UPDATED: “Never Too Poor to Give” to be Featured on Chicken Soup for the Soul Podcast

I wanted to let those of you who don’t follow my social media know that my story, “Never Too Poor to Give,” will be featured on the Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast on Monday, December 4, 2017.  You can find it on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts. I’ll try to embed a link when it comes out, but if you miss it on Monday don’t worry, because you will be able to find it later in the archive.
How honored I feel that they are going to broadcast this story of mine from the Count Your Blessings book, out a few years ago.

Here’s the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-chicken-soup-for-the-soul-podcast/id1085746482?mt=2&i=1000395572674

If for some reason that doesn’t work, it’s episode 148. If you want you can look it up. 😁

I don’t want to spoil the story, but nonspecifically, it’s about a student at the Learn More Center where I taught who gave me a Christmas gift when she could ill afford it, and the desire to give it prompted in our household.

This is a great time of year to count your blessings, and one of mine is certainly that my story has been chosen. Recalling the circumstances that brought me to write it brings me back to a time and place I enjoyed, a pleasant reminder of the many students and colleagues I worked with who were and continue to be a part of my life. I could write stories about them for years to come.

Aside: Am I the only one, or does the title of the book remind you of the hymn “Count Your Blessings?” It’s a fun, bouncy little song that I hear in my head sometimes, but it bears considering.  Just in case you wondered, if you’re reading this, I count you among my blessings, too.

 

 

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Lofty Goals and Musings

Today, I feel the need to spend time evaluating my writing life and goals. I do this periodically to be sure I’m on track. Because let’s be honest — I’m ambitious, and idk how else to know whether or not I’m even coming close to approaching my goals.
So much about publication, about remuneration, about our writing legacy, is out of our hands. All we can do is write, consult the best sources we know about what to do next, put ourselves out there, and maybe whisper a prayer to our higher power.
One of my overarching goals is to be a part of literature today, a vital, intertextual, integral part of the voice of my generation. To not only interact with but to elevate the art, if possible. To cause others to pause, think, and live more fully. To speak for those who do not know how to articulate their experiences.

I strive to do this through fiction because there I have license to more fully tell the truth.
Oh, and if I can entertain and transport others while doing this, well alrighty then. No pressure, right?
I try to remember that attempting these lofty ambitions means sacrificing things I’d enjoy. Like bingeing on Netflix. Wait, I still do that but I want to cut back. Like ever getting around to spring cleaning. Except during the times I’m stumped on what to write. Like thinking I will ever organize my books by the Dewey Decimal system or the aesthetically-pleasing-but-confusing-because-how-do-you-find-anything-color-coordinated system.

Neck-twisting transition(s) ahead alert.

So, unless you don’t know me at all you know I’m obsessed with Virginia Woolf. Look at what Barry bought me for my birthday! I just BAWLED when he gave Woolf and company to me. And just check out Vonnegut! That hair!
We had another Woolf encounter earlier in the week. Barry has wanted to go to a Robyn Hitchcock concert for, well, ever since he started a “Twittermance” with him. (Shh…don’t tell either of them I said that.) We had the opportunity to go to a show in Indy. And after the show, at the informal meet-and-greet Mr. Hitchcock replied “Drudge?” when Barry said his first name. Robyn recognized Barry. *Fan squee.*

My point: while the opening act was on, Tristen, who had some unique lyrics, much to my delight, my muse starting tick, ticking. I had no paper with me and my phone’s charge was low, so what was I supposed to do with all of the ideas that started flowing? Eventually, I dug out a yearly planner I had just picked up at the bank and wrote a couple of sentences in the back of it in the dark. (And I scammed juice for my phone off the helpful sound engineer, Chris. Good folks, those guys. I recommend getting to know the person at the sound booth, especially if you are a musician.)

Then my muse kept talking and talking during Robyn’s opening songs, while Barry and I squeezed up front to get a better look at that dapper shirt Robyn was wearing. (Photo credit goes to Barry.)

 

My muse started screaming, though, when Robyn played his next-to-closing song: Virginia Woolf. Which I was familiar with, of course, but was delighted and surprised that he would play in concert. Want to hear it? By all means.

Here’s the thing I finally realized: my muse loves live music! It’s got to be music I am free to drop in and out on, focus, then daydream. Live music. My mind fills and twirls. I am there, not there. (Same thing happens at some movies for me.)

Lyrics suggest other words, ideas. Heart-felt performances remind me that this is my tribe, my people, all artists, and I get them and they me and we share the same struggles, ambitions, heartbreaks.

Same thing happened when my DH filled in on keyboards and vocals (and bass for a couple of songs) the other night for a local band. Because there wasn’t a table available up front at the venue and the music was too loud to talk over much, I was free to listen, think, feel. My mind soared, and I wasn’t even drinking.

That being said, I now have the next-next subject for my novel after this one, thanks to live music. I have a title, too. I am excited about it, though the realization of it’s a year or more down the road. Wish I could share more, but that’s not a great idea for incubating concepts. I am making notes for both it and my next novel to keep track of it.

 So if I am to hope at all to tie this post together, let’s sum it up this way: pursue your passions, feed the muse, and sacrifice when it’s called for to attempt to achieve your goals. 

And play. That’s what the literary finger puppets are for. I pity the overly serious, I really do. I used to be you. And I was miserable. 

Maybe I’ll fail to achieve any of my goals. Maybe I’ll blush when I read this a decade hence. 

Then again, maybe I won’t. 

 

 

Join Our Facebook Writing Accountability Group!

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According to Gretchen Rubin, September is the new January when it comes to making life changes. Since my September was busy, I’m calling October my January.

Determined to put better writing habits into place, I said those words my husband surely dreads because I utter them so frequently: “I have an idea.”

While I’m good about working on my novel (except when I’m stumped or terrified of it), I’m not so good about polishing my short stories and getting them sent out. I’m not great about applying for grants and residencies. I could do better about pursuing freelance opportunities or following up with writing clients. Then there are other writing forms I’d like to continue experimenting with, but I just don’t.

I decided that what I need is accountability for those writing goals that I never accomplish. I need a place to record my goals that others will see, because if I do that, I suspect that the likelihood that I will write, apply, or submit will go up exponentially. I’d be embarrassed or feel as if I’d let my accountability partner(s) down if I didn’t do what I said I would.

To that end, Barry and I created a Facebook group for both writers and aspiring writers who want accountability. Whether you have already been published or have always wanted to write but haven’t, you are welcome.

The idea is that members post a goal and check in when they’ve made progress towards it or have completed the task. It can be a mini goal: “Buy a journal and start writing down ideas,” or more along the lines of “Finish my novel.” (That’s my big picture goal. But miles to go…)

Or, if members are just feeling stuck or unable to write, they can get a dose of encouragement from other writers.

The group is low commitment by design. Members are encouraged to post and follow up, but there’s no pressure. They’re also encouraged to cheer other members on, but again, only as they have the time or inclination to.

The already double-digits group is buzzing with supportive energy, which thrills Barry and me, because that’s what this is all about. If you are interested in writing and want to join, you’ll need to message me over on Facebook because the group is currently set to secret to weed out bots and the idly curious. My name there is Drema Sizemore Drudge. Say the word and I will add you.

I’ve already seen a rise in my own writing productivity, as well as being spurred on by both the goals and pom pom waving of my writing friends. It’s only Thursday, and I’ve completed several of my goals and am on task to finish the week writing strong.

Now if only I had a keto buddy. It would make sticking to my fitness goals so much easier. Sigh. Hey Barry, I have an idea…;-)

 

A Passion for Patchett and Parnassus

One of the things we did in Nashville last month was visit Parnassus Books, the bookstore that Ann Patchett co-owns. It was our first visit to the store, although Barry remembers a bookstore in that same location when we lived in Nashville. Alas, I remember paying our cell phone bill in the plaza but nothing else about it.

I trust his memory more than mine any day. I blame my lack of memory of the store on not have the extra funds for books when we lived in Nashville. Don’t pity us too much — we had access to all of the branches of the  Davidson County library system and could and did have books from them all shipped to the branch closest to us.

Our daughter was into physics at the time, and she would order stacks of books that I found admirable but incomprehensible. (The pictures of fractals were mesmerizing.)

Barry and I were homeschooling both of the kids, so I ordered texts for Zack’s schooling from the library as well. Many an afternoon Zack, Mia, and I sat around (poor Barry was usually at work) and took turns reading aloud the book of the hour, usually classics or Harry Potter.

Along the way (beware an oncoming, tenuous segue), I had somehow missed Patchett’s books until Sena Naslund, the beloved co-founder and director of  Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing recommended Bel Canto to a group of us in a novel writing workshop. (Crawling back under my rock now.)

When I got home from that workshop, the book was lurking on our library’s secondhand books shelf, and I bought it for fifty cents. I have this rule: if someone mentions a book to me and I come across it right after or see/hear about it three times, I not only get it and read it, I read it right away. So I did. Swoon.

I have another rule: I don’t discuss the writing of living authors publicly UNLESS there’s a special reason to. Ask me privately and we’ll dish. I will recommend books online all day long; that doesn’t break my rule.

*Singsong voice* I’m about to break my ruh-ule!

This post isn’t meant to be a love letter to Patchett’s writing, and yet it can’t help but be at least a love Post-it. Let me hold off a bit longer, though.

While Barry and I waited for the eclipse on the 21st (we were at Percy Warner Park EARLY), we discussed what to do after it. I mentioned Parnassus, and he immediately started Googling, though we both figured it would be madness to travel anywhere but where we needed to go after the magical sun/moon tango.

My husband is an adventurous driver. I don’t even like to ride in a car, much less drive one. But because he’s the vehicularly brave one, we ended up at Parnassus. Actually, the traffic wasn’t that bad. Until later. That’s another story, and I have the photos to prove it.

We did the geeky, touristy thing and took photos of ourselves outside of the store.  IMG_6032IMG_6033

Once inside, I became overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by being in the very space where authors I know and love lecture and sign books. I sat at the desk and Barry took a photo of me, though by that time I was so overcome it was hard to sit still. (My makeup had long since melted from being in the sun and I’m wearing an eclipse tee shirt, but whatever. I hadn’t anticipated this opportunity. Note the book I’m holding!!)

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And the book I’m holding comes from another delightful surprise. Honestly, I think I discovered this but it may have been Barry who pointed it out. Not sure:

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Sweet Sena’s marvelous Ahab’s Wife recommended by, gasp, Geraldine Brooks.  That along with everything else totally caused me to have a full-blown Stendahl’s Syndrome reaction. Remember that thing I wrote about years ago where when you are overwhelmed by art you feel dizzy and disoriented ? It’s the first time it’s happened to me in a bookstore.

 

 

Suffice it to say that before we left Nashville we bought three Patchett’s books. Did you know that all of her books for sale in her store are autographed? (Insert clapping emoji here.)

Oh, and we went to Grimey’s after lunch, which is one of Nashville’s best vinyl and more music shops. Just an aside, but an important one to us.

(Below: photo of a window in a nearby Chinese restaurant where, regrettably, we ate lunch after our visit to the bookstore. Because it was close, because we keep thinking there’s more than one place that can do General Tso right. There isn’t. But this sign amused us because it reminded us so much of the tortured English we often saw in China.)

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Now, my belated tribute to Patchett.

One of the books we bought was Truth and Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with the late author Lucy Grealy. As amazing as Patchett’s fiction is, this book had me crying more than once. Even though I don’t know Patchett personally (Despite my peering into every office in the back of her bookstore when I went to the restroom, I did not find her. Trust me when I say I do not EVER celeb stalk, so that tells you something about my regard for her.)

Especially if you’re a writer, or if you want to hear about the greatest capacity for love and endurance in a friendship outside of maybe David and Jonathan in the Bible, read Truth and Beauty.

Once home, I read The Magician’s Assistant. I have one burning question for Patchett: did she do any research for it? Because it’s hauntingly beautiful and incredibly convincing. Lyrical. There’s a bit about the main character doing a trick with an egg that I can still feel in my hair as if she did it to me. So specific. So inventive.

It describes a nontraditional marriage that works spectacularly, and a woman who discovers she’s capable of so much more than she ever suspected. It’s about love in unexpected places, too. Gorgeous ideas.

Ah, and then there’s her most recent novel, Commonwealth. It begins with an illicit kiss that destroys two families but creates, (SPOILER ALERT) in the end, a novel. Or that’s my take on it.

Patchett has admitted that it’s her first real autobiographical novel. Though it’s a departure from her usual style, it works. In ways large and small, from the out-of-order storyline to the information tantalizingly left out that somehow ends up saying more than it otherwise could have, what prevails is a real sense that people, regardless of society’s expectations and labels for relationships, can care about whomever they want, for as long as they want.

And perhaps most importantly, that it’s fine, even desirable, to be human, in every sense of the word, to recognize and accept love wherever you find it.

Ok, enough. So much more I could say, but this is not meant as a review but as a way of memorializing a moment in our lives, a day of celestial wonder that will forever now be tied with our first visit to Parnassus Bookstore, a place that I, for one, wish we lived closer to. Isn’t it a good thing that we have her books, portals of a sort to that mind that conceived not only lovely literature, but Parnassus Books?

 

 

 

 

 

Issue 1.2 – Fiction

Proud to have my story published by the Same!

Let us pausefor a moment and pray. (10)

The examination table hurts my goddamn back.  I sit up straighter but it doesn’t help much. You have to have ab strength to stay in this position for any amount of time. This exam came about because I bled after sex last week, twice, and I knew immediately that something was wrong. I haven’t had my period for three years now.

“Don’t worry, Diana. You’ve probably just got an infection,” Robert, my husband, had said.

I have an unusual gift of sorts. I win things. No kidding. Last night I won a book at a writer’s group, a book I had been salivating over but hadn’t been able to afford. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. They’re usually small, not terribly valuable things, but I win. When I was still in school, I won not one, not two, but three hats using different family member’s names…

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Proud Parent Alert: Mia’s Commissioning Ceremony

I tried to find some literary way to write this post, but no go. No matter what I try to write, it comes out all proud and “parenty.” So be it. I don’t want our daughter’s accomplishments to be “eclipsed” by the past few days, so despite our having been in the path of totality, today I prefer to write about her commissioning. More on the rest of our trip later.

This weekend Barry and I celebrated with our daughter, Mia, her graduation from the Tennessee Army National Guard Class 60 Officer Candidate School, an eighteen-month journey filled with muddy treks, the eating of too many MREs, and more pushups, pullups, and situps than I will ever do in my life.

Mia is now a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. While she may have had her doubts during this arduous (a mild term for what she went through!) experience, we knew that she would crush it, because that’s what she does.

We don’t get to see her enough, so the excitement and frustration of arriving on Friday night but not being allowed to see her until Saturday was maddening. So Saturday morning we were on campus as early as we were allowed to be.

After introducing us to the other candidates, Mia took us on a tour. Of particular interest was The Pit, the place for exercise, congregating, and, apparently, discipline. Despite the heat, I kinda found myself wanting to at least do some planks with her. (I resisted the impulse.)

Mia’s motions are always crisp and executed with, well, military precision. She reminds me of the fitness models in Oxygen magazine. Pardon me if I post WAY too many photos of her below, because it was a pleasure to take photos of her in motion.

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Fitness Model Mia! She’s a record setter, though I need to ask her the details again.

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Wish I could do even one! I lost count of how many she did.

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She cranks these out!

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Look at that form!

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The next class responds to the lunch menu with a backwards dip.

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Class 60 joins in the exercises they assigned the rising class. Doing pullups to encourage? Above (no pun intended) and beyond!

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Mia and Barry putting the shiny on her uniform.

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I photobomb their tender moment.

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MRE! Mia pointed out that the directions tell you to lean it on a rock or “something.” Specificity. Gotta love it. 

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I think someone’s trying not to cry…I didn’t even try not to!

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There she is, officially commissioned!

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Beautiful posture! Her husband, Heiko, is on the left.

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That face! That smile! That certificate!

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Proud, proud parents!

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These photos are clearly out of order. Look at that elegant bearing as she descends the stairs. You can see my hair to the left as we wait to pin her. P.S. I’m not sure who took this photo — credit to Heiko maybe? 

During a tasty cookout sweetly sponsored by the class, the three of us spent precious time catching up and talking about her future plans at a picnic table to the side. I admired the creek and the forest beyond, but since it’s where Mia had to camp and hike in mud I’m not sure she could see it in the same way I did.

Over lunch she (at my request) formulated a fitness program for me to try as I recover from my present health challenges. I can’t wait to do her proud! (Fingers crossed…)

Later we went shopping at Target, which doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you don’t see your hija very often it’s those everyday things you miss.

We ate supper at my newest burger crush restaurant, Five Guys (holla!), because there happened to be one nearby. We did ask if she wanted to go somewhere nicer, but she just wanted to spend time with us. I wanted that AND fries. 🙂

Besides the shiny, specially minted class coins she presented us with (Which are still in the suitcase or I’d take a photo!), she brought an MRE for us to share. She set the timer for 10 minutes because that’s all the time they were given to eat them in the field and she had us try to figure out how to open, hydrate, heat, and eat the meal.

With her help it still took all of the time we had for Barry and I to share the meal. How can one person do it?

It was beef stew, a strawberry shake, and applesauce. (See the package above.) While it was edible, it wasn’t something I want to eat again any time soon.

Mia was able to spend the night with us at our hotel, which we cherished. We all talked until we fell asleep, one after another. Then in the morning we got up with her and saw her off because she had to be at the barracks by 6:30. Mercifully we weren’t due there until 9!

Heiko drove in for the ceremony, as well as a friend of Mia’s. Since her friend doesn’t like having his picture taken I won’t mention his name either just in case. Suffice it to say he’s a good friend of hers and we have met him before. It was nice to see him again.

After graduation (and throughout the weekend), we were bombarded with officers and other candidates telling us how hard working and talented Mia is. We thanked them profusely but they weren’t telling us anything new.

There was a reception afterwards, and then we took her and Heiko to lunch before they had to return to Chattanooga and we had to find our way to the next hotel where we would stay awaiting the eclipse the next morning. (Finding a hotel over Eclipse Weekend was not easy, and we actually had to move to another for the next couple of days. We were just glad to find one.)

While for some this commissioning ceremony will be the apex of their lives, and of course it’s a huge accomplishment and should be viewed as such, if the past is any indication, for Mia it’s just the beginning. But then if I start talking about her accomplishments I might be writing all day.

Told you this post would be nothing but parental pride. I would ask for your forgiveness but I don’t think I will.

Congrats, Mia, and go, my lovey, go!

Edinburgh!

Barry and I recently traveled to Edinburgh. While I have lots to share about what is now my third favorite city, I honestly don’t know where to start. Let’s try it with photos instead. Maybe I’ll elaborate later. 🙂

Sir Walter Scott Memorial, visible out the window of the restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning at our hotel: IMG_6971

Robert Burns’ desk:

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And Burns’ birthplace:

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The Scottish National Gallery:IMG_7014

The Brigadoon:

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Scottish Parliament Building:

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Arthur’s Seat:

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National Portrait Gallery: IMG_7364

 

 

Culzean Castle:

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The Ferris Wheel just outside our hotel, Elephant House (Rowling, anyone?), and Dolly, the first sheep cloned. Below, a rando bagpiper.

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The Dollar Tree and Me: Books on the Cheap

Hey my happy people! Barry and I are just a few days back from Scotland. I have lots to say about that, but while I catch up with life here’s a post I wrote earlier but never shared.

First, a pic of us in glorious Edinburgh outside Holyrood Palace:


Now the post. 

I have a confession to make: I’ve been holding out on you and for the silliest of reasons: fear of looking too thrifty. But I want you to know about this source for low cost books, my bookie friends, so here goes.

A couple of years ago I took my mom shopping and she wanted to stop by a store called The Dollar Tree. I had only been in one a couple of times to get their inexpensive party goods and as I followed my mom around the store, that’s all I expected to attract my attention. I like bargains, but I wasn’t feeling optimistic. Until.

Ah, you see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Darn headline of mine gave it away.

When my mom and I went down the aisle with books I paused. I cocked my head. My hands began that involuntary thing hands that love books do: I picked one up and caressed it, read the dust jacket. Realized it was by an author I respected. 

At first I felt sad. What if a book I write ends up in a store selling for only a dollar? 

But then I realized this store does something beautiful: it gives affordable access to books. This way people who love books or are just curious but can’t always afford full price can buy one for the same price as a cheap fast food burger. This makes my heart happy and hopeful. 

Not everyone has access to a library. 

What sort of books does the Dollar Tree carry, you ask?

You’re probably picturing odd westerns with smeary covers and tons of bodice rippers that should never have been written in the first place, and in part, you’d be correct. 

But. But when I was there that first time I found some reads by literary and not-so literary writers with recognizable names: The Competition by Marcia Clark, Astray by Emma Donoghue. Bridget Jones Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding. Prep and Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. (I know, right?!)

During one visit I ran across See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid, her first book (when it was published) in a decade. I hadn’t even heard it was out! 

I’m making my way through a mesmerizing book of essays bought for yes, a dollar, by Jonathan Franzen with an intruiging cover featuring what I think we called a Cootie Catcher in school.

This is only a sampling of the books I’ve picked up at Dollar Tree. There are fitness books by the likes of Jillian Michaels and Ben Greenfield there. Miscellaneous, mysteriously titled books such as Vatican Diaries , Guide to Being Born (stories) and Lincoln Dreamed He Died invite curious readers to take a chance on a title.  

I’ve got to admit (if it’s not already obvious) that I’m hooked on buying these books. As if I don’t live blissfully near a terrific library. 

But back to DT: Someone Special  also received a book from there as part of his Father’s Day gift from me.  I subscribed him to a guitar mag he mentioned he enjoyed an issue of recently but it won’t be in for weeks yet. In the meantime he can read about Joe Perry of Aerosmith courtesy of me and Dollar Tree. I hope he’ll let me borrow it when he’s through. 

Here are some of the many reasons/uses I like Dollar Tree books:

1. For their affordability. 

2. For stocking stuffers/gift additions. 😉

3. For those times (such as Father’s Day) when that gift isn’t going to be in before the big day but you are not about to give an empty gift bag. 

4. For creating a low-cost book club. Heck, at those prices you could supply every member with a book.

5. For giving an extra copy of a book to someone you think might like it.

6. For forming your own read-and-release program. I routinely buy books for trips and leave them behind when I return home. More room for souvenirs. 

7. For discovering new authors.

8. For locating a novel that you didn’t know existed by a favorite author. 😊😊😊

9. For taking chances on books you might not buy at full price.

10. For saving a book from being remaindered. I’m pretty sure the next stop for these books is the trash bin. When it’s a decent book, that hurts.

11. For projects. How bad can you feel about cutting up a dollar book? And if you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you know there are plenty  of fun “booky” crafts to be made. No, I’m not someone who thinks all books are sacred. The symbolism of books in alternate forms can be evocative too. 

12. For helping a loved one create an impressive library.

I’m sure I’m missing some reasons to like Dollar Tree’s books. You’ll have to tell me if you buy books from there and why. I’m sure I’m not the first person to discover their treasure trove.

(Some of our Dollar Tree finds.) 

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.)