I’m Going Back to Kindergarten

I think it is time to go back to kindergarten.

No, I’m not talking about JC. I’m talking about us. People. Everywhere.

I don’t have to recap for you what has been going on in the world. I know you, like me, are probably overwhelmed by 24-hour news coverage of shootings, bombs, rape cases, racial tension and a presidential election that makes me wish I could actually vote for the Hermione Granger ticket.

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I’m not going to rehash the details, and I’m not going to give you my opinion. In fact, I thought for days about even pressing “publish” on this blog. The beauty and the nightmare of social media is that when anything happens–good, bad, controversial–people can post their opinions about it. But it seems recently that people have forgotten the most basic etiquette and manners. And so I think it is time to go back to kindergarten and remember a few things.

Like to BE NICE. When bad things happen, and when people get hurt, we want to put the blame somewhere. You know that saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? I feel like social media needs a gigantic dose of that.

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And to TAKE TURNS. Social media allows us to talk. And talk. And not pay attention to what other people might be saying.

Or to PLAY. Being connected all the time is exhausting. Go outside, read a book that is made of paper and has no buttons. Walk around a zoo and see real animals, not just videos of them acting cute on YouTube.

Make sure to have a SNACK. When you’re hungry, you’re crabby. When you’re crabby, you take it out on other people.

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Do something with FOCUS. Little kids have an amazing ability to focus intently on things–whether it be building with legos, poking things with a stick, or walking very, very, carefully on an imaginary path when you’re in a hurry. Can you remember the last time you focused on one thing because you loved it, and not because you had to?

That we need to USE OUR WORDS, NOT OUR HANDS. Is it just me, or is the violence out of control? Situations escalate far too quickly. It is so, so frightening.

Finally, DON’T LIE. Just don’t. It will eventually come back to get you–and if it doesn’t, you know what they say about karma.

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What lesson do you think the world needs to remember right now?

Roots, Wings, and the Places We Leave our Hearts

They say the most important things you can give your children are roots and wings. My parents did an excellent job of giving me roots. They run deep into the red soil of north Georgia. I very much love being able to go “home”: the place where I grew up, with familiar landmarks, people and patterns. My wings are akin to those of a penguin: I have them but they’re not terribly practical. 

My husband is the opposite. His wings want to soar. He travels light and often, whereas I overpack to go grocery shopping. 

We have managed to create a child who is a delightful combination. JC travels with excellent ease, but likes his “normal” routine in the morning and evening. As long as I can bookend his days with a semblance of his normal, he is open to adventure in between.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of home recently. We’ve had two household moves in less than a year, and we’re on the tail end of a month long business trip with my husband. His new job has locations in Hawaii and California, and when he travels for long periods, the boy and I get to join him. Next up is Fort Lauderdale. So needless to say, home is kind of a fluid concept right now.

 

Have buddies, will travel

 
I’ve really come to believe that home is less about where you hang you hat, and more about where you leave a peice of your heart.

It’s why home is a house on a hill in a small North Georgia town. It’s where I grew up, both literally and figuratively. It’s where I still run into people I know, and where the twang returns to voice no matter how hard I try to keep it out.

Home is a small campus in Covington, Georgia. Emory University started on the cozy Oxford Campus, and in a way, so did I. Oxford was the first place I lived away from where I grew up, and I love to return in the fall to see the leaves turn and make the campus it’s most beautiful. I always feel like I could run into a younger, more naive version of myself around every corner.

Home is a tangled mess of Atlanta city streets where there is always traffic and I still manage to get lost despite the fact I’ve lived there most of my adult life. Atlanta was the first place I consciously chose to dwell, and I love it. I still get starry-eyed over the skyline, and there are certain city spots that give me comfort like an old friend.

 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

 
Home is a made-up place, where there’s a castle and a mouse and fairy tales unfold every day. Some people call Disney a tourist trap, but I call it home: it’s where my father walked me down the aisle, where my family and I go to focus on each other, and where I can shut out reality every once and awhile.

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And finally, I’m coming to realize home doesn’t have to be a place. It’s the way my husband knows how to hug me just the right way to make the stress of the day melt away. It’s the smell of my husband’s cologne. It’s the way I can just relax around my mom.

It’s sort of a comforting thought, to be honest, that home is not a singular place. That I can find home 5,000 miles away on a tropical island or on a phone call with a familiar voice. That it isn’t just where your heart is, but where you give your heart out.

Where have you left pieces of your heart?

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

Hi everyone! Sorry for the radio silence, but over Thanksgiving I hurt my right shoulder and lost all movement in my arm for a week. Talk about a nightmare for a writer! Since it’s no longer agony to type, I thought I’d bring everyone up to speed on how I fared during this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge.

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I made it to 35,000 words, 15,000 away from the goal number. But I’m not upset or disappointed for 2 reasons:

  1. I wrote every single day. Rear end in chair, pen in hands, keyboard clacking away. Some days, there were lots of words. Other days, there were very (very!) few words. But there were words.
  2. I came to the realization that as far as I’m concerned, a single month is not enough time for me to write a good, real, deep story. The 35,000 words I got down last month aren’t a cohesive novel. It’s perhaps the bones of one–but it was really me getting to know my main character. There’s a lot of internal dialogue. Since I started with a relatively new idea and only did minimal outlining, I’m not really surprised.

I really like to the idea of National Novel Writing Month. I think it helps a lot of people (like me!) sit down and focus. But when I consider some of my favorite contemporary authors–like Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, and Kate Morton–and the fact that it takes them years to research and write a book, I don’t feel so bad about my long process of “getting to know” my characters (not that what I managed to churn out last month is comparable to any of them, but you know what I mean).

I guess I should probably just admit to myself that the fast-paced, deadline-driven atmosphere of NaNoWriMo doesn’t really cater to my life situation or my personality…but I’ll probably try again next year anyway!

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Those are my results–how did you do?!?

 

 

 

It’s my “Blogiversary”!

WordPress was kind enough to inform me yesterday that my little blog has turned a year old! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.

When I launched Mama Writes Words, I was not new to the blogosphere. I had a blog but I felt like I’d written myself into a corner, and I was struggling to write about things that weren’t a part of my world any more–and even worse, I didn’t think any one was listening. So I took a break for about 6 months while I thought about what I wanted out of  blog and the experience. Because blogs take time and effort, and I knew that if I returned to the format I wanted it to be because I was writing about something that I REALLY cared about.

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And so here we are a year later! I’ve loved getting to know all of you who are out there reading–I’ve loved sharing stories about JC, book reviews and getting feedback on my writing. And I’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s okay to break the rules every now and then. For example, I have trouble following a set blogging schedule if it means I have to put up fluff. I’d rather post less and make my posts more meaningful.
  • Not everyone is nice. That’s what the delete button is for. Constructive criticism is good. Meanies are not.
  • Other bloggers can be an awesome support system–and they have some pretty great book suggestions, too.
  • It is really an honor to watch readership grow. Everyone is busy, and the fact that people take time out of their busy days to read and comment amazes me. So if you’re reading, and you keep coming back–thank you.

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Thank you all for inspiring me!

Here’s to another year!

‘The Goldens’ Update

Happy Monday, friends! I’ve been getting some questions about my novel, The Goldens, so I thought I’d give you an update.

Several months ago I decided that I needed to fill out the story a little more, so I made the choice to delay publication. As the story stood, it was more of a novella. When I sent it out to publishers, I was concerned that it was too short. Even after its acceptance, that feeling nagged at me. It has the potential to be a very rich and full story, and I really want it to realize that potential. It’s a good story in the form it is in now, but I want it to be one of those stories that sticks with you long after you read it.

Some people (like my husband) say I’m over thinking it. At first, I thought the same–but then I started dreaming about the characters. I realize that makes me sound a little crazy, but it’s a sure sign that I’m not done with a piece of writing.

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So while it’s not back to the drawing board entirely, I am delving back into David Graff’s life and ironing out some details. I’m excited to see where this story is going to go.

Does this happen to you? Do characters stay in your head after you finish writing (or reading) a story?

It’s National Grouch Day. Where’s my Trash Can?!?

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Sometimes JC, my 5-year-old son, will be having a perfectly fine day and then…SOMETHING HAPPENS.

Maybe he spills his milk. Maybe I make him clean up his legos. Maybe he sees a beetle and he really wanted to see a lady bug. The reason isn’t important. He’s 5 and that means STOMPING FEET POUTY FACE “MOOOOOOOOOOM! This is the WORST THING EVER TO HAPPEN.”

Wouldn’t you, as an adult, just love to be able to do that every now and then? Not all the time, because consistent hissy fits would make us like bratty reality stars without the giant paychecks. But once in a while, when you have a really frustrating first world problem, wouldn’t it be nice to throw down and have a legit tantrum? Here are some reasons I occasionally feel like having a grown-up melt down:

  • I’ve recently cut caffeine and sugar out of my diet, so Starbucks is a super big treat. When I go through that drive-through and take a big gulp and realize they got my order wrong, I want to pound my fists and yell “HULK SMASH!”
  • When I drag all of the clean laundry into the closet and realize last week’s clean laundry is still on the floor in a pile.
  • When I finally get to sit down to look at Instagram and I get halfway through the day’s posts and my phone does something screwy and it refreshes the feed and I have to start over.
  • 10 minutes into any workout. Once I get past that first 10-15 minutes, I’m okay. But man do I feel like whining at the beginning.
  • When nothing in my closet fits right. Anyone else have this issue? When even your favorite sweater just doesn’t work? UGH.

What makes you want to stomp your feet?

This post is brought to you by Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop link up! Go check her out. Her vlogs are a riot and will make you laugh no matter how grouchy you feel.

Time Management and NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month, kindly spat out in every day conversation as NaNoWriMo, starts in a month. This will be my fourth attempt.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, here’s the short version: every November, writers all over the world try to write a novel (50,000 words–although they accept anything over 10,000 words) in 30 days. That is about 1,667 words a day.

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You can outline before November, but aren’t supposed to start writing until the month begins. Outside of personal satisfaction of being able to say, “hey, I wrote a novel in a month!” there are some online publishers who work with NaNoWriMo, so there is a publication possibility.

Like I said before, this will be my fourth attempt. I’ve never even made it halfway through the month without falling so far behind that there is no chance I catch up. But I’m going to try again, despite the million other things I have going on: homeschooling, editing The Goldens, shopping around another fiction piece, and that little thing called motherhood. Why even bother, you ask? Because I’ve been working really hard at time management (staying off Facebook, cough cough) and I think giving myself those daily word count goals will help.

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No excuses!

Here are my time management goals that I’ll be working on this month so that come November, I’ll be ready:

  • I’m going to take the advice from this FastCompany article by Lauren Vanderkam and go on a time hunt: Faulkner [the Executive Director of NaNoWriMo] advises people to “go on a time hunt.” For a week, write down every single thing you do. “Get a really good idea of how you spend your time. Most people really don’t know,” he says. You putter around with the mail pile for 15 minutes while dinner is cooking. You lose 30 minutes following links your friends post on Facebook. There are apparently quite a few time tracking apps available–I’m going to do my homework on them and I’ll report back when I’ve tried a couple out. My guess on my biggest time-sucks? Second guessing my own decisions and social media. I really need to work on making a choice and then tucking it away on the book shelf of my mind, instead of revisiting it and making little tweaks that don’t really change anything. As for social media, I really just need to be careful not to get sucked into Facebook drama (I rarely participate, but I find the snarky comments addicting) and not to lose myself in scrolling through Instagram every time I post something. I think social media is important–for my blog, for interacting with readers and finding new awesome blogs, and for keeping up with family–so I’m not cutting it out. I’m thinking of instituting mental “office hours” where I give myself a block of time to browse and comment.
  • Establishing “This is When Mommy Writes” time with my son. For me to have any negligible block of time during the day to write, I’m going to need his cooperation. 
  • Outlining before November 1st. I’m terrible at outlining, but if I want to write a whole novel in a month, it’s going to be necessary.
  • I’m going to attempt to meal plan for the entire month. If I’m lucky, I do it week by week. Most of the time it happens in 3 day chunks. I feel like I spend a HUGE amount of time looking for recipes and making food during the week. Nothing to do with writing, but having a plan to feed my family will free up a lot of time.

Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Do you prep or just jump right in?