A Confessionary Tale.


“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I confess that: although I’ve been working feverishly on WATERCOLORS and have been looking forward to some downtime for the past few weeks, now that the first draft is officially finished (!) and I’m not at my writing desk this morning, I already miss my characters.

I confess that: I didn’t think I’d be much of an audiobook person, but thanks to an awesome app for the iPod, I’ve become a huge fan and now love listening to books as much as reading them.

I confess that: I’m super disappointed today, because instead of visiting my friend and her sweet daughters, I’m stuck at home with what seems to be the beginning of a sinus infection. Really bad timing, body.

I confess that: I’ve become totally addicted to Shark Tank this season and would happily watch it all day if possible.

I confess that: everything else fell by the wayside when I was in my must-finish-this-draft frenzy, so now my non-writing to-do list is about seventeen miles long.

I confess that: I check the long-range weather forecast every morning, hoping to finally see some 70s, and am crossing my fingers because it looks like Friday might be the time.

I confess that: I click on over to my inbox way too many times per day.

I confess that: Rita’s Water Ice has only been open for a month and a half and I’ve already been there five times. Oops?

I confess that: I recently bought myself a new beaded bracelet from Emme Rylan’s etsy shop and an awesome purple purse. Because sometimes we have to treat ourselves, right?

I confess that: I’m jealous of everyone going to Washington DC this week, since last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival didn’t actually have many blossoms.

Your turn! What do you confess?

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Why I’ve Been MIA:


“The greatest wealth is health.”
~Virgil

Well … hi. Long time, no talk, huh? My apologies for the disappearing act. I certainly didn’t intend to go nearly three weeks without posting. Sometimes life has other plans, though. Remember when I mentioned my tinnitus back in October? Since it hasn’t gone away, I went for two follow-up tests at the beginning of this month, one to check the auditory nerve and the other to check my balance nerve. It seemed like they went well, but when I met with my ENT to discuss the results last Monday, I found out that, although the auditory nerve checked out fine, there was an unusual finding with the balance nerve. Couple that with the fact that my hearing is still good and you have an even more out of the ordinary result. The next step? An MRI. On my brain. With and without contrast. It didn’t matter that it was more of a precautionary measure than a blazing red danger flag, I was terrified – sick-to-my-stomach, nerves-twisted-into-knots, unable-to-focus-on anything-else terrified. I know there’s a really serious medical condition that can cause tinnitus and I was petrified I had it. When you hear “brain MRI” how can you not be afraid, right? Add the fear to my anxiety over the MRI itself – for someone who gets claustrophobic in elevators, the idea of having to stay completely still in such a confined place was, to put it mildly, unpleasant – and you can probably tell why I had such a miserable week leading up to the MRI this past Monday.

Thank goodness for Open MRI technology that provides a little more room. For kind technicians who explain the whole process beforehand. For Kelly Clarkson, whose music helped immensely when they played it for me during the procedure. For my mom, who came back with me, because sometimes even thirty-year-olds need to hold their mom’s hand. For an amazing family and friends who supported me, loved me, and tried so hard to ease my worries when all I felt like doing was crying. And for a wonderful, compassionate doctor who had all my best interests at heart and who celebrated right alongside me when the scans came back “perfectly normal.” I cannot even begin to explain the relief and gratitude I felt as I sat in her office yesterday, hearing what she’d been checking for and knowing I got the all-clear. For the first time in over a week, it felt like I could breathe again.

I can’t even tell you guys how great it was to sit back down at my writing desk this morning with a clear mind. Yes, I’d planned out a day-by-day schedule for drafting the rest of this novel and have to tweak it now. Yes, it took a couple pages to get back into the swing of things, because even when I was writing over the past week, it was incredibly difficult to concentrate. Yes, I know this book is going to need a lot of revisions down the line, much more than previous ones. But that’s okay. All of it is okay. I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember, a total Type A personality who struggles with flexibility and gets frustrated with myself so easily, but this whole experience has been such a good reminder: don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t even sweat the big stuff. As long as we’re healthy, as long as we have a support system of fabulous people who will link arms to offer a safety net when we feel like we’re falling … the rest will come together.

A long, panicky, stressful, frightening week? Absolutely. But an important lesson learned and an overwhelming sense of gratitude? Also … absolutely.

All in the Numbers, Part Two.


“When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings.”
~W.E.B. Du Bois

6: the number showing our current windchill, which, believe it or not, is actually an improvement over some of the temperatures we’ve seen here lately. Between the frigid digits and the snowfall practically every other day, I think it’s safe to say everyone is counting down to spring. Fifty-two days, y’all!

46,440: the number of words in WATERCOLORS, my WIP, which has been such an interesting and eye-opening journey since day one. I’m going to write a separate post about this soon, but for now I’ll just say: it’s amazing how every book truly is an entirely different experience. Eden’s keeping me on my toes, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes me next.

9: the number of days until Kristin Chenoweth’s concert and M&G. I can’t wait to have a chance to talk with her and am already considering the notecard option (like I did with Kelly), so I don’t forget anything. To say I’m ridiculously excited for this opportunity is an understatement.

26: the number of books I’m hoping to dive into this year, although if my to-read list is any indication, it should really be double that amount. So many stories, not enough hours in the day.

4,812,692: the number of times I check my inbox daily. Kidding. Sort of. This querying business is a good reminder that patience is indeed a virtue.

What numbers are defining your weekend?

Home Sweet Home.


“My heart’s like an open book
For the whole world to read
Sometimes nothing keeps me together at the seams
I’m on my way, I’m on my way
Home sweet home.”
~Carrie Underwood, “Home Sweet Home”

It’s been more than thirteen years since my Gram sold her house, but I still remember it like it was yesterday – the way we all helped box things up, the way I sat at the kitchen table with my European History binder and studied for an upcoming test instead of going home to do it, the way we took pictures in every room so we’d have tangible reminders in addition to the memories painted in our minds. Thirteen years and I still think about those days. I still think about that house, with its aqua and peach floral sofas, its warm and shaggy rugs, its piano in the living room and its sliding glass door straight to the backyard. I think about the afternoons with Granddaddy and how he taught me to play checkers, about the evenings with Gram and how she’d treat me to ice cream with pretzels when I slept over, about how I could spend hours organizing her sewing box and looking through old photo albums. I think about eating chicken soup in the kitchen, watching Home Alone in the family room, and having countless holiday meals in the dining room. Sometimes the memories feel like fairy dust and I wish for the ability to toss them into the air, to watch them light up the sky like tiny glittering stars. In a way, that’s what they are for me: stars to illuminate the way.

So maybe it’s a little strange that I haven’t driven past the house since it was sold. The new owners actually told our family to feel free to drop by anytime, even if we wanted to come in, but I could never bring myself to do it, knowing how different things would look. I wanted to keep that image in my head of how it was, of how, to me, it should always be. My mom and aunt have both driven by over the years, as did Gram. But I just … couldn’t. Until two weeks ago. My mom and I happened to be nearby, and though she offered to navigate around that beloved street, I told her to keep going. I averted my gaze when we went by – the facade is almost completely different now and I knew it would upset me – but just being there … maybe this sounds strange, but I swear, I could feel Gram’s warmth. It made me sad, because I miss her so, but it also filled me with love. Home is so much more than the walls of a house, but sometimes their foundations can also be our own.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. So much of the book I’m working on is centered around home – what it means to lose it, to find it, to create it. Like several of my other characters, Eden has traveled from one place to another in search of the life that will fill her up, that will make her soul sing. She wants so desperately to have somewhere she belongs, and as I go on that journey with her, as I watch her realize that home isn’t what makes her, but what she makes of it, I’m filled with appreciation for the experiences I’ve had. For having so many spots that are home to me. For being able to close my eyes and think of different houses, different towns, different states that warm my heart. I hope Eden can find that, too. I hope Serena, who has escaped the walls that trapped her, can find it. I hope Wilson and his sweet daughter Emmalynn can. I hope the whole cast of characters can. I want them to so very much.

Being a writer really has made my heart into an open book. It’s cathartic in a way I can’t ever explain, especially when I get to incorporate pieces of my own story into those of my characters. Eden’s grandmother Lillian may live in a cottage by the water instead of a ranch house on the outskirts of a city, but the times they shared there when Eden was growing up … they are my reminder of times I spent with Gram and Grandmom Dot. And so I’m grateful to this book, to these characters, just as I have been to previous ones, for stirring up the magic and memories that live inside. Because for me, writing isn’t just storytelling.

Writing is home, too.

It’s Okay.


“Don’t dream your life; live your dream.”
~Anonymous

It’s okay if you’re having a day when you just want to shout it out. Our voices are meant to be heard.

It’s okay if it seems like things keep going wrong. That’ll make it even better when they go right.

It’s okay if the place you want to visit most feels out of your reach. You’ll get there someday.

It’s okay if you constantly give of yourself and it isn’t reciprocated. At least you know you tried.

It’s okay if you’re waiting for your future to start. It gives you time to enjoy the present.

It’s okay if some experiences leave you frustrated. Others leave you inspired.

It’s okay if you build a project brick by brick. Laying the foundation is crucial.

It’s okay if things need to be tweaked and plans changed. Sometimes the unexpected is meant to be.

It’s okay if everyone else seems to be sprinting ahead. Appreciate your pace and the gifts it offers.

It’s okay if you take it one step at a time. That is, after all, the only way to travel a great distance.

It’s okay. It’s more than okay.

Who Are You?


“Only when you are aware of the uniqueness of everyone’s individual body will you begin to have a sense of your own self-worth.”
~Ma Jian

I’ve learned a lot from being a writer: how to bring characters to life, how to show instead of tell, how to take fictional people and make them feel real as I travel along on their journeys, how to weave a story arc with a clear sense of beginning, middle, and end. I’ve learned about voice, about plot, about dialogue, about pacing. I’ve learned more than I ever could’ve imagined at the outset, and I am grateful. So grateful.

But it isn’t only about the mechanics. It isn’t only about the techniques. It isn’t only about the craft. In fact, it isn’t only about who I am as a writer. It’s also about who I am as a person.

I think one of the things we all (or, at least, most of us) struggle with is a sense of self-worth. Where does it come from? Inside or outside? Others or ourselves? What we do or who we are? It’s difficult to differentiate sometimes. For me personally, it’s always been a jumble, a package tied up messily with a waterfall of ribbons instead of a neat, tidy bow. When you take a path as untraditional as being a writer, there are always going to be people who pass judgment. And, of course, it’s not just limited to writers. There are so many careers, so many works of heart, that others are quick to look down upon. It’s sad. But we don’t have to let it define us. For awhile, I’d do everything possible to avoid the “What do you do?” question. I didn’t want to justify my choices to inquisitive eyes. Now? Now I am proud to explain what I do, because truly, it’s also a part of who I am.

And what about the process of trying to get published? Anyone who’s been there knows what an emotional roller-coaster it is. I use that phrase a lot on here, but honestly, I can’t think of any better way to describe it. We are always opening ourselves up to the opinions of others: critique partners, agents, editors, readers … the list goes on. When so much of this industry relies on external validation, what happens to the sense of self, the sense of worth, that lives deep inside? I wish I had a good answer for that. It’s something I’m constantly trying to figure out as I throw myself, once again, into the querying process. Because the thing is, yes, the agents’ opinions matter. Of course they do. They matter a lot. But that doesn’t take away from the other people who have read our work. It doesn’t lessen the swell of joy we got from their reactions to our words, to our characters, to our stories. I think it’s important to remember that. We always hear that this industry is subjective. And it is. Sometimes that’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Are there still times when it gets me down? Yes. I’d venture to guess that most writers feel that way. But when it does, I stop and remember something Remi taught me:

“The time away was good, probably even crucial, because it gave me a chance to miss that part of myself. It gave me the distance and clarity to realize that, first and foremost, I have to write for me. It can’t be about publication. It has to be about leaving my heart on the page and knowing, no matter what, I have something to be proud of in the work itself.”

Some people look at me a little funny when I talk about discovering things from my characters, but oh how true that is. Remi’s lesson is one I needed to learn, too. And it’s not only about writing. It’s about everything. There will always be people who let us down, people who, as Mark Twain said, treat us as an option even though we make them a priority. It’s so easy to let them influence our self-worth, to let them get us down – been there, done that – but really, isn’t that more about them than us? Going the extra mile for people is something I’m proud of, even if it’s taken for granted. I don’t want to stop being that person just because it sets me up to get hurt. I guess what I’m saying is … yes, other people impact who we are, but only we can define it. We are all unique. Why not celebrate that?

I’m curious: do you all agree? How do you build a sense of self?

Do you know?


“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.”
~Anonymous

– Know what’s annoying? Super-maddening-makes-you-want-to-scream-from-a-mountaintop annoying? Tinnitus. I woke up last Thursday with a constant ringing in my right ear, kind of like the fire alarm you’d hear in a school building, and it’s been playing its irritating tune ever since. It FINALLY shifted to a more muted, lower-pitched sound today – still frustrating, but at least it’s not driving me up a wall. Working, reading, and even sleeping (especially sleeping) have been a challenge, because when it’s quiet ALL I can hear is the noise, and it’s getting to the point where I’m actually looking forward to seeing an ENT specialist next week to find out what’s going on and how, fingers crossed, to make it stop.

– Know what’s exciting? Super-wonderful-makes-you-want-to-jump-up-and-down exciting? Getting a meet & greet with the fabulous Kristin Chenoweth. She’ll be here for a concert in February and I decided to splurge for the VIP package. It is very important to me – more important than I can explain, really – to express my appreciation to her for her song “Borrowed Angels.” It brought me such comfort after losing Gram back in 2011, such solace after an experience that shattered my family’s collective heart into smithereens, and I desperately want to thank her for that. I already know I’m going to cry, but they will be happy tears. Grateful ones.

– Know what’s addicting? Super-compulsive-makes-you-keep-repeating-it-even-though-it-won’t-change-anything addicting? Refreshing your inbox while querying. Watched pots really don’t ever boil, do they?

– Know what’s invigorating? Super-adrenaline-pumping-makes-you-want-to-imagine-all-the-magic-in-the-world invigorating? Starting to dream up a new book. I’ve had several (very general, still hazy in that whimsical way where they contain so much possibility) ideas floating around in my head since finishing SANDS OF TIME, but I haven’t been ready to focus on them yet. Getting SOT prepared to query was first on my priority list, and to be honest, I was still too swept up in Remi’s and Charlotte’s worlds to even consider jumping into a new one yet. But then Kaitlin suggested a storyline that instantly sent my mind ablaze, and I’m really looking forward to discovering where it will lead. I haven’t started to brainstorm or plan yet, but am hoping to in the next couple weeks. And the best part? Remi and Charlotte get to play a role. I adore tying former MCs into new stories. Something about it just feels special.

What’s currently annoying/exciting/addicting/invigorating in your life?

Thirty.


“Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.”
~Jean Paul

birthday cake

I’m not gonna lie: even with the lessons learned last year on my birthday, I still wasn’t especially looking forward to this one. Thirty. There’s no denying that it’s a milestone, a birthday that somehow feels bigger than the others. And that should be good. It should be a celebration, not a critique – but, as with most things, that’s easier said than done. Entering a new decade always feels like a marker of sorts. How can it not? And so I let myself reflect: on the things I’ve accomplished, on the things I’ve yet to achieve, on the path I’ve travelled thus far and how different it is from the one I once imagined I’d take. Are there things I’d change if given the chance? Of course. But my friend Karly said something last week that has stuck with me and really helped my mindset to do an about-face: that none of us are ever “where we thought we’d be” at any given point. How true is that? Nobody’s plans pan out exactly as they hoped. That’s simply not how life works.

seagulls

So, instead of focusing on the things I’m not happy with, I made a conscious decision to do the opposite. No, I’m not a published author yet, but I’ve written five books and savored the experience each time. I don’t have an agent yet, but the feedback I’ve gotten from people who have read the novels, especially SOT, has touched my heart and made it soar. I’m not working in journalism, where I used to picture myself, but that’s because I’ve found a greater love, a deeper passion. I’m not married yet, I don’t have kids yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. There have been a few eye-opening experiences lately when it comes to different people in my life, and though they were difficult to process at the time, I see now that I’m better off for it. Tough times occur so we can appreciate the lovely ones. People disappoint and hurt us so we can appreciate those who are always there, always supportive. Dreams take a long time to come true so we can appreciate the journey, as well as the destination.

pond

That’s where my thoughts are now. Instead of seeing thirty as a roadblock, I’m choosing to see it as an open road with limitless possibilities. I had a marvelous weekend celebrating – dinner with friends on Friday, family on Saturday, and a trip to the shore Monday through Wednesday. I spent my actual birthday in Atlantic City, where Charlotte and Nolan’s half of SOT is set, and oh my gosh, it was so fun – and so special! – to visit all the places they call home. Steel Pier, Fralinger’s, the Atlantic City Beach Patrol headquarters … it was, truly, like living in their world, and it just made me very happy, very thankful, very hopeful. I even found a picture-perfect miniature conch shell right by the lifeguard stand in Atlantic City. It’s going in the ‘message in a bottle’ on my desk so it’ll officially hold a piece of AC inside. So … I don’t know what thirty has in store, but of this I am sure: I’m looking forward to it and am blessed to have some wonderful people along for the ride.

bday

Here’s hoping for many wishes-come-true for all of us.

On My Mind.


“In summer, the song sings itself.”
~William Carlos Williams

1. Guess who is officially BELOW her target word count goal on this manuscript? Guess who is incredibly excited about it? With five days of edits left to go (not that I’m counting or anything …), the book should end up falling out several thousand words below the initial plan. I am super, super happy about this and super, super pumped about how the story has tightened up throughout this round of revisions. I am also super, super confused – was transferring all my edit notes to my writing journal yesterday (I tend to jot things down frenetically while revising and then recopy them towards the end, so I know what still needs to be changed) and cannot decipher one of my comments for anything. Normally my handwriting is neat, but this … this is what editing looks like.

notes

2. This summer is going way, way, way too quickly. Maybe that’s because the first half was cool and rainy, or maybe it’s because I’ve spent mostly every day indoors editing, but still, I don’t like it. Please slow down, time!

3. Kelly’s concerts will always make for some of my favorite days.

4. Really, really good – and important – lesson from Mark Twain: “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”

5. I may or may not have flipped out (AKA: I definitely flipped out) when I found this on Etsy. It’s my gift to myself for finishing edits, all the way from Ireland (came a week early and I’ve worn it every day since). A message in a bottle for my book about a message in a bottle, complete with a personalized passage from the story inside. I love it. Lots. <3

necklace

What’s on your mind today?

Wordless(ish) Wednesday: finding inspiration everywhere.


“Your story matters. Tell it.”
~Unknown

Like Aly, I have been spending a lot of time lately organizing and de-cluttering. If I’m not sitting down at my desk to revise, chances are I’m cleaning or sorting or rearranging. There’s nothing like revamping a room to give you a fresh perspective – that’s what HGTV tells us and I must agree. Part of my recent redesign includes hanging up and displaying a plethora of inspirational plaques that I’ve bought over the past few years. Here’s a sampling:

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DSC03698

DSC03700

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DSC03701

As you can see, most of my wall hangings are centered around writing, the seashore, and the beauty of dreaming big. How about you? Anyone else a quote and plaque fanatic like I am?