Periodically! #7 – Late December Mayhem

cropped-periodically3.jpgYes, I know I’m early. That’s because last month I was late. 🙂

Write News

Now that the winter solstice is over and the days are getting longer (finally), I may be able to get back to editing. Oh, I had the best of intentions while I’d spent ten days in Colorado; I’d schlepped my notes, my computer, and my reference books with me, but I just couldn’t. For one thing, I couldn’t get my butt out of bed most mornings! And the weather was clear – most days. I slept like the proverbial hibernating bear. Normally when I’m traveling, I remain on “Michigan time” and am up at 4 a.m. Not this trip. Plus, I rather enjoyed the time with my dad. There are six of us kids, many grandkids, and great-grandkids, so it was nice to have him all to myself.

Once home, with the hectic holidays upon us, I couldn’t get anything done. It’s Christmas Eve as I write this (I’m at work, which is deader than a door nail), and my intention is to write more, starting this minute! Let’s see if I can make it past today.

Interesting Articles

Myths about publishing – we all know about these. It’s a new world out there, folks! We are not tied to tradition!

A blog post that hits close to home – knowing you’re a writer when you’re young, getting caught up the Real Life, and coming back to writing. Once a writer, always a writer. 🙂

CamMi Pham implores us not to date a man who reads.

If you are a writer and not hooked up to Medium, you certainly should be! In addition to being a great writing reference, there are also some very good writers contributing. (I’m ashamed to say that I have been ignoring Medium lately, but I’m in the midst of getting back on track.)

And here’s a great post/interview on self-publishing.

Reading This Month

I participate in the Leon and Lulu Books and Authors event in October. It’s not just a good place to show off your little babies (books), it’s also a great place to meet other local authors. There are more than I ever expected. This year, I picked up Searching for Nannie B by Nancy Owen Nelson (whose table was right across from mine – lovely woman). Memoir is not my usual read, but I really fell in love with Nancy’s story of her hardly-spoken-about grandmother who died while giving birth to Nancy’s mother. I’ve attempted to reconstruct my own genealogy, and I know it can be a daunting task. Most of Nancy’s family lives in the Huntsville, Alabama area, and as I have friends there, I could recognize many of the places she writes about.

On my iPhone, I’m reading The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan. Due to be released in January 2016, this is a humorous take on one woman’s life questions after she gives up a successful career to marry and have children. (Who hasn’t been in that boat?) I love the author’s voice; it’s real and women who have been in a similar situation can totally relate.

On the way back from dad-sitting in Colorado earlier this month, I read A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton. I loved this book! The perfect mix of a Japanese woman who spent most of her life grieving after her town, Nagasaki, was bombed and the redemption and self-forgiveness she finally finds. While the author is not Japanese, she captured the nuances of the culture perfectly.

Musical Notes

While this edition of Periodically! will come out after Christmas, here’s a sad little song you might want to listen to. Eleven years ago when my kids were still under the family roof, they discovered this gem in a Christmas song book, decided to learn it, and performed it at the Rochester Conservatory Christmas recital. (The recital had the director on piano, daughter singing, but the family has been known to spontaneously combust into song.) I have videotape of this performance somewhere. They could never finish the song without bursting into laughter (actually, my husband and I couldn’t help but laugh too – I know, we are twisted for finding such obscene pleasure in the fate of a poor, little boy), and the video shows it. (I really have to get my videos converted into DVDs…but that’s another story.)

🙂

Question of the Month

Do you participate in the dreaded New Year resolution? I have to admit, I only make writerly resolutions.  Who cares about my weight? I’m heading into six decades and even I don’t care anymore. My 2016 resolution is to write at least one page (by hand) or for 20 minutes (by computer) each day. I might set up a private blog to track my efforts. I’ve been known to be a slacker.

Quote of the Month

Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story, there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature. ~Vladimir Nabokov


 

Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

 

Periodically! – #4 – Time For Fall

cropped-periodically3.jpgSeptember. Now that was a fast month! One day it’s 90 degrees, the next day you awaken to 50 degree weather and automatically reach for the nearest sweatshirt. Because of the brief thirty days and the nearly overnight change in climate, September whizzes by faster than, let’s say February, when you can’t wait for March’s lion’s roar.

Good God. February.

While I shake off that shivery promise of a future, I’ll update you as to what’s been going on in my world.

Write News:

This month saw my Editor for Life return an edit for Virtually Yours Forever, meaning I really should get off my butt and start editing. With the day job and personal family issues to deal with over the summer, I stood back from making any serious changes. I’m now glad I waited until I saw what he said at the end. This is going to take some major thought. I wish I could say the novel will be ready for prime time by the end of the year, but it could take longer. (Damn it.)

However, I’m in the process of coming out with a print version of Virtually Yours. I plan on using the copies in giveaways for the new book.

Can I share with you my feelings about the whole self-publishing scenario? If you’re an artist like I consider myself to be, the entire technical aspect can be daunting. I’m one of those learners who can’t do it by reading. I have to learn by doing. And yes, I realize that it’s the operator. I don’t understand templates and megapixels and the Internet. Remember, it took me at least eight months to learn WordPress! And I couldn’t figure out Twitter for the longest time. If you don’t make the application stupidly easy, I’m lost.

Oh! I have been invited back to the Leon and Lulu Books and Authors Event, to be held on Sunday, October 25, 2015 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you’re in Southeastern Michigan, plan to stop by. Meet local authors, and visit the store, which is an experience in itself.

The Guerrilla Urban Garden:

It’s been all-out war between me and the rodents. The squirrels won the battle of the pear tree. Despite my constant tending, my squirrel prevention measures – including bagging the pears, mothballs, shiny, noisy things in the tree, and a Boston terrier on premise, I ended up with NO pears this year. (I really want to hurt someone over this.) I managed to salvage enough cherries from the tree (first time ever!) to make two tarts. DEE-licious.

The potatoes, however, have been a banner crop this year, probably because we had so much rain early in the season. I also mulched with coconut mulch, and that seemed to repel just about everything. Sweet potatoes – just digging these up now. (I planted them in my flower containers, where they trail nicely.) YUM! You can grow sweet potatoes in Michigan, but they need direct, hot sunlight.

Of course, the Swiss chard and hot peppers have been going crazy! No pomegranates this year, but the fig tree is bearing.

Not bad for a person who doesn’t weed much after June. 🙂

Interesting Articles:

Here’s one in defense of light reads. Personally speaking, I don’t know how people can read the same genre all the time. If I want something deep, I’ll reach for it three out of four times, but sometimes I want something light and fluffy and fun. Likewise, I don’t write in one genre either. Not all writing has to be “literary” – whatever that means. Good writing is good writing and makes for good reading. In that same vein, you can really learn a lot from other genres.

And here’s a good article from RachelintheOC about censoring your writing. If you don’t follow her, you should; she posts a wealth of great info online about writing, relationships, and social media.

I’m not against the use of adverbs (obviously!), but when in doubt, a strong verb works just as well.

Music:

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, my husband and I have been watching reruns of The Wonder Years. This has prompted my husband to drag out his old sheet music from the time. I’ve been listening to him pound out classics like Burt Bacharach, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and of course, the Beatles. I’m probably prejudiced, but I think the best music came out of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, that sacred space between Top 40 bubblegum and disco.

Read this Month:

When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner. A friend suggested this book as a possible way for a family member to get through rough times. In reading it, though, I realized this is a gold mine of information for me to use in a novel I’ve been toying with since last summer. As a writer, you have to realize that there are other experiences out there beyond your own. It’s difficult to put yourself into another person’s shoes and write about an alternate experience convincingly. (My problem is all my characters act like me and sound like me.)

Quote of the Month:

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet. ~Anonymous

Have a great month!


Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

Periodically #3 – The Thank Goodness It’s Nearly Over Edition

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It’s the final day of August, which means summer is one week away from being officially over! Now I love the sun, and especially love summer, but I think I would like it a lot better if I weren’t working 24/7 at my day job. With September comes cooler temperatures and the opportunity to take a deep breath. Plus, I will be able to devote more time to writing. Having my creative juices curtailed is much like having my arm cut off.

The Write Rite:

At last! An agent that gives permission to NOT beat yourself up, while encouraging control of your creative life. I can be done!

It’s Monday. Yes. It. Is. I know, blah-blah, hungover from the weekend, good Lord, I don’t want to go back to work Monday. However, there is one shimmering, shining Monday moment, called Monday Blogs. Follow Monday Blogs on Twitter (@MondayBlogs), and if your head doesn’t spin off from the sheer amount of good info – especially for those who write – you will absorb so many good articles on writing, publishing, querying, etc. You might find a few other interesting, non-writing blogs, too.

If you’re looking for classes, workshops, and/or general support, go over to Savvy Authors. I was given this excellent writers resource by a past president of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, and have taken several of the classes. ALL HELPFUL, and most are at a nominal fee so it won’t break the bank. With my schedule, I don’t have time to commit to classes in the flesh; web sites like Savvy Authors can fill in the gap. The instructors know what they are doing, and the people taking the classes are great.

While you’re honing your craft, don’t forget about connecting with readers. After all, we’re nothing without them.

A Little Music Doesn’t Hurt:

As I mentioned last month, my husband and I are re-watching The Wonder Years, and we are up to 1971. Great times, wonderful music. Most of our TV viewing (only DVDs, never live) has a strong musical component. Take Glee, for instance. I know, dorky, show choir singing Journey ballads that would cause a normal person to tear their eyeballs out. NOT REALLY! For the most part, the show does a wonderful job of weaving the music into the story line. Maybe I’m *ahem* old, but I find myself liking these shows more because of the music.

Art News:

I decided to apply for the Leon and Lulu Artist Market, and was accepted. It was a great opportunity. I love the store (very eclectic and fun), and they are so nice to the artists, feeding us, plying us with wine, ringing up our sales (and subsequently taking care of the taxes). I participated in the Books and Authors day last year, and will again this October. If you’re in the southeastern Michigan area, check the store out. In Clawson, not far from where I am sitting and typing. 🙂 And if you’re interested in shopping the artist market, the next one is scheduled for November.

Interesting Articles:

Here’s one that caught my eye. Supposedly, male writers who submit queries to agents are more likely to get a response than women writers who submit queries to agents. One of these days, I might make an experiment of my own work and try this myself.

I have decided to back Broke Ass Stuart for Mayor of San Francisco. Never mind that I’m not a resident of California, or of San Francisco; however, I love Broke Ass Stuart‘s wry humor. You must follow him! If anyone deserves to be mayor of the City by the Bay, it’s him. I’ve even sprung for an official campaign tee shirt, so you know I’m serious.

Read This Month:

Hum, by Michelle Richmond. A collection of sometimes deeply disturbing short stories. Good God, but I wish I could write like that!

Currently reading The Big Bounce by Elmore Leonard. Can you believe I’ve lived in Detroit since 1986 and have never read Elmore Leonard? I know! Blasphemy. This one was highly recommended, so I thought I’d start my Elmore Leonard library with the Bounce.

Quote of the Month:

A single best-seller can ruin a writer forever. ~John Steinbeck

Not sure I’ll ever find that out for myself, but I’ll keep trying!

Have a great month!


Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

Periodically #2 – Dog Days of Summer Edition

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Personal note: Weather. It’s going to change. That is a given. Especially in the Midwest, where each of the four seasons is (or should be) starkly different from the other.

After several years of what I call Bummer Summers (too cold, too wet, too short), temperatures finally hit the 90 degree mark. I am never one to complain about heat. You need a little for the garden to grow. You need some to coincide with a frozen strawberry margarita, to be enjoyed on the deck.

But then the air conditioning goes out. Both units, upstairs and downstairs. And your house was built in 1927. And you learn that because in 1927, the method of heat was radiator and when previous owners later converted to forced air, they neglected to put in enough intake vents. And the lack of said venting strains the AC units which is why we have the painfully brief 11 year life span of a $3000 unit.

Yes! Major appliance replacement AND home renovation in my near future.

My takeaway: Your AC never goes out in November. And, your furnace never dies in July. Preventative maintenance is a pain in the behind, but it is key.

WRITE RIGHT TIPS

If you’re a writer and you’re not currently hooked up to these web sites, you are operating at a deficit. Check it out! Subscribe if it’s an option. Writer Unboxed is a great site. Lots of good information, from the perspective of the author and of the business of writing. An email from Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents lands in my inbox weekly, and I read every one. Here’s a good site I love to visit – Janet Reid, Literary Agent. There’s of course the great information on the state of the publishing world, and writing prompts, and contests. And did I mention that Janet Reid is the Query Shark? The Query Shark scares the bejesus out of me, but when I have time, I read the archives. You can learn from the mistakes of other writers.

As for me, I’m still struggling, and I’m good with it. All creative types must struggle; if art were easy, the world would be a better place. I’ve put down my reconstruction of Siouxy for now. I began reconstituting the story and found after three chapters that it was too unnatural. Forced. So I’m rethinking how to tell this story. There’s a great story there, many, many pages, I’ve just got to whack at the extemporaneous to get to the pretty.

So it’s now on to the umpteenth edit of Virtually Yours Forever! Thanks to a former employee who is also a Federal Marshall, I should have the governmental aspect of my subplot down quickly. This novel is so close to ready, I can feel it.

READ THIS MONTH

Feathered by Laura Kasischke. This is the book my Boston terrier ate. Not completely, but Millie found the binding to have a piquant aftertaste, as well as being quite chewy. After I yelled at the dog, I reassembled the cover and the first two chapters. I’m reading quite a bit more YA these days, and found this tale interesting. Definitely worth a read, but don’t leave the book where your dog can get at it.

’89 Walls by Katie Pierson. Another young adult novel. I’m heartened to learn that teenage stories set in 1989 are considered historical. Now I can consider my own YA set in 1976 the same. I loved that the author included a bibliography at the end, as well as suggested reading material available at the time. Oh, and a glossary of terms! I won’t divulge the story except to say it’s a romance of sorts, during one of the most trying years of the last century. Please, please, please have Kleenex available for the last four chapters. You’re going to need it.

ART NEWS

The Ann Arbor Art Fair was a success. Not enough to quit my day job, but I managed to sell quite a few pieces. The temperatures were hot but not sweltering, and while tornado warnings were sounded north and south of us, we had a bit of welcome wind and about ten minutes of light rain – not enough to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. I have put away jewelry for a while to concentrate on writing. (I did, however, enter a competition of sorts – more on that later…especially if I win!)

REDISCOVERED

In a fit of nostalgia, I decided to purchase the box DVD set of the Wonder Years, and so we are now in the process of watching. I’d forgotten what a great show this was, until I read a review online and was reminded.

A couple of reasons why this TV show resonates with people my age: 1. We grew up during the “wonder years” and 2. Modern TV is lacking true creativity and inventiveness. I can’t remember the last time I followed a network TV show, comedy or drama. Like a lot of people, I wait to see if the reviews are good before I decide to commit to any time watching TV. The current wave of “reality shows” on every channel from ABC to TLC and beyond boggles my mind. Where’s the writing? Where are the interesting comebacks and the witty jokes? (And I don’t mean crude jokes, but truly funny ones.)

The Wonder Years did not sugar-coat the ’60’s and the ’70’s. I might sound like a curmudgeonly Baby Boomer, but those were the good old days. Sweet in simplicity, but with looming change just out of arms’ reach. Life is like that now, but when you are coming of age in a time…well, that hits home. I was the same age Kevin Arnold was, during the same time. It’s the same reason we so enjoy That ’70’s Show.

Both shows capture the spirit and essence of what it was like to grow up back then. Plus the music is fabulous.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity. ~Martin Myers

Stay cool, my friends!


 

Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

Once a Blog, Now a Newsletter – Periodically #1

After spending over a year puzzling over WordPress and wondering how I was going to import/export my subscription list into my current website (virtually impossible, at least for this Internets-challenged senior citizen) and nearly four months trying to figure out how to start an online newsletter, I have decided to make use of the WordPress site I originally started with by turning it into my newsletter. And so, PERIODICALLY was born.

This way, instead of doubling up my posts, I’ll just have a once a month entry into this blog.

Whew! *wipes sweat from brow* That takes a load off.

Introducing the first edition of Periodically!

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Right Write Tips: I’m currently working on a YA historical (if 1976 is history now) novel I wrote as a serial years ago. This time, I’m using the Paperclip Method by Michelle Richmond. (For those of you who know me, these are the Siouxy stories of 2007-2008.) I’d originally written them to elicit interest, so there’s a lot of way out there adventures. If she was going to get drunk, run away, or find a college-aged boyfriend, there would be plenty of outrageous behavior.

My problem with this tale of adolescent woe was that Siouxy lacked a real story. There was a beginning, but no end in sight. No journey of the soul. No journey period. Siouxy was a wild child without a mission. A true rebel without a cause. She was Mix Mastered into a maelstrom.

Luckily for me, I never threw the story away though. (My husband can tell you I never throw anything away…you just never know.) Finally, after all these years, divine intervention hit me square on the head and I have devised a storyline for my girl.

I usually write in a linear fashion, but didn’t with Siouxy – even though it was written as a serial, sometimes I’d slide back into time, or forward into time. The Paperclip Method – for pantsers like me – seemed like a perfect exercise in getting my story into shape.

So far, I’ve printed all the installments. Some are in a “hmm, don’t need this but maybe later on I might” pile. The rest have been paperclipped and put into an order I can deal with. Now I must weave in the storyline and see what I come up with.

If anyone else has ever used this method, I’d like to know. Does it work? Any pitfalls? Is there a speedier way of working?

Art News: I signed up for the Ann Arbor Art Fair, South University, as part of the Michigan Silversmith Guild next month. I hope to make enough money to bankroll a trip to Asia, but who knows? Speaking of Asia, the last time I was in San Francisco, I *finally* visited the Asian Art Museum. Wow, and WOW. I don’t know how I missed visiting before. I especially loved the Japanese exhibits, my favorite pieces being the netsuke on display. There were also some interesting woven basketry. I will definitely be returning on my next trip to the City.

Music: Two things: One, classic rock will never die. I’m currently listening to my favorite sounds from the mid-1970’s, which puts me in the mood for writing pre-disco era YA. LOVE early Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly. Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan – yeah, they’re not ‘rockers’ but listening to them gives you a real flavor for the times. And while disco sucked (at the time, I can enjoy it now), I listened to the Eagles, Tom Petty, emerging AC/DC.

Two, my son has his own YouTube channel. This sounds extremely self-serving, but I’d appreciate those who enjoy classical music (particularly the romantic, early 20th Century Russian modernists who are especially depressing) to favorite his channel. Oh, come on. At least, give him a listen. I’d like to think that four years at a prestigious West Coast conservatory is worth something.

Quote of the month:

The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seems like three minutes. ~Gore Vidal

That’s all, folks! Sign up or check me out next month.


Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.

Readers: Are They the Exception or the Norm?

The one thing I enjoy about the San Francisco Writers Conference are the contests. Yes, I enter, and yes, I’ve had mixed results, but that’s the whole point. How will you know if you’ll win or not unless you try? I’m also impressed that they hold a similar contest for high school students. Even though I don’t currently have any high school students, I was once one – a long, long time ago.

I have, in fact, told stories as long as I can remember. I like to draw, so many of my tales were illustrated. I had a wild imagination, one so off the beaten path, that in 7th grade I was expelled from Catholic school because of a rather racy short story I wrote that got passed around until it landed in the hands of Sister Mary Ruler-Slapper. (I can laugh about it now, but my mother didn’t speak to me for three months.) It was so bad, I was not only banished, but so were my siblings.

My shortcomings were not in writing, they were in speaking, which is why I never said a word during debate class. However, I read voraciously, skipping right over anything age appropriate and going straight to the classics. The “harder” the book, the more I wanted to tackle it. Book reports: in 4th grade I wrote nearly 30 of them, for extra credit and because I loved to read. That’s more books read than there are weeks of school.

In my junior year of high school, I decided to enter the city-wide Junior League Creative Writing Contest. Okay, so the city was Colorado Springs and not the Big Apple, but it was a big deal to me. My short story was a dystopian, future set tale of a broken down world and one man’s love for a priceless antique chair. I dug it out of the basement about a year ago and typed it — it was TERRIBLE. How did I win Second Place?

I have no idea.

Now I am old(er), and starting to sound like my dad. I am concerned about the reading abilities of our children. I deal with teenagers all the time in my Day Job, and I had two children. As a writer, I’m fearful for these new readers, my potential audience. Many of them can’t read because they were taught some cockamamie theory when in kindergarten. I’m surprised my son can read at all, because at the time, “inventive” spelling was all the rage. He was encouraged (by the school) to spell words however he wanted to. On the other hand, I, as the mean mom, would make him write his spelling words twenty times and then grill him in mock tests. (What can I say? I’m half-Japanese.)

Other kids are dyslexic or have ADD. This would be my daughter. She would read out loud perfectly, but would write out of context or not retain one iota of information. That’s because her mind was thinking about something else – it’s always thinking about something else. She doesn’t enjoy reading, and the only way I could get her to ‘read’ Harry Potter books was to buy the accompanying audio books so she could read along while listening.

My children didn’t grow up deprived; we read to both, all of the time. We supplemented what they were learning in school (had to, even though they went to private schools). We could afford books and I bought plenty. Yet, I believe that neither one (for whatever reason) could read to my ability in 7th grade.

Sure, kids these days read, and the popularity of the Hunger Games and the mad YA market are testament to that. But my own kids have been in “reading” classes where they watch the movies the books were made from – not exactly reading.

I live in the Detroit area, and the city schools have notoriously low graduation rates. Many of the kids I see come through here can barely write their names. Some can’t spell or pronounce the streets they live on. They can read abbreviated text messages, but have no idea how to read a book for the enjoyment of it. Suburban kids might fare a little better, but the standards are still mediocre. Some kids (and adults) these days want to do the least amount of work, to just do enough to get by.

I place advertising in school newspapers, partly because I am a product of several school newspapers (junior high, high school, and college), and partly because I like to read what the current crop of kids are writing. Most of the writing is good, witty, relevant. However, one by one, I am seeing school newspapers being dropped as a class. One advisor told me it was not just the money, but the school spends a good deal of time trying to get test scores up, so they drop the classes that don’t apply to the state test, like newspapers, wood shop, home ec, etc.

The result is kids who can’t create because they aren’t given the chance, and not given the chance, can’t improve their minds. I don’t know if what I’m seeing on a day to day basis is an anomaly, or if it’s a trend. The other question that lingers is if these are writers of the future, what will become of books? What will become of opinion, or art?

That’s why when I see articulate, intelligent teenage writers at the San Francisco Writers Conference pick up their awards and get recognized for excellence, it quickens my heart, if only temporarily.

I still have my fingers crossed.

The Art of a Creative Real Life

I am guilty about complaining about Real Life.

How can I not complain? I’m a busy girl, with lots of interests. I love learning about new things. I consider myself an artist. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a pen in my hand, or charcoal, or paints, or guitars, yarn, violins, hand shovels, fabric, beads, wire, jewels, or exotic food. I’m learning Japanese, in my car and via Rosetta Stone. I read like there’s no tomorrow, not only fun novels and engrossing literary fiction, but history books and biographies. The tired old adage of not having enough hours in a day doesn’t begin to describe the frustration I feel as minutes tick by and my List of Things to Do is not even approaching completion.

Let’s face it: mundane Real Life, with its responsibilities and drama, often keeps me from my Creative Life. There’s a lot of items on the “CON” side. I have kids – yes, they are grown, so what? grown up kids often have grown up problems – and a business – several, actually – and it all sucks up my time. I have a house (huge) and a yard (even huger), both of which require constant maintenance. On the flip side, the Real Life gig does pay the bills, a huge plus on the “PRO” side.

My one defense in the fight against Real Life doldrums is to approach Real Life with a different perspective. It’s really not so hard; you must be creative in order to obtain a creative Real Life.

It’s easy to find inspiration when you’re young and unattached, moody and naive, and infinitely more difficult, albeit not impossible, as you are weighed down by things like paying the rent and starting a family. When my kids were very small, I tapped into my creative side. I used to make their clothes, and of course, cooking is a wonderful way of crafting edible creations.

Soon my days became more harried and time evaporated, but I strove to make every action a creative one. I’m sure my son’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Siciliano, did not appreciate my heart-felt and inspired apologies for his abhorrent behavior, but hey, you do the best you can with what you have.

I’m flabbergasted by the number of people who sit in front of a device and play games or who are otherwise ‘entertained.’ Granted, I’m a huge offender. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of Facebook, TV, or video games (or a number of other mindless distractions) and spend their precious time wasting it away. I’m constantly amazed by people who see what I’m doing and declare, “I’m not creative at all!” I want to shake them silly and say, “Yes, yes, you are! Give yourself a chance.” A person doesn’t have to accomplish a task with pinpoint accuracy; the main thing is to try. The only way to get the juices stimulated is by making the attempt, or in my case, the many attempts. Learn from your mistakes; correct them, and move on.

My time is limited, but I don’t let the lack of it limit me. If the phone’s not ringing at work, I will twist up some wire while I wait for the action to begin. As much as I strive to carve out a niche of quiet for myself, I often don’t have time to pound out a chapter in one of my novels. If that’s the case, I might open one of my blogs (as I’m doing here) and write a few words, or take out my notebook and read what I’ve written in the past and jot down new ideas. I’ll use bits of time to research, update, and catalog.

Living a creative Real Life isn’t a given. It takes dogged determination and a desire to make everything and anything you might endeavor to do a work of art.

Isn’t that what life’s all about?