Friday, December 20, 2019

End of the Decade


I hadn't thought about it much until this last month of the year, but it's the end of a decade. 
Beware, I am about to wax maudlin for quite some time. 
Abandon all hope of a quick read, all who enter here:

As decades go, it's been a wild ride.

There have been ups. There have been downs. There have been some loops where my world was turned upside down, and some terrifying drops during which I wasn't sure if I was going to hit the ground with a hard splat, or get lifted up into another up-rolling corkscrew before coasting to the end of the decade.

On the UP side in life:
1. Both of my daughters finished homeschooling, finished course work at a community college, and matriculated to state universities where they are each studying types of engineering: Chemical (with a side of bio) and Civil.

2. My husband and I celebrated our 23rd Anniversary and our 52nd and 48th birthdays, respectively. We know that we can disagree (sometimes extremely stubbornly) and still love each other fiercely and faithfully.

3. My daughters both competed at the National and International levels for Flatwater Sprint Canoe and Kayak. Because of their accomplishments, my husband and I drove trailers full of boats from one end of the country to the other (literally - Washington to Georgia, then Florida and back). When my daughters both competed in Hungary in 2016, I went to cheer them down the course due to the gracious help of friends who helped me navigate (and financially afford) an international trip that year. When my youngest competed in the Czech Republic aka Czechia in 2017 and Poland in 2018, I went to cheer her there, too, and loved visiting those amazing places with the parent-cheer squad.

3.5 (I kind of forgot this one) - I got to see my daughters both dance and perform on stage, as well as having lines in an Indie film. We went to NY for the International Modeling and Talent Association Competition. My oldest had an "extra" part in Gray's Anatomy. My youngest had an interview for an training camp for kayaking that took place in OKC and did a good job of speaking about her sport.

4. We traveled a lot of amazing places as a family - it amazes me as I look back. We skied in Whistler, B.C. several times courtesy of my in-laws. We celebrated the 4th of July, 2010 with friends who hosted us for a trip to Washington DC. We went snorkeling with sharks, turtles, and manta rays in Hawaii in 2011. We visited the Grand Canyon in 2012 and went to Disneyland for one day. We went to NYC and NY state in 2013. We visited places with our daughters' sport - Georgia, Florida (second time for us), San Diego, and Oklahoma. We saw some cools sights along the way, including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and more. Too much to actually recount here. But it was good and we learned what we do well and don't do well on car trips.

5. My husband reached his 20th year work-anniversary at Tacoma City Light as an Professional Engineer (now supervisor) and it's been a really good work environment so it's a double blessing.

6. I taught classes for nine years at Harbor Christian Homeschool Cooperative and loved my students. I taught classes on Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, British Literature, Creative Writing for 9-12 year-old children, and Creative Writing for 14+. I taught classes in Dynamic Language Arts and Dynamic Writing, and created my own curriculum since I had previously come up with about a hundred pages in handouts to supplement a different writing curriculum. I tutored some amazing students, too. All of these students encouraged me to become closer to God and to grow my teaching skills.

7. I helped found One Hope Church, back when we didn't even have a name for ourselves. For a short time, I served as the Worship Coordinator by finding musicians, guest pastors and speakers, prayer leaders, and communion leaders. I helped write the founding documents of the church with a team of leaders and prayed for hours over every decision I made and our team of leaders made. When I stepped back, I was exhausted and may have stepped too far back, but I am glad to have seen the Church Elders take the foundation and build it into something even better than I could have imagined at the beginning, when we met first at an outdoor camp and then in a high school library - we moved a lot of chairs in those days.

8. I co-taught a lot of Sunday School. Teaching young people, whether they are 3 or 17, has taught me how much wisdom can come from people who have fresh eyes and a deep faith. Wisdom does not necessarily come from experience, but it can come from a direct application of God's Word in our lives. And that's ageless.

9. I wrote a lot. Hundreds of thousands of words. I don't really know how many between journals, short stories, poems, non-fiction articles, handouts for classes, social media posts, novels, and non-fiction books. I have written several novels that haven't seen the light of day (publication) and some that have.

10. I took a chance on self-publishing. I am proud of the work I have done, even if I can see many, many places that I could do better. I have self-published three novels, three writing curriculum books, three chapbooks of short stories and/or poetry, an experimental hint fiction series (which may become a graphic novel someday), writing prompt books, and a series of stand-alone short story e-books.

11. I started my blog in 2009, but I really didn't get going until 2010 or later when I joined the IWSG and really started to do more. Thank you, online writers!!!

12. I joined a really cool Write-In group a few years ago. We are still going strong on most Tuesday nights. A critique group has spun-off and is going well. I went to an open mic night a month ago. I joined the SCBWI. Basically, I started to find my writing tribe in the RL (finally).

On the Down Side of Life:
 I'm going to sum the rotten stuff together into three items:
1. Health from 2010-2019: It's gone from okay to I-thought-I-might-die kind of bad. I'm beginning to improve in a baby step kind of fashion. Some of this has been my fault - obesity really can't be blamed on anyone else and I'm pretty sure that's why I have reflux and GERD. Some has not been my fault - several surgeries (not related to my weight) and a few autoimmune diseases (Menieres and Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism).
I have a neurological para-thesis, which doesn't have an current explained origin, but which is not so bad that I need medical care for it. I just track my symptoms and try to pay attention to what seems to help and what doesn't. It could be or could not be a pre-cursor to CMT (an inherited genetic neurological disorder my dad has). I don't know yet and may never know.

2. Deaths in our extended family and among friends. This is just hard. As my Pastor says, "we weren't mean to die, death is the consequence from when humanity chose sin. So, it makes sense that death just feels so wrong. It is wrong. It wasn't a part of the original plan. We are meant for eternity." (Note: I am quoting from memory so I may not have his exact words right.)

3.  We don't have world peace yet. Human trafficking still exists. Suffering still happens daily, 24/7. We've lost the ability to have civil discourse. I blame the sin disease - not one person or one group, but a constant desire we each have for selfishness. I have it. Everyone I know has it.

Looking UP for the Next Decade:
1. I look forward to seeing where and what my daughters do next. I'm glad they still like talking to me most of the time (except when I ask about grades, study habits, etc).

2. I look forward for many more years of wonderful hugs, sassy humor, and adventures with my husband.

3. I look forward to traveling even more.

4. I look forward to taking my baby steps into greater strides towards good health.

5. I look forward to singing many more years on One Hope Church's Praise Team and going to more great Bible studies. Maybe even teaching a little more Sunday School.

6. I look forward to writing a million+ more words.

7. I look forward to getting published traditionally, as well as continuing to self-publish.

8. I look forward to gaining more skills in writing, publishing, marketing, and more.

9. I look forward to finding more edges of God's greatness and beauty in this world, to seeing the blessings, and hearing the stories of God's goodness and grace in people's lives.

10. I look forward to more community connections in writing - both online and in the real world.

11. I look forward to teaching more writing and spoken word classes, to encourage others to speak life and hope into the world around us.

12. I look forward to volunteering and working in a way that suits God's purposes and my passions.

What are you looking forward to in 2020 and the next decade?

My next post will be on January 8th, 2020. Until then, I hope you all enjoy these last few weeks of the decade! Be merry, be kind, love and laugh!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Write Edit Publish December 2019 Footprints #WEP

 I love WEP, but I haven't participated in a bit. I hit a fizzle moment with Captain Wrath, so I won't be returning to that story cycle at the moment, but this prompt just kept speaking to me. I tried a few different things for it and wasn't really satisfied.

I'm still not satisfied, but here is an attempt at a poetic retelling of King Wenceslas (who was actually a very young king murdered by his brother in his twenties - despite all the depictions of him as an old, St. Nicholas figure).
At 449 words:

Footprints in the Snow

In a land far away and long ago,
a man followed footprints in the snow:

By his cozy hearth window, he had seen
A family laboring in the harsh cold
Bringing wood in stacks tall and clean
To Noble house hearths and stoves.

As the day waned and darkness fell,
The wood-cutter family walked home.
Their arms were empty, but they rang a bell,
Singing Christmas carols to praise the Son.

The King marveled at their joy so replete.
In his wondering he gazed at his empty luxury,
And with a sudden shout, he leapt to his feet.
With a hurried dash, he called out to me.

And together, we packed a full leftover feast,
including candles, dishware, presents, and all
For a celebration fit for Wise Kings from the East.
Then I followed him out into the cold snow fall.

We followed the family into the night.
Following deep footprints in the snow.
My young king laughed with joy and might
He hardly seemed to feel the freezing cold.

His purpose clear as he knocked on their door.
They answered but bowed exceedingly low.
But instead, he knelt down on their dirt floor,
Presenting himself as their servant now.

My king served them every morsel sweet,
He even cleaned every spoon and dish.
No one, not even I, could stop his feet.
As he danced about, as was his wish.

His song and laughter rang through the dark
and in the early morning, as the family slept,
My king and I, we woke with the morning lark
To leave the presents on the hearth he'd swept.

Back in his castle and his royal-filled life,
Nothing seemed to sate the Nobles greed.
My King had to deal with much Noble strife.
But they caught him looking to his servants' need.

Time passed, plots made, the passing of a year.
As winter's chill grew in the castle yard,
My king went out to pray with his brother dear.
But his brother's heart had become tarred.

The deed was done, my king was brought low
In bloody, muddy footprints in the snow.

The nobles wanted a puppet on the throne,
But the truth pierces the darkest of hearts,
So the light has ever, ever shone,
and the king's brother fell to love's darts.

He repented his sin, his murderous deed.
From that day forward, he ruled as his brother,
And now, with my help he has decreed,
On Christmas, we give to one another.

No one is to live in greed,
but all are to give to those in need.

For once, on a chill winter's night long ago,
My King followed footsteps in the snow.

And I, I follow my King.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG December

Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting and managing this awesome and encouraging blog hop for writers! The hop has grown and become so much more due to the efforts of Alex and the whole administration team. To find out more, go here: IWSG Website.
Co-hosts for December: 
Beverly Stowe McClure  
and me

Optional Question: Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream?  Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

I decided to tackle this with a letter containing what I hope things will be like:

Dear Future Writer Self,
I imagine you are in a cozy space with a cup of hot tea by your side, books lovingly placed on book shelves throughout your house, a journal and a laptop on a desk in front of you. On your walls, you have family pictures and photographs you've taken of your travels and adventures. I also imagine you've managed to tackle all of your projects - from poetry chapbooks and short story collections to novels who have reached readers all over the world, with a handful of graphic novels and some music lyrics written, too. You could retire, but you won't, because writing is your passion. Ideas are everywhere. You also take time to teach writing classes in a Story Arts Studio, a business of your own creation. If you are, like I imagine, close to that retirement age, you're considering who you could mentor to take over that Story Arts Studio, but you aren't ready yet. Or, maybe you already have a business partner who will take over when you're ready to step away. But again, you aren't ready yet. There's so much to do, so many adventures to still have - both in real life and on the page. And, you love encouraging other writers almost as much as writing itself.
I know the journey to where you are is a long road. I know there are many small steps ahead to get there and some mountains to climb, one small step at a time. But I know you're beckoning me onward, and so I will take those steps and climb those mountains, one word and one adventure at a time.
See you soon,
Current Writer Self

That's the kind of life I hope for as a writer - a life of confident creativity and adventure with some dreams fulfilled and some yet to be written. Right now, I feel like I'm still on the first bit of foothills before the real climb.

And now, I just want TO CONGRATULATE all of the 
The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
Winter Days - Katharina Gerlach
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Dare Double Dare – Louise M. Barbour
Simon Grey and the Yamamba - Charles Kowalski
The Orchard - Beth Anderson Schuck

These writers wrote an submitted Middle Grade (ages 9-12) stories for the IWSG MG Anthology Contest and won a spot in the anthology!

If you wrote but didn't win, I hope you submit your stories to another contest, anthology, or magazine. You can find a place for your work!
As someone who has received rejections on my stories, poems, and novels, I know it's hard, but you can keep going. You can find publication.
Keep writing! 
Keep sending out your work!

IWSG Updates:
In January, we will post on the second Wednesday because the first Wednesday is New Year's Day.

For the Goodreads IWSG Reading Group, the book for December/January is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. 

On Instagram, we mainly have today's post celebration, a note on the WEP contest, and per usual, some writing tips from the website, and some encouraging quotes to keep you writing!

For WEP in December:

A few brief updates from me:
1. The last few months have included some unexpected life stress which will not be named (it felt that dark), but I kept on writing. I attended a comic con, and I read my work out loud at an open mic night. I went to a critique group, went to several write-ins with an ongoing write-in group, and I won NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words of a jumbled, partial novel which will take much revision to be the novel it's meant to be.

2. I decided to participate in Dressember to help fight human trafficking with awareness and fundraising. To know more about Dressember, go HERE. If you want to help me fund raise, go to A Dress with Comfortable Shoes.
Dressember's vision: A World Without Slavery.

3. I had the honor of having two previously published poems republished in this new anthology by Z Publishing: Washington's Best Emerging Poets

How are all of you doing, IWSG? Any news? 
What does your future writer self look like?