Monday, December 30, 2013

A Writing Place

I think having a special place just for writing is important.  Sadly, I chose (too often) to make that special place in my bed. XXXXXXXX NOPE! Wrong! Go directly to jail!

About a year ago, I brought my childhood desk to my own home. It was an antique that had been my aunt's. In her ownership, whitewashing had been all the rage. In mine, restoring furniture back to its original lovely wood was the thing to do. It's easier to slap white wash on than to remove it from every nook and cranny.  Grrr.   But, I digress.

I hadn't quite finished the restoration started in my 20s, and here I am in my 40s. I didn't care. I loved my little desk, and I wanted it. So, I packed it and all the pieces still un-reattached, and brought it to a place in my bedroom, just like when I was growing up.

While I was working on my MFA in Creative Writing (go Full Sail Univeristy!), I occasionally worked at my little desk, but I didn't make it a habit. I still found myself back on my bed, either laying, lounging, or sometimes kneeling at the side of the bed. And what happened is that my sleep and my rest suffered.

I've read tons of those studies and articles about good sleep.  Don't do other things in your bedroom that take away from your rest. I ended up surfing the internet when I should have been sleeping. I found myself up until 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 in the morning.  All the while, my sweet little desk sat quietly.

I've even noticed more problems with my already not-so-great back and with my calves and hamstrings getting tighter. But, I continued to lie in bed or sit on my bed. Oh oh..have I mentioned that I have an OFFICE with a desk and a desk top computer? Yeah. It's ridiculous, and I acknowledge my part in it. However, a special writing spot is different. It's different for me, anyway.


The other night, I moved my charger and my laptop back over to my desk. Even before 2014 starts, I want to get back into the habit of using my darling desk. I am currently about 48 hours into the writing desk only phase of my writing.

Writing feels like it's own, very special activity now. I feel like I'm productive and working. I also feel like I am in a sacred space, sharing a piece of my family's furniture with generations of women before me.

Do you have a special space? If you do, I'd love to see it!  If not, go create a space now.  Enjoy it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Plan C?

Well, my book is not yet published because my publishing house is having a challenge getting an illustrator.  At one time, two illustrators were interested, but since I'm not on the business side as an author, I don't really know any details.  What I do know is that my little Baxter mouse is still waiting for me to write more stories and for the rest of the publishing process to continue.

I've had a lot of feelings about this. I've been very angry and disappointed. I've also been desperate and sad. In between, I've felt the call of a challenge. What is it that I can do? I'm not an illustrator, so I won't be creating my own art. I'd like to, but I know my creative and time limitations.  Plan B was to get published in anthologies and write on more Baxter stories while the house locates an illustrator. (There are really good people who are trying to work miracles behind the publishing house doors.) But, I'm still no closer to getting published than the day I signed my contract last March.

However, as we were taught in my master's program and as I have experienced as an entrepreneur - keep many options available. As writers, we should not have all of our dreams banked on one piece. I actually have a couple of other books in the works. Several of them are children's books. One is not. And honestly, I have a previously published article that I have been expanding for an ebook. So, there ya go. I have two other projects to work on.

My publishing house is really cranking out books, though. I've watched a number of authors see their books selling in multiple markets. So, I think Plan C might be to look at my nonfiction books, started a couple of years ago and tabled once I started writing children's books with my classes. It seems to be a reasonable plan to focus on those texts, which deserve to be told, and send them to be published since I know that they have fewer requirements for the house to handle. So, I'll send in something that I know they can handle with a bit more ease. Cool!

There are many circumstances out of my control - and even out of the control of my publishing house - but I can continue to keep writing.  I can keep looking for the opportunities in front of me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A discovery in writing

I'm still working through Nanowrimo with my students, and we are all finding the end of the month slowing down.   Some of my students know they are only in the middle of their stories and push to write more. Some of us are stuck.

I've been switching back and forth between a  young adult novel and another Baxter children's book.  I struggled with Baxter's story until today.  I went to read the first book I wrote, Merry Christmouse, and discovered I had been writing the new story in a very different voice and style.  Most importantly, I was writing in a different verb tense.  

Once I went back to make changes in the new draft, I noticed how I relaxed and slid right into the story again.  Who knew - the story wants to be told in a certain tense and style.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Nanowrimo - how are you doing?

As many writers are ended with Nanowrimo this month, I've takes my students to write with the Young Writers Program.  They are doing GREAT! I have one student who knows ALL of the tricks to pounding out more worse - adding description, writing out contractions, fights between characters, etc.  She's ROCKING. 

I'm not doing as well.  I'm getting stuck in the middle of my stories again. I have two stories going right now. I'm writing a paranormal YA book and another installment of my Baxter books. I can come up with strong beginnings and strong endings, but I've probably said it before - I've got a problem with mushy minutes. I thought I had plot lines developed, but something dissolved right after the rising action started. 

I've heard many writers and authors talk about "winning" Nanowrimo, but I think that winning isn't the prize for me.  I typically have the end of a six weeks where I am grading and the start of a new six weeks that I need to plan out. I wish I could write more when they write.  I can be pretty competitive, but as I've grown older, I've realized just what is to gain (or lose) if I compete. 

Nano is different for me. Nano is a time where I do write more than usual. I stay just a little more focused.  Whatever I create during Nano is more than I had before. Maybe one day, I'll work out my grading schedule and have weeks of planning completed in advance.  Until then, I'll just be grateful for the work count I didn't have before. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let's have a party!!!

I am very excited about all of my young authors. The anthology, Lost Tales from the Mountain published by Mountain Springs House, is a nice looking book and filled with spooky stories and poems.  Five of my students were published in the anthology, and we are going to plan for a SIGNING PARTY!  

I can't wait to get the details ready and let these kids feel the excitement of signing their autographs in books they were part of.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life keeps getting better in the writing department!

After my publishing house announced that my poem would be published in their anthology, the business manager contacted me to let me know that FIVE of my students who submitted pieces would also be published. My kids will be published in a couple of weeks!

I encourage my students to try. It really doesn't matter if you win or lose, but you need to get used to trying and trying. Persistence has been the most successful character trait I've developed.

So, I also encourage my kids to sign up with They can keep track of books, and every book that I share with them after I read, I post a review to Goodreads. I also let my kids know that I frequently go into the giveaways and enter the contests.  I've won twice!

This last week, I received a copy of Wonder Light by author R.R. Russell. It was totally sweet and delightful; a wonderful book for young readers. Naturally, I wrote a review on Goodreads and Amazon.  Next thing I know, RR Russell has contacted me to offer a 15 minute Skype with my creative writing students. How about that awesomeness?

I think I've found my happy spot!

So you, dear reader, go out there and be persistent.  Keep trying!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Another acceptance for publication!

I am pleased to announce that Mountain Springs House is pleased to announce that a poem I submitted will be published in their Halloween anthology!

Friday, October 18, 2013

I didn't realize it I hadn't been posting!!!

I came back to my blog today shocked to find that I hadn't posted an update to it since the end of August!  I KNOW I've been writing like crazy, and even though I have pulled a few irons out of the fire, so to speak, I've stoked the writing iron.

That's been very nice. Igot my script finished and to a couple of reviewers. I also wrote a submission for an anthology and judged a young author writing contest. Plus, my classes keep me busy:  three sections of gifted/talented 7th and 8th graders in language arts humanities and two sections of 7th and 8th graders in creative writing classes.  - Total writing joy!

I've also been reading at least two books each week; I'm a bit of a binge reader. One of the latest reading delights has been The Reluctant Cowboy by author Elizabeth A. Garcia. I can't wait to read more of her books!

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, so October is full of preparation.  With two classes of creative writing, I may actually attempt two different writing projects.  Why not?  I write with the kids, and that's two hours a day/5 days a week of writing.

In other news, my children's book, Merry Christmouse, will not be published this November as planned. My publishing house had some challenges, so we have a new plan.  Since it is a Christmas book, we'll have to wait until next year. Actually, I have a new plan, which may be 1000% times better than the original plan to try to get published.    That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!  Honestly, I had no plan before. I just submitted my book and hoped for the best.

Now that I am involved with an active publishing house, I am creating a plan for my writing career.  Mountain Springs House Publishing offers several anthologies during the year, and I will be submitting pieces to be published. That will get my name out to a wider audience before my book every comes out. There may be as many as three diverse anthologies put out in the next 7 months, so the scatter and spread for my name looks good.

I'm also very interested in my protagonist, Baxter, from Merry Christmouse, so what would have been the second book will be publish first....maybe summer 2014?  I'm working on that book now. It's about sunflowers, so my brain is very into gardening right now, hence the seed reference: scatter and spread.

What's on your list, your horizon, and your plan?  Nothing will happen until you make the first step.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Getting ready for a new school year - sharing a great article

I'm getting ready to begin my 8th year in teaching.  This year, I will have a new journey: teaching a GT 7th/8th grade mix of students in the language arts section of a blended humanities course.  I'm also co-chair of our language arts department with another wonderful teacher. I think having two teachers to share the responsibilities will allow us to do more and be more!

I will have two sections of creative writing, so I will be really reading and writing along with the students.

Here's a great article I wanted to share for anyone who wants to write.

10 Things Emerging Writers Need To Learn

Have a super week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Warning! There be dangerous plot holes here!

I'm fully invested into this last pass of my script (ha ha... I know it won't really be the last one). And I've noticed major plot holes!  Last night, I considered scrapping the whole script.  It was late, and I wasn't thinking clearly.

However, this is all part of the process of creating something wonderful. If I had not taken a break (forced by Procrastination), then I would not have been able to step away from my writing in order to see it clearly. When I started rereading over the last several days, I checked previous pages for references and actor placement. I looked at the script from a director's point of view - what scenes matched up, which ones did not.  Was the continuity and pacing there?

I found some ridiculous scenes that served little purpose and took up far too much precious screen time.  I hadn't wanted to cut them previously, but now I felt like I'd grown out of the attachment phase as a writer. I am really ready whip this into shape. I'm not going to send out an okay script. It may be my first full feature film script, but I am going to do all I can to ensure that it doesn't go out with a big flashing NOVICE sign.

I enjoy plants and gardening. Sometimes, you have to cut and prune. You even have to uproot and replant. After all is said and done, what you do is in the best interest of the plants as a whole.

Just go in knowing you might have to be brutal!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And it continues....

I need to break up with PROCRASTINATION. I'm not sure how, but HE always messes up my intentions to write and revise. I try to tell HIM that I enjoy writing - the process, the creativity, all of it. However, HE  seems to get me with all of HIS tricks. Grrrrr..... I want to break up with you, Procrastination.

So, maybe I need to analyze this relationship and help myself with my handy-dandy life-coaching skills. I frequently have to wear two hats at the same time; it always helps that the life-coaching hat is the sensible hat.

Here is the conversation we had:

Writer Tess:  I can't write. Procrastination always ruins my plans. I keep talking about finishing my script, but I haven't. I can't keep pushing my dates back and coming up short on my promises. Even if the promises are just to myself, I need to keep them.

Life-Coach Tess:  Why don't you break up, then?

W:  I'm scared.

LC: What scares you?

W: Letting go. If I break up with Procrastination, then I have to finish and let go of this (script, book, article, etc.)

LC: So, you're scared of the next phase? Will you be alone after you let this (script, book, article, etc.) go?

W:  Well, no. I have others that I could spend time with. I like them, too, and they aren't getting my attention.

LC:  That's GREAT! Tell me about them...

W: There's a cool film idea that I got from an awesome dream I had. As soon as I woke up, I wrote down three or four pages of notes.  There's also a new Baxter book I want to write. I feel like I need to spend time with Baxter since his first book comes out in November.  I think he wants another book for the spring.  I also have an animated TV pilot and series I started. It was coming along nicely during my classes, but I had to move on to get to all of the other assignments.

LC: I don't know about you, but I think those are exciting relationships to build. What do you think?

W:  Yeah....they are. I can do this. I can break up with Procrastination. I'll finish up The Collective and send it out because it's really about ready to leave the nest. Then, I have three new friends to spend time with.

LC: Sounds like you have the beginnings of a plan. Let's talk again next week, and you can fill me in on the new relationships.  

W:  I did manage to set up an email and a Twitter before my last little vacation. Procrastination didn't even notice.


LC:  You go, girl!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Just DO IT!!

I've been putting off that last revision sweep of my film script for weeks now, and today I started.  I was giving myself so many excuses on why it was ok to step away from the manuscript for a while. But there is too much of a good thing.

It's important to step away from your writing. I found myself doing the "brain simmer" again and coming up with great new details to add into the script. I wrote them down by hand in journals and kept on simmering. However, enough came to be enough.  If you let something simmer too much, it will eventually evaporate and burn.

This morning, I sat down with my writing buddy and started adding delicious details. My characters became brighter and bolder....this is only through page 11! Now that I'm back in front of the script, I can't wait to get it finished this week for sending out. 

Time to get my query letters and strategy together!

Do you need to get back to something you set aside and just FINISH IT?  How about you do that with me this week?!?  Keep in mind we are sending out our work, too. Do you have that planned yet?  Do it with me!

My best,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Whoops - the break that lasted too long!

Since my last post, I've had company in town, driven from Texas to Florida and back to walk across the stage for my MFA graduation, completed all of the last i-dotting and t-crossing for official graduation, and enjoyed a fabulous and stress-free vacation in Boston. It has been a whirl-wind for me, and I'm just settling back down to look at all of those items on my to-do list.

I'm working on my author brand and revamping my life-coaching website. Both tasks have seemed over-whelming. However, one step at a time will see me through. I've also sifted through about 150 unread emails in various accounts that needed attention. Not all of the emails are read, but they are sorted. I can continue to tackle them.

But real life keeps creeping in on me! I've had to attend to some unpleasant situations and duties. Combatting the icky parts of real life, I spent an afternoon with my daughter at a local shopping center dedicated to Asian shops. She was in heaven. Next week, I plan to take her to a day spa. (Thanks to coupons via Groupon, I can afford nicer things in life without blowing my budget, and we don't accumulate THINGS, just great memories.)

As a school teacher, I crave my summer vacation time; but if I don't set a schedule and keep disciplined, I am apt to lay around all day. Procrastinating.  Or coming up with great words that sound a lot better than procrastinating. Even with a to-do list, it is easy to put off things for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. When August hits, I curse myself for not using all that time to the fullest.  [I'd like to interject that there are certain challenges to being hyperactive in completing tasks in the Texas heat.]

In writing, I've started jotting down some of the last updates I plan to make to my movie script, The Collective.  I've also started the plot outline for another book with my brave little mouse, Baxter, for the sequel to Merry Christmouse (pub. Nov 2013). I'm making myself a deadline for getting those submitted: August 1.

Here's to summer writing! Stay in the shade and keep hydrated!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You can run, but you can't hide from her.

When you know deep inside that you are a writer, you may try to avoid Writing or run away from her. You may procrastinate, but you get back to her. You can't help yourself; you can't hide from Writing.

I am completing a master's degree course in creative writing where I presented a portfolio of pieces developed over 11 months in the program.  My shining thesis project was a 90-page live action film script. I'm pleased with it, and it received a 96 from my instructor. Not bad. But we both know that I still have work to do.  Three weeks later, I haven't looked at it again.  I keep telling myself that I need a good break from it in order to return for another revision.  I haven't looked at it again. I've written some notes down, but I haven't opened that file.  It worries me a little.

I have a self-help book that has been in the works for...well, a long time.  It needs my attention, as do my several children's books and my newest literary baby, a pilot for a children's animated TV series. I love these works. I want to see them finished and sent out to the world.

I also want a break from Writing. These pieces are like demanding children who cry, never-ending, for my energy. Writing can wear you out like nothing else. I love her, and I hate her. Unlike human children, Writing will wait until I return. She knows that I will - I hear her siren call and smile. That is how our love affaire works.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Arrgh - how do you define a style that says "Tess"?

I could not believe how hard it was to sit down and find designs and styles and colors that would help define me and help me stand out.  I need to brand myself - so says the books, the experts, and my publisher.

What happens when I can't define a style on the outside that defines who I am on the inside?  I can tell you that it makes me crazy wondering what I'm going to present to the world. Don't I  already make those decisions every day when I walk out the door or write something that will be read by others anyway?

It really shouldn't be such a hard decision: colors, templates, and a design to represent me. It was.

But when I stumbled upon a background with Buddha, only half his face in quiet repose, I realized that this was who I was on the inside.  At least that is who I try to remember, along with my Christian faith. Buddha has the words that help me calm and center myself in order to find my way.

So, as a writer, I'll always go back to the inner me. I'll tell you upfront that it doesn't mean I write in one medium or genre.  I like to try new things, stretch myself, take on something I've never thought of or tried.  Part of this comes from hating to be defined, and part of that comes from the desire to model courage and vulnerability to my writing students.

I am completely cognizant of the blessing of living right here and now where I can publish to the Internet, have access to great education and mentors, send work into publishers of my choosing, and see my words in places that writers in generations before me never dreamed. I've already had something I wrote in a moment of passion on a discussion board become one of those inspirational emails that gets passed around for years, luckily it was a good post.  I can't find the original post, but the email that I saw recently, 10 years after the original, was pretty close. (I'll write more on that another's worthy of an entire post on its own.)

When I get into a whirlwind of chaos trying to fly in new directions, I'll come back to the picture here of Buddha to calm my feathers, settle down, and aim at the horizon again.