Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Working through the book

Was able to get back to the book that I'm working through in order to make myself a better writer;
Writing Life Stories How to Make Memories in to Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature
by Bill Roorbach

Exercise Four:
Make a Schedule
"I have all kinds of sympathy for busy people (new parents tops on the list!), but if you look into successful writers' lives, you'll find unbelievable burdens: full time jobs, children, multiple deadlines, car trouble, weddings and funerals, family expectations, illness, exhaustion, depression, imprisonment, on and on. Yet the work gets done."

Well, Mr. Roorbach, why don't you just look right to the heart of my problem and call me right out on it?!? (sigh)
I get it. I knew when I took this bold, mental leap that I had no time for one more thing. But all writers have their busy lives don't they? Is mine really that different? or if it is who really cares? Is my obituary going to say, "She was going to be a really great writer someday?"
I am overworked and overwhelmed and I move on superspeed so often I hardly even know how to be still. It's true, if there is nothing to do at the moment I literally flop and flail because I hardly know how to decide on my own what to do. My calendar often literally dictates my life.
So....I need to make my calendar include writing.

Sometimes I've done that. Sometimes my darling husband will ask me what I'm doing on the computer. And sometimes I'm Facebooking but sometimes I've answered, "Writing" or "Working".
I am from this exercise forward going to call any writing or work for writing that I do "Working".

Mr. Roorbach says set a scheduled time to write. I set aside the time early in the morning or later in the evening when the kids are in bed to write (except right now I just finished checking the twins' take home folders, supervised Ebay's homework, started dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, checked the mail, shot off a few Blackberry emails and unloaded the dishwasher).
All that took about 25 minutes.

One a side note, I had a sick kid Sunday evening. And I will confess ..... Monday morning, the idea of calling into work, using sick time, to keep my son home from school was an intoxicating idea.I did it. I stayed home and got a massive amount of work done from my dining room table. I was able to knock out research for the upcoming mission trip and conference I am speaking at in 20 days. Never had I ever been so happy about cleaning up vomit!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I could totally write that!

I just finished a book I picked up from the library not because I was interested in the subject but because of it's first line. And at the sake of sounding totally egocentrical - I totally could have written that book. 209 pages of my life, mealtime and cooking philosophy penned by someone else. Every tip I have, every idea that gets me through, every organizational task I implement right there in front of me with someone else's name on it. Now this is not to say the author did a bad job, quite the contrary! She's published. She did it. She did what I want to do. She wrote on everything I do right now from my kitchen table. As I read through the book I would occassionally read aloud to my husband what sounded like my very own words. He shrugged, looked at me and asked, "Well, why didn't you write it first?".

Nice encouragment, babe! (read with sarcasm)

So maybe I can do it. Maybe I can write. Oh if someone would just discover me.....

Today I wrote. I put the finishing touches on my weekly parenting article. Inspired from my time in church this weekend I felt compelled to write about how parents - with unrealistic expectations - get frustrated when their children won't be still in concerts, athletic events and church services.

The good thing about small town living is all the compliments I receive on my little column. The bad thing is I write for a small town, obscure newspaper. Just today, my girlfriend returned my pan (I filled it with homemade cinnamon rolls for her) and she said that I've missed my calling in life. She says I was ..."meant to cook and write. I mean it!".

And I think in my head... I'm trying. I'm really trying.....

Friday, September 24, 2010


Today I ruled the day instead of the day ruling me and it was one of the most enjoyable days I've had in quite a long time.

I was up for a predawn exercise class, Skype'd with my Slovakia friend and fellow conference planner and drove the van all over town dropping The Tribe off at their various schools.

Then.....home. Home where no one else was. Home. Where it was silent. Home where I watched what I wanted. Home where I took as long of a shower as I wanted. Home. Where no one came looking for me because they needed their backpack/lunch made/paper signed/ride organized/to tattle/fill in anything you want. NObody needed me. I shaved. I applied makeup in a leisurely fashion AND I painted my fingernails & toes!! Freakin' A that was awesome!

After lunch I headed into work stopping off at a daycare providers home to leave some information she requested to help a mother of one of her daycare children. Her husband said his wife loved my parenting articles for the local newspaper. Says she cuts them out and shares them all the time. Even said that once, she was talking about the very same issue with a parent the day a similar article came out. He said, "It was a God thing!".

Wow! I really am so surprised/flattered/humbled that people tell me they enjoy my articles and share them with friends and family.

That's what Mrs. Lee said when she phoned tonight. She invited me to return to an After5 program next month, that all the former chairwomen (that's me) would be there. While I said I'd check my calendar she informed me that she too, clips my articles and sends them to her daughter in law.

Again, wow!

I feel so blessed to do what I enjoy so much. I love writing. I just wish I was braver but sometimes the small town-ness keeps me from being so frank. I hope to get over that.

In the meantime, I am pondering my next article - it's due in just over 48 hours - and I've renewed all those memoirs I checked out from the library. Two weeks have flown by and I read 2 of them, started the 3rd and have 3 more to go, PLUS the book I am working through.

Today, though an Amazon order came in the mail. Books that darling husband ordered and what did I do? Read the first lines. Ha! This was a good one from The Land Between by Jeff Manion; "One late November morning when I was in 7th grade tragedy reshaped our family and segmented time - life before the accident and life after."

Great first line, huh? It reminds me of Donald Miller's book (the one that started all this for me) and the harsh truth that a good story is a good story because tragedy/hardships/problems happen.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I know! I know!

I know! I know!
Stop staring at me big white empty text box!
I know I've neglected you...... I KNOW!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Got a Tag Line

I am so excited! I was putting the finishing touches on my weekly article at school today and I think I finally came up with a tag line. Some of the other writers in The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas have tag lines.
Rev. Myers concludes with "See you in church".
Mr. Bowman "As if you care".
Me? "Why? Because I'm the Mom and I said so! That's why!"

That is super exciting to me!

Otherwise I haven't done any reading or working any further on my book. Instead I did a week's worth of cooking in the kitchen, played w my twins and enjoyed some TV time with the new Fall Season and my darling husband.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First Lines

"You're assignment is to look at first lines, as many as possible in an afternoon's browsing. Head to the library or bookstore or even your own shelves, and read - first lines only. Type up a list of your ten or twenty favorites. What makes them work?"Exercise 3 from Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorback

So I did. I spent an afternoon at my local library. It's not a big library, it's a small town library. Small town as in I know 4 of the 20 people sitting in here. Small town friendliness. They're gonna come and ask me about my family and ask what I'm doing and I can't decide whether I'll admit I'm doing research. I can't imagine saying, "I'm learning how to be an author" just yet.

So I head to the back shelves. Out of the eye sight of any curious acquaintances. I am in the nonfiction section and I'm pulling down random books and reading first lines. But I'm not sure if Mr. Roorbach means the first line in the book or the first line of the first chapter. Because these books have forwards, introductions and acknowledgements. Read the first line of what? I decide to read first lines of first chapters. Here is a list of my favorites:

"A serious man in a serious life."

"We were young. We were in love. We were rollicking in those sublime early days of marriage when life seems to be as good as it gets." Marley & Me by John Grogan

"My mother is scraping a piece of burned toast out of the kitchen window a crease of annoyance across her forehead." Toast by Nigel Slater

"There is a sign on my fridge that reads 'I serve 3 meals; frozen, microwave &  take out' and sadly I'm not exaggerating." Dinner for Busy Moms by Jeanne Muchnick

At 7 o'clock on a dreary evening in the Left Bank, Julia began roasting pigeons for the second time in her life" Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

"For Snow White cleaning came easy. Not only did she have an army of cute little forest creatures to help her sanitize the 7 Dwarves' home but also she knew how to clean house with a smile on her face and a hope in her step. Her secret? Whistling while she worked." Clean It Fast Clean It Right by Jeff Brendedberg

"It's great to love ones' work" The Martha Rules by Martha Stewart

"When under siege she rises early, dresses quickly, and cauterizes her emotions" Hillary's Choice by Gail Sheehy

"From the porch, the river looked smoky brown sometimes, rosy and lavender when the sun was going down, then slate grey, just before it turned pitch black. From the porch the lights of the Island Queen beckoned like reachable stars. From the porch, the river promised better times coming, far away places just around the bend. From the porch, the river was a wide tranquil ribbon, no hint of a dangerous current. All you could see from the porch were possibilities, not perils."  Girl Singer by Rosemary Clooney with Joan Barthel

"What did I have, what was makin'me so scared that my heart beat out of my chest? I just knew I was gonna die..." It Ain't All About The Cookin' by Paula Dean

"Thank God for snobs" Tony Curtis The Autobiography

"The first and foremost way I knew my marriage was in trouble was the usual way, the trouble itself" Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer

"My Grandmother Cheever taught me how to embroider, how to say the Lord's Prayer, and how to make a perfect dry martini" Note Found in a Bottle by Susan Cheever

Exercise 3 DONE!
now off to read. I grabbed almost all of the above mentioned books to read.... their first lines were really that good!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I wrote today!

I save writing my weekly parenting article until Fridays. I enjoy spending my week as a parent educator visiting with families and listening to their concerns. Then I formulate what I hope to be a relevant article.

This week however, I used myself as inspiration. I wrote of the day Eric walked home from soccer practice with a crushed spirit because I was late picking him up.

So I wrote.

And I read. I finally finished the first memior book I got from the library. Now 4 more to go.

And I had some time with my Vault friends. Some down time. Some catch up time. Some sharing and visiting time.

And I told them I was reading memiors for "research". I may have alluded that they needed to be thinking if they'd like me to use their real names or would they like to choose their character names for my book.

Little by little I'm telling about my journey to write a better story.
Little by little I just may get this done.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Excuses! Excuses!

Well, clearly this is going to be a blog about excuses.
If excuses are good, do they count?
Today is Thursday - the Internet at home was just restored.
Yesterday was Wednesday - the Internet was down.
The day before was Tuesday - and it was a day full of work, ticket taking at the soccer games, a prepacked dinner out of the cooler and 4 filthy children who needed a bath. I think I was in my own home a total of 3 awake hours. 1 hour before we went to school. 1 hour upon arriving home from school and the hour I cleaned everything up before I crashed into my bed.
Before that it was Monday. I don't know why I didn't blog on Monday. Today is Thursday and from my spot in the recliner, with my feet up and a pile of books next to me... well who can remember 4 days ago??
The day before that it was Sunday and I remember on Sunday I told myself I would take a day off. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

There's no excuse - no good excuse anyway....if I want to be a writer I have to write. I have to read. I have to do it. That's why I invented this blog. I don't care today, if anybody even ever reads it. Just posting it "out there" is the kick in the pants I need to be accountable.

I'm accountable to a virtually un-locatable blog.
The point is I'm accountable.
Now suck it up Sikorski & make the time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

the Book that Got me Started

So when I got serious about writing I knew I needed help.
The first thing I did was write a friend. She's a professor of literature and is published herself. She didn't tell me not to do it. So that's a good sign, right?

My friend encouraged me to familiarize yourself with queries and the Writer's Digest. So I did what everyone does in 2010 I googled: How to become a writer
and no joke I took notes from the article that popped up.

This could be a long journey.

The next day I went to the library. I live in a small town with a small library but who am I to despise small beginnings? This is the book I found:
"Writing Life Stories; How to Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature"
by Bill Roorbach

The title alone spoke to me. Because I'm no expert on anything except my own life. I love to write about my life. Hmm, sounds a little egocentric.
I hate sounding egocentric.

Chapter 1 "Why is it so hard to sit down and write? Great expectations, for one thing."

Roorbach is speaking to me. Because I have great expectations. And it is hard to sit down and write.
But I want to turn my life into a better story so I'm willing do something hard.

As it turns out the book is a workbook of sorts. You read along and do the exercises and I think that maybe by the end you'll know the difference between a memoir and autobiography and a protagonist and an antagonist.

Exercise One; A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Roorbach says, "...set yourself up in a decent writing environment. Not too beautiful (lest you get distracted by the view), not too Spartan (lest you find it a place best avoided), but a place you can hope to be uninterrupted for the blocks of time available for writing."

Crap! I'm in trouble. First, there is not one unused square foot of space in out home. I'm not kidding. We live in the first home Sears Roebuck sold in their 1900 Modern Home Catalog. It's well over 100 years old. It has 800 square feet on top of 800 square feet. 7 people and 1 Jack Russell occupy every inch in this home. Creating a home office is impossible.

Secondly, I am never, ever, under any condition, not un-interruptable. Have I mentioned I have 5 kids?

Thirdly, a clean space to work from? Have I mentioned I have 5 kids? Ok, that line gets old, even I know that but seriously what is the definition of clean? If 'picked up' counts then I think I'll be in business. For you see I am forever picking up after the kids!

If it is hard to be a writer, how difficult will it be for me? I'm part time employed with the school district. Part time self employed with a missions organization and full time wife and mom.

Well, I'll stick with Exercise One. I'll just have to make a few little tweaks.
I vow to have a well lit space. Wherever the laptop and I find ourselves - it may not be clean, it may not be quiet and it may not have a view. But it will be well lit!

(sidenote: should anyone ever actually see this I am sorry for the certain improper notations. Mr. Roorbach if I've neglected to quote you properly know that it is only in my novice-ness not because I wish to steal any material. I hope in an upcoming exercise I might learn how to properly use excerpts from books.)

Write Everyday

I wrote today!
I wrote my weekly parenting article.
Inspired from a conversation we had in BABYgroup I wrote about the dilemma every new mom faces and how we can pay for it later. Sticking a bottle in baby's mouth so they'll be quiet and go back to sleep.
you can search for it here: (after Tues 9/14/10)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

3 I need more time or less to-do!

I was up @ 7 a.m. & you can be sure my feet hit the ground running.
All 5 kids were out the door by 8 am.
Yep that's right! An hour is all it takes to clothe, feed and check personal hygiene (but on the hygiene note offer me some grace please I do have pre teen boys.).

Next I had a skype call with an amazing team of women with whom we are planning the EMERGE women's conferences (that are just weeks away) and then back to my 'real' job by 11 am.
(Oh yeah there was that stop for some Golden Arches' sweet tea - I have my sweet tea!)

I was as productive as I could possibly be ... what with a handicap computer and all (another story for another day). I worked all through the day and picked up the twins @ 3:15 p.m. Maneuvered the van thru traffic to pick up the boys only to head to home and pick up my daughter and her volleyball squad. Well, not the whole squad but still!

I had 45 minutes at home to put my feet up, yeah right more like to pack snacks and busy items (to keep the twins well behaved) and we walked the 3 blocks to the high school. I have signed up to be the ticket taker @ the vball game. (Every $ helps!).

So while I'm collecting $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens and students and making change, I helped Er with his spelling words. capital - political - kingdom - photosynthesis - chlorophyll .....

Its now 7:30 PM, the ticket table is closed and I've moved to the gym to watch the final match. When it's over I'll get to go home. I'm sitting on the bleachers typing this on my BlackBerry because I know after I get home there will be dinner
and dishes
and laundry
and conversations waiting to be had.
So what  "I wanna be an author" work did I do today?
I brought a book to the game.
I read a whole, entire 3 pages of it but I read it.
My book (which I'll blog about as soon as I find more time or lessen my to-do list) says in order to be an author you should read and write everyday.
Well does this count? I'm going to put down my BlackBerry (it's running low on battery anyway) and pick up my book. I can read on the bleachers right?
Bleacher View

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2 A writer needs certain tools, ya know!

Since I have no idea how to be an author I thought I'd better do some research.
And since I have no computer I had to steal one of my kids' notebooks and write this stuff down longhand.
Are you kidding me?!?
No computer??
Yep that's right.
Skipping all the legitimate financial excuses why I don't have a computer, let me explain by saying there is some sorta bad Karma around here.
How is it that a computer dies (actually gets sick with a virus) at the simultaneous moment I decide to become an author?
How can I write with no computer?
It's like writing without a pen a paper. Ug! the frustration!

My darling husband has a laptop. It has no battery and the power cord has a short in it. So IF I can get on his computer I HAVE to sit in his space to use it and quite frankly his space isn't conducive to my work ethic.

We had a little netbook. I loved it. It's no fancy machine but it was portable, has a long battery life and gets me anywhere on the web I want to be from anywhere I want to sit. FANTASTIC! Except the kids use it and I am blaming them for the nasty, nasty little virus it caught. It needs to be put out of it's misery. But that's not an option. Instead we are going to wipe it clean, reset it to factory settings. Except we don't have the backup disks and you can't download it from the manufacturer's site - not that I can go there anyway...the virus goes bezerk every time I try and get online with it.

So I am waiting for the disks to come in the mail.

Have I ever wanted to see my mailman so much?

And don't think I could stay at work late to get some of this done! NO! There's a computer curse loose in the school district. I can randomly find and not find any work I've done there. So attempting a new project such as say.... to "Become An Author", is too risky to take on from there.

So today, Aaron's out. I jumped on his laptop so I can stay with my commitment to keep at it.
But just look at this example of handwritten research I've begun.
Whens the last time your hand cramped up from writing? 5th grade? Mine too!

1. I'm Really Gonna Do This

As I wrote (more like LABORED) over my blog entry for the Don Miller "To Write a Bettter Story" contest I made a decision!
I didn't intend to make this decision.
I was trying to get a free ticket to Portland (I have friends there, ya know!)
but as the blinking cursor turned into letters on my screen, the whisper of my heart was being softly typed out on the computer screen of my life.
I am moving on.
I am moving past folks who tell me I should write.
I am moving past thinking, "Yeah I should try that in my spare time"
I am moving out of the realm of hopes and dreams into an atmosphere of action.
And it scares the S%i$! out of me.
Just sayin.

So here it is. This is my journey. I am really gonna do this!
I opened this blog up simply as a contest entry form. But as I sat in the library today doing some "homework" I thought what better way to keep me accountable. I'll blog my journey.

I may fall on my butt (well I probally will) but in the off chance I actually 'make' it I want to remember the journey. I don't want to forget a minute of it! I want to try to be a writer. I want to be an author. I want the words that are locked in my heart to experience freedom. I want to do this because I don't know if I can't NOT do it. It seems to be what I love to do, what I want to do.

So here we go! Thanks Mr. Miller for provoking me onward. I may have lost your contest but I am gonna write a better story with my life.

"You can only change direction when you are in motion." Don Miller

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