Archive for January, 2013

copyright Renee Homan Heath

I had nothng for this until my son woke me at 4 o’clock this morning getting ready for work. Hmm… Nah. He’s a good kid! The story started out a little soft, but I think it ended up pretty hard-boiled. Ha! Okay, what do you expect at 5 a.m.? Monty Python? Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

The Hit Man

Genre: Crime

My uncle had always considered the world his ashtray and human life something to be snuffed out like the unfiltered menthols he habitually left at the scene of a job. It was appropriate, perhaps, that he was found buried in the sand, vertical, head down, only his feet visible still sporting his signature white crew socks with blue stripes. It was a cosmic joke that I happened to be on duty that day, a joke at my expense that I told myself over and over again sitting by the ocean later, watching the salt water wash the white beach clean.

I hope you liked my drabble. Read more great flash fiction at Friday Fictioneers’ on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog. Or add one of your own!

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When it is a (writers’) retreat!

Last week I spent four days with five wonderful women in a two-bedroom condo in Branson, MO.  A little travel tip: If you are looking for a touristy playground, don’t visit Branson in January.  There is plenty to see and do there in season, but even entertainers need some time off and they take it in January!  If, however, you seek a quiet space with few distractions, midwinter Branson is perfect.

Two things that really made this experience worthwhile: Tamara Hart Heiner’s pre-retreat logistical organization (she blogs about it here) and a group of women who, though diverse in genre, style, and voice (in writing and in personality), were each well-supplied with positivity and purpose.

Some highlights:

  • Great food.  Each of us were assigned a meal to provide for the group.  We had plenty of food and variety, and it kept costs down.
  • Daily group inspirational moments and writing exercises.  These were also assigned.  They were relatively brief, but provided opportunities for focused interaction and discussion, and kept those of us whose attention tends to wander targeted on our purpose.  My favorite included this wonderful Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.
  • Making new friends.  It’s a little scary for me to agree to cohabit with someone I’ve never met.  After all those summer camps as a kid you’d think I’d be used to it.  I’m not.  One attendee was completely new to me.  It turned out well.  Danyelle Ferguson was bright and open and I’m glad I got to know her.  I also was able to strengthen my associations with the women I already knew.
  • Bushwhacking!  Not the ambushing kind.  The traipsing through the woods without a trail kind.  So fun.  And I found among my retreat companions someone else who enjoys it.  (I’m thinking this deserves its own post.)  Admittedly, our version was quite mild.
  • Learning new stuff about myself.  While on retreat I finished Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.  (This also merits its own post.)  I’ve been reading and pondering it for a few weeks, so introversion and extraversion has been at the front of my mind.  Being in this setting gave me a unique opportunity to consider my own temperament.  Along with this, sitting silently in a room full of tapping keys helped me understand my approach to writing better.  I am afflicted with a tendency to evaluate by comparison.  I do not hate myself because I am not like other people, but I do benefit by seeing how others function.  I discovered that while I am not a heavy plotter, neither am I a pantser.  I like to think ideas through and have a solid grasp on the general concept before I start writing.  I know the others were writing on WIPs, or at least had already completed the thinking-it-through phase, on this retreat.  I did notice during the writing exercises that included sprints, that most of them jumped in almost immediately while I burned half my time in thought.  This could be an effect of their having already established good writing habits, while I am still working on consistency.  If I write more consistently, I expect that my prep time will diminish considerably.
  • Goals.  We were “required” to set goals.  I could have bucked it, but I decided to give it a try.  You can get a little taste of my view of goals here.  I wrote a long list, knowing I would not reach them all, but hoping they would keep me focused and give me options when my attention started to wander.  I didn’t do everything on my list, but I did get some good stuff done, including establishing direction and priorities in my expectations for writing this year.  This may not have been one of the things I enjoyed most on the retreat, but it was very beneficial.

I have found over the last couple of years that taking time to attend conferences and retreats, whether in groups or on my own, is invigorating and helps me focus.  I’ve noticed that the time it takes me to disconnect from the day-to-day decreases with each purposeful getaway.  Now I need to learn how to implement that focal elasticity into everyday life.  If I never publish anything, at least these experiences are making me more thoughtful in the way I live my life and spend my time.

Have you found retreats to be beneficial to your writing or to your self-awareness?  What makes such an experience successful in your mind?

Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Quick submission today.  Feel free to comment!

Genre: Speculative Fiction

The Menorah

The unnatural way the sun was dropping from the sky bewildered Esther.  She looked around for Toby.  His crayons lay abandoned on the living room table.  She heard a tapping from the den.  He was at it again—trading coloring for more destructive pastimes.  She walked through the doorway, saw him seated on the floor, golden menorah cups scattered around him.  Only one left attached.  His hand held high, hammer ready to descend, he gazed at her with too much knowledge in his eyes.  Esther turned to the window again, considered the blackened noontime sky, and heard metal strike metal.

I hope you enjoyed my drabble.  Read more great flash fiction at Friday Fictioneers’ on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog.  Or add one of your own!

 

Happy New Year!

It’s gray outside.  Wet and gray.  I’m listening to bluesy jazz, the song at the moment, ironically, “The Rain,” by Melody Gardot.  I’ve set myself the task of wrestling this post on resolution into submission, and maybe in the process cementing my own resolve.  I’m just blue enough myself that it might get done.

We’ve all heard lamentations about failed New Years’ resolutions.  They’re everywhere this time of year, resonant as fading Christmas bells.  If you are one of those “in two weeks I’ll have forgotten my resolution” or “I always fail at my resolutions” people, I’m letting you off the hook with this bit of information:  If you forget that quickly, or think you’ll fail, you haven’t really made a resolution.  You’ve wished on a falling New Year’s ball.

Definition time

Resolution:

1. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.

2. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.

3. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

The key here is that you really, deeply, sincerely intend to do something.  If you don’t have that drive, don’t worry about it.  You haven’t made a resolution and you have nothing to regret.

But what about those who actually intend to make changes in their life?  We often get “resolution” confused with “goal.”

Goalthe result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

Look at those definitions again.  Resolution is the mindset; goal is the intended action or end.

Let’s take a quick look at my current situation.  I have a list of things to do which is growing as I sit in front of this computer screen.  But I have decided that I want to finish this post.  That is my goal.  The thing that keeps me banging away at the keys is my resolve.  My resolution is to reach this goal of a completed blog post on resolution.  Get it?

Maybe I’m overcomplicating it.  Let’s take a simpler tack for a moment.

Goals.  That’s what we are really thinking about when we balk at New Year expectations.  Failing in our efforts to reach those goals is what we fear.  I think we succeed better when we cut ourselves a little slack.  A little, mind you.  We must still be resolute and make an effort.  Here’s what I mean.

Last year I resolved to become healthier.  I set several goals upon which to exercise that resolution.  One of those included a certain amount of weight I wanted to lose.  I didn’t reach that goal, but I did lose some weight, adopted healthier eating habits, and implemented exercise into my weekly routine.  Do I feel like I failed?  No!  By and large, my resolve held, and when it did slip, I just renewed it.  I may not have lost the right number of pounds, but my resolution was to become healthier and I did that.

A friend posted this tidbit on his Facebook this morning:

My new new years resolution:

This year I will gain weight,
do less,
read less,
make less money,
and find less happiness in life…
and with any luck that will fall through in two weeks like all the other resolutions being made:)

He’s a funny guy, but when you think about, he’s right on.  This is how we approach resolutions and goals.  If I fail, then I get the opposite of what I wanted.  That’s not how it works, folks!  Life is a journey, and reaching the planned destination in the planned amount of time rarely happens.  But we usually get there if our resolve holds through the setbacks, or we find ourselves someplace even better.

Speaking of journeys, a couple of years ago a friend shared a goal-setting metaphor with me.  In the old seafaring days, sailors used the stars as the guide to their earthbound destinations.  They focused on the stars, charted their course by relative positions, but they never reached those heavenly bodies.  That was their aim but not their destination, and it still got them where they needed to be.  To succeed in reaching goals and maintaining resolutions, we need to lose our aspirations for perfection and remember what our real desire is.

So my hope for all of us this year is to find something we care enough about to really set our resolution on, to give ourselves space for goal-setting and readjustment along the way, and to find ourselves at the end of the year having moved, by virtue of our resolution, toward the place we ultimately wish to be.