not find the time. This was not a pretty time physically or spiritually.) As with most major decisions, I talk to God about it, and instead of telling me to quit, he always sends me more ideas.

Therefore, writing has come to feel as if it is not just my personal passion, but my calling and my responsibility to the God I love.

Writing and Reading as Health

As stated above, refraining from writing impacts me physically as well as emotionally. The one time I quit for an extended period of time resulted in depression and illness.

Reading and Writing rarely feel like work, although some of the support activities–like researching markets and preparing submissions do. For me, reading and writing are joy, abundance, and life! Writing sustains my spirit, and reading fuels my brain.

These are powerful passions, however, in spite of appearances, I do not love them more than my family and friends.

The Real Balance

As an introvert, I tilt toward quiet time at home. Therefore, I realize I need to push myself to get out of my head and house and spend more time with my husband, family, and friends because I do, indeed, love them very much. Dad’s death this spring has reinforced the importance of spending time with the people I love and who love me.

I want to be a more involved wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and friend. I definitely need to keep practicing.

What About You?

Which of the “balls” from the quote corresponds to the roles of reading and writing in your life? Are there any other “balls” you feel might need more attention? How would you make the adjustments? Please use the comment space below to share your thoughts. We are all a work-in-progress; let’s help each other along the way!