Tag Archives: perseverence

I’ll Be Seeing You

Welcome to Wicked Wednesday, and the final installment of my ghost stories…for now anyway.  I’m going to cheat a little bit, cause this a re-post, but it’s from my third month in at blogging so only 3 people read it.  And it is a scary story.  Also a true one.  So enjoy!  Hope you chatter with me in the comments.

I’ll Be Seeing You

When I was in high school, I worked in a video store for several years.  I had my suspicions that the place was haunted.  I would hear the sound of tapes (it was all VHS then)  being picked off the shelves and put back down down when no one was in there besides me.  The other clerks I worked with said they heard the same noises when they were alone in the store too, but our manager always denied hearing anything.

I would disregard the noises like the rest of us do when we hear creaks and squeaks in our homes, but there were more creepy happenings.  My neighbor worked out of town and enlisted me to take her dog for walks after school.  Our store was family and pet friendly; we kept dog treats behind the counter for when people would come in with their pets.  So I often walked the dog to the video store to pick up movies or my paycheck.  The thing was this dog, who any other time would run up to people, chase squirrels, and lick you to death, wouldn’t get close to the back door of the office!  She would plant her butt down and just halt!  She would not budge.  She’d stare at that door while I’d be pulling and tugging her leash to round the corner with me, dragging her across the carpet.  Eventually she would bolt past the door and halfway down the next aisle before calming down.  I’ve never seen her do this anywhere else.

My friends at the time were obsessed with ghost stories.  One night when I was closing, and it was quiet in the store, my two best friends and a coworker came over with a ouija board.  If you asked me today would I mess around with a ouija board, the answer is no.

My two friends and coworker sat themselves down in the back corner of the store and asked the ouija board some test questions about who worked in the store, what film title someone who wasn’t touching the board was looking at, and eventually who was it that lived in the video store.  Amazed, they ran up to me at the counter and told me there was most certainly a ghost in the store, and he was 13 years old.  He knew all the initials of the people that worked in the store.  And he had told them his family died in a fire years ago.

I was freaked out.  I thought for sure, any moment, my boss would walk in and we’d all get busted for conjuring up spirits in the place.  I walked home and went about my evening, getting ready for bed as normal.

Photo courtesy hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com

My night routine consisted of looping headphones over my bedpost and listening to one of the mixtapes I made while I fell asleep.  That night, I remember waking up and thinking I had only been asleep a short while, but the music wasn’t playing.  I reached up to my dresser top and picked up the tape player.  I hit play.  Nothing happened.  I hit rewind, fast forward, play again.  Nothing.  I assumed the player had died, but was surprised I didn’t wake up to the slow drowning sound it made as the batteries wore down.  I set it back on top of my dresser.

The next morning, I awoke and got ready for the day.  On a whim, while waiting for my mom, I picked up the tape player and hit play.  Billie Holiday crooned, “But I’ll be seeing you…” and the whole rest of the tape was erased.

I assure you I cannot explain how this happened.  There is no record button on my player, so I didn’t accidentally tape over it.  It was not placed next to anything electronic, so there shouldn’t have been any interference.  Whatever, or whoever, it was, from then on, I closed the store very quickly.

And my store manager, admitted to me after I left the store years later that she did think the store was haunted.

What do you think happened?  Have you ever lived or worked in a place you thought was haunted?  Have you ever heard anything like EVP (electronic voice phenomenon)?

Still hungry for more?  Check out the virtual ouija board at your own risk.

Going for the Great

Hello my ghoulies!  We interrupt your normal spookifying blog posts for another blog hop edition of the Life List Club!  Join in the camaraderie of new and old friends helping each other progress towards our goals.  Today I’m talking about zombies over at Sonia Medeiros’ blog and joining me today is the sassy and fashion savvy (she has leopard print pants!!), Jenny Hansen from More Cowbell.  Please welcome Jenny to the stage!

Going For The “Great”

NaNoWriMo is less than two weeks away and writers are flexing their fingers and cracking their knuckles in anticipation. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s when hundreds of thousands of writers around the world swarm to the website, chat rooms and local write-ins to try to bang out fifty thousand words in a month.

That’s 1,667 words per day, or just under seven pages, for all of those who haven’t done the math on this. That’s a big commitment, but it can be done. The goal – at least it’s my goal – is to do it smart.

Like most writers, I don’t just want to end up with words on a page. I want to end with a framework of good words that I can (hopefully) fashion into something great when the dust has settled in December.

I came across a quote at work that I used in a motivational seminar that applies to us crazy writer types:

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” ~ Kenny Rogers

Note: Those of you over here at Jess’ place might not have visited me at my blog (More Cowbell) yet, so you won’t know that I’m a software trainer (aka “Training Goddess”) by day for an accounting firm. It’s my job to get those accountants out of their comfort zone and enjoy the process while they’re at it.

There’s countless ways to motivate people, but a sure way to fire up my accountants is to appeal to their sense of competition. This can be competition with themselves or with someone they admire. Accountants, as a rule, are highly motivated to be the best – each of them strives to have the best research skills, deepest knowledge, etc. Sound familiar?

Here’s five points I presented this last week in a seminar called, “Are You A High-Value Employee?” Below, I’ve adapted these 5 key areas to writers since we are the boss and employee all rolled into one.

Key areas of high value to which all WRITERS should aspire:

1.  Relationships: The ability to connect and interact with co-workers fellow writers, clients publishing professionals, and the community readers.

You and I are building a relationship right now. I post thoughts, you read them, then we discuss (because hopefully y’all will cavort in the comments section). If we enjoy the process we do it again, either here at Jess’ blog or over at More Cowbell. Perhaps you’ll come find me on Twitter (@jhansenwrites). Maybe I’ll come find you.

Relationships will build naturally if you’re open to them. I’ve got writing friends who’ve been on Twitter since January (because I forced them to join a week after I did) and have yet to send a single tweet or monitor a single hashtag. They’re not involved in ROW80 or The Life List Club. They’re not doing what Jess did when she founded Life List Club with Marcia Richards to support other writers: they’re not forming relationships.

As much as we all love to play with words, writing can be a cold, hard endeavor when it’s not going well. Relationships with supportive friends can help brighten up the process and keep you from getting stalled. Building relationships is essential to a writer’s success.

2.  Analysis: The ability to extract the key critical factors of a specific situation.

While accountants get all zippy and hopped up on the word “analysis,” most writers experience an odd yearning to scratch out their eyes or iron their underwear each time they hear it bandied about. Analysis, to most creative people, means numbers and spreadsheets and pain.

Here’s what analysis really means:

a·nal·y·sis/əˈnaləsis/

Noun:    Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something, typically as a basis for discussion or interpretation.

The process of separating something into its constituent elements.

In writer-speak it means “good Craft” and deep edits. We spend a lot of time learning 3-Act structure or creative use of Setting in the hopes that it will seep inside and flow through our fingertips to the page. Those are good goals.

To be a “great” writer, we must be able to revise. If you’re like me, you might be thinking things like, “I don’t wanna!” or “I’ll just ‘know’ what belongs there when I see it.” That kind of whining will let you be a good writer, but probably not a great one.

We must know why we’re adding or taking away from a scene, which means we have to analyze our scenes for what they’re missing (and learn as much as you can about Craft).

3.  Innovation: The ability to design solutions to effectively solve problems.

Writers are incredible innovators. We build people and worlds and invent entire stories. Are we bringing our full innovative powers to bear when we do this? Spending the time and energy to move beyond the nice and easy, to the far-flung limits of our imaginations?

I’ll confess, some days I’m lazy and I just don’t feel like stretching my “what-if muscle.” On those days, my writing is usually OK at best. It’s definitely not within a mile of great. I kick myself later and wonder why I didn’t take a walk, or a run through Twitter or slug down some coffee. All those things give me a boost. Finding out what gives you a boost will help you bring your Innovator to the page.

4.  Knowledge: Depth and breadth of understanding and applying bodies of information.

This is where the ever-present research comes in. Some writers love it, and some don’t. All of us are going to be doing it sooner or later and it seems everyone’s got a different way to go about it.

For some, research is an in-depth journey; still others research by watching reality TV. You need to find out what works best for you, but your end-goal is to know your subject well enough that you can describe it in just a few words.

5.  Experience: The ability to function competently and confidently at appropriate level, having performed in numerous situations and demonstrated task or job fluency.

The same as in your day job, “writing experience” is directly related to writing practice. The more we write and the more books we complete, the greater our confidence and level of skill.

I’ll never figure out why it’s OK to learn job skills slowly, but the same speed for a writer is cause for angst. Perhaps it’s because the writing means more to us than our day jobs. Most writers will tell you they started to hit their stride about the time they finish their third manuscript.

I know some of you are shuddering right now, thinking of all that “wasted time.” I have a question for you perfectionists: Why is it acceptable for multiple attempts when learning to ride a bike, or dance the tango, or knit but it’s an “epic fail” to write a few books before you get good at it?

Lots of first novels remain unpublished for a reason. They were practice for the other books. It takes years to learn the piano, and hours of practice. Maybe you could cut yourself some slack the next time you sit down at the writing page. Enjoy the journey; have some fun. You’re gaining on-the-job experience.

The beauty of being a writer is that we don’t really have to get it right the first time. We just have to try our very best. Eventually, our best becomes GREAT.

What do you think makes for great writing? What online tool do you like best for networking and building relationships with others? Do you participate in goal-based groups like ROW80, The Life List Club or NaNoWriMo?

Thanks for visiting with us on this Life List Friday! Have a great weekend.

-Jenny

     Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm.

What Exactly IS a Persian Pickle?

Book Review:  The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

When my book club first suggested we read a book called The Persian Pickle Club, I was skeptic.  It sounded hokey.  It’s a book about women who eat pickles?  No, that would be boring.

To start, I had to look up what a Persian Pickle was.  If I had to read about it, it better be interesting!  A Persian pickle is actually another name for a paisley design, often used by quilters.  And Sandra Dallas’ book is about a group of women who get together once a week to quilt in Depression era Kansas.

A Persian Pickle Design

What I didn’t expect from a book with this title about a group of women quilters is how Desperate Housewives it was!  Just goes to show me, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared about my book club, so allow me to divulge a little club member love to my fellow readers.  I joined this book club four or five months ago after a coworker invited me fully divulging I’d be the youngest one there by 20-30 years.  I was a bit nervous walking into the houses of these women (we take turns hosting the book of the month).  Their houses were in the suburbs, beautiful large rooms, fancy dishes, hand painted wall murals or oversize family portraits.  I live with two boys and I can’t have nice things.  What was I going to have in common with any of these women?

Well, just goes to show me DON’T JUDGE A BOOK CLUB BY ITS COVER EITHER!  I LOVE going to book club.  The women in this group (there are 11 of us) have lived all over the country (some worked outside the country for a stint), have raised children, survived divorce, remarried, worked as teachers, counselors, nurses, and managers for many years, and know more about the power of laughter than any group I’ve met.  It doesn’t matter the book, the wealth of knowledge about the times, what was happening in the news, in the medical industry, in the education system, gender inequalities, family dynamics, they bring so much to the discussion.  And, oddly enough, they LOVE having me, now known as our “token young person” they make other book clubs jealous that they have me.  I bring new perspectives to the discussion, and being a writing major and gender/sexuality studies minor I have some “back in my head, I once learned…” valuable information to discuss as well.  🙂

Back to the book, Queenie Bean is a Kansas farm wife, confident, content and happy with her life and the world around her.  She is a member of the Persian Pickle Club, a quilting group where the women get together to expand their minds and poke fun at one another as long friendships allow.  Rita Ritter, is the new girl in town, just married and moved from the city, and unable to fit in very well at Persian Pickle, as hard they help her to learn to sew.  If you’re a fan of Desperate Housewives like myself, you should start to see the trend:  new girl moves in to town, doesn’t fit in…where’s the body?

Turns out, this dusty town in Kansas has some secrets, and Rita is determined to find them out!  If you’re thinking of picking up The Persian Pickle Club to read for yourself or a book club, be advised that there are a lot of characters, and they make their appearances rather early in the book.  If you’re planning on having a discussion about them, you may want to jot notes as to who’s who till you get going.  The majority of the characters have some distinct personalities, and everyone in our group adored the narrator, Queenie, because as her husband teased, “it took her less than five minutes to start talking like whoever she was with.”  There are cute comments from Queenie when she learns new lingo from Rita’s city speak, but she has a humble way of speaking the same language with the drifter family that camps out on their farmland.

The book has several interesting themes for discussion regarding gender roles of the times, and religion.  The three most religious people in the book are the three most disliked, Dallas’ turns religion on its head in several instances in the book.  The best discussion of the whole night kept circling back to sisterhood.  Is there a need for a women’s group that provides the safety and support to say whatever and do whatever in life?  I can’t tell you who did it, that wouldn’t make reading the book any fun, but I can tell you the Persian Pickles will remind you of the women in your own life, the ones who helped raise your kids, gave you rides when you needed them, purposely embarrassed themselves to make you feel better, and also made fun of you all the time, but if someone else did it would ream them out royally!

I could share some of our great discussions, but I don’t want to give any of the Pickles’ secrets away.  I hope you pick up a copy and enjoy it.  Dallas writes from experience with the setting, and has created fun loving, memorable characters who will feel like your own best friends.

What do you think?  Is it important to have a supportive group of women friends?  To what lengths would you go for each other? 

Did you know what a Persian Pickle was?  Good, me neither.  But now we do.

 

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