Archive | December 2016

The End of 2016: Brokenness, Dreams on Hold, Some Good Things

I thought it would be a good idea to start this final post of 2016 with an old photo from 2015:

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Self Portrait from Photography Project at Smith, 2015

In a prior post about returning to Instagram for the second time, I talked about my participation in a Photography Project and the Instagram Essay assignment. I thought after this long, bitter, difficult year that was 2016 that it was time to share that essay here:

“I am a work in progress. Coming from a community college to a school like Smith during my final two years has been a journey I’ve realized I needed to take. I had hit rock bottom with everything in my life when I came last year, and over a year later I am still recovering from my pain, accepting my imperfections and trying to find myself again as a writer, student, friend, daughter and child of God. Why do we hit rock bottom at the worst time at first? Why do we go through the things that we do? Sometimes, we will never understand those struggles. I know there are some things I will just never understand no matter how much I try. Pain, wondering if a dream you have fought for since you were a teenager could still be possible with how much the world has changed. Trying to find peace in a world that has become so sad and violent, heartbreaking to families, survivors and the like.

I’m realizing I need to be OK with not knowing every single thing that will happen after college and this chapter of my life.  I love to learn and gain new insights, but I shouldn’t beat myself up if I’m wrong or make a mistake. Life can get difficult, and sometimes, you need to look at yourself in the mirror and say “who are you really?” The past year and a half has been an experience of learning about myself, my dreams, life and reflecting on how far I’ve come when I believed life would have ended so differently at one time. Here I am, with my flaws, internal scars on my heart, trying to heal. I am healing, mending and learning.

I am changing for the better.”

My final two years of college became a reflective time for me on my future and where I was at that point in my life. We all have had our struggles, heartaches and unimaginable pain, especially this year. In 2016, I dealt with a difficult job search, a bacterial infection, losing my faith in God to the point I stopped praying and talking to Him altogether, the voices of everyone around me thanks to social media, fansites and this recent election, my dreams of seeing and meeting David Archuleta once again being put on hold because of location, money and timing, still living at home and feeling like this isn’t my life…and rejections writing wise…and feeling nobody cares what I have to say, think or feel.

That I’m just useless.

2016 made me tired: of people, of being ignored, of fans, of fighting and arguing, of everything and everyone you could probably think of.

Add in the sudden and/or sad deaths of Gene Wilder, Doris Roberts, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Christina Grimmie, Garry Marshall, Leonard Cohen, George Michael,  Debbie Reynolds just two days ago and a day after Carrie Fisher suddenly passed…and I am an absolute, depressed, hopeless wreck. (Note: Too many deaths to recount that’s how awful this year has been!)

There had been some good though: graduating from Smith College, getting this blog up and running, writing more, my residency at Wellspring House, having supportive family and friends, my church to name a couple things.

I just can’t wait either way for this year to end. I am sure you all feel the same.

But I am trying to be hopeful. I guess that’s what’s great about the end of the year; a new one to start over, begin with, be hopeful, and try to do it right as best you can.

To all my fellow writers and artists, friends, fellow human beings, the fluffy cats out there, readers and followers, Happy New Year. May God Bless us all in 2017.

 

This entry was posted on December 30, 2016. 3 Comments

“The Christmas Party” Excerpt and You Have the Power to Vote for Your Favorite Story!!

This month, I entered another writing contest through The Write Practice called the Winter Writing Contest. Like prior contests I entered through this site and their collaboration with Short Fiction Break, there was a theme and word count limit. The word count had to be up to 1,500 words. The theme? 2 worlds. Two very different worlds coming together in whatever shape or form you could think of and write about such as the real v. the fantastical for example.

Just like prior contests too, you could opt to be published win or lose. I like that feature because even if you don’t win, you have an opportunity to build your writing credentials and get some of your work out there. I have found that option very unique when I’ve entered contests from them.

There is also something new with this year’s contest. Even though the winner won’t be chosen for another few weeks, you have the chance to vote for your story to win the Readers’ Choice Award. For those of you on Goodreads and for those who might have seen or been in similar contests, this might be familiar. You also can read a couple of the stories opposed to every single one and whichever one is your favorite, you can give them your vote! You can vote until midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday, January 4th.

Happy reading and voting!! To all my fellow writers around the world, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Holidays!! Below is an excerpt of my entry, “The Christmas Party”:

He stops in front of a store closed down for the night, a digital counter marking down two days left until Christmas. Looking ahead, he sees the flashing lights of the fancier homes: Hollywood starlets and their eye candies celebrating the holidays. The endless amounts of drinks and merriment that would later cultivate in hangovers and migraines.

Even more things John could do without. Sirens blare as he crosses the street to the little restaurant in the corner.

He prayed to himself that the celebrities in their ritzy homes were having a better time than he was.

  • ●●

“I can’t believe I’m even going to this party,” Carla Simmons mumbles to herself stepping out of her luxury limo wearing a light blue coat with white faux fur over a dark red dress. Her tight auburn haired updo was accessorized with a diamond hairclip from her mother; an early Christmas gift for her upcoming album release getting such rave reviews.

“Nothing’s too expensive for my Carly,” her mother cooed when she opened the box.

Carla shivers at the memory. As the butler shows her inside Oliver Blanchard’s house, she sees Hollywood’s latest IT girl, Melody, scream at a caterer.

“I told Oliver I was allergic to peanuts! Clearly, you missed the memo and tried to poison me!” she screams. “Take that back and fix it!!”

“Yes ma’am,” the caterer shudders.

Carla’s eyes narrow in disgust. “Hey, that’s not how you speak to a caterer.”

Melody spun on her heels. “Oh Carla Simmons!” she claps gleefully as the caterer slips away. “I didn’t see you there! You should have seen—”

“How dare you speak to a man that way. Next time show a little class and humility before you crash and burn like everyone before you.”

Read the rest here!

 

 

Failing NaNoWriMo: Lessons, Reflections and Where Do I Go From Here?

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Credit: NaNoWriMo

26,056 words.

That’s how many words I had written during NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in November. This year was my first time participating in the challenge. I always heard about it from other people who participated, but I never thought I had the time to really attempt it.

But, since finishing college back in May, struggling with the job search and having some time on my hands, I thought this year would be a good time to give it a shot. I could finally sit down at the writing desk my Mom gave me after graduation (used to be my brother’s but it was sitting in our house collecting dust and junk). I could finally make an effort with working on my first novel.

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My writing desk

It didn’t go as planned, which was the blessing I never knew I would need from this experience.

The first week went off without a hitch: hit every word count of 1,667 words (this was the deciding factor for me to participate this year too), had a set time to write and I was feeling creative and good about things.

Then life entered in the form of this year’s Presidential Election and aftermath and the struggle of having to write on Sundays, which I never liked doing.

When I went to my first writing residency at Wellspring House this year (see previous post), I got about 1200 words out a day. I was still behind and found myself wanting to take a break and write short stories and other various things that were not related to my novel.

A couple days before NaNoWriMo ended, I settled for 25,000, and if I reached 30,000, that as great but I didn’t have to push myself. It wasn’t worth the extra stress, and I called it quits before the month wrapped up.

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Titled “Focus on the notebook” Credit: freerangestock.com

The good thing is, I got 26,056 words more than when I first started. I also got to write again. But the greatest gift was my novel really wasn’t working out as I had hoped. One of my supporting characters actually piqued my interest more than my own main characters! I also found a hidden gem of a project compiling letters to God in to a small collection. I even found comfort and support from fellow writers on Twitter and from NaNoWriMo’s official Twitter and @NaNoWordSprints.

But I confess on the forums and in my own life, that was a different story. I left comments on forums but never got a reply. I felt intimidated and compared myself to those who were older and younger than me. I asked my church to hold me accountable, but that didn’t happen. I’m not sure a few weeks later if things were more positive if they would have made a difference at all.

I’m not sure if I will do NaNoWriMo again next year. The possibility is there, but I’ll just have to see where things go for me when the revision time begins in January, or “Now What?” as NaNoWriMo calls it. There were some ups, some downs but overall I enjoyed the experience and it would be something to reflect on and recall the next time I get in a rut over my writing. If I could write over 25,000 words in a month, I can do 30k, then 40k, and ultimately, 50k.

Maybe more than that too!

I will end this reflection with a quote from a bookmark I got from NaNoWriMo when I sent them a donation for Double-Up Donation Day to support their nonprofit programs: “Whenever we gaze up into the stars, we face the limitless potential of the universe. The only other place that offers such possibility? Your imagination. Rocket into the unknown, explore the vast reaches of your own creativity, discover the worlds that exist in your mind, and visit for a while to get them on paper.”

Happy writing all, and stay warm this winter. Godspeed.

 

This entry was posted on December 15, 2016. 2 Comments

My Week at Wellspring House: First Writing Residency EVER!!

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Wellspring House

I always wanted to go to a writing residency or retreat, but just being out of college the prices, location and the amount of time I could really stay to be productive and meet new people really made me have to keep it on hold for a while.

Enter Wellspring House in Ashfield, MA. I discovered the residency in a past issue of Poets and Writers magazine and upon further research was won over by the affordability, location and the opportunity to be elsewhere for a while.

I decided to go for it.

A couple weeks later, I look back on that week-long stay as a much-needed blessing. While struggling with NaNoWriMo and the craziness of the world closing in, I needed the change and space to be creative, but also think in general about everything around me. There are so many things I cherished; from the cozy fireplace in the living room surrounded by SO MANY books, the kitchen where I had to cook for myself for the very first time since college, the closeness and fellowship at church those two Sundays and the fellow writers I got to meet.

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Toasty fire in the fireplace!

I was the youngest person during my stay at Wellspring House. But, I felt welcomed, appreciated and further encouraged as a fellow writer and artist. You really need to be with a group of fellow artists once in a while!! Plus, laughing, talking and enjoying meals with my fellow residents and our host outside of what we were working on made the week even more fun than just sitting in my room the entire time typing out that first novel on my computer! I got to venture out more for the first time since my final semester of college by walking around in the quietness of small town life and nature. I even had fun food adventures with delicious pizza from Country Pie Pizza and GIGANTIC pancakes from local grocer and restaurant Elmer’s.

 

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The giant pancakes from Elmer’s. I wasn’t kidding about the size of these babies!! Also the maple syrup is FRESH and delicious!

 

By the time I drove home, I felt different: calmer, productive, at peace with myself and God, and happier. I didn’t realize until then that I really needed that week to myself: to write, to walk, to talk with new people…and just relax. Not worry about anything.

My time there is one of my highlights of 2016.

If there is a residency or retreat near you, even if just for a few days, go. You need the friendships and creative space. Plus, even the best writers need a break from life so they can focus on their craft uninterrupted!

Take a chance. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll write!

I want to take a moment to thank my host, Christian, for being such an awesome guy, Preston Browning for this amazing residency (I hope you’re doing better and hope the next time I visit I get to meet you!!) and a shout out to the awesome fellow writers I got to know during my stay: Glenys, Juliet, Melissa, Amy, Arlyn and whoever else I may have forgotten! Hope ya’ll are well and happy writing!!

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Look at ALL OF THESE BOOKS!!!