Valued Connections

Like most writers, I've loved to write since I was a child. When I took a creative writing class in high school, I had an outlet for the ideas crammed in my head. Then as an undergrad, a writing instructor asked if I had "considered writing as a career". I had, but only in my dreams.

In reality I became a public school teacher. My career was satisfying and even involved an element of writing. I was assigned the duty of writing the school newsletter in a couple of my workplaces. This was not the kind of writing I had aspired to do.

The words of my writing teacher continued to echo in my ears throughout the years. Now I'm at a place in life where I can take his advice. At last, my writing has become more than a dream.

Beginning a career in writing has its discouraging and intimidating moments, but there are exhilarating ones, as well. I've had some important connections to help me get started.

SCBWI is a group dedicated to providing support and information to writers and illustrators. The Arkansas chapter provides conferences that are beneficial to both the new and the seasoned writer. This is a great place to meet other writers. Trainings make these conferences well worth attending, not to mention the added bonus of being able to meet with agents and editors.

Belonging to a group similar to this one is essential for a writer. Numerous associations exist for writers of every genre. Individual connections with other writers are an important part of the profession. I've read, read, and read some more. I've enjoyed attending book signings and meeting other authors whenever possible. I treasure the friendships I have made with writers and editors, and I look forward to adding more. Have we connected yet? Let me know if you have an author website or if you are on Twitter or Facebook.

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Make Me Invisible

My daughter asked what I intended to wear to an event I was hostessing. It was going to be a large group, and I had many details to attend to concerning food, tables, and decor. She was considering her choice of clothing with care. My answer? I told her I didn't know what I would wear, but it would be something that would blend into the background, something that didn't stand out. I did not want center stage. Perhaps I could find something to make me seem invisible.

Superheroes Spider Man and Super Girl are able to become invisible. Numerous comic book heroes and villains have the trait, too, as do Harry Potter and the Cheshire Cat, two favorite book characters.

Hunters know the value of being invisible. They choose their camo to blend in with the surroundings so the prey will never know they're not part of the foliage.

Hiding in plain sight is also important to soldiers. Their life may depend upon the color of their fatigues to hide them from the enemy.

With invisibility as common as dirt, I think it's not too much to ask that I could be invisible once in a while. Sometimes I don't want to be looked at. I don't want to be inspected. I want to do my job without any fanfare. It's not that I don't like people, but in a crowd I'd rather observe than participate.

When the day of the event came, I chose my clothes with the care a hunter or soldier might use. I didn't wear camo, but I wore a monochromatic outfit with minimal jewelry. I would offer the food and the hospitality while blending into the background. The more invisible I could be, the more I could people watch.

Most guests were dressed in unforgettable clothing. Colors were bright and patterns bold. Statement necklaces attracted attention with an extra pop of color. If my plan worked, no one will have any recollection of what I was wearing. If only I could have avoided those pesky photos, too.

My plan for the next event is to get an invisibility cloak. I'll be the one who's not in any of the photos, and don't expect to see Harry Potter in any of them, either.


5 Things That Make Me Grouchy

I'm sure no one wants to see my grouchy face. I try to ward off the grouchies by keeping a positive attitude, but it doesn't always work.

I know I should keep quiet if I have nothing nice to say. I know I can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Even though I try to adhere to these adages, there are a few things that always seem to make me forget about them.

1. Broken eggs in the carton. I open the carton in the store to inspect the eggs before I buy them. I do not want to buy broken eggs, but some cracks are not apparent on inspection. When I buy eggs, thinking all are intact, then pick up an egg to use it and discover it is smashed on the bottom, it makes me grouchy.

2. Shoes that blister my feet. This is a sneaky one. A pair of shoes can feel fine, but out of the blue a blister forms. This especially makes me grouchy if I have to keep walking in the shoes. The bigger the blister gets, the grouchier I get.

3. Someone who takes undue credit. Sometimes it's job related, but not always. It can be anything that one person grabs all the credit for, leaving the person who did the work with their mouth open in disbelief. It makes me feel grouchy that anyone would have the nerve to pretend they were responsible for something they didn't do. I have only one word for those people -- karma.

4. Unleashed dogs. I like dogs, but I don't want them running loose in my neighborhood. I enjoy walking for exercise, and an unleashed dog can be scary. My city has a leash law, and I feel grouchy that some of my neighbors don't honor it.

5. People who don't clean up after themselves. It doesn't matter if it's a family member or a house guest, I'm not the maid. If you make the mess, the mess belongs to you. Leaving messy surprises behind for me makes me grouchy.

Most of the time, I'm an easy-going person. On those rare days that I meet an unleashed dog when I have a blister on my foot while walking to the store for eggs that turn out to be broken when I get home, then I find my houseguest has spilled coffee on the floor, but she was too busy to clean it up because she was on the phone taking credit for work someone else had done, I might get a bit grouchy.

What makes you grouchy?



Holy Jackhammer

If you've ever been involved in new home construction or home remodeling, you know how nerve-racking either can be. After living in the same house for 24 years, we decided to build a house from the ground up. Not literally, as I never picked up a hammer. The hard work for me was the 50 million decisions about everything from brick to light fixtures. I was relieved when the whole ordeal was over. At last, the house looked perfect, and we moved in.

Now, only two years later, we have decided to remodel. I must have forgotten how hard it was. I don't know what has possessed us, but we have decided to make some changes in the basement. Changes to the tune of adding another bathroom, a laundry room, and a private office for me.

The workers came this week. I've stayed out of their way, with me upstairs, them downstairs. They have their work, I have mine. I was working on a magazine piece this afternoon when the jackhammer started. I hung on to the laptop. Everything in the room vibrated, especially my head. I couldn't finish my writing. To write, I have to be able to hear myself think.

Jackhammers are noisy. I don't like noise. If I had to run a jackhammer for a living, I would starve.

I remember now why remodeling is a bad idea.


If You're a Bibliophile, Admit It

Some people think it's weird. I think it's perfectly normal to be reading more than one book at a time. If it makes sense to have students study seven different subjects during the school day, then it should also make sense that a person can enjoy multiple books.

In proof of my point, I looked around and picked up the four titles I'm reading right now. One was in my car. I've been reading it to pass the time while I wait in the car line after school. A second one was on the sofa in front of the television. Often, I'll switch on the t.v., and finding nothing interesting, turn it off and pick up my book. Another one was in the kitchen. There are times when I can grab a few minutes to read while I wait for something to bake. The last one was in my purse. I hate waiting rooms of any kind, and it's much more entertaining for me to read a book than to scroll through my phone.

My current reads:

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, my book club selection for the month.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, my car line fantasy.

Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker, a middle grade thriller recommended by my editor, Pam Halter.

Coffee-Drunk or Blind by Elle Knowles, a nonfiction Alaskan family homesteading adventure.

In addition to my four in-progress reads, I keep a stack of of to-be-read books handy at all times. It gives me the same feeling as having a savings account. Whether it's money in the bank or a stack of extra books, it's a comforting feeling to know there's an emergency back up.

I can't be the only bibliophile with this habit of juggling different reads. Admit it, some of you read multiple books at the same time, too. I'd love to hear what you're reading. I'm always looking for new titles to add to my stack.


A Planner by Another Name

Ever since the beginning of the new year my journal has been staring at me from across the room. I think it has been questioning my loyalty. That's because my eye has been wandering. Yes, I've been looking at other journals.

I'm not tired of my journal. We're comfortable with each other. It was the hype about bullet journals that turned my head. I became intrigued by the color coding, the lists, and the symbols. Is this new thing a journal or a daily art project? I had to know more.

I read multiple how-to's on setting up and using a bullet journal, but I found the definition to be vague. If the bullet journal is as complicated as the instructions, I knew I might never figure it out.

I believe the original premise was to record daily information in a simple way, but the simplicity got lost. The simple looks complicated to me. To use a bullet journal I'll need to devise a list of symbols and a key to help me remember what all those symbols represent. On the up side, I can use pretty colors of ink.

This fancy new kind of journal bears a strong resemblance to my daily planner. It contains a list of appointments, a list of what to do that day, and anything I need to remember. The only thing my ordinary planner is missing is the art element.

Some have noted that a bullet journal saves them time. That's great, but I can't see it working for me. I may be misjudging the bullet journal, but I view it as a modified planner. My journal can't be replaced by a planner, no matter how cutesy the planner might be. My journal serves one distinct purpose and my planner serves another.

I hope my journal will forgive me for even entertaining the crazy idea of replacing it. Others may not agree, but my conclusion of the matter is that bullet journals are planners masquerading by another name.