Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The End. #NaBloPoMo

It's the end of THIS National Blog Posting Month. I guess they do this every month over at BlogHer. But not me!

I have enjoyed pushing myself to write every day here at A Writer Within. However, sometimes it was a bit too much for me. And sometimes the posts just didn't seem worthy - like I was posting just because I promised myself I would post! (Yesterday was a case in point). But it was overall a worthwhile exercise in and of itself.

I will not continue to blog every day here, just for the sake of doing so - I think that experiment is done! When the mood strikes and when a topic hits me just right, you'll see another post!

I look forward to challenging my writing more and more in the coming months. Maybe I'll do another NaBloPoMo next year. If I do, I'm going to research writing prompts or a writing project in advance that I want to accomplish and not just go with the flow each day!

For those who left me comments - thank you SO much - it meant a lot!

Did you do NaBloPoMo? How did it go for you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How did that happen? #nablopomo

Twice in 30 days... I missed my deadline! Oh dear. And just so close to the finish line too! Deadlines are usually quite good for me. Apparently I can't make them all!

:(

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Suspcious Form of Writer's Block #NaBloPoMo

I have long suspected blogging might be a hidden form of writer's block.

When you can't come up with that next line of poetry - write a blog post about something else.

When you have no ideas for "serious" writing - write a blog post about why you're not writing.

When you can't figure out a character or plot line - write a blog post about a grammar pet peeve.

Instead of staring at a blank page... create pages and pages of other writing that you never intended to do.

Well, this theory is possible. But if it's true, then at least I take comfort that I'm actually still writing. It's all about the process. The journey.

Even in Finding Forrester, the student learned to find his inner muse simply by copying words from a published author. It was the very act of mimicking writing that prompted him to write.

So... maybe blogging is time-filler while waiting for inspiration to strick. But it beats staring at a blank page screen.

What is your writer's block?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Through The Window #NaBloPoMo

I found this writing prompt over at Mama's Losin It to write about a time you climbed in through a window.
Well... it wasn't ME exactly.  I wimped out. But once when my friend Sarah came to visit... we drove up to my parent's house (where I lived at the time)... and discovered nobody was home. Somehow (I have NO idea how this happened) I did not have a key with me. Somehow (I have no idea how this happened) the "hidden key" was missing.

This wasn't a dilemma (because that would mean we were choosing between TWO options)... it was a predicament, indeed.

Ever resourceful, Sarah noticed a ladder near the deck. Of course, she wanted to use it to climb into the 2nd story window. Did we check the bottom floor windows first? I'm guessing we MUST have, otherwise we really are crazy! My memory is fuzzy on this, but I am pretty sure the downstairs window were locked per the usual. But that the upstairs bathroom window was open for ventilation.

However, the ladder did not reach the second floor window! So... we (?) decided to push together some benches and put the ladder atop them. Fearless Sarah volunteered to climb the ladder, peel off the screen and crawl in through the window. I bravely volunteered to stabilize the ladder from below.

And that is just what she did! In through the window. Quick as a cricket!

Then she ran through the house to the kitchen and let me in! What a hoot! I still can't believe I let my friend climb some McGyver-ized contraption to break into my own house!

And to this day I am NOT sure what the rush was... could we not have waited for someone to come home? Apparently no.

Have you ever had to go in through the window anywhere?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Family is what I always end up being most thankful for at Thanksgiving. I know there are a million other things too... but family is always there!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Repeatedly #NaBloPoMo

“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

~ Aristotle

For the past twenty-five days I have been repeatedly writing. I don't think many of the posts would be considered excellent. But I agree that the habit of writing is an excellent habit to cultivate, and my hope is it will lead to excellent writing.

At first, I had to remind myself to write every day. But That turned into thinking about what I could say. About the best ways to say it. About the struggles of writing a life (and public ally!).

I don't love putting up posts that aren't well-thought out and fully relevant... But sometimes I have to let go of the idea that EACH post has to be excellent... The important thing is to develop the excellent habit!

What are your writing habits?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!


I did the serious Thanksgiving posts already... now just have a laugh, eat a lot, and enjoy your day. I am thankful for YOU, dear readers!

How did you spend your Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Feeling thankful... #nablopomo

I am resting in a little bubble of peaceful thankfulness tonight. This kind of feeling that really gives me nothing more to say than: Thank you, thank you, thank you, God!

It's what I love most about Thanksgiving... being able to take a moment just for gratitude.

May you all find your moment this Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful #NaBloPoMo

It's Thanksgiving week... of course I need to do a post on thankfulness.

I'm thankful for so many things tangible and intangible - like having a roomy minivan, or feeling such love for my husband.

I'm thankful for so many things obvious and not obvious - like good health, food, shelter, loving family, or the flushed and peaceful face of my child sleeping.

I'm thankful for so many people here and not here - like my mom and dad, brother, sister, or my grandparents who left behind a legacy of beautiful determination and family values.

I'm thankful for so much. The list really could be endless.

How do you give thanks this time of year?

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Memory #NaBloPoMo

I tend to have a faulty memory. Either I am totally blank on something... as in certain childhood or college stories that when people tell them, I go, "Was I there for that?" and they assure me I was (no, drugs were never involved... I just have a faulty memory!).

OR, I tend to aggrandize the memory... as in those French Fries in New Haven that were SOOOOO GOOOOOD that I dragged my husband around the city trying to find the place....and when we did... they were, well... not bad, but... just okay. And probably not worth the hour drive. Or how my mom's coloring was SOOOOO AWESOME, and then when I pulled out her Marta story pictures as an adult to brag about it, I saw she'd basically just traced the outside of the pictures with marker and lightly shaded the insides.

So... I found this prompt to talk about my first memory. And I have to admit, that is hard because I have hardly any memories from my early childhood. My memories become more consistent around Grade 7. Scary, right? How many of you vividly remember the elementary years? Because I have probably ONE distinctive memory from each year. And that's it.

I say all that to warn you. My very first memory then, may be a complete fabrication, a retelling of what someone told me happened, a conglomeration of separate memories... or it might actually be true. And, you know what? I suspect this makes me no different than most memoir writers!

My first memory is around age four. I was living in Wethersfield. There was a little Portuguese girl that lived next door. For some reason she had given me this pretty green embroidered apron. As a gift I thought. Apparently, she thought she was just letting me borrow it. I'm not sure how many days passed, but ... she asked for it back. I told her, no, you can't be an Indian giver! (Was I being mean or just repeating something I'd overheard? I'm not sure). And I kept that apron.

We moved shortly thereafter, and I never remember seeing her again. I remember playing with that apron often as a child in my new home. At least, I think I remember... but you know what I don't remember? I don't remember her reaction when I told her I wouldn't give the apron back. Odd.

What do you think about first memories? Are they fuzzy for you? Clear? What's yours?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Least Favorite Writing Prompts #NaBloPoMo

As a writer and writing teacher, I am a fan of the writing prompt to get started. To push yourself to write something outside your comfort zone. To do something different than the usual.

However, certain prompts I have grown to dislike, whether from overuse, or just because they don't "prompt" anything out of me! Here they are - maybe they will work for you!

Write about your most embarrassing experience. This I hate for 2 reasons. 1) If it was "most embarrassing" why would I want to relive it, much less SHARE it with you? 2) For the most part, an experience is embarrassing "in the moment," but over time, loses its "edge." So... I generally can never think of ANYTHING when presented with this prompt.

[Random items laid out on a table] Pick an object and write about what comes to mind. Okay, when you lay out a bunch of YOUR weird personal objects, first I am distracted by thinking "Why does she have THAT!?" Second, I am perplexed at how YOUR personal objects are going to provoke ME to write. Third, if you put out all sorts of weird, old-fashioned items that I have NO clue what they do.... what in the world am I supposed to say about that!?

Write about the most important person in your life. Do you want ALL the other people in my life to be mad at me?

What is the worst mistake or decision you've ever made? Like I'm going to tell you!

Write about a dream you had. I can't remember any of mine. Thanks.

Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Is this a therapy session? How much am I paying you?

So... what's the worst writing prompt you've ever been given?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There's a lot of Defiant People in the world! #NaBloPoMo

Tonight I want to talk about another common grammar faux pas. Well, complete error to be exact. It's a pretty big English Teacher pet peeve of mine (although don't worry, when I'm functioning as a regular person and not as an English Teacher, I am much more gracious!).

It is when instead of:

DEFINITELY

people write:

DEFIANTLY

There are major differences between the two words. You don't want to confuse them.

DEFINITELY is the adverb form of the word DEFINITE. Meaning: unquestionable, decided.

DEFIANTLY is the adverb form of the word DEFIANT. Meaning: Showing Defiance, to defy. 

Clearly, two differently spelled words. Two very different definitions.

Now... frequently, I see people confusing DEFINITELY and writing DEFIANTLY in its place. Creating situations like this:

INCORRECT: I defiantly want to go on a date with you. (Meaning, I'd like to defy you by accepting your date request. I probably don't like you very much).

CORRECT: I definitely want to go on a date with you tonight.  (Meaning, yes, I'll go on a date with you. I'm just that into you.)

See the problems that occur when the two words are confused? Your entire meaning is changed!

The main reason people use DEFIANTLY instead of DEFINITELY is because spell check doesn't catch it. Although I am not sure why people accidentally put an "A" into a word that has no A.

Which leads to the next probable reason people confuse these words: Many people MISTAKENLY think that "definitely" has an "A" in it, because when we say the word fast, it sort of SOUNDS like there's an "A."

Which is why you'll see another common usage error... people spelling DEFINITELY as DEFINATELY. There's no "ate" in definite.

Please, please, please... check your spelling of the word DEFINITELY... otherwise, you come across as... well, a bit defiant! Is that the impression you want?

What's your English grammar pet peeve!?





Friday, November 18, 2011

Something Poetic About Fall #NaBloPoMo

The smell of burning leaves, or watching them drifting from the trees... something poetic about fall...
Bittersweet for decoration...it's red and yellow beauty a contrast to green summer ...
Winds are brisk and eager to catch at my words...as if they want to hear for themselves...
How there's something poetic about fall.

Do you find one particular season more inspiring than another?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It didn't happen... #NaBloPoMo

Today writing didn't happen for me... between hosting a Mommy Party and attending the prescreening of The Muppets new movie... I just never got to write a post.

I am sorry. This is how life happens sometimes. And writing a daily post is harder than it looks! I hate that I am even writing a "say nothing" post but I did promise to post every day... This would be the drawback of a project like this!

Till tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writers Write... #NaBloPoMo

Stop a runner on the street, and they may not always be running a marathon that day. They may be running simply to run. Because that is what runners do. They run.

Ralph Fletcher said, just as "Skiers ski...runners run...writers write."

The simple act of writing daily puts you in a "writerly frame of mind." I find myself thinking about my next post, noticing small details (what little my shot memory can keep track of, because it certainly isn't names, appointments, or why I have that pot of water boiling on the stovetop!).

So if this exercise of writing every day for a month seems futile... I am sure it is not. Maybe today's post doesn't add up to much, but it's a part of the whole.

So if you're stopping by this blog, and I'm not writing a great literary masterpiece today, I am writing because... that is what I do. I write.

Why do you write?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Extra Sprinkles, Please #NaBloMoPo

Today we had Asher's cousin's over for a cookie decorating day! It was supposed to be fall/Christmas, but silly me brought out all the cookie cutters and before you know it we had Storm Troopers and Yoda decorated for Christmas. Well, only a few!

Mostly we had acorns, leaves, apples, and...  a tow truck!

Asher wanted to squish all the shapes as soon as he cut them, but he definitely got into the decorating part! LOAD of sprinkles!



What's your favorite holiday baking moment?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Did I Miss Thanksgiving? #NaBloPoMo

Apparently it's Christmas time already. Thanksgiving? What's that!?

It happened as soon as Halloween was cancelled due to snow/power outages over. You'd think Thanksgiving would get its meager 24 days between Pumpkins and Snowmen, but... nope. Everywhere I go, there's barely a nod to the meal of bounty and blessing. Stores have moved on to "the next big thing."

Instead of fall leaves, turkeys and I guess it's probably not politically correct to have PILGRIMS as decoration, all I see are Santas, reindeer, snowmen, snowflakes. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's better than the ghouls and goblins of last week. But it's over-commercialization at its best. I guess Thanksgiving just doesn't "sell" enough for these businesses.

Has our society forgotten to spend a month being thankful? NOT pushing seasonally themed products all the time? Just letting people ENJOY life with their family and appreciate it?

I have not! I enjoyed reading this blog post about Taking Back Thanksgiving - so true - we need to keep thankfulness a "relevant" part of our culture. God has given us so much to appreciate, enjoy and give Him thanks for... I think it's wise to spend some time reflecting on the particulars.

And... I give credit to some stores giving Thanksgiving its space by opting to NOT put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Amen to that! And... in keeping with the holiday spirit: THANK YOU!!!

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jump in the Leaves #NaBloPoMo

I always wonder what people do in the fall in areas where there aren't a lot of trees, or not a lot of deciduous trees. No scent of burning leaves (wait, is that illegal now? I wouldn't know because Matt chops ours up in the lawn mower)? No leaf piles to jump in?

Well... I must say, leaf pile jumping is overrated. For one, I remember when I was a kid, sometimes we weren't allowed to have a leaf pile because it created more work for my dad and it killed the grass if you left it sitting out there for too long.

And... jumping in a leaf pile really is not that soft unless the pile is like, taller than a full grown man. AND... I made a leaf pile for my son the other day, and he just wanted "Mommy do it!" so I did... and guess what I found? A big slimy snail crawling across a leaf.

No thank you. The leaf pile is closed!

I made him stand in the pile just for a good photo opp! He wasn't that into it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Walk In The Woods #NaBloPoMo

Today was a perfect fall day. Crisp, windy, and a bit chilly. It reminded me of Saturdays when my dad used to take us all out hiking in "the woods" (which was the expansive lands behind our house that 10 years later they made into a huge housing development!). We'd tromp through the trees and leaves, certain we would find bears. Or maybe at least a fox.... we'd be lucky if we saw a deer or squirrel. But it was great fun.

We don't live near "the woods" now, but we did travel about 15 minutes to walk down a lovely trail in Bolton with our son. We carried him in the Kelty pack mostly but let him run down the trail the last part.


Autumn also makes me feel more like writing. Not sure why. But clearly it works, because I'm doing this month of writing on this blog!

What do you like to do in the fall?

Friday, November 11, 2011

In an Instant... #NaBloPoMo

The irritations were starting to pile up like the proverbial straws in the haystack.
  • I couldn't find what I needed at the craft store.
  • The wind blew hair in my eye. Ouch.
  • The grocery store didn't have the ingredient I needed.
  • The discount fruit wouldn't ring up.
  • My pre-paid credit card wasn't accepted at the self-checkout line (b/c you need to tell the cashier the exact amount left on the card, which I have no idea).
  • As I was loading my groceries, someone else started ringing their food (something for which I have been SCREAMED at for, by another customer in the distant past!) and their heavy boxes of soda cans slid down the belt crushing my bags of chips. GRR! She apologized but kept sending her groceries down into mine - I can only bag so fast people!
  • The wind blew my shopping cart into another car before I could wheel it into the cart corral.
  • The cart corral was located as far from my car as possible.
  • My groceries all fell over in the backseat.
  • The wind was freezing.
I kept taking deep breaths and gritting my teeth. Life was just not working out as planned!

Then I drove past a homeless man, pushing a shopping cart full of bags. One of his plastic grocery bags blew away in the wind. I watched him reach for it. Try to keep his cart from rolling away so he could catch it. The bag blew off into the busy street. Gone.

It was just a dirty plastic bag. I have about a thousand of these bags in my kitchen closet. But it was his plastic bag.

And driving in my warm car, with bags full of food, to a warm house and a loving family, I thought, Life isn't working out as he planned either.

Have you ever had a moment when your perspective shifted in an instant? What happened? 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The first story my son told #NaBloPoMo

I've been working with my son to teach him to clean up his toys after he's done using them.

This morning, he was coloring and dropped a lot of crayons on the floor. My mom ("Nonna") was on her way over, so I told him, "We need to clean up before Nonna comes."

As young ones do he toddled around, pushed crayons further under his Learning Tower because he's not that adept yet, and was still searching for crayons when my mom knocked on the door. Which totally distracted him of course!

I said, "Hurry! Hurry! Nonna's here! Get the crayons before she comes in!" the excitement almost won out, but the idea of seeing Nonna motivated him to grab a few crayons a bit faster...

Later that night at supper, he said in his cute toddler voice: "Car happen."

I didn't know what this could mean, so I said, "Car happen?"

He said, "Nonna come!"

"Oh, yes! Nonna came over."

He smiled, and said, "Knock, knock!"

"Knock, knock! Who's at the door?"

"Nonna!" he shouted.

"Yes, Nonna was at the door!"

And then he said, "Hurry!"

Me: "Hurry?"

"Hurry! Keen-up!" (clean up).

I nearly fell off my seat laughing that he remembered the scenario. But I was so proud of him, because it was the first story my son has ever told!

He's going to be a humor writer!


How do you record funny and memorable moments and stories about your children?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I've Never... #NaMaBloPo

8 days of writing prompts I didn't enjoy... I think I gave that my best shot, now I'm forging my own path. I saw this prompt somewhere else and thought I'd try it. List-making is one of my favorite writing activities, and I need an easy task tonight!

I have never...

climbed Mt. Everest
run a full marathon
eaten squid ink pasta
published a book
given my autograph
skiied a black diamond
visited Hawaii
had just the right words at just the right moment
slept on the beach
caught a fish
bungee-jumped (or skydived)
caught a baseball at a game
lived in a big city
wanted a Ph.D
smoked
used crutches
cooked lamb
ridden in a hot air balloon
gone for a sleigh ride
finished a knitting project
caught up with the housework
felt like a piece of writing was finished

...I should try to do some of these things. Not the smoking. Or the squid ink pasta.

What have you not done lately?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

All Shook Up. Not really. #NaBloPoMo

Today's NaBloPoMo Prompt: Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Describe the scenes surrounding a particular event.
Okay I'll admit it. I don't love writing about sad stuff. I know I should. I mean, other writers do. And wow the colorful lives they lead. Sometimes I think I'll never be a "real" writer because I have't had eight hundred fantastical things happen to me, or I haven't lived in sixteen exotic locals, or I don't have unusual hobbies and eccentric ways of dressing.

I should plumb the depths of all my most deeply personal experiences to find material for writing. But I don't like to! I'll happily tell you all about some medical procedure I had, I LOVE a good gross-out! But I don't want to tell you how I feel about it. That's just not me.

Trauma. I have been blessed my life has seen very little that could truly be considered traumatic. I had a car crash in 2000. I had a baby in 2010. Both could be considered somewhat traumatizing... I've stopped and started a few pieces. But no real "piece" seems to take shape.

So I'll just say, on day 8 of NaBloPoMo, I am feeling disappointed that "writing every day" isn't sparking more creativity in me. In the past, I'd write poetry off a single word. Why can't I write a story off an entire sentence prompt? Maybe I need more than a DAY to craft a meaningful piece. Maybe NaBloPoMo is just an exercise in endurance, a warm up of things to come?

Sometimes I think blogging can be bad for me, because knowing I have potential readers gives me a bit of stage fright! I've had a few blog comments in my life that were unkind. I have had people take what I write the wrong way (I know, right!? Me! Taken the wrong way!? Seriously!) ...and trying to explain just made it worse - or at least it made ME feel worse, because nothing is worse to a writer than being "misunderstood." Sometimes I think about those past conflicts and get a little anxiety...

This is a lame post. I think maybe I need to write out what is on my mind and "put it out there." And hope nobody reads it. Really. Other times I consider taking this blog totally private, so I don't have to concern myself with "readership" ... but then I've always been concerned for the reader to have a satisfying literary experience. Maybe a little too concerned. A little too "textbook."

I really do feel "stuck" as a writer - this site is supposed to be about the "writer within" me... but I feel like she can't get out lately. I'm not sure why. THIS is traumatizing to me.

Do you ever feel stuck as a writer, or in your creative expression? In what ways? How do you get past it?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Finding Balance... If you can! #NaBloPoMo

Today's NaBloPoMo Prompt: How do you balance your children, relationship, and work life?

After I stop laughing... Balance can be hard to find in life. I love routines, lists, and schedules.

So to help me manage family life with blogging, and housework, I do a few different things:

1. Menu planning helps me reduce time spent thinking about what to make each night.
2. A cleaning schedule keeps me focused and Keeps me from getting overwhelmed
3. I keep an editorial calendar to plan my blogging topics, events, and reviews
4. Simplifying my life by reducing the "stuff" and the "busy-ness" gives me more time for what's important in life!

But nothing is perfect...Matthew and I keep date nights short to accommodate our son's bedtime, often opting to just go to Starbucks for a coffee, or simply watch a movie after he goes to bed.

Finding time to exercise often takes a back seat to more important things... Mostly nap time!

But guess the beautiful part about trying to balance everything is that my child, my relationship and my blogging work... Well, they all go hand in hand!

How do you balance the various parts of your life?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Week of Writing #NaBloPoMo

It's day seven of National Blog Posting Month. And a freewriting day at that. You know how much I dislike "free" writing, so I'll just post a little pat on the back about my getting through 7 days of writing... seems like all the topics and all my post have been about writing itself. I'm hoping to change that a bit for the next week coming up! Unless I find one of the prompts particularly compelling.

But I do have some memoir items I'd love to post, some poetry from past workshops, and some notes from a writer's conference I went to. So I'm hoping to give this month a little more variety!

Three cheers for NaBloPoMo!!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Three Topics #NaBloPoMo

Weekends are for free writing during National Blog Posting Month. Great. My least favorite form of writing because I can never think of topics. Or I find I write about the same things over and over.

I read somewhere that writers have three main topics they return to again and again in their writing. So I'm sitting here trying to figure out my three topics.

Writing - I write a lot about writing. Much like meta-cognition (thinking about thinking), this has always seemed a bit redundant to me - writing about writing. But I do love the process of writing, and like to mull over how it works, and pass along grammar tips, or comment on the evolution of our English language. See... I'm writing about writing right now! (I hate it when "write" and "right" appear in the same sentence, much less next to each other!).

Family - The personal narrative / memoir type writing has been a favorite of mine these past few years. Ever since I learned more about this genre from teaching it in writer's workshop, I see the value of mining the small moments of our life to find seeds for writing. I still struggle to get down to a super small moment and to find the meaning in it, but writing about my life and family is a topic I return to time and again. I even started an entire blog about my family, parenting and family friendly product reviews and giveaways.

... hmmm... topic three.... it's not coming...

Maybe I only have two topics at this point in my life. I have some minor topics, like education, politics, product reviewing, and miscellaneous opinions that I write about but nothing that sticks or raises a passionate voice in my writing. Well... chocolate, yes, writing about chocolate might be my third topic!

I'm starting to think there's a reason writers have THREE topics not just TWO! It's good to have variety in your writing! I can't wait until topic three shows up...

Friday, November 04, 2011

When the Pen Isn't Mightier #NaBloPoMo

Today's NaBloPoMo post : When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?

I learned to type early, thanks to a mom who taught high school typing class. I would sit in her classroom after school typing up library cards for my own books!

By the time I went to college I was a fast touch typist, often hitting over 100 wpm with accuracy in the 90%. (note, this has decreased as I have learned to incorporate the backspace key into my typing, and touch screens slow me down considerably).

Still, I type much faster than I write by hand, so I prefer to brainstorm and draft right on the computer, where my hands can actually keep up with my thoughts!

I'm also the kind of writer who likes to throw down thoughts on the page and work and rework the as I go. My revisions on paper turn into a mass of arrows, cross-outs, inserted lines...a mess. Another reason typing as I write works better for me, because I can edit and revise as I go. So far as being neat, prolific, and finishing work on a deadline go, computer drafting is mightier than the pen!

The drawback to typing my writing is I never have a record of my path to a final draft. Every file could represent hundreds of revisions, stops and starts forever erased. A somewhat sterile piece seemingly springing fully-formed off the page. It's for this reason that despite my preference for drafting on the keyboard, I also keep a writer's notebook for jotting ideas, and sometimes will handwrite a short piece or two in a writing workshop.

No question, the computer offers writers distinct advantages, yet I still believe there's an important writerly connection to be found in the act of putting pen to paper.

What do you think? Prefer to write by hand/pen or on the computer?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Writing to No Music #nablopomo

Today's NaBloPoMo Prompt: Can you listen to music and write? What song did you hear today?

I prefer to write in quiet. Not necessarily silence, but a quiet and still atmosphere. Pretty music is nice to listen to, but when I write it is just a distraction. I've always been this way - even preferring to do schoolwork or run long distances without music.

Last month I went to a writing workshop at UCONN on a Saturday morning. It so happened it was also parents weekend, and a huge BBQ was going on outside our classroom window. Complete with a melange of party music. Hearing other words while I was trying to write my own words made thinking and writing next to impossible. As I'm trying to create lines, I'm hearing another writer's ideas mixed in with my own thoughts. I think this can affect the originality of my piece.

I also tend to lose my inner rhythm when music is playing while I write. My natural speech/writing rhythms start to flow with the music patterns I'm hearing. If I'm writing poetry, this is particularly detrimental. It's hard to stay on one particular meter/beat when you're listening to another.

Now, that's not to say that music can't be a starting point for inspiration. I definitely like to listen to music if I'm just daydreaming or brainstorming ideas. And some music is less intrusive than others - classical or music with no words is preferable if it has to be on.

But really... just give me the sound of silence...oh, wait... isn't that a song lyric? See, music affect my writing even when I'm not listening to any!

Do you write to music?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Eat Your Words...a writer's last meal #NaBloPoMo

Keep your words sweet, you may have to eat them!

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt is: If you knew what you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be?
A writer would start with an appetizer of light introductions. The move on to a salad of little-known words. Perhaps a soup of rhetorical questions.

A main course of hearty verbs and specific nouns would follow, served with a side of prepositions. And just a small bit of adjective as a garnish. Nobody wants a plate full of garnish, after all!

The meal would conclude with a sweet serving of imported words, like creme brûlée and latte!

What would your last meal be?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My Favorite Thing About Writing #nablopomo

Last year I heard about National Blog Posting Month through BlogHer, and wanted to take part but I was too late. This year, I had totally forgotten about it... until today! I saw some bloggers talking about it online (see how great blogger connection groups are!), and decided that although I was getting in under the wire, I would do it.
NaBloPoMo 2011

Every day in November I will (attempt) to post on the topic given by #NaBloPoMo. Feel free to comment or link up your own post of the day in the comments!

PROMPT: What's my favorite part about writing?

This is like asking "How do I love thee, let me count the ways!" So many aspects of writing are enjoyable for me... but a few parts I love the most are :
  • Pairing my ideas with a pleasing combination of words.
  • Delighting the reader with sensory details.
  • Writing furiously with energy and inspiration.
  • Finding editing mistakes BEFORE someone else sees them!
  • Revising - I truly do love revising to become more concise and clear.
  • Hitting the publish button. (This is what makes blogging my favorite writing outlet because a writer can go from blank page to published piece within a short time frame. It's very gratifying!).
  • Getting comments from readers. Okay, this isn't really a part of the writing process, but it certainly does keep me motivated! 
What are your favorite parts of writing? Do you write better when you have a prompt to get you going?

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm a Bananagram Maniac! #imabzzagent

Know what I'm good at? Words. Word games.

Scrabble is my playground. But who has TIME for Scrabble anymore? The whole taking turns, waiting for someone to ponder the meaning of Q, or debate about using proper nouns... snooze fest!

That's why my new mania is BANANAGRAMS! I honestly don't think I've ever been beaten at this game. I don't know what it is, but when those tiles spill across the table, I get into a frenzy making words, yelling "Peel" (okay, it's sad to hear everybody sigh as they have to pick another tile while I yell "Peel!" again!).

But hey. Some people are good at skiing, volleyball, card games. Me, I'm good at Bananagrams! It's nice to find my calling in life!

I'm so in love with this game, I'm even creating still art photographs...


What's your favorite word game? Think you can beat me?? Let's see!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Don't Peek (at) My Interest

Okay so the English teacher in me cannot. help. it.

I have to address some common errors I see all the time in blogging. Egregious spelling and usage mistakes. Mostly these are homophone errors, which are easy enough to make.

I don't like to interrupt reading blogs (which I find enjoyable) to be the grammar police. I do NOT comment on every blog post I read telling them all their spelling and grammar errors (although many blogs do need to utilize the spell check more than they do!).

However, since I am seeing some of the SAME errors over and over, I thought I'd write up some instructional blog posts that might be helpful. If the shoe fits. Wear it. If the spell checker is on your toolbar. Use it!

First up.

PIQUE

Pronounced: "peek"

Definition: To excite (interest, curiosity, etc.): Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip.

Usage Error: Instead of pique, I often see writers use the incorrect spelling "peek" or "peak." All three words have the same exact pronunciation.


Let me help you out.
  • PEEK = a brief look or glance. Can be a noun or verb. (Take a peek. She peeked at the book.)
  • PEAK = a sharp or pointed end, highest level, summit of a mountain. (A widow's peak. The peak of his career. The peak of Mt. Everest).
  • PIQUE = to excite or stimulate interest or curiosity. (Have I piqued your interest?).
Keep them straight with these tricks:
  • Peek = involves looking with your eyes. You have two eyes. There are two e's in the word. Imagine those e's are little eyes looking at something sideways.
  • Peak = means the tip or high point. There is an A in the word. A capital letter A has a high point just like a mountain.
  • Pique = has to do with getting someone interested. There is an I in this word. I for Interest!
Got that? Hope that helps you discern between these three commonly confused words!

Don't be peeking (at) my interest anymore. That brings me to the peak of frustration, grammatically! But I love to have my interest piqued!

Are there other words that you have a hard time remembering how to use? I'd be happy to write a post about them! Just let me know!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Book Review: Unto the Hills by Billy Graham (Rated 5/5)

Do you find it hard to squeeze in some quiet time? And when you do, you find you can't concentrate, or what you read just doesn't give you anything to think about?

Recently I was sent the Billy Graham devotional Unto the Hills. I like having a devotional book that gives me a nugget of thought to turn over in my mind throughout the day.

Unto the Hills is set up in a similar format to Our Daily Bread. However, I found the selections to be longer and a bit meatier. Every day gives a verse, then the devotional, and ends with a prayer.

Graham writes in a light style that makes for an easy read, but the daily messages have a subtle depth and contain doctrinal value. They aren't merely fluff or "feel good" pieces. Graham writes consistently about the price of our salvation in Christ's death, poses questions about where our values lie (in the material or the spiritual), and urges Christians away from compromise and towards following Christ.

He adeptly weaves in personal narrative, anecdotes, persuasive questioning, and scripture references to bring a challenging thought for each day. I especially enjoyed the prayer selection at the end, because it brings a sense of closure to the piece, and leaves me pondering how to incorporate the daily lesson into my personal life.

Whether read day by day, or several selections at a time, Unto the Hills is a daily devotional easy to add to daily Bible reading even for those with busy schedules!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I write a lot.

I'm doing a ton of writing lately. I'm not sure if it's helping improve my style or not... but it's a lot of writing! Here's where and what I'm writing:

  1. Our family and parenting blog - of course, I do daily (sometimes more) posts on A Year With Mom and Dad - product reviews, personal posts, etc. This keeps me pretty busy!
  2. Sometimes I get paid post opportunities that don't really fit our family blog but, it's nice to get paid for writing, so I put them on my alternate product review blog.
  3. Our gardening blog - every once in awhile I think of something to say at Once Upon a Garden
  4. Here - lately I've been writing about the modern style of writing that blogging has produced.
  5. Guest posting - I am working on some guest posts for other blogs. And I'll be starting to do some product reviews here soon.
  6. Freelance writing - I do some occasional online writing for Avon MotoPhoto and will be helping them out with their company blog soon! (If you have a small business that needs some copy writing, just email me!).
  7. Bible Adventure Club - I write the character stories for our church's kid program on Wednesday night. Tales of the Wild West and Uncle Jed! This is my most fun writing!
Sort of writing stuff:
I applied to be a writing instructor at Brave Writer - I will find out if they accepted my application in a week or so. That may not really mean I'll be writing more, but I'll be more involved in the work of writing.

So, wow, I've been doing a lot of writing. I wish I did more creative writing. But I'm glad that I'm keeping the writing going in any genre, and I'll weave in the creative pieces from time to time too!

Do you write? Where do you write?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If Shakespeare Blogged...

Blogging is such an infant genre. It's changing the way we write. What we write about. Our audience. And the way we interact with our readers.

I got to wondering what would've happened if some well-known authors had blogs. Here's what I surmise:

Victor Hugo: Would've lost his audience with his intricate sentences and terribly long paragraphs. Not to mention that he could stay on one topic for about sixty pages (see description of Paris in The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Blogging would not be a good genre for him.

T.S. Eliot: Would've never gotten any Google page rank, due to having far too many outbound links on his home page. You know, the footnotes and all. But probably would've found a niche audience regardless.

Shakespeare: Now here's a blogger waiting to happen. He would've broken his posts up into acts. He would've created his own Memes like "Soliloquy Saturdays" and "Sonnet Sundays." Perhaps "Tragic Post Thursday. And who would dare leave a snarky comment on his posts? Because he's the insult and comeback king!

J. R. R. Tolkien: Blogger spell check would not tolerate his penchant for using Elfin languages and made-up words. Samwise Gamgee? Frodo? Golum? There would be red squiggle lines underneath every other word, and Tolkien would spend his time clicking "ignore word" over and over. (same for e. e. cummings).

Thoreau: Might have been a good nature blogger, but probably wouldn't have an internet connection where he lived.

Samuel Johnson: Would get the most pingbacks as other bloggers would quote his posts extensively.

Jane Austen: Would've had a dating and relationships advice blog.

These are just the ones that popped in my head...

What do you think other authors' blogs might have looked like?




Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Strike That! Another Bit of Blog Grammar

Have you noticed the latest trend in online writing? The strike through.

Right. Like when you're drafting and realize you have a better way to say what you already wrote. So you strike through a portion of your draft and write a new phrase or sentence.

These drafts used to end up crumbled in so many piles around a garbage can. But lately, the strike through has become a way of writing. Not a way of masking drafting a writer's initial thoughts, but a way of expanding on a thought. The purposeful strike through.

The author wants you to see the sarcastic, humorous, original thought first written. It's a feint. A way of making the reader privy to the author's truest thoughts, so true and deep the author considers striking them from the record.

But no. Because there they are, clearly visible through the strike through. And plainly the author wants the world to read the strike through.

It's quite effective for adding interest. Can come off as humorous, the author's way of illuminating their real thoughts, or showing how they tempered an initial reaction. But not-so-subtly letting the reader know there is more to the story.

I find it a novelty. A mix of typographical element and verbiage. I have not mastered the use of this burgeoning trend yet, but waiting my moment for when I can employ it to greatest effect. Rough drafting may never be the same again!

Do you use the strike through effect often in your own writing? What do you think of this trend? Love it / Hate it? Is it here to stay? Passing through?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Gepetto Knew

It's obscure,
this reference to an old Italian
wood maker...but he knew
the joy of making something
with your own two hands
and having it spring to life
before your very eyes.

Tonight,
I looked
and where there was a baby
that I had held in my hands
for twelve months round and rolly,
now stood a sturdy boy--
a real boy!

Gepetto knew
this same spurt of joy
that ran through me all at once
to realize our little one
was growing up
no longer a baby--
a real little boy!

3/5/11
J. K.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The. One. Word. Sentence.

It's a anomaly I've noticed lately. Bloggers are doing it. Facebook statuses. Twitter tweets.

Fragments can be effective. But this is more than a fragment. It's a totally fragmented entire sentence. Like this:

I. Am. Not. Amused.

It's clever. And has become ubiquitous. I'm curious to know where it originated. And just how it has spread so organically throughout the Internet.

I have used it on occasion. I'm not sure whether I love it or hate it. But I think the One Word Sentence is here to stay.

What do you think about this style of writing?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Like The Butterfly

You are
curious
like the butterfly
that flits from this
to that
hovering here
for an instant,
then whirling
to find a new resting place.

Bright in spirit
and color
you suck the sweet
from all you see
and leave behind
tracings of your delicate
feet
echos
of pitter-patterings.

I love
this curiosity
and never tire
to watch you fly
from delight to delight
your smile the sunlight
to my flower.

Why I Write

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.
~Vita Sackville-West

This author captures it so perfectly... sometimes what I say might not seem so important at the moment. But I have a terribly bad memory. I go back and read pieces I wrote a year, two years, ten years ago, and I wonder if I really even wrote them, or if those things happened to me.

If I didn't write them down, I might not recall them at all. So I write.

Our Ideal Family Vacation!

It's the time of year when my husband and I start thinking about how we want to spend his February, April and Summer Vacation time (he's a teacher). With the rising costs of airfare, the added hassles at the airport, and a baby in tow, driving will definitely be our first option. What I like about driving also, is you can come and go as you please once you arrive at your destination - no waiting for cabs or trying to figure out public transit in a strange place.

As we plan for this year's trips, here are my top must haves for a great family getaway in the good old US of A!
  • Scenic Route - since we'll drive everywhere, it's important to take in the sights while we travel. Driving up Route 7 or along Route 6 in Connecticut is definitely a great way to go. I like how trip planners often offer "scenic route" as part of their mapping options. Plus, we have often found hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bookstores by taking the road less traveled by. My favorite stop was a restaurant that WAS a bookstore, and they even let each patron take home 3 selections from their used book collection every time you eat there! (Called The Travelers Restaurant - last CT exit on Rt 84 East!).
  • Locavore - Whether we stay close to home or far, we love to find local restaurants and stores that give us an authentic flavor of the area. You know, the ones still run by mom and pop? Where they hand make everything. And their children are working alongside them in the kitchen. And they get all their ingredients from local farmers. Yeah, those are our favorite kinds of places! Besides, we can go to the chain restaurants at home - when we're on vacation, we want an adventure!
  • Water Works - I love the water! So we typically vacation near a lake, river, beach, or at least at a hotel with a good sized pool! Our favorite places so far have been Westbrook, CT; Block Island, RI, Lake George, NY, Camden Harbor, ME, and various campsites in MA, VT, and NH. Having water nearby opens up a lot of activities, from the basic swimming and sunning, to canoeing, paddle-boats, sunset tours, and more!
  • Clean Bathrooms - no matter whether we camp out, stay in a hotel, or a bed and breakfast, clean bathrooms are a must-have for me. I actually check campground sites for photos of their bathhouses! I like there to be privacy, and room - with children running about, you need space to bring all their bath gear and to bathe them.
I have fond memories of my childhood vacations - we drove from New England to Ohio, to Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and more... I remember playing in the car with my siblings, hoping out to look over the edge of mountains at rest stops, and the exciting feeling of being "on the road." I hope to plan lots of road trips for our growing family! So far, we have planned a trip to New York City for our baby's birthday, a tentative trip to Washington DC for cherry blossom season, and possibly a camping trip to Virginia in the summer. Plus, we want to take several day trips out to local farms to sample their produce throughout the growing season. Phew, that's a lot of driving, but I know we'll have fond memories and see a big chunk of the Eastern Seaboard in the process!

Where do you like to go on vacation? What makes a perfect vacation for you?

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Writer, Where Art Thou?

I might seem delinquent on this blog lately. But I am not gone. I have merely shifted my energies... the irony is that in my rediscovery of blogging love, I actually neglected the blog that started it all - this one! I began this blog, A Writer Within, to motivate myself to do more writing, be creative, express myself, share my opinions. Sometimes this has been misunderstood, and even used against me (maliciously, and inaccurately). That is not my problem. As the years went by, I discovered I was writing a significant number of entries on sub-topics I felt were in and of themselves "blog-worthy," and I started other blogs to encompass those topics.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to my most prolific blog: A Year With Mom and Dad - a parenting and family blog that also features product reviews and giveaways for families and kids.

I wanted to start a blog primarily focused on our growing family - as we added a new baby boy to our lives in February 2010, I realized I had a lot to say about all things mommy and parenting! I wanted to write them down, but found my handwritten diary wasn't working for the topics I had in my head - I couldn't organize my ideas into categories, it was messy, and I wanted to SHARE my thoughts. I wanted to use my new motherhood experiences to help other moms, not merely to be recorded in a book for just me. So I started A Year With Mom and Dad in March 2010 to record milestones, photos, and of course talk about all the ideas, opinions, and products that come my way!

What I love is that my husband is so supportive of my new venture, and he also sometimes writes a "Dad's Log" feature that I love to read - it is a blessing to see how parenthood looks from his perspective (and he's been holding out on what a good writer he can be!). I also love doing product reviews. It's exciting to try new products - some of which have barely hit the market! I enjoy voicing my opinions and sharing ideas for how moms can use these products. I also needed an outlet for my favorite mommy topic: cloth diapering. Since I didn't want to bore my IRL (in-real-life) friends to death, I decided to have a weekly feature of cloth diapers on Fridays on my parenting blog. It's worked out really well, and I've done several "events" that feature and promote cloth diapering.

Overall, I am happy with the blogging strides I have made in the past year - I am writing more, I am writing for an audience, and I feel I am keeping my writing and editing skills sharp despite being away from the professional world of teaching. I wish I had kept up a bit more over here. It just seems all the mommy-thoughts crowd out other ideas! But I know I will have opinions, concerns and ideas that are non-mom that I will need to share here. So don't worry - I have not gone away... and with any luck, you'll be seeing more of me!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Evidence

Saturday, January 01, 2011

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