Tag Archives: writing

Read, Revise, Adapt: Why Writing Across Genres Can Benefit Your Writing

read revise adaptHey Friends,

I just got back from a fabulous week at the Write by the Lake writers retreat in Madison, Wisconsin. If you’re searching for conferences to attend next year, I highly recommend this program. I’ve gone the last three years. They offer a dozen different course options that provide intense study into a specific genre or practice for the week. Courses are for all levels from introductory to those with a full manuscript looking for a masterclass.

This year, I swayed from my usual path of nonfiction and opted for the course on picture book writing.

Here’s what I learned: 

My instructor, Georgia Beaverson, had us do a writing prompt on the first day. We had to write down our first memory. The second day we rewrote that memory from another person’s point of view. She then made us edit our wordcount down by HALF (oh, the agony). 

She said we could also try reworking the piece into different tenses, illustrating that a story can be told in many different ways, by different people, and sometimes reworking it can lead to great discoveries.

I’ve been working on my memoir for the last several years, and I’ve reworked some of my essays to be performed for adult storytelling. (I highly recommend taking a storytelling class if you have one in your area. I took one two years ago and it was wonderful!) What I learned by doing so was that moving around and utilizing the space I could tell in, I imagined new ways of describing the action or character emotions in my writing. Performing the scene helped me write a stronger scene.

In the picture book writing class, I adapted one of my essays to be told as a children’s picture book. The audience was entirely different, since I’d previously written and performed for adults. In this instance, I played up sounds, using onomatopoeia, stronger verbs, and I limited description where illustrations could play a role.

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Creating my thumbnail mockup of the picture book.

Using the same plotline, I now had three different ways of telling/performing the story. 

Ohmygawd! Justin Timberlake was right all along! 

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The more you write, the better writer you become, and practicing different kinds of writing tools, genres, and craft elements are key. I was amazed at how each exercise in storytelling, whether on paper or a stage, shaped me as a writer. It was fun, challenging for sure, but rewarding across the board.

Sometimes when we’re stuck, we aren’t sure how to gain that forward momentum again. Whether or not you choose to pursue a different genre or space for your story, trying out different exercises can offer up different questions to make you think, explore, and get that creative blood pumping again.

Things You Can Try:

  • Work with a critique group that has multiple genres – How will their feedback strengthen your writing? (Ex. Will listening to poetry help you improve your word choice and descriptions? Will the romance author help you write funnier characters or scenes?)
  • Adapt your story into different formats (written, spoken, illustrated) – You may discover something new, or gain confidence in an area you previously felt uncomfortable in.
  • Just play – Are you stuck on a scene? Is the writing starting to bore even you? Move around, make yourself do the actions! Try drawing it, what’s the action you want to portray? You don’t have to show this to anyone else, but practicing in new ways can help get you past writer’s block.
  • Change the POV.
  • Change the tense of the story.
  • Change the audience you’re writing for.
  • Read different genres. Listen to people tell stories. Note what draws you in.

How can you rewrite and/or adapt your stories
to learn something new about them?

Got an example?
Share your favorite way to practice writing.

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Who’s Your Dream Author Panel?

James Rollins

Lunch with James Rollins at the Dallas / Fort Worth Writers Conference in 2012.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending several writers conferences around the country and met many great authors who I consider role models. I’m so honored to chat with folks such as James Rollins and Larry Brooks, to interview writing idols like Danielle Trussoni and Karen Abbott. I dressed alike with Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) and spoke Greek with Arianna Huffington. And I am beyond thrilled to welcome Nickolas Butler and Blair Braverman to La Crosse later this year!

Eventbrite, a company that hosts and assists with lots of great conferences and events – I’m attending several coming up including a travel writing course and a gallery reading with a medium! – asked the question “Who’s on your dream author panel?” 

I suppose it’s not practical to say ALL OF THEM!

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There’s little that fills me with as much energy as chatting with other authors. When you’re in a room surrounded by “your people,” it’s pretty awesome. And I’m grateful for every opportunity.

So honestly, many authors are on my dream panel. Those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before and new faces as well. But if I had to narrow it down, then I’d pick from my favorite genre, memoir, and specifically those authors with the ability to infuse humor into the hardships they face.

So Universe, if you can somehow swing these folks to gather AND put me in the same room with them, I’ll keep my fangirl under control (or try to). 

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Naked
Mindy Kaling – Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mishna Wolff – I’m Down
Elaine Lui – Listen to the Squawking Chicken
Caitlyn Moran – Moranifesto
Haven Kimmel – A Girl Named Zippy
Kristin Newman – What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Kevin Kling – The Dog Says How
Roz Chast – Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Laurie Notaro – The Idiot Girl’s Action-Adventure Club

Ten is kind of a lot on a panel isn’t it? I don’t care. I like to dream big.

I’d love to hear the perspectives from this mix of essayists, memoirists, and graphic novelist. This panel would hold stories of coming out, cultural identity, race relations, immigration, surviving abusive relationships, feminism, dysfunctional family, living with a disability, caring for aging parents, and living paycheck to paycheck. Topics to make us feel less alone, walk in someone else’s shoes, and find the laughter in the end. Definitely my favorite genre to dive into.

Dream big! Who would be on YOUR author panel if you could choose? 

Monday Mashup: Writing Tips and Self Care for Writers

I did it again. I filled up my Facebook queue with saved links like Emily Dickinson filled her mattress with poetry slips.

I scoured the internet, so you don’t have to. 🙂

Here are my favorite links from the past couple of weeks.

Writing Tips and Self Care for Writers, Along With Some Food for Thought

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Self Care for Writers by paranormal/fantasy author, Jami Gold, is a must read for writers who like to go from one project to the next and need a reminder to schedule in some downtime too.

Illustrator Andrea Tsurumi shared You’ll Never Have Enough Time about carving out work time and space, avoiding burnout, and what going freelance really means.

If you’re feeling like Andrea from the last post, you’ll also enjoy 5 Tips for Making Writing a Daily Habit.

There’s lots out there about fair pay for writers right now and I thought this article on The Rich Writer Myth by Ros Barber was interesting. It’s written sharing examples of pounds, but I think you can convert it to dollars for us in the states.

Ros followed up her own article with one on The Guardian elaborating on the publishing industry with For Me, Traditional Publishing Means Poverty, But Self-Publish? No Way.

Because we can’t end on the bummer of bucks, or the misery of making moola, here are 20 Empowering Quotes By Female Authors That Are Perfect to Decorate Your Office With.

Self-Care and Body Positivity for All:

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This was my de-stress project this weekend. Adult coloring and playing with my art journal. 

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time accepting compliments. I hear them and I immediately shrug them off or worse, name a flaw right afterwards. It’s something I’m working on. So of course, I saved this article on 7 Tips for Working on Your Self Confidence: Accepting That You’re Awesome.

And if you’re still feeling a little beat up mentally, here’s 6 Ways to Feel Better About Yourself Right Now. Read it, I’ll wait. … There now, don’t you feel better? 🙂

My facebook queue is always full of posts by Heather from Hiya Tootsie, and here’s one I wanted to share with you! What’s Luck Got to Do With It? 3 Ways to Honor the Work Your Dreams Require.

Are you constantly stressed from the day job plus the side hustle? This money saving blog offered all kinds of low stress money-making opportunities as well as a simple plan for setting money aside each month. How I Saved $1000 While Living Paycheck to Paycheck.

Because all bodies deserve respect, you should reward yourself by reading August McLaughlin’s How to REALLY Get Body-Positive. This post was blowing up my twitter feed and it’s worth reading more than once!

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What are the posts saved up in your queues? Got any other good ones to share?
How are you practicing self care this week? 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen To Your Mother: Why I’m Bringing it to La Crosse

Listen to Your Mother is coming to La Crosse!

It’s safe to say I’m really excited to be bringing this national production that gives motherhood a microphone to my city.

If you haven’t heard about LTYM, it all started six years ago in Madison, WI with a mom and blogger named Ann Imig. She put the first show together in two months, folks! This woman is a woman after my gamechanger heart.

LTYMNow, La Crosse, WI is 1 of 41 cities across the country (and Canada) producing a live on-stage performance of original, true stories about mothers and motherhood!

Every city has a different show. Yet every city is recognizing the humorous, heartfelt, sometimes hurtful, hopefully helpful stories that come from our mothers or from being a mother.

But here’s another cool thing!

It’s really inclusive. So the show is open to women AND men. You can write about being a mother. You can write about your mother. OR you can write about the person who raised you.

Auditions are coming up all over! If you’re interested, check out the participating cities and see if there’s a show near you!

For my local friends, auditions are at the end of this month, February 20th, 22nd, and 24th by appointment. And the show date is April 30th. You can visit the Listen to Your Mother – La Crosse blog for full details. 

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Why am I so happy to bring LTYM to La Crosse? 

Because we have a bustling arts community here with so much talent. And I’m sure a lot of people with great stories! No prior stage experience is needed. But what I truly love is the mission behind LTYM, who is committed to sharing diverse stories from all kinds of people. That’s what I love about freelance writing, interviewing strangers, performing improv, and working with my writers group.

Plus, proceeds from every show go back to an organization that benefits women and families. I’m thrilled to be working with the local YWCA for our show, whose mission is to end racism and empower women and girls.

IMG_5865My Local Production Team: L to R – Beth Erickson, Me, Molly Hilligoss

My production team is amazing! I’m super proud to be working with Beth Erickson, owner and editor of Jobe Communications LLC, and Molly Hilligoss, diversity and social justice advocate from the local YWCA.

We’ve been waiting a long time to hear your stories!!

Seriously, this is us gathering last November for an early Thanksgiving lunch production team meeting.

LTYM production team dinnerSince I had just signed them up for a lot of work,
I thought the least I could do was cook for them.

You don’t have to be a professional performer or writer to try out. You could have been on stage 100 times or 0 times. We’ll cast our show based on the full spectrum of stories we hear – kind of like making a great playlist.

So start writing, La Crosse!

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Everyone has a mother story.
What’s yours? 

“Read. Read Everything. Challenge Yourself.” Author Interview with Nickolas Butler

IMG_6763This past fall, I had the pleasure of meeting Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs, at UW-Madison’s Weekend With Your Novel conference.

Nick is a talented and humble guy whose writing is truthful and poetic. He’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and an advocate for aspiring writers everywhere.

Nick was kind enough to chat with me about his work. Because I’m a big fan of his book. 

And he’s giving a copy away to one lucky winner! 

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Me: Describe yourself in three words. 

Nick: Father, husband, friend.

What three words do you wish described you? 

Debonair, raconteur, smoldering.

Ha! Nice.
Describe your book in one sentence. 

“Shotgun Lovesongs” is a novel set in rural Wisconsin about the lifelong bonds of friendship, love, marriage, envy, and childhood.

book-shotgun-lovesongsShotgun Lovesongs tells the story of five friends discovering all the ways they’ve each changed, and yet how much they’re still the same. It’s a poignant and poetic look at growing up, surviving the messy bits, and owning your own life – good and bad. What parts of your life have you “owned” and what are you most proud of? 

I’m most proud of my family and the life we’ve built together, through some real challenges. I’m proud of my wife and her accomplishments, both professionally and in our community. I’m proud of my children, proud of the fact that I think they’re both kind-hearted and compassionate kids. I’m proud of my Mom, and her unflagging work ethic and generosity. Proud of my brother for being one of the best people I’ve ever met. My life has been extremely blessed. I feel very fortunate, every day.

“What parts of my life have I owned”? I think when I was about 27 or 28 I took stock of where I was, what I was doing, and just decided that I needed to work a lot harder at becoming a writer, at becoming the person I wanted to be.

Shotgun Lovesongs is written from five points of view. How did get into each character’s voice?

It was definitely a challenge. Some of the voices/POVs came very easily – Henry, Lee, and Kip. And I can remember finishing one of their chapters and having to transition towards Beth or Ronny, and just really taking about five minutes to close my eyes, and slip into another psyche, another character. And sometimes it was easier, and maybe I’d only need a minute or two. Other times I’d have to walk away from the computer and get a cup of coffee, sort of collect myself. But it was also a lot of fun because each character illuminates the others in the cast. If everything is working right, you should get a more complex portrait of a character.

Did you have a favorite voice to write in?

I’d say Lee, when it comes to “Shotgun Lovesongs”. He’s very observant, in some ways, he thinks about the world musically, lyrically.

As someone who works a full-time job and gets writing in as a “side-hustle,” I appreciated your story about working lots of odd jobs along the way. What were a few of them and how did you carve out time for writing? 

There were so many…

When I was working at Star Liquor in Madison, I wrote after my shifts were done, around 10pm. I’d get home and still be wired, and just write short stories or poems. The thing is: when you’re trying to break through, you have to carve out time as aggressively as you can. This means sleeping less. Socializing less. Watching less TV. If you want something bad enough, you’ll figure out how to make it happen.

You’re a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop. What tool or skill-set did you find most valuable from that experience? 

Iowa was definitely a life-changing experience for me in so many ways. But I think the thing that really pushed me forward was the competition; just going to classes and being surrounded by some of the world’s best young writers. I’d look around and think, I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to read more and work harder.

I think it’s hard to improve your craft without exposure to great writing – either through reading or through teachers or peers. I don’t think you can do it by yourself.

Your book is a love story about Wisconsin. What’s your favorite thing about our state?  

There’s a lot to love and I could literally go on for pages describing favorite cities, state parks, restaurants, sports teams, etc. But for me it comes down to family. I’m surrounded by family and that means everything to me. Family and friends.

Best piece of writing advice? 

Read. Read all the time. Read poetry and non-fiction and fiction and plays and screenplays. Read foreign writers. Read everything. Challenge yourself. Don’t discard any writing – there is something to be learned in everything.

Set a deadline for yourself. Write down your goals. Work when other people are sleeping.

book-beneaththebonfireWhat books are you enjoying right now? 

I’m about to finish Don Winslow’s “The Power of the Dog”, which is fantastic. Imagine George R.R. Martin writing an epic about The War on Drugs. Annie Dillard’s essays. I’m looking forward to reading Helen McDonald’s “H is for Hawk”. I’m rushing through both of Peter Geye’s novels, which are fantastic.

Tell us about your next project! 

My second book, “Beneath the Bonfire” came out in May and is still in hardcover and my next novel, “The Faithlessness of Men” will be published in early 2017 by Ecco.

Thank you so much for chatting with me, Nick! I can’t wait to get Shotgun Lovesongs into another reader’s hands; it really was a book that stuck with me awhile after reading it. 🙂

*****

photo-nickolas-butlerNickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He is the author of the internationally-best selling novel Shotgun Lovesongs and a collection of short stories entitled,Beneath the Bonfire.  He is the winner of France’s prestigious PAGE Prix America, the 2014 Great Lakes Great Reads Award, the 2014 Midwest Independent Booksellers Award, the 2015 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award, the 2015 UW-Whitewater Chancellor’s Regional Literary Award, and has been long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty Dunnan Award for First Novel and short-listed for France’s FNAC Prix.  Along the way, he has worked as: a Burger King maintenance man, a tutor, a telemarketer, a hot-dog vendor, an innkeeper (twice), an office manager, a coffee roaster, a liquor store clerk, and an author escort. His itinerant work includes: potato harvester, grape picker, and Christmas tree axe-man. 

He lives on sixteen acres of land in rural Wisconsin adjacent to a buffalo farm. He is married and has two children.

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Want to win a free copy of Nick’s book? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Have you read Shotgun Lovesongs yet?
How do you aggressively make time to write, or read?

 

Stuff I Meant To Get To And Just Finally Did

18314760839_a7c49e4737_zI’m a fan of the ‘Save Link’ option on Facebook. Only I’m terrible at actually going back and looking at all those saved links.

At any given point and time, my laptop has at least 10 tabs open of blog posts waiting to be read.

So, in honor of New Year’s being just around the corner, and it being a time of year for renewal, I thought I better clear out my digital queue.

Here’s what I meant to read, and just finally did.

Self Care Tips and Do Good Ideas

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How My 2015 Has Felt

My year has been another one of transition and change. It’s been full of stress. And I’m not a good model for slowing down. These posts gave me some food for thought. 

In need of some manageable, quick tasks to help you feel refreshed? Check out 15 Easy Things You Can Do That Will Help When You Feel Like Shit.

Want to reduce your stress level by 68%? Who knew all you had to do was read before bed!

And then when you’re ready to reflect, make some new goals, and treat yo’ self, read 26 Things Every Person Should Do For Themselves At Least Once a Year.

Ready to put some good in the world? 15 Things For When the World is Shitty and Terrifying.

Writing Tips and Blogs to Read

typewriter gifThis year I became a freelance writer, writing both for local magazines as well as online sites. And I’m still plugging away at my book. Here’s hoping I can reserve more time to write in 2016. 

Struggling with some aspect of your writing? Watch out for these culprits: Doubtful Writing Habits You Should Forget About.

How to Be a More Productive Freelancer in 20 Minutes is both a funny read and good advice from the seriously silly Schmutzie. Read for a laugh, stay for the tips.

Jane Friedman is a stellar resource for any writer and she nails it with 5 Reasons You’re Experiencing Writer’s Block.

Now, need a kick in the pants to get going again? Advice in Six Words: 17 Inspirational Writing Tips.

Just For the Fun Of It

funny witherspoonIt’s not Jess Witkins’s Happiness Project without a little fun involved! 

Because it’s not time wasting when important questions are being solved. Which Jane Austen Heroine are You? 

I got Catherine Morland. No surprise there. 😉

Because this is so real it hurts: What Marriage is Really Like.

And lastly, this beautiful round up courtesy The Bloggess, who shared all three Bad Lip Reading versions of Star Wars in We’re Those People.

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Your turn! Show some linky love in the comments below to the posts you’ve been reading or feel free to share one of your own. Let’s keep the blog hopping non-stopping! Cheers, friends! 

 

 

3 Can’t Miss Tips from Weekend With Your Novel

pencil-878695_1920This past weekend I headed to Madison, WI for the university’s continuing studies program, Weekend With Your Novel.

If you’ve never attended one of the Madison writing programs, I highly recommend them. Their spring conference is great for writers of all stages and offers tracks on structure, revision, marketing, and publishing. In addition, agent pitches and panels abound.

If you’re up for more of a retreat that’s been called a “spa for writers” check out their Write by the Lake weeklong summer class. It was crucial to me and the plotting of my book this summer.

This was my first attendance at Weekend With Your Novel, a one and a half day workshop weekend devoted to the writing process. It largely consisted of honing in your craft and offering longer classes to dissect examples and ask questions of the instructor. It provided even more clarity to my book structure and characters. I loved it.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways.

3 Can’t Miss Tips from Weekend With Your Novel

1. Aim High

I was most excited for a class on publishing excerpts of your work while writing your book, which was taught by UW-Madison professor and author Christopher Chambers. His first piece of advice was “aim high.”

If you are writing to pursue publication, then make publication goals for yourself. Where do you want to see your work? Of course you should be realistic, but dream big. The worst that can happen is they don’t publish you, but you’ll never know unless you try.

2. Redefine Failure

Simply put, failure is “something that happens, and it’s good for you,” said lunch keynote, Kathy Steffen.

Sharing one of the most frustrating failures I can imagine, Kathy talked about an online app project she’d written over 100,000 words for, only to have the app fizzle out. Imagine spending that much time and energy on something and then find out it wasn’t going to work. Ugh!

But Kathy also said you should give yourself a thousand second chances. Quit and come back the next day if you need to.

3. Get a Solid Structure

Where Write by the Lake helped me figure out my ending and timeline, Christine DeSmet‘s class on structure helped me figure out how I would plan the overall layout and what I needed to fill in gaps.

One of her tips: Keep your logline and central question at the forefront. Each scene should have them included. If it helps, have them typed at the beginning of each chapter. (You can always take them out later when submitting.) 

Another tip? If you need help creating tension or figuring out what the next scene is, make a list. What are the details you want in the scene? Making a list of what stories you want in the chapter, details you want to include, or elements of danger or trouble that will occur will help trigger your brainstorming and boost tension.

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Those were my favorite tips from the weekend. What are your most helpful tips for staying motivated and improving your writing? 

Any NaNo folks out there having fun,
or in need of a pep talk? 😉

 

I Said ‘Yes’ For a Week, and Here’s What Happened: 5 Lessons Learned

I want to talk to you about…my schedule. It’s busy. I work as a freelance writer, am a board member for my nonprofit writers group, helped found and organize a monthly feminist education series, participate in a book club, attend twice a week rehearsals, and work a 40 hour day job.

You know what? I love it.

Say Yes to the Work

Working lunch. Working on writing assignments over dim sum.

Last week was really hectic for me. I had places to be every night of the week. But I think it was one of the best weeks I’ve had in awhile.

Here’s a little rundown…

Monday night started with a board meeting for my writers group. We are going to be hosting the Feminism on Tap gathering in October and since I work closely with both groups, I’m planning it.

Tuesday was a special treat wherein I traveled a couple towns over to meet with New York storyteller and filmographer, Jen Lee. A dozen area “makers” – artists, craftswomen, writers – gathered to learn about her latest collaboration, The 10 Letters Project, a correspondence documenting the creative process and how we critique ourselves. I was invited to attend because another writer and I were offered the chance to emulate the project.

I spent six hours on wednesday night at the public library for a back to back film showing of Johnny Guitar, the 1954 film by La Crosse, WI born director, Nicholas Ray. I was representing Feminism on Tap and co-led a discussion after each viewing. (And during the second showing, I ate pizza with some of the library staff and wrote one of my freelance articles standing up in the library kitchen.)

10 Letters Project

Jen’s book with fellow storyteller/writer, Tim Manley. Everyone who attended also wrote their own anonymous letters and got to answer one anonymously too. Very cool experience connecting with other makers.

I hemmed and hawed most of Thursday over whether or not to audition for an improvisation group, but the writer I met on Tuesday and will be working with on the local 10 letters project was in the group and invited me to go. I went, expecting an audition and nothing more. It turned out to be a two hour improv workshop wherein I became a monster, a pterodactyl, an overtired mother judging a fake gymnastics tournament, and I pulled (imaginary) gum out of a guy’s mouth. At the end of the two hours, I signed up for the next rehearsal.

Friday afternoon I left work and headed to a dim sum shop where I finished my freelance assignments (due that day). Then I hit up the library book sale and came home with a bag of books just in time for date night with my husband.

Finally on Saturday, I attended the first rehearsal for the improv group, which started with a photo shoot for a newspaper article and show flyers. When I got home, my friend picked me up and we hit the shops so I could help her back to school shop for a family through the Salvation Army and find a wedding gift for her sister.

Wow. I’m tired writing this. 

It sounds exhausting. And it is a little, but in the best possible way. I’m a person that thrives on having lots to do. Too much time will make me bored and I will not leave the house or stop watching movies for days. You guys, I’m really good at watching movies! I can do it all damn day!

But here’s what this week of “YES” taught me. 

1. Saying Yes Leads to Amazing Opportunities

I made new friends and connections all last week. From future partners on events to kindred spirits in creativity. I’m looking forward to partnering with a new writer for our project, and through partnering at the library, I got valuable information about hosting film festivals that may lead to a future partnership. Whatever happens, the best part was it was all fun!

My book sale buys.

My book sale buys.

2. Saying Yes Gets You Out of Your Head

I can be a worrier. I overthink things. I love when I find something that takes me out of my head and makes me focus. I use to think only hard exercise could do this, but I was wrong. Improv allowed this. There’s no time to think in improv! I had to close my mind outside thoughts and completely be in the moment. I love making people laugh (that’s why I wrote a humor blog), but what I loved more and why I decided to join the group was because improv allowed me to get out of my anxious brain and just play. That’s a great life lesson.

3. Saying Yes Helps You Process Quickly

With a jam-packed schedule, I learned fast what parts of it I liked and didn’t like. I learned what my strengths and weaknesses are. I played a variety of roles – from the facilitator to the student – throughout the week. It helped me process where I am in my life journey and what I want to spend my time on.

4. Saying Yes Makes You Vulnerable

I was out of my element more than once last week, but I think that’s ok. I thought a lot about something a friend once wrote that moments in our lives where something big is happening cause us to panic about what we’re going to “give” of ourselves. What kind of impression are we going to make? What witty words are we going to say? But sometimes, those moments aren’t about us giving, they’re about receiving. What can we learn from this now? What am I listening to? What resonates? I took a step back a few times and reminded myself that I was in a “receiving” moment, and to enjoy the experience.

5. Saying Yes Makes Each Moment Matter

When time is precious and packed, then the things you’re doing with it have to be just as important. I’m glad I was able to still have a date with my husband and go out with a friend. You learn what things you’re willing to cut out in order to preserve others. Yes, I was busy. But I still spent quality time with the ones I love. In fact, I even called my mother. 😉

Tell me about a time you said yes and it led to something great. 

Authors Anonymous: My Most Stupidest Act as a Writer

I have always wanted to be a writer. Sure there were passing ideas about being a translator for the United Nations, a spy, and a voiceover artist, but through all those fleeting occupation plans, I’ve wanted to be a writer.

I think the first story I ever wrote was called ‘Fluffy the Cat,’ and it was about a cat named Fluffy. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, I did show talent early on. You can call me gifted, I don’t mind.

When we start out as little baby writers, we emulate the authors we know and love. I went through phases where I wrote like Dr. Seuss and Cicely Mary Barker (the author/illustrator of all those Flower Fairy poems), Sylvia Plath and Peggy Hong. When I found Adrienne Rich’s The Fact of a Doorframe, it became my Bible. My copy is full of post-it tabs and the binding is broken. I wrote like 20 papers on her in college.

Somewhere along our writer journey, we’re supposed to take the lessons we’ve learned from other authors and infuse them with our own process. I may have taken that first bit too literally. 17152401969_93d951142f_z

I know all of us make stupid decisions while in high school, but I made really stupid decisions in high school. For example, I thought a stellar look for my first homecoming dance would be to have my friend’s mom make me a renaissance outfit using gray and lavender plaid flannel fabric for the skirt. Who thinks of flannel for a formal dance? This girl. But this isn’t a post about fashion, it’s about writing. And I’m going to confess my most stupidest act as a writer. Are you ready for this?

My Most Stupidest Act as a Writer

I cheated on my boyfriend. I see some of you are confused. I can explain. I truly believed, in the deep down pit of my soul, that I did what I did because I thought it would make me a better writer. Pretty stupid, huh?

I was reading all these books about forbidden romances and free love and I was talking about them with someone I thought was a friend. I trusted her when she gave me advice. I know now, I was pretty much just a form of entertainment for her. She could live vicariously through me because I was the one making bad choices, hurting others’ feelings without any regard. How I wish I hadn’t been so naive.

Of course I’m sad that someone I thought was my friend didn’t talk a lick of sense into me, but ultimately this was my mistake. I believed the only way I could write like all these other authors I loved was to “experience everything.” Did the pain I caused my boyfriend make me a better writer? No. Of course not. Did it make me a better person? I hope so. I sure as hell would never put anyone through that kind of pain again, and as karma would have it, I felt what it was like personally a few years later. I don’t condemn all cheaters. People do what they do for all sorts of reasons. But thinking it would make them a better writer? Yah, if I hadn’t fooled myself into thinking that, I wouldn’t understand it.

So there you have it. My confession. My dirty little secret. I’m not proud of it. But I often wonder if the life lesson overall wasn’t worth it. I learned what it means to hurt someone, I learned what it means to be hurt by a friend. I don’t think it helped me with craft or editing, but it helped remind me I’m human. I will make mistakes – foolish ones I won’t believe I did. But I will try better next time.

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done in the name of writing? I bet it’s not as stupid as mine.

Do You Like Me? Yes or No: Love Notes from SEO

All writers and bloggers know that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a crucial part of establishing your online brand. Tags and Keywords are required in order for the Internet Gods to find you and connect you with readers. With tags, we have a say. We can edit our own tags to include the subject matter we blog about in hopes that interested readers will search those tags and find us. For example, I’ve tagged this post to come up in searches for my name, my blog’s name, SEO, blogging, and writers.

We can influence keywords as well, but the Internet Gods that be (on the seventh day they tweeted) will also pull things from our posts based on wording we’ve used and formatting.

Every now and then I like to take a peak at my blog stats to see what search terms led people to find my little hub in the great wide blogosphere. And the randomness of some of the search terms never ceases to amuse me.

In the past, you may have found my blog by searching one or all of the following phrases:

  • how to do the Peanuts dance
  • dino erotica
  • what defined the 80’s
  • things to blog about that start with ‘S’
  • vampire attacks
  • claimed vampire attacks in 2013
  • covered up vampire attacks

Why, YES I CAN instruct you how to do the Peanuts dance, why you SHOULDN’T buy dino erotica, what defined the 80’s (I’ll save you the read – it’s fanny packs), things to blog about that start with ‘S’ (you could also consult a dictionary, but I’ve got some ideas – Snuggies, sleep, sloths, the character Sloth from the movie The Goonies…). And I can tell you about ONE claimed vampire attack in 2013 that may in fact be a cover up by a moderately well known band.

Now, I like to imagine you, Dear Readers, opening your Google search engines and writing to me personally, like Dear Abby, all of your quizzical interweb wonderings. I think of your search terms as love notes. And I hope that I can answer your questions.

Yes I Can

My Campaign Slogan – just in time for election day!

But lately, I’m beginning to feel like we should see other people. Your requests have gotten out of hand. And I think it’s time we introduce a safe word. You know, something to say when one of us feels the other has the crossed the line.  How about ‘parakeet‘? I think it works because I dislike them too.

A week ago when I looked at the search terms that led you here, I was flummoxed. And more than a little uncomfortable.

Recent Search Terms That Led You to the Happiness Project:

  • inside LDS temples
  • scary ouija board conversations
  • what to wear in the tundra
  • what does it mean if you draw a swing
  • dragon hill spa placenta
  • i dreamed there was 5 little orphan baby bats all snuffling dreams
  • girls and boars
  • sideshow freak posters
  • queens drinking tea
  • Tia Carrere’s legs
  • Jonathan Crombie’s girlfriend
  • inflatable handcuffs hahaha
  • how to fix a box fan
  • ideas of how to dress like The Hulk
  • hippies, gypsies, no bras and no squares
  • absurdist quirky films
  • Willoughby “the slime”
  • German women in dirndls
  • absurdly romantic things to say to a woman
  • what causes super human hearing
  • sex free friendship with old Indian woman

Huh???

Who am I to you, SEO? Do you even know me? I thought we loved one another.

SEO love letter

I think it’s time we slow things down, SEO. NaNoWriMo is starting and I just don’t have time for this. Come talk to me when you’re not drunk. You’ve got my number.

*****

Follow up Request to the Internet Gods

Dear Internet Lords,

I just called for a break between me and my SEO. Lately I feel like he doesn’t get me anymore. And he’s always asking me for the strangest requests. I’m tired and I feel like he doesn’t respect me anymore. What should I do? Oh, and how do I change my blog relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated’?

Sincerely,

Baffled and Blogging

*****

What’s your SEO relationship like?
or Write me your best Dear Abby response!

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