Writer’s Insomnia

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grey and white floral bed comforter

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Sleep eludes me these days.  I could blame it on my arthritis.  Or the cup of coffee I drank after 6 p.m.  It could be a menopausal symptom.  But I would just be lying to myself.  My mind knows it is delving into a period of insanity.  It’s not a bad thing.  I won’t seek professional counseling, and I won’t use a self-help technique to escape its clutches.

In fact, I welcome the onset of sleepless hours, even knowing I will feel and look dragged out until this time passes and I can once again rest for a full night.  It will result in a few mood swings.  Most certainly, there will be a rise in conflict with my husband.

This insomnia marks the initiation of a creative period that will result in the birth of a piece of writing.  What will show up?  I will not direct the flow.  It could be another children’s book.  Today, it’s a novel.  The National November Writing challenge provided the ticket for this crazy ride.  Work every day on your novel, without editing until you run out of energy.  Complete the project by the 30th.

November 1 is not here yet, but the creative wheels are greased up and in motion.  I am ready.  I know how this goes.

During my teaching years, I wrote.  Every day.  Lesson plans, student goals, the administration required reports.  Not just in the early morning before the commute to my classroom, but after school and on the weekends.  Feedback on class assignments, event planning in my daily planner, updates on my professional website, letters to parents, requests for donations as Class Sponsor, entries in my evaluation materials.

I longed to write a story.  I started more of them than I could count.  Inevitably, they would pile up unfinished as the importance of school paperwork shoved them to the back burner.

I was not a superhero.  I could not move beyond professional writing during my working years.  The career change had to start upon my retirement.  It began without planning.  One day, after the first year of traveling and teaching part-time, I felt the urge to begin writing a children’s book.  I found myself typing every day, hours upon end.  What was happening?  I often stayed in my pajamas.  On trips to the bathroom, I would glance at my unmade up face and crazy uncombed hair.  I didn’t have time to focus on something that minor.  I couldn’t wait to get back to my laptop and continue.

Luckily, I had no children at home.  My husband was traveling for his job.  The days flowed into weeks and months passed.  I appreciated the solitude of my country home, far away and snowed in enough during these winter months to make the trip out a hassle for visitors.

When the seasons changed and my writing slowed down, I took inventory.  I had completed over 20 children’s books!  I was amazed at myself.  I considered resting on my laurels for a time.  But being goal oriented, I intended on pursuing publication.  I worked on that avenue with vigor and recognized the deadly roadblock. I would need feedback for my writing.  A lot of it.

I joined a local writer’s group.  Then the misery began.  The participants were seasoned writers from many genres.  The biggest percent had already published.  I found a connection of incredibly talented people. I was critiqued on my writing.  Oh no! Everything needed editing.  Not once, not twice, not three times.  Over and over again.  It was a realization that nearly stopped me in my tracks.  To survive as a writer, you must take criticism of your work.  You must be willing to change.  I hadn’t thought of this aspect of the creative process.  It’s simply not as fun as creating the first draft.  It’s slow, tedious, and frustrating.  In the end, your writing improves.  It flows better.  The nugget of inspiration is revealed with a clarity that wasn’t present in the beginning.

A few years into this journey, I am learning how to balance the creative flow with the tedious “administrative” work of writing.  It’s not easy.  I have yet to publish.  Oh, I have submitted. My e-mail has not blown up with offers.  I realize there is no other choice but to continue and at least I am able to call myself a writer.  That is real progress.

I know these steps are part of the normal process.  Overall, I have been happier than at any other time in my life.  Even with the sleeplessness and bathrobe filled days.  Creativity unleashed does that for you.  Whether or not I sell anything is irrelevant.  I started something that will not end until I mentally or physically am unable to perform.

I hope that is many, many years from today!

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Nailing November’s Novel

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Among the completed, yet unedited files of children’s books, memoirs, blog posts, and poetry sits my favorite, unfinished project.  A mystery titled, “Tiny Home.” It’s the work I am most motivated by and yet have not completed.

With feedback from my experienced peers at Ludington Writer’s group, I worked on editing.  Over and over on the first three chapters. I need to rise to the challenge of moving forward as the support and interest in my project is positive.

I am a procrastinator.  Laundry, house remodeling, cleaning, meal cooking, and grandchildren watching have taken precedence.  Reading other author’s works, sitting in my easy chair, playing casino games, and shopping have consumed the rest of my free time.

When Barry, the leader from LWG, shared information about a National Writing Challenge, I knew I had to participate!

NaNoWriMo – the Organization

https://nanowrimo.org – their website

Here is the Wikipedia definition:

National Novel Writing Month, is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. Well-known authors write “pep-talks” to keep them motivated throughout the process. Wikipedia

I am determined to finish “Tiny Home”.  I straightened up my house, informed my husband he WILL be cooking for himself during the month, chose not to host Thanksgiving, and set up a profile on the NaNoWriMo website.

Now, I will have no excuses!  I completed an outline of the book, along with character descriptions, and a discussion of major events.  There are 16 or 17 chapters left to write.

Although advice from the NaNoWriMo website suggests starting from scratch, I am driven to get this story out so it will be my project during the contest.  That is acceptable, as long as I don’t claim the number of words I wrote prior to November 1.

I am a new, unpublished author yet have been a writer for years.  Until my retirement from teaching, I did not pursue publishing.  Now, I’ve changed my mind.  Joining Ludington Writer’s Group and the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, https://www.scbwi.org/join-scbwi/), I realize I want to improve and work on my craft full time.

I encourage all writers out there to join a local writer’s chapter or other organization that supports your creative endeavors!  The groups lift you up, set you straight, laugh with you, and take your writing seriously.  What more inspiration could you want?

I am hoping if you ever thought of writing a novel, are stuck in the middle of one, or even if you are a published novelist needing another push of motivation, consider joining the national challenge.  There is a lot of support from writing buddies, question and answer forums, and other options, including classes that help build your skills.

If you decide to begin the journey, make sure you look me up.  I am listed as “Chameleon at Work”, from Northern Michigan.  Wish me luck, and good luck to any other writers that carry the 30-day writing torch!  Hope your new novel is a best seller!

Still at Work

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“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” — Steven King

As my writing journey continues and progress is made, I understand more than ever this Steven King quote.  I have written over 20 children’s series books in the last two years and am halfway finished with an adult murder mystery and a middle school fantasy.

When I started writing after my retirement two years ago,  I was proud of my dedication.  Day after day I wrote, creating new stories and adding interesting titles to the collection.  I built a website and investigated getting published.

Then the real labor started.  I read the stories to school age children. I discovered flaws that were not evident after all my editing.  I worked diligently to improve my story flow.  I discovered free editing software.  Grammarly and ProWritingAid.  Low and behold, another world of corrections opened up and I spent hours reworking my original material.  I presented the stories to other adult readers, who continued to critique with a fine-toothed comb.  Additional changes followed.

I needed to get my work out there!  I joined Ludington Writers, a group that supports and sustains local writers.  Some of the members are published, some are seeking those opportunities, and others are content to share their work without trying to interest a publisher.  Although weekly meetings are held, readings and feedback are conducted on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month.  I met some of the best poets, non-fiction and fiction writers,  novelists, playwrights and children’s authors on the planet!

Did I think my work was unflawed by the time I shared?  Not a chance.  I was ready for another round of editing, and I got just that.  My most important achievement was calling myself a writer and being recognized for one.  The positive support I receive from the group tells me I am headed in the right direction.  I am preparing my first book for submittal in September of this year and I am hoping it gets picked up by a publisher.

Creative writing has been a learning curve.  With a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, I spent years writing lesson plans, goals, objectives, and learning targets for my classroom and various school districts.  But every month now, I am meeting and surrounding myself with other authors.  I am renewed, almost born again.  There will be no rocking chair and knitting for this former teacher!  My new, yet old career, is keeping me busier than any job I’ve held since my first paycheck.  I hope someday there will be some financial gain from my labor.  I would like to say I’m in it for the satisfaction of self-expression, but that would be a lie.  I hope this will be my most enjoyable employment yet!

 

 

 

Loving my Acer Chromebook

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There are some good reasons why I would support the use of a Chromebook for Writing.

acerchromebookReason 1:

My Chromebook was the most affordable device at a time when I did not have extra money to spare.  I have used it exclusively for over 2 1/2 years and only paid $134 for it in June of 2014 from E-Bay.  The price included the cost of shipping. That’s the least of money you could expect to spend on a device that gives you almost as many options as a desktop.

Reason 2:

It is the lightest, most portable self-contained typing device I have found.  My Acer fits inside a large purse, and it about the same size as a business letter page.  It is so thin I have slipped it into a side pocket of a briefcase, carried it under my arm, and even carted it around in a plastic shopping bag.  I enjoy the lightweight design and prefer not to be chained to a desktop, or carry around a larger, heavier, laptop.

Reason 3:

It has never crashed or let me down.  I expected it to quit working long before now just for the constant operation. I used it exclusively during my teaching assignments for the past two years.  It ran for hours each day.  I  typed, displayed slide shows, played videos, watched motives, listened to music (amplified by a portable Bluetooth as the internal speaker is not that loud) and presented lesson plans daily on a whiteboard.

Reason 4:

It connects faster to the Internet than any other device or computer I have used.  The connection is there the second I click on the Chrome Icon.  It works the same with a wired connection, Wi-Fi, or a hot spot.  Any delay was repaired simply by closing the cover and re-opening it.

Reason 5:

Long battery life.  I can perform a lot of functions before the battery gives out, even with my constant use.  It also charges very quickly so if I do lose power, I am up and running again within 15-20 minutes.

Reason 6:

Easy access to all my Google files and Connections.  I have access to 3 different drives, a professional log in, my teenage daughter’s profile, and my personal profile all on this Chromebook.  It sometimes takes a couple of tries to toggle between users, but it always lets me or my daughter access all of our files, including Amazon Accounts, Kindle Cloud Reader, and several others apps we use on a daily basis.

Reason 7:

The keyboard is designed for light and fast typing.  Last year I taught Computer skills.  The school district did away with desktops and went with personal Ipads and Bluetooth portable keyboards.  That was a hassle!  The connections often did not work.  The plug-in adapters on the first keyboards began to break.  The second replacements were better but quite individually expensive.  After a few months, the keys began to stick.  This does not happen with my Chromebook.  I open it up and am able to type at a fast pace, with nothing to plug in or break.

Reason 8:

It just does not get viruses.  I’ve never had one, but I have also heard even if you do, you can easily get rid of them by resetting your Chromebook.

Hopefully, I have informed you of an affordable choice, should something happen to that expensive laptop, or another device you use to write.  You don’t have to go broke or end up being forced to use a computer at work or the library because your home computer crashed.  I hope my Chromebook continues to work as well as it has.  If its’ life ended, it wouldn’t be a major drain on my budget to replace it with another.  Keeping work on a couple of drives ensures I will be able to sign in and access all my files using any tool.

UPDATE:  2018

At the beginning of this year, my oldest daughter gifted me with a wonderful, practical present – a new Chromebook!  It runs like a champ, is a little bigger, and even more dependable than my old one.  But my first model is still being used by my younger daughter, who also watches movies on the device almost every night.

Since my retirement, I have been writing Children’s books and Adult fiction.  My trusty keyboard has held up through a schedule of typing every day.  I cart it around to the library, to my Writer’s Group, and anywhere else I am traveling.  It still is the best tool I have in my kit.

Yeah for the Chromebooks – Carry on!!!

 

 

 

 

Old but yet New

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35270-quotes-about-writingMy mother’s dream was to be a published writer.  With eight children and a full-time job, she still managed to attend writers’ classes at a local college but never received a degree. Her stories were mesmerizing and I grew up asking her to read them to me over and over. I still have copies of some of her work and though she never published anything, I always believed she could have sold a lot of children’s’ books.  I thought I would be a writer. I did compose stories, poetry, lyrics, and kept a journal until my high school years. I wrote papers, reports, letters, slide presentations, recommendations, lesson plans, grants,  a Master’s thesis, gen ed and special ed curriculum and short stories whenever I found the time.  I made a few attempts at getting published but didn’t follow through.

The strongest creative pull in the early part of my life proved to be playing an instrument and singing.  I was classically trained from the age of five through high school, but ended up playing keyboard and performing as a lead singer for a rock band!  I pursued a music career from my teen years into my 40s, when I returned to college and earned my M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction.  I traveled and taught in many different districts until my retirement this year.

My last teaching assignment was a return to elementary ed, where I was the computer teacher for 508 students! Although I sometimes miss the camaraderie of my peers and daily interactions with kids, I am finally able to spend time writing every day.   I was lucky to have had the most excellent 3rd through 5th-grade students during this last year.  They were the inspiration for a series of children’s’ books I am creating  These short picture books feature a brown stuffed rat named Herbert who actually became the class mascot for the entire elementary school.  The stories are told from Herbert’s point of view, and have very little adult interaction, as my character is mostly interested in the activities of the 3rd-5th graders at the school.  There is a little magic, friendship, hardship, adventure, and a couple of life lessons contained in the series.

I am looking to publish for the first time on Kindle’s e-book offerings.  I welcome all advice and mentoring! Being goal oriented, I am determined to pursue this career during these best years of my life.  Hoping to hear from some of you!

UPDATE:  August 2018

With membership in my local Writer’s Group, I realized I want to seek a traditional publisher for my Herbert Series.  I concluded writing 20+ books and feel pursuing that avenue would be more beneficial to my career.  I will be sending one of my first edited books in September of this year, hoping it gets picked up!  Wish me luck!