The Great Purge Continues

drema girl with pearl earring

Me with the work of a talented local artist on display at my alma mater. I imagine you know which two artists’ work he merged?

Someone PLEASE tell me to get back to writing. Our house will never be the same! Out have gone books and more books, clothing by the bagful, and oh so much more.

I even tackled the dreaded long, narrow closet in my writing room. Again. Every couple of years I attempt to make it behave but it ends up raspberrying at me. Not this time! Since I’ve been organizing the whole house, I decided to give that closet another whirl. This time I saw the solution in my mind’s eye: crisp, white bankers boxes.

When we moved to Nashville oh so long ago I bought carloads of bankers boxes. They’re perfect for moving all of your stuff and things. They’re uniform and they have separate lids for easy access. The other day I realized if I was ever going to tame our paper monster I needed to find some, stat.

Furthermore, I needed to categorize the papers better AND be willing to release more of them from my life if I was to ever be victorious.

So early yesterday morning I sat in my writing room and began assembling bankers boxes. I pulled every ugly cardboard box out of the closet, every crate, and started sorting.

Mind you, I’d been through these papers a few times. This time I decided to use the “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t have this?” advice I’d read recently.

I thought I would get rid of every printed draft of the novels I’ve written. I have clean e-copies of them, so I figured I didn’t need them. I unexpectedly decided I needed to keep those marked up manuscripts, so I did. It felt right.

Going through my old journals I realized what a different person I am today and how I am also the same. More on that another time.

Formerly treasured school essays complete with comments, writing with lovely comments from mentors, got pitched.

Some of the purge was practical: most of the comments on my schoolwork were made on stories that have either already been published or have been changed so much that the suggestions no longer apply.

A few of the papers I wanted to keep, but I let them go when I realized this: I was holding too tightly to the good regard, the confidence given to me by my mentors. I’m a bona fide writer now, hell, I’m a teacher of writing. Holding onto those comments for as long as I did helped me see that others believed in me when I didn’t. I will forever be grateful for that. I have been privileged to work with some fantastic mentors who have undeniably helped shape my work. But I can’t see myself as the writer I AM until I let go of that one-down position. And it’s time.

That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t flinch when I tossed all of those blue essay books, those stacks of marked papers into the trash bag. Doesn’t mean I didn’t ask myself if I was being hasty. Doesn’t mean I didn’t grit my teeth as I hurried the bag out to the trash can.

Ironically, the dude driving the recycle truck knocked the wheels right off our trash can this week. I’m not sure how, but I see a connection.

By the way, the closet looks just as I hoped it would. I think I’ve done it this time. Forgot to take a pic, though. Sorry. 

In the same vein (and possibly this is redundant rather than reinforcing), I sorted through our writing instruction (or craft, for the uninitiated,) books. Those have always been the hardest for me to let go of, but I discovered that I was ready to release many of those now  as well. Some were outdated. Some were ponderous and tedious. Some were written by Dead White Guys FOR Dead White Guys. Some were yellowed, and I really don’t enjoy reading yellowed books.

But again the biggest revelation in reviewing our craft book collection was that I thought some of the content was either too commercial or too simplistic, that I knew some of it was just plain bad advice. I no longer need  “1+1=writing” books. I took a box of over 20 (!!) craft books to the Goodwill Bin. (I wouldn’t throw those away, of course).

And for those of you who know I’m married to a writer, of course I asked him if he wanted them before I hauled them off.

Never fear: we still have three well-stocked shelves of writing books. I know I still have things to learn. The difference is I also know what I don’t need to learn. 

I’ve also tackled renovating the rusty locker I picked up during Spring Clean Up. This is now residing in my writing room with cute baskets in it to hold my blank journals and writing supplies. As I told a young woman recently, “I’m not afraid of color.” Obvious, isn’t it? I heart this fresh color.

 

 

While I’m blissfully happy to be wrangling the house into order, I’m ready to return to writing beyond freelancing. Fiction keeps calling, and I’m about to, I need to, answer.

What are you writing nowadays?

Whole “Lotta” Interruptions

*The title’s pun is explained below. Sorry, Led Z.

First of all, my apologies for my absence. I’ve been writing blog posts in my head but I can’t seem to get those to transfer over from brain to screen for some reason. Hmmm…🤓

I had (have) a helpful post in my mental cue, ready to go. It was all about giving up unhealthy habits. But then…

Before I explain, let me say that I would have written this yesterday except I was happily helping a certain Someone celebrate his birthday. (Blatant excuse to use adorbs pic of my DH.) 


He wisely asked to go to Sweetwater to look at (and ultimately purchase) guitars before lunch. Being a certified chow hound, there’s not a whole lot I won’t do if there’s the promise of lunch after. If you feed me beforehand, I’ll be too “tired” to go. 

While I could almost live at Sweetwater (It’s uh-mazing! Shiny instruments, eco friendly in ways I’ve never heard of, field stone decorated everything, the friendliest, most helpful staff I’ve ever met, and free candy and video games!), after a few hours I’m ready to leave while someone’s only getting started.

(BTW: When you’re married to me you get strange things like the shower filled with birthday balloons.) 

And yes, lunch, when we finally got around to it, was delish. Did you know Smokey Bones now offers lettuce wrapped burgers for the carb conscious consumer? Holla! 

All of that to explain why I’m just now writing this post! 

As far as writing goes, I’m in this unenviable place where I’ve polished my rough draft to the point where I will trust my first beta reader to look at it. (Read: long-suffering-yet-gifted husband.) But the draft isn’t ready for my other sweet, willing betas. (Mainly because I’m experimenting with form and I’m hoping it works but I can’t be sure without feedback.) 

While I feel aimless and strange without a novel to work on, it’s also allowing me to work on other projects. Like painting a cabinet I rescued from the curb. 


Getting the “naughty” words off the otherwise gorgeous wood of another curbside find has been another project. (Hint: toothpaste. Yup, that’s all it took.) When someone asked what I was doing with toothpaste I said truthfully I was getting the f@ck off my table. 😋

We won’t talk about all of the furniture I put out on the curb during Spring Cleanup myself that, thankfully, was quickly snatched up. You wouldn’t think I’d adopt more. 

Before you call me a hoarder (I’m actually the opposite), at least I knew just where the new finds would go before I brought them inside. That’s a key difference. 

I’ve also been cooking. Probably too much. The grocery store just happened to have a gorgeous pork loin for sale. And I bought all eight pounds of it! Between that and other beefy projects our freezer is well stocked for when I succumb to the writing bug again. 

(In my defense, Indiana has the best pork.)

Sure, I could write. I have a few strong contenders for Next Novel, but I haven’t wanted to commit yet. I’ve made a few notes, even jotted down a really loose summary of one, but up until a few days ago, I hadn’t chosen. 

Sometimes you don’t get to choose.

I had a vivid dream the other night I couldn’t figure out.  I’m usually pretty good about detecting what my subconscious is trying to explain/complain about when I dream. This dream incorporated people I know, but I understood in it that they were only symbols. 

Symbols. My new girl was talking to me. Gotta say, she kinda hooked me with that dream. 

So I began to accept that maybe this character who I thought I had put in the “maybe” pile might be a front runner. Then.

Then I was taking a walk. Sure, I often think about writing when I walk, but this evening I was enjoying the violets, the scented, leaved trees. The sound of a bat connecting with a ball. I was marveling at how I can walk the same route and see something new every time. And I was cherishing the beauty of our small town. 

This character clearly did not enjoy my reverie, because she yelled “Write this down.” Which, of course, gave me (literally) pause.

This timid, shy character, one I thought might for once not give me as much spirited grief as my other two MC’s started talking. 

She told me the book’s title, and its opening words. I sighed because they worked. And because it meant she is spunky. I can’t resist writing spunky characters. 

Then she told me her nickname growing up, and I fell in love with her. Try to keep me from writing about her now. 

“Of course I’ll write your story,” I said. “Just don’t shout at me again. Ever.” She will. They all do when I get something wrong.  

To show her who’s boss, I didn’t write any of it down, either. Until I got home. 

I am working eagerly on some ancillary writing/design projects, so unless she insists I don’t plan to dive in for a few more months. If you want to make bets, go ahead. Not even I believe I’ll be able to stay away from her that long.

My second novel will (maybe) be far enough along in the revision process that by fall I’ll be ready to listen to her. 🤞🏻

Wait, who’s that kicking her heels against the back of my car seat? 

Fall, ‘Lotta. You gotta wait until fall. 

If she wrestles control of my writing hand before September, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, it’s back to all of my intruiging and challenging projects — More on them as they develop. They’ve been so much fun that I can’t wait to share. 

(One more gratuitous pic of the birthday dude.)

A Couple of Publications 

A trip to Wally World last night reminded me of a couple of recent pubs of my work that I haven’t shared. 🤓

The first was released just after Christmas: 

I was actually looking for a friend’s book and stumbled upon Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy and Confident in the rack. Sweet! 

I am so pleased to have an essay in the book, co-written by the amazing Supermodel Emme and the brave Natasha Stoynoff. It gathers 101 stories of women who have found ways to gain confidence in a world that thinks it’s fine to judge women (people) by their size. 

While my story in it highlights my desire to pass on body confidence to young women, that doesn’t mean I don’t still battle self consciousness somedays. I’m a work in progress. This book’s cloud of witnesses, however, shows me I’m in good company, and that it is possible to win the war. 

And curves? If you can’t appreciate curves I don’t think we can be friends. #SorryNotSorry.

On to #2: 

Those of you who know I’m a Woolfie will understand my excessive clapping right now: I am proud to announce that I had a flash fiction piece published in the premiere issue of Woolf Zine, a fine U.K. based publication and heart child of editor Sean Richardson of Nottingham Trent University. 

You can read the issue here:  https://issuu.com/woolfzine/docs/untitled-1

My piece was written in 2007 in response to reading To the Lighthouse for the first time, though it deals with several aspects of Woolf’s life. My story is a stream-of-consciousness experiment, a love letter, a bewailing of her suicide, and a commiseration with Woolf’s plight all in one.   

I feared the piece was destined to live out its life on my computer, a personal reflection of sorts that I wasn’t sure anyone else would or could enjoy. I am glad to be proven wrong. 

Lastly, this meme below  is a little ditty I sent to my hubs earlier today. I thought I was pasting a link to my story here but put this instead. Since I can’t seem to easily delete it and in the interest of not allowing myself to be overly stuffy (fatal to creativity), let it stand. Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do All Things Minion. 

Thanks for stopping by. 

We Were on a Break!

 

I’m taking a sabbatical from my novel. It’s been just over three weeks since I’ve caressed my darling book’s pages, stung its sentences with stronger verbs, mercilessly trimmed its split ends.

You see, I did finish my ugly first draft before the end of the year, (👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻) and now  I’m letting it sit for a month.

It’s been tough, this separation. I miss my book. I worry it’s been seeing that woman from the copy shop with the belly ring. (Hi, fellow Friends fans.)

I’ve been seeing other novel ideas myself, truth be told. I even wrote an outline, planned a research trip, and have begun reading up on a new topic. (Shh…)

Truth? I like this new idea, too. A lot. He lets me say things my WIP won’t, lets me use a different voice for him, and his tense? Oh, yeah.

So though I’m ready to get back to my darling novel in waiting, I know I’ll also be ok once it’s polished, is  beta-read, and is handed over to the agent, assuming she wants to read it. 🤞🏻

And if my WIP finds out about this new idea? We WERE (ok, are) on a break. Though if it writes me an eighteen-page letter (front and back), I’m going to read it all, just in case I find myself making promises (like Ross did) that I shouldn’t. Or in case my novel has things of its  own it would like to fix.

Eight days and counting until I can get back to it.

 

 

 

Rounding the Bend: Novel #2 

I’m nearly at the end of a (very) rough draft of my second novel. My goal is to finish it by the end of the year.

Did I mention that there are two holidays and my and Barry’s anniversary before then? 

So that’s my goal, but we shall see.

Another obstacle to finishing? I’ve just run across new research, and I want to include it. But that’s going to mean tweaking. 

While part of me is thrilled to have the new information, another part of me is overwhelmed. This has happened before.

Here’s the thing: when the Universe hands you new material, it’s saying it’s on your side. It’s saying it believes in you and your project, and it’s only helping out, no matter how it might feel at the moment. 

New information comes when it’s supposed to, when you’re ready for it. 

So breathe, Drema. Shade your writing with the new info, and relax. Clearly, you’re on the right track. 

Or so you hope. 

Photo note: one of my writing pals. She’s from China. 🙂 

Want to be “Simply Happy?” Start by reading this book.

From the editor-in-chief of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series comes a first book called Simply Happy. It’s out tomorrow, but I was blessed with a splendid sneak peek of Amy Newmark’s debut book.

Even if you only  read the chapter descriptions, you’d get plenty out of this book, such as:

Chapter 2 A smile is a boomerang

“They’re free, they’re easy, and they change your whole day”

For those of you who have ever worked with your spouse (and I have!), you’ll be tickled by Amy and her husband’s “Declare Voldemort” time periods. Since she and Bill work together, sometimes they need a break. When one of them says “Voldemort” (from the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort is he-who-must-not-be-named) neither of them is allowed to discuss or text one another about Chicken Soup or their other businesses. They may email one another and if it’s a weekend, the spouse has the right not to answer  until Monday if they so choose.

This tells me that Amy not only advocates keeping life in perspective and balance, but that she lives the lifestyle as best she can.

Spoiler alert: a story of mine is mentioned on page 88, one that makes me gulp even as I read about it. That would be the one where I was being a spoiled princess, thinking more about myself than my marriage. A dream (mostly) snapped me out of it. While I’m not perfect, the wonderful weekend I just had with my husband reminds me how that dream changed everything.

I’m proud, thrilled, to have my story mentioned in Amy’s book. And even prouder because Amy points out that my name is pronounced “Dream-uh,” and my story was about a dream. My father, who we lost nearly two years ago, named me, so I love my name.

Amy’s book is full of stories and experiences she’s had editing these books and how they have not only changed others, but her as well. Some stories have lingered with her for years.

Then there are tips in the book such as paying attention to the time we have been squandering. “If you regain only two percent of the minutes in your day by being mindful and not wasting them, you’ll actually get back half an hour a day,” she says. That’s time that could be used to write or work towards a goal you “never” have the time for.

This crash course in advice and wisdom can be taken one chapter at a time, or devoured (my style) in one sitting. Whatever your style, I recommend this sanity-saving read.

Let’s hope this is only the first of many quick-tip-with-meat-included books by the bubbly and savvy Amy Newmark.

Honoring Your Creative Space

This weekend I was thrilled to help my hubby tidy his music/writing/study room. 

For one thing, I knew how much he wanted to free up space so he can easily create fun projects.

For another, I enjoy watching people get rid of excess stuff. A lot. I also am pretty good at organizing, but I’m no clean freak.

We talked first about what he wanted to do in the room: listen to, practice, write, and record music; study, and store his instruments and books. 

Backstory: when we first married, his “music room” was our dining room. I wasn’t thrilled about that. Ever since he has been really good about trying to confine his stuff to one room. 

While I appreciate his thoughtfulness, there’s a problem with that: everything of his except toiletries and clothes pretty much ends up in one room. I’ve told him more than once that doesn’t need to be the case. 

It no longer is. 

So I have this bad habit of going to garage sales, second hand shops and the like. I’m thrifty that way, and I like decorating with unique finds. I periodically purge. About once a quarter the house feels too full and I begin culling. It feels great. 

Recently I cleared one side of a long closet in my writing room, the kind of closet that you can’t really hang a clothes bar in so yay, space! (If there were room for clothes it would have been quickly claimed by moi, believe you me.) 

I had also created space in the hall closet. 

The big clear began with carrying everything out of his room. Then we discussed what furniture would stay, what could go. I offered to paint his room but he said no, not just now. In my head I’m choosing colors. 🤓

He donated this cool old TV set and clock to the living room, which  gladly accepted:  

 
We sorted his bookshelves and got rid of approximately 50 books. I put them in the milk crates I’ve been storing in the garage for a decade and decided I would quit trying to find something to do with them and donate them along with the books. 

Then there were the cd’s that I was surprised he was cool with storing in the garage. 

The man has so much musical equipment. His 4 and 8 track recorders found new homes upstairs. An ancient practice amp was let go of. I’m so proud. 

Was I ever thrilled when we found his personal scissors that I bought for him and even put his name on. I knew he thought I’d borrowed them again and hadn’t returned them. Ha! Did not!

We found borrowed items, Christmas wrap, gifts it was time to let go of, candy. 

Thankfully episodes of The Office entertained us as we plowed through piles of papers. 

There was only so much I could do to help, because most of the decisions were his to make. I did make clear that he could get rid of almost anything I had given him in the name of freeing up space.

I did gain a few things: a shirt he didn’t want, some cd’s I don’t have uploaded to my computer, and his appreciation.

At some point we talked about only putting back into that room the things he will regularly use. I would, I said, find space for whatever else he wanted to keep.

It was with a grateful heart I loaded my vehicle with the crates and dumped bags of trash into the garbage can. (Barry is on a writing deadline so I offered to finish up.) 

Emptying the room revealed things we need to buy: a case for his keyboard and a set of shelves for his ever-growing collection of lp’s. That’s important info for creating and protecting your inspiration. 

After he finished practicing bass the evening of the clean up, I asked him how it felt to play in there. Needless to say, he loved it.

My husband is a multi talented man, much more than he gives himself credit for. I am thrilled he now has a clear space he’s happy to create in. I’m pleased to have helped.

I tell this story to remind us all to literally make space for our creativity by mentally and physically lightening our lives. Get rid of what you don’t need. 

Then again, besides books and clothing, I’m a minimalist. Works for me. 

  
Barry relaxes in his music room after a long day. (He said I could share the photo.) 

Breaking News: Inside Edition Features Power of Gratitude TONIGHT!

So Deborah Norville tweeted this awesomeness at me this afternoon:  

A
Need I say how excited I am that this Chicken Soup for the Soul book, the Power of Gratitude, is being featured tonight on Inside Edition? 

The vivacious Deborah Norville and the incomparable Amy Newmark have put together this hope-filled collection. Again, I am thrilled to be included. The world can always use reminders to be grateful, because there is always something to be grateful for. 

I doubt my story will be referenced, but still. I am pumped! 

Please watch this evening and buy the book if you could use another bowl of Chicken Soup. 

 

Journaling: Messiness Encouraged

This is my current journal. It’s a little over half full right now.   

I’ve noticed something: whenever I’m most scared about writing my novel, I automatically start prewriting in my journal. I may only jot an idea, a quote, or even a few lines of dialog. But it’s so much easier to start there, where no one will ever need to see how untidy the writing is. 
From there I go to a notebook, preferably a cheap one. Maybe you learned this from Natalie Goldberg as well? You just fill cheap notebooks because they’re so unassuming. I have a stack that I bought two years ago for like ten cents each. 

There the ideas get refined. I write in big letters, skipping lines. If my thinking is really sloppy, I might rewrite it in list form, numbers and all. Then I make a list from that list until it all (for the moment) makes sense. 

Or I at least have a direction to head in. Truth be told, I love the initial chaos, the passion for an idea that eludes me, slipping somewhere between consciousness and that place between pen and paper. The idea that has to be reckoned with or the earth might implode. 🌎

Then, the laptop. 

There are many reasons to love laptops and their kin. For writing purposes, not so much.

Before you call me a hypocrite when you see me clacking the keys, let me explain.

I need the laptop. It’s as if I’m wearing a suit and heels when I use it, though. In ways I get more done, sure. But it’s not as much fun. I’m not as fearless at it. Still, I do plenty of laptop writing and revising for convenience’s sake. 

(I still think I mainly do it to look like an adult. And because agents frown on getting pages torn out of a notebook mailed to them.)

Back to that journal: it was in my journal recently that I wrestled that latest writing dilemma and determined that I would decide once and for all, no turning back. Rock, paper, scissors. It meant trimming, rearranging my WIP, but that was the easy part.

I’m not someone who journals to impress. No way! Mine are an embarrassing mess. Rarely do I write a line in one that impresses me. My entries are quotidian and banal, mostly. 

That said, there should be a special place without Netflix or pizza forever for those who violate someone by reading her journal. I’m very serious. 

Once our house was broken into when we lived in Nashville, and the police are pretty sure it’s someone who knew us. Why? Because my journal’s pages had been turned as if someone had read it — it was a spiral bound book. Talk about feeling violated. 

Do you journal? Does it shape your creative endeavors? If not, what purpose does it serve? I’m always eager to talk process. 

The Novel That Wouldn’t Die…Or Live!

   

Said hair after getting it ‘did’ today.

 
So you’re sitting in your hair stylist’s chair, revising your WIP. You look at your words, laugh, and almost warn her not to read over your shoulder if she’s easily offended because it contains adult language. Instead, you’re embarrassed by what you read for an entirely different reason.

Let me say that I’ve been nurturing this novel ever since it was a poem, and I’m getting, well, impatient is not the word. Irritated? That’s closer. Let’s go back to second person, shall we?

So you read a paragraph and then another and you realize your story’s tone sways. Your wise cracking feminist becomes a learned scholar and back in two easy paragraphs. Whiplash.

You know what you are trying to do. You know she’s a totally different person on the inside than she’s portraying. You are purposely playing with form. But for one, her persona is way more intriguing. Her intellectual interiority makes her sound emotionally frigid, even though that’s what interests you most about her, her thoughts.

Also: you are trying to achieve a goal one of your writing idols could not. And you think you know now why she couldn’t. Doesn’t mean you can do it, though.

Besides that, this MC is way too self aware, even for first person. 

Plus side: MC behaves deliciously horribly. The way you want to act sometimes IRL. She’s selfish, sometimes cruel, and seems shallow to others. But she’s loyal, talented, and a keen observer. She finds it beneficial to be underestimated.

Then there are these other characters who want to take over. They’re uber strong and entertaining, to the point where you struggle to draw the lead men. That’s right. Men. Plural. 

You didn’t expect to have the men share the spotlight. You kicked one out. He showed up again. You wrote him out. Back. Then you made the mistake of asking your Writing Mother what she thinks. “Keep him in.” So you do. 

Except this guy so far isn’t a strong character. You feel around blindly because you have to tell. There’s no showing this guy. Or maybe you still haven’t cracked the code that reveals who he really is. Maybe you never will.

Ah, and then there’s that other guy. He, too, is overpowered by the MC and friends, though you have more hope that you will be able to capture him. He’s a tune, not a tone, so that might be easier. Might. Still, you hold the poor guy at a distance.

And in the end you wonder if your ambitions exceed your abilities. If SHE couldn’t manage it, what makes you think you can?

But after all, your whole novel argues for accessibility. It seeks to rescue (the metaphorical) Rapunzel and all the ivory tower dwellers. You can have lofty thoughts and still live among mere mortals. 

I’m (reclaiming story by first person switch here) seeking to first destroy the ivory tower, then rebuild the Tower of Babel. So we can all communicate, ya’ll. Death to intellectual snobbery! Life to accessible ideas expressed with real-life language. 

I’ll still always love reading rich, dense essays, the kind I have to stop and stare up at the sky and mull over. Maybe I should start a translation service for busy people who aren’t theory heads.

With pen in hand, I’ll keep revising. I will either see this novel born or put it out to pasture myself. Cliché intended. 

Am I overly ambitious? Let’s just  

 call me ambitious. Time will tell whether the “overly” fits or not.