Thursday, June 20, 2013

Snail's Pace

I've been plucking away at my DoT manuscript, and I have concluded that I am the SLOWEST writer in the history of writers.  I just looked it up on my old blog and found that I started writing this novel on June 6, 2011.  TWO years ago!  Is this normal?  I feel like other writers are creative geniuses--they get an idea and run with it, burning the midnight oil in a writing frenzy until they have their entire story purged on paper (or screen).  If I ever do get this thing published, I hope my readers like being in a state of static anticipation, because it will be another twelve years before the sequel comes out.

But--I AM moving forward, and here's where I'm at!  (<--even a slug can be proud when it spends all day sliding forward five inches):

The last time I posted a word count was here at Ocean in a Cup, and I was at 23,427.  So I've officially added 10,000+ words over summer.   I now have almost nine chapters, but I am still missing chapter 5.  My current goal is to fill in the much-dreaded-chapter-5-hole in the next couple of weeks.  It's a tricky little bastard, because the more I try to fill it in, the larger it gets.  It's a hard phenomenon to explain...writing doesn't always follow scientific principles.  But that hole has become like this big mocking thing that likes to taunt me with its omni-holeness.  

On a semi-related (but not really) topic, I drove up the mountain to take my 15 year old niece Cassidi out to lunch today.  She is such an awesome kid, and I never get to spend one-on-one time with her.  We talked for three-and-a-half hours--mainly about "girl stuff."  She's a fun-spirited teen with the emotional maturity of an adult, so it's often easy to forget that she's not one, and honestly, I enjoy talking to her more than most adults.  But she also picked my brain about my manuscript, which was very cool (I don't get opportunities to talk about it much).  She has been so excited about my book, which gets me excited about it because a) her enthusiasm is contagious and b) her age group is my target audience.  She also gave me tips today about what NOT to put in the book (i.e. "Don't put a scene where the main character is describing her attractive features in a mirror but pretending she doesn't think she's pretty--that's so annoying").  What trips me out the most about writing a book is the people in your life who emerge as your biggest support system.  I always expected Clint and Shan to root me on (although the quantity of their encouragement is staggering).  And of course, my grandpa.  But a sixty-some year-old retired teacher from my work?  Or my 15 year old niece?  Or others, who emerge from the woodwork every now and then to cheer me on from a distance?  Those are the ones that take me by surprise.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

From the Real Shannon

This will be a quick post. It has been SO long since I have last written, and I knew it was only a matter of time before my sister started acting like a butthead about it. On the bright side, I learned a lot about my life from Jodi. I guess I spend my days "therapyzing" and working on my "paper thing." (Jodi, what paper are you talking about???! You know I'm not in school anymore, right??). I guess I'm "psychoanalyzing" as well, which is pretty remarkable in an acute facility (average length of stay for inpatient is 5-7 days), considering psychoanalysis takes a minimum of two years.

I really just wanted to offer a brief explanation of why I haven't written for a while. It has been brutal the last few weeks. It started about a month ago, with our Vegas trip. The trip was actually REALLY fun. However, I started to get sick that weekend, and that bug clung to me for about 2 1/2 weeks (extreme fatigue, chronic headache, sore/burning throat,and acid reflux IN my throat, which was really freakin' weird). After taking every OTC med possible (including Prilosec for a couple weeks), it finally disappeared.

 In the meantime though, I rear-ended a brand new Camaro (still had dealer plates on) on the 60 FW. My car was fine, but hers was pretty jacked up (on the bright side, I discovered my car kicks ass in a crash...I had like...ONE tiny scratch, while her bumper was falling off). She got herself an attorney, and she is claiming injury now (although she didn't look that injured when she was running around her car road ragin', screaming, and dropping F bombs...but hey, I'm not a medical doctor). Luckily, it seems as if my insurance is handling the lawsuit and all that.

Then my son's school calls to tell me he is having an asthma attack. I was like, my son has asthma? So I had to take time off work to get him an exam, blood work, chest x-ray....Jeremy also had to take time off work to take him for an echocardiogram, because the doctor wanted to rule out a rare heart condition. He has an inhaler now (which I like to take hits off of sometimes's fun). Adding to this was trying to enroll Shelby in Kindergarten. The school wouldn't accept her physical exam from February because it was supposed to be done after March, so that was another appointment. AND Samantha got some infection on her head, which was ANOTHER appointment. I feel pretty sure our family doctor can put his own kids through college now.

I also got a flat tire, but that is nothing new. I am cursed when it comes to tires.This was actually a nice one. Rather than the tire violently blowing off my rim and leaving me stranded somewhere with no cell signal (which is what typically happens), this one just calmly deflated into a pancake.

In the midst of all of this, I have been trying to study for this nightmare test (the only part of my life Jodi got right). And that's all. I am going to try and write another post over the weekend, because I still have more I want to write, but I'm too drowsy right now.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Anniversary Tattoo

I'm so glad Shannon wrote her blog entry below so that it's finally my turn to post.

Look what I got yesterday!

(Picture removed due to student creepers) :)

Yesterday was my and Clint's 15th anniversary.  To commemorate the event, we thought it would be fun to get each other's initials tattooed on ourselves.  The problem?  Clint already has my name tattooed on his forearm.

So tattooing my initials on there would be pretty redundant.

Thus, my super corny cliche romantic vision of getting each other's initials carved into our skin turned into just me getting his initials.  Here we were supposed to be side-by-side in our tattoo chairs, suffering together, but instead it was just ME suffering.

I told Clint I didn't want his initials floating around in space, so he helped me to pick out a simple little peacock design from google images to compliment some initials (yes, my tattoo is from google).  I decided I wanted it on my hip.

As it turns out, the hip is an awesome place to get a tattoo.  Compared to the cherry blossom branch on my ankle/foot, the pain for this one was much more manageable.  The first five minutes, as usual, was the worst, because your body has to adjust to being assaulted with a needle without being able to move around, tense, or squirm.  That's the hardest part.  HOLDING STILL, when all you want to do is flail out and kick the tattoo artist in the face.  But after you get past the first five or ten minutes, your brain starts to come up with coping strategies for holding still and dealing with the pain.  You pick speckles on the ceiling to count, or a picture on the wall to zone in on.  The thing that works the best for me is to picture muscles in my body--ones that are far away from the needle--turning into water.  I don't know why that works, but it's become my magical formula for getting through these things.  Somehow it takes the focus away from the needle.  It still hurts like hell, but I can manage it.  But what was awesome was that for this little hip tattoo, I only had to use my coping strategies for about the first 45 minutes.  After that, I no longer cared about the needle at all, and at one particular moment toward the end I even felt a little bored and was thinking about what I was going to eat for lunch.  That's how I know the hip area is a much less painful area to get a tattoo.  There was NO WAY I could think about lunch for the cherry blossom branch.

Here's a little more close-up of right after it was done:

(This picture removed too)

And here it is today, without all the red:

If you look on the bottom left of the tail, you can see the initials "CP."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Week: By Shannon

Hi, it's Shannon!*

*(Okay, there's a small chance that this isn't really Shannon.  This might be Jodi parading around as Shannon because Shannon refuses to write a damn blog entry and Jodi's ready to write another post but doesn't want to have three in a row lest it look like she's hoarding the whole freakin' blog....

But only a SMALL chance). 

So like I said, this is Shannon, and I want to tell you about my week.  Let's see.  Work was good this week.  I did a lot of psychoanalyzing and therapyzing people.  And then I worked on my...paper thing. Or maybe I studied.  YES--I think I might have studied, because I have a test or something that I need to pass for my licensing thing.

Oh yeah, this Saturday I'm going to do a 5k with Jodi in which I plan to pant in agony and hold my cramping side the whole time while she blows right past me.

That about covers it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

That One Time I Got Published

Five years ago I was published for the first--and only--time in my life in the May 2008 issue of True Story Magazine (as shown on left). I'm not sure why I never talk about it.  Well, maybe I know why, but I'll get to that in a bit.

It started about five and a half years ago during 5th period with a journal prompt that I posted on the whiteboard for my students. The question was, "Do you believe in miracles?" After the students finished writing, and consequently sharing their perspective on the topic, I shared with them a mysterious incident that happened when I was four years old. The kids loved my story.  One student shouted, "You need to write that one down Mrs. P! You should get it published!"

That night, with the student's words still echoing in my head, I did write it down. A few days later, I sent it to True Story Magazine. It was a magazine that I was currently subscribed to, plus my mom and grandma used to read it when I was a little girl, so I was familiar with their layout. I knew each issue contained a "Miracle of Faith" section, and I felt hopeful that my story would be a good fit for that. I didn't know what the word count should be, so I simply checked out the word count of previous stories and based mine on that average. Since the setting of my story occurred the night before Mother's Day, I decided to play off of the holiday to increase my odds.

All of my instincts were dead-on. I was teaching a couple weeks later when I received a phone call from Clint. Ironically it was 5th period. He told me that I had received an envelope from True Story Magazine. I remember my heart started thumping in my chest, because I had read that "due to the volume of contributions we receive, we can not reply to each submission." So why would they be replying to mine?  Daring to hope, I told him to open the letter. He did, and read the good news to me out loud over the phone. I was stunned. They offered me $100 for all rights to my story, which they wanted to feature in their Mother's Day Edition. When I hung up the phone, my class wanted to know what was going on. I told them, and they went crazy, whooping and hollering. I told them they were the reason I was getting published. A whirlwind of hugs and congrats ensued, and I cried with happiness.  It wasn't about the $100--that meant nothing to me.  It was the fact that someone out there found value in something I had written, and the fact that it was my 5th period students, of all people, who had inspired me.

It's my dream to be a published writer. At the time that this happened, I thought, "This is IT. This is the moment where I break into print. This is the moment I am PUBLISHED."  I seriously could have dropped dead with joy right there on the floor of my classroom the minute I heard the news.  And when my story finally came out, I can't even describe the emotions I experienced.  Nothing compares to that feeling of flipping through a magazine and finding your story, with your name printed beneath it.  It's amazing.

(Actual photo of story, as seen in True Story Magazine)

So why don't I ever talk about it?  Because it's five years later, and nothing has happened. I have never moved forward beyond this little achievement. I've been stagnant.  Now something that I should be proud of has become a sore reminder of how little I have accomplished since then.  It's discouraging to reflect back and realize that getting a piece of work published in a magazine wasn't the life-changing moment that it felt like it was going to be back then.

But it's occurring to me that you can't win the lotto if you don't buy a ticket.  Yes, it's true that I haven't published anything else since 2008, but I also haven't tried.  I somehow expected for all of the pieces to magically fall into place without me having to put in the required effort.  So yeah, I need to accept that the published piece wasn't the magic wand I was hoping for, but that doesn't mean that it's wasn't an important step.  I need to buckle down on my manuscript, keep networking with other writers (twitter's been awesome for that), send more short stories into potential publishing venues, etc., and see if anything sticks.

Someday over the rainbow in a land of pixie dust and unicorns, I hope that I'll look back on this little published piece and realize it was that big, pivotal moment after all.  Maybe I just need the hindsight of more time, more bumps in the road, more failures, and eventually one big success, to realize it.