My First Novel · writing

Just Write

So I mentioned the writer’s conference I attended in my previous post. First of all, I learned soooooooo much! I fan girled hard in every single workshop I took. There were published writers EVERYWHERE. There were workshops on how to overcome your writing barriers, how to be more mindful in your writing, how to write a poem, increase your online presence, and how to watch movies to improve your writing. My absolute favorite workshops were presented by a lovely lady who I want to snatch up as a mentor. She works in publishing and let us know what we could do as beginning writers to improve our chances of getting picked by a publisher. The first workshop with her had me changing some of the other workshops I had intended to go to because I learned so much in her class about how to write emotion in fiction. It was phenomenal. The presenter also participated in the panel about how to increase your online presence, and then two more workshops about writing tension in your dialogue, and last but not least, how to snap pictures with your writing. I took so many notes those two days (and mostly in her classes) my right hand ached. It was exhilarating and I felt challenged. And yet, this is the first time I have been able to write anything all week.

 

I became paralyzed by being surrounded by so many people who have been taking their writing so much more seriously, for so much longer than I have been. I have sat down several times and just stared at my screen. Even with the tips from another presenter talking about how to get out of that “sitting and staring at your screen” thing. I have just felt scared. Like, what if I don’t tighten my lines enough and I become too wordy. Because people, I like words. I use them…a lot… and the whole experience made me rethink some of my ideas for my book; in a positive way. The changes I want to make are exciting. But here is the thing, that self doubt thing. There is that voice in the back of my head that tells me it is not going to be good enough. Or it won’t reach anyone, or touch anyone. Self doubt is rough guys. Logically, I know many writers suffer from this kind of block. And didn’t I just learn a whole bunch of tools to help me combat this? As a matter of fact, I took 3 workshops on this very idea.

 

So today, I decided to work through it. Or write through it, rather. One of the challenges to keep writing was to “just do it,” in fact the presenter said specifically “just shut up and write.” So… you’re welcome? The great thing about recounting my experience with the conference is it is actually stimulating the ideas I had generated while I was there, but was too tired to really explore and write down when I got home. I even went up the canyon on Sunday and felt reenergized and ready to try writing, yet I didn’t do it. I just stared at the computer or told myself I was too tired to be creative. Which eventually led to feelings of complete inadequacy. Because, how can I be a writer if I can’t make myself spit something out onto the page? So I decided to shut up and write. I put on a Vivaldi playlist from Spotify (where I discovered some amazing opera) and I turned off the TV. And then I set some goals.

 

  1. At work we are asked to set personal goals as well as business related goals. My personal goal is to complete an outline for NaNoWriMo. I have attempted it many times and I have never achieved the much desired 50,000 word count. So, in preparation for my meeting on November 16th I have decided my personal goal is to write my novel’s outline and to make sure I have half of the words written by then as well (25,000 words). This freaks me out to no end! But I am so excited to try it this year. Not only do I have my writing group to help support my efforts, now you all know it, and my colleagues at work know it; so I have high hopes I will get it accomplished.
  2. One author during the panel about increasing your online presence mentioned not pushing so hard on your online presence until you have something actually published. Don’t be frightened readers, I will continue to work on the blog because it is fun! But I am definitely going to start focusing on Grace a bit more.
  3. One presenter suggested setting a minimum word goal. Another suggested setting at least a 1000 word goal per day. So when I figure out which one works best for me I will let you know. I am not going to tell you which writer was the most successful one in this scenario. I don’t want the pressure, and I am relatively certain one’s success has to do with how long they have respectively been writing.

Are you planning on trying out NaNoWriMo this year!?!? If you are you can look for me on their site. My username is mandahggnkiss !! 

What goals are you making to improve your writing?

Humor · The Fair Young Maiden

The Night a Blog was Born. 

THE FAIR MAIDEN’S FIRST ADVENTURE: AKA THE GREATEST SADDEST STORY EVER TOLD
Once upon a time in a land, I like to call, stupid effing ever never land; Our fair maiden is the same as before, same long hair, same cheerful disposition. She is called Mandalicious. She was busily cleaning her kitchen and making supper and preparing her meal for the following day when she heard a knock at the door. Slightly annoyed at being disrupted during her Beyonce solo, she dried her hands and answered the door, slightly suspecting it may be her sickly neighbor. Alas, it was her.

“I have to get an emergency cat scan,” she said. “Of course you do,” the fair maiden thought.

“Can you please watch my dog for me while I go?” she pleaded desperately. “Of course I will,”  Mandalicious instantly replied, because how was she going to say no. She didn’t mind really, since she is a lover of all furry creatures. The two neighbors decided the best solution would be to leave the sickly neighbor’s door as well as Madalicious’ door to let the dog roam at his leisure.
It was getting quite late for the poor maiden, as she deeply values her rest. She turned on the tv to watch some Beauty and the Beast (for the second time that week) and waited for her neighbor to depart. The neighbor needed to be fasting for four hours before getting the CT Scan and had to delay her departure for another 45 minutes. The fair maiden had taken her nighttime medicine at this point and was indeed ready to fall into some kind of slumber, whether it is deep or shallow, it mattered not. Her back hurt from cleaning and she desperately needed her bed.
At long last, the neighbor took the dog out one last time and departed. The sweet dog loves his mom, so he was very concerned and went down the stairs to wait by the door. Mandalicious convinced him to come up to her room. He seemed desperate to get into bed with her, but he was just too fat to make the jump on his own. So she lifted his portly body onto the bed, said her prayers and turned out the light. As she snuggled into the covers, the dog became restless. He fervently paced on the bed and would not be calmed. So she patiently put him on the floor in the hopes that he would go back to his bed in his mom’s room, and thus saving his poor dear little life.
At this point it was 11:30 pm and the fair maiden fell asleep quite quickly. Between midnight and 2am the stressed out dog would run out of the poor maiden’s room and then into the hall and down the hardwood floor, “click click click click,” went his nails. And then muffled little barks when he would run back into her room. Her sleep was intermittent and the poor lass was unbelievably vexed. At 3am she scooped his chubbiness up onto the bed in hopes that he would just snuggle up and go to sleep. It soon became clear to the sleep deprived girl that this fussy dog needed to relieve his bladder.
This was something not even the pirate eye could keep from fully waking her. She got out of bed and put some clothes on. Wearily she plodded to the neighbor’s apartment and retrieved the leash. Even though she was frustrated she was still loving to the poor creature, but happy she was not.
She gave up on pirate eyeing it when she got outside. The doggie sniffed everything and peed and then sniffed everything else. While she was out there she was thinking about how this was going to make a great story to tell in the morning. And then it came to her, this is the way she should write. And then, She thought of a blog name. Either Manda’sfairytaleinprogress.com or afairytaleinprogress .com.

After the short walk around the house, The pup seemed content to accepting that his mom was not in the yard as he had previously expected and took up a vigilant watch at the top of the stairs while he waited for her and did not bother the fair maiden the rest of the night. Because the pirate eye did not work, she laid awake for another half an hour and drifted off to some restful sleep. However, despite 4 separate alarms being set, she didn’t wake up until 725am and by some miracle, was in the car by 735am and was not late for work.

Approximately one hour into her work day she had a headache, but her attitude remained positive.
The end…or kinda the beginning. 

Humor · The Fair Young Maiden

Responsibility Can be an Adventure

 

Once upon a time the fair young maiden decided to finally get her car inspected and registered. This is a great feat, for the maiden loved to shop and needed some new pants, and wanted some other very frivolous things that she’d rather spend her money on. Alas, she did not want a ticket either, so she complied with the law and went on her merry way to The car fixer place.

The pubescent young man who greeted her gave her directions on how to park the car and then led her to the lobby. Well, he didn’t tell the confused girl that’s what was happening so she accidentally went into the employees office. The pubescent young man seemed startled that she hadn’t followed him when he walked away without any indication that she should. “No ma’am, in here,” he uttered and directed her to the proper sitting area. She walked into the claustrophobic room and was fairly certain she had actually walked into Hades.

The sun was at the perfect angle to bake the room to hellish temperatures. Her hair was long and thick and held all the heat in the universe around her neck and back. Immediately she began sweating. The lobby smelled like her grandpa’s shop he had while she was growing up. Mandalicious didn’t mind this part, the smell set off the nostalgic in her and it never bothered her when she was in a car shop. But then a skinny, greasy haired, younger gentleman (not so pubescent) came into the lobby. He sat a fair amount of chairs away from the maiden, much to her great happiness. Normally she liked people of all sorts, but the suffocating heat made her feel irritated that another warm body had come into the room and would then heat it further.

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She was sitting there reading about how to pitch a novel to a publisher, when she noticed a strong scent of body odor. In the heat, sweating bullets, she tried to not inhale. This, obviously, was not the answer. The young lady was perusing her phone and minding her own business, but she finally looked up while gasping for air. The man was eating a subway sandwich with onions.

Now,the fair young maiden enjoyed onions; she even ate them from time to time. She was even known to put them on her Subway sandwiches. But the combination of the burning inferno that was that room and body odor onion smell made her feel like she was going mad. She assumed she felt a lot like how Harry must have felt in The Order of the Phoenix when he wanted to strike Dumbledore after he had his dream about Mr. Weasley being attacked (. It took all her effort to refrain from bursting out in anger to ask him if he was under the impression that the lobby we were sitting in was in fact the very deepest depths of hot fiery hell.

The maiden’s hopes were raised when the door opened. As she gulped for some of the outside air leaking in through the open door, a different worker looked nervously at her expectant face, “We will be done with yours in about ten minutes.” he stuttered as her face fell in horror. He escorted the stinky sandwich man out and closed the door. When the onion man returned, she again gulped for more fresh air. To keep her mind off of the hot and the scent she began to write a tale about this adventure. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the worker man came and got her. It is to be certain that the man did not understand why Mandalicious was gasping for breath as they walked towards her adorable Jetta.

Of course, the worker discovered some sort of expensive “safety issue” which needed to be addressed in order to move forward with the inspection and registration. She approved the flushing of the brake fluid for her car and insisted that she wait over on the grassy curb where the air was fresh and definitely lacking in the malodorous department. Her poor nerves had been set on fire by the hellfire that had set off her irritation and  began to soothe while she looked up brake fluid to see if it was a real thing. Before she could surmise as to whether or not it was real, she was told the job was done. Happily she arose to pay for the services rendered. The only hiccough at this point was an embarrassing moment when she went to look for her keys to leave and then realized they were in fact in her car. The maiden and the worker shared a good hearty laugh at her simplemindedness. Riding off into the sunset, she thought to herself that it was no wonder the mechanics in the job might see her as a sucker. Shrugging her shoulders and thinking, “meh,” she drove home where she reheated pizza and settled in for a repeated viewing of Sense and Sensibility.

 

Until next time dear readers.

Mental Health

Depression!? Here’s How to Fix It!

Or at least, attempt it.

Tonight I had a great talk with one of my little sisters. As I have mentioned before in my posting, I am going through a real change, but there is a sense of anxiety about when it’s all going to fall apart, not just for me, but her too. Unfortunately it will, and that’s just the nature of depression and codependence. Sometimes I am filled with so much sadness and simultaneous rage that I can’t cope in healthy ways. But I know there is hope, I know it’’s there and that’s why I keep fighting. I am working hard on combatting my demons, but sometimes they feel like they will consume me. My family has watched me struggle. They have seen my life fall apart over and over, and they are as scared as I am about when it starts to fall apart again. I think it is important to admit that I am scared, but to still allow this positivity to flow without allowing this ever present shadow that haunts me even when I am at my happiest to overcome me. It is normal I think for there to be concern. My family and friends all want to make sure I am healing healthily and most importantly, lastingly.

There has been some momentum in the positive aspects of my life and everyone can see the positive effects all this change is having on who I am. I am happier than I have ever been. There is an internal and almost intrinsic belief that I am good enough, beautiful enough, and smart enough to be happy on my own. I still have bad days. Those days don’t really happen as often, or for as long as they used to last. I have moments where my heart beats so fast and I worry about the future, and agonize over my past so much that I can’t breathe. But I am moving forward. With each bout of depression, I feel like I come out of it stronger. Each low comes with more tools to cope, and more realization of what is working in my life vs what hasn’t worked. Happiness is a choice, and with depression it can be work. Part of that work is recognizing when you need to make changes.

 

Upon talking to my sister and pondering for a bit after our conversation, I have come up with a game plan to get me through the next low. Hopefully some of these things will help others who struggle with depression. I am not an expert in profession in treating any mental illness. However, through the scope of my own perspective as someone who struggles with mental illness, as a daughter, a niece, a friend of others who struggle, I feel that my perspective is of some value. It is my hope that this can help others; and maybe even myself through my readers’ perspectives and responses.

 

Continue to learn and develop new coping skills.

I think in order to do this one you have to really become acquainted with yourself and  what actually brings you joy. And then you have to engage in those kind of activities. For me, I love to be creative. So anything that involves painting, writing, coloring, just creating, brings me joy. I love color and I love words. So combine both and I am in heaven. And the more I practice, the better I am getting. The better you get at something, the better you feel about what you have accomplished. Feeling a sense of worth in this way is important to drawing yourself out of depression.

 

Really you have to pick something that works for you. In my article, 4 Things to Help Turn Negative Thoughts into Positive Ones, I list several ideas on how to show yourself love and kindness. I think finding things that bring a sense of peace and purpose are great things to work on. I am a big fan of exercise more in theory at this time in my life, but I know that exercise does help me immensely. Especially with anxiety, It forces you to breathe through it and there is something incredibly cathartic in the practice of exercising and movement.

Admitting When You Need Help

When I am in my head, it can be hard to get out of it. Usually I have lots of inner conversations about how I am a burden and shouldn’t ask others for help. And oh how easy it is to convince yourself of this when you are in a state of depression. You MUST NOT believe this. There are people who care about you. When I look back at my most depressive episodes, the kind of episodes where the hope is absolutely gone and I can’t seem to find the will go on, I am so grateful I did reach out when I knew I needed help. I think the trick is probably learning to admit to yourself when those triggers start. Being self aware can sometimes feel icky, because we are our own worst critics. The thing is, by becoming self aware, by being willing to admit when it is time to reach out, or to not get on the defense if someone pointing it out in sincere concern, you have to admit that you can’t always do everything alone. If you feel alone, talk to a therapist, a friend, a sibling, a parent; anyone you trust.  I promise if you start talking about it and hashing out where the downward spiral started, you will be able to pull yourself out of it quicker with each attempt to avoid the downslope.In conjunction with this, I have promised my sister after this talk we had that I would be more open to her help when I start spiralling. My goal is to not be defensive, and I told her to use all my words against me and she has willingly accepted this challenge. For this, I am eternally grateful.

 

Practice Using the Coping Skills When You are Feeling Down or Anxious.

In conjunction with learning and developing the aforementioned coping skills, practicing them is essential. And in this sense I don’t mean practice developing your artistic skills. I mean practice turning to the coping skills you have set up for yourself in your own game plan when they are needed. You have to actually put them to use. You can’t set up a game plan and then not activate it when you need it. It is pointless. This is where the work comes in. This is where you have to choose.Sometimes I don’t want to. There are times I would rather lay in my bed and force myself to sleep in order to avoid the things that are tormenting me. And there are times when I let depression win. But I also know that is when I end up feeling even worse about myself. As time moves forward, I do make more of an effort to turn to the healthy coping mechanisms I have set in place. Sleeping and eating only make my depression worse. When I feel like I can’t cope I reach out to someone. The people I turn to are people I know truly love me. And even though I HATE being told what to do, I feel like I listen more readily. Because when my brain is shutting down and I can’t make good decisions regarding my health, I have to turn it over to loved ones. It is hard, and sometimes I grumble, but 98.5% of the time I know their help is not only well intended, but in fact, productive in alleviating my depression and/or anxiety. You have to be willing to work and listen.

 

Depend on yourself too.

So I say all of this above because it is all important. But where codependence comes into play, you have to learn to depend on yourself too. For me, chasing everyone else’s love in order to fill a hole that was never filled by my mom, I have lived my entire life codependently. I have tried to find love in ALL the wrong places. I chased it to whatever hell it led me. If I have been sad, I have reached out and then when nothing is offered up by others, I have been angry and hurt. This expectation of reciprocation is where you have to let go. There will be times when your main support people are in a meeting, sleeping, with their families celebrating a holiday or a birthday. It is going to happen and we have to be healthy enough to reach inside ourselves in order to pull us up out of a depressive or anxiety ridden hole. Again, this requires work. Reaching out is important, but being angry or hurt because someone is unavailable is just asking for misery. So much energy that you could be putting into your own recovery can sometimes be misplaced in anger or hurt in regard to something you or your support person can’t control. This is why practicing your coping skills is so important. There will be times when the support you may need at that moment can’t be accessed for whatever reason. You need to develop your game plan and practice it in order to be able to rely on yourself to pull out of a bad moment. And if you can’t find it in yourself at the moment, there are therapists and crisis lines that can help talk you through a bad moment. I have used them and one in particular saved my life. Remember there is always hope!

I am still working on all of this. Codependent behavior and depression has been developing inside of me over the course of 36 years and it is going to take some time to overcome. But I know as I move forward in my journey, I will get better and better at overcoming all of this. Sometimes the progress will be slow and other times I will look back (as I do often these days) and be proud of overcoming every hurdle I have jumped.

If you need help you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

For Utah in particular you can call:

Crisis Intervention & Hospital Diversion Services at  801-587-3000

My First Novel

More from Grace

The next day. Grace rested on the sizzling wet cement. The towel she had put on the ground was bunched up into a pillow under her neck. The sprinkler on the lawn kept the ground under her body wet and cool. Her short wet brown hair stuck to her cheek as she inhaled deeply, drinking in the smell of the mixture of warm cement and the grass her grandpa had cut earlier that morning; before the sun had time to start smothering the crispness the night before had left behind. Grace had to keep her eyes clenched shut in order to keep the sun from blinding her. She was downwind just enough that she could feel the light spray from the sprinkler. 
Soon enough, she was pulled out of the mire of her thoughts by the slam of the screen door and the Cody screeching happily as he ran out to stand over Grace. Feeling his little shadow blocking the sun from her eyes, she left them closed, “Yes Cody?” At just that moment she felt his little finger poke her cheek, “Gwacie come eat,” he giggled and poked her two more times. Grace’s eyes flew open.
“Ah c’mon Cody, that hurts,” she muttered as she swatted lightly at his tiny hand. She took his little hand in hers and pretended to bite him. “Mmmmmm you tasty,” she said in a growly monster voice, “nom nom nom.” Cody squealed in delight and ran away towards the house, giggling and screaming something nonsensical. She heard Grandma open the screen door and holler, “C’mon Grace,” as she pulled herself up off of the ground and dried herself off a little better. 


When she was mostly dried she walked quickly to the front door. She could smell that Grandma had fried up some bacon and immediately surmised that BLT’s were most likely on the menu; Grace’s favorite! As she entered the house, she took the steps two at a time and raced into the kitchen. Grandma was slathering mayo onto the toasted bread and Grace’s stomach growled. Grandma must have heard it too, because she immediately said, “Now Grace, you know you are not going to sit on my chairs in a damp swimming suit. Go change and it’ll be ready to eat when you get back.” She didn’t have to ask Grace twice, not when there was bacon involved. The little imp darted into the bathroom and hurried into her dry clothes. Just as she was tugging her shirt over her ears she heard the telephone ring. Grace glanced in the mirror and tried to smooth her wet drying hair out of her face, encouraging it with all her might to just lay flat. After about 5 seconds she lost interest and saw her unsuspecting Grandma pick up the phone while she scooped Cody up who was trying to sneak out of the kitchen and down the stairs again. She hadn’t strapped him into his high chair yet and he was sneaky. 
“Hello?” Gran said. Her face fell and her old, soft, brown eyes flashed in anger. She put the receiver on her chest and handed Cody to Grace, “Buckle him in would ya?” Turning the corner from the kitchen into the hallway to try and hide her phone conversation from the kids. Grace’s heart started pounding a little. There were only a few things that made grandma’s eyes flash, and Lily’s daughter was one of them. 

Uncategorized

Where were you?

I know I’m not the only one who can recall exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001. Usually I have a ton of conversations each year, discovering where my coworkers were and what their reactions were. Today I started a new position, so my focus was completely on learning new tricks to my new trade. I mean I knew what day it was, I gave it thought. But I didn’t connect with anyone about it. It wasn’t until I was driving home from work and saw the flags at half mast that I really took a moment to remember. We promised to never forget. But I can’t help but wonder if we are forgetting; or maybe it’s just me. I don’t want to forget, but last year I didn’t even post my traditional picture I took when I visited ground zero in 2009. And this year I didn’t even talk about it. I live alone, and work was filled with work things, so I decided to use my blog to express my thoughts.

I remember I was getting ready to work, curling my hair. I was listening to the radio and the morning show on this particular station often did pranks. When they announced the first tower fell, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until their serious tone carried on for a bit that I started to realize something terrible was really happening.

With the TV now turned on, I sat on the couch in complete shock as I watched footage of the first tower falling. I remember crying in disbelief as I watched it unfolding before me. When the second tower fell I was watching it on live television. I can’t remember if the footage of the poor people jumping from the towers to escape the heat of the hellish consuming flames was seen live, or if it is burned into my brain from all the footage that aired all day, and so many of the days after, but I remember it just the same. I am not sure how long it took for the initial astonishment wore off. And as I am writing this, I am not sure it has ever completely worn off. Because as I write this, my eyes are brimmed with tears.

 

 

At the credit union where I worked, there was a hushed tone and a solemness hanging in the air. The employees and the members who were forced to do business that day. “Can you believe it?” people would say choking back tears and even sometimes spilling them. I worked the drive thru that day. We, along with the rest of the nation all paused for a moment of silence. We closed the teller windows and put a sign up notifying our members that we were pausing to remember for a full minute.

I remember that every break and lunch we congregated in the break room to stare in horror as more and more information came in about who was responsible. The footage was repeated over and over. After work was spent with friends and loved ones on couches watching the story unfold. My dad was working in Qatar at the time. People who didn’t do it were claiming they had. I remember being so terrified.

There was something else I remember. I remember our nation banding together. We were a country under attack. It was a tremulous time and together we stood united. Every person felt this devastation of the assault. While I know the families of those suffered infinitely more, I know the loss was felt by us all.

When I was in New York City in 2009 my friends and I visited Ground Zero. The place where I cried the most, where all of us cried the most was actually in St. Paul’s Chapel. It is a historical church that dates back to colonial times, so I was already super 

 

enthralled. St.Paul’s Chapel is where the workers who dug through the rubble rested in between shifts. Inside the chapel there is memorabilia. It is covered in letters and banners from the entire country expressing their condolences, their support for the volunteers. Thereimg_1784 is a huge banner from Oklahoma stating, “To New York City and all the rescuers, keep your spirits up. Oklahoma loves you!!” There were memorial pictures of rescuers and others who died. I cried as I walked through the displays. When I visited again in 2011 with other friends, I cried again. They were tears of mourning and remembering. They were tears brought on by remembering the compassion we showed for one another in such a terrifying time. We really must never forget

Please comment if you feel like you need to share your thoughts and feelings about this day. I would love to read them.