To ghost or not to ghost…

It isn’t often that I find myself struggling with a decision. I tend to know what I want, and to pursue the option best fitting with my goals, whether they be short term or long, planned or spontaneous, wise or questionable *according to others* – but, for the past few days I’ve found myself at a dead stop, pondering the diverged paths ahead of me, and at a complete loss of which direction to pursue.

As a writer, being approached with a paying project is the constant waking dream, one that I was blessed to receive this past week. Discussions were had, coffee was drank, notes were taken, and an introduction was written. The end product would be the first book in a series of 3 or 4, written for the tween crowd, ideally approx. 200/250 pages in length, and centered around characters locked safely inside the minds of my cohorts. After much talk, prayer, pro/con’ing, and contemplation; an agreement was reached, a price named, and the contracts were all but drawn up. Then, the decision was made, by said cohorts, that they desire for this project to be completed with myself as a ghostwriter.

Now I realize that ghostwriting is a career that many authors choose to take, and that it can be a fulfilling position, paying fairly substantially. But, I struggle with the idea of pouring my own storytelling skills, passion, and creativity into conceiving & birthing a being that I’ll then be handing over to someone else to be responsible for, as well as my not being able to celebrate that beings successes, my own pride at it’s creation, and of course, no reaping of rewards or publicity if things were to hit it big. *sigh* On the other hand, I do realize that as a writer who is essentially just starting out, I need to be grateful for the opportunities I’m presented, and see them as wonderful learning experiences, and situations that can only assist me in growing as an author!

Ugh! Any advice?…

~ m 🙂

A moment of thanks…

I visited with a new client yesterday afternoon and as she told me her story, I realized we have much in common, but really are living in two completely different times. From a young age she’d known that she would pursue a degree and career in journalism. And, after receiving her education, she sought out positions with the local newspapers, realizing quickly that while she possessed the same qualifications as some of her male counterparts, as a woman she would be hired as a “journalist” by title only, and would spend her days fetching coffee, answering the phone, and filling the role of secretary or receptionist, instead of writing the hard hitting news stories she so yearned for. Thus she pursued a career in education, becoming an elementary school teacher, and later a reading specialist.

Flash forward to myself, a single female, 60 years later, who’s decided to press pause on her technical education after receiving her Associates Degree, and instead of pursuing book smarts in the form of an astronomically priced Bachelors Degree, is earning her education through the school of life – working a few months as a freelance reporter for the local newspaper, a monthly columnist for a local entertainment magazine, published in a magazine that holds as an institution in most American homes, and all the while writing whatever I’d like, about whomever I’d like, with the dream of having a book of my own resting on the shelves of a local bookstore.

Thank you, to those that have come before, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath… Those who faced the struggles they met head on, because of you, I’m able to do me.

~ m

…and nothing…

Well, this is my last full day relaxing here in sunny southern cali and as if doing it’s part to help me prepare for the transition back home, to rainy western Washington, the clouds have made an appearance here in the valley. It’s still a gorgeous morning, and one that I’m hoping to use as a productive one, seeing as how I’ve done so little writing while I’ve been here. I embarked on this trip with lofty plans of an utterly carefree relaxing week, spending time accomplishing nothing of consequence with my best friend, catching up on some sleep, reading, and brainless television, od’ing on vitamin d, and of course going home with a full manuscript written, edited, and ready for publication – the words magically flying from my fingertips due to my amazing new surroundings.

I’ve accomplished everything, save the last. I’ve been sure to dedicate time each morning and evening to sit with my laptop, open a blank document, and wait… After too much impatient waiting, I’ve found myself opening the files of pieces that I’ve been working on for the past year and for whatever reason feel like there is just one or two small things missing before they’ll be complete. Sadly, I’ve yet to stumble over any of those missing pieces either, but I have reread them, a few times, and while disgusted with them at times, I’ve found that for the most part I have a great sense of pride over the pieces that I’ve created in the past year. It was after all just about a year ago now that I attended my first writers conference, in beautiful Coupeville, Washington – and whether it was the location, the like minded company, the intuitive leadership, or perhaps it was just the right time for my stories to be told – but I returned home with what would be a prize winning short essay for the Reader’s Digest Magazine, as well as solid starts for 4 other essays, and best of all, a newfound confidence in the power and validity of my own “voice.”

I suppose I was hoping for the same kind of magic on this trip. Believing that perhaps removing myself from the hum drum of my daily routine, the chores that are constantly beckoning, and the phone that seems to be always buzzing; that I might allow myself a moment to breath, and to purge another piece or two of those thoughts, memories, dreams, and fears that I’ve been carrying.  While I haven’t been writing, I have been reading and just finished re-reading Bag of Bones by the infallible Stephen King – a story that I suggest for anyone and everyone, whether you’re looking for an escape from reality, a good fright, or in my case, inspiration and reassurance that even an award winning novelist created by the master, experiences (and overcomes) writers block every now and again.

Alas, the day isn’t over yet, and either way, this has been an amazing vacation spent with a kindred spirit and I’ll be flying home tomorrow refreshed, and as ready as one can be to reenter the 9-5 life of a working stiff.

~ m

Vitamin D, if you please…

I feel like a hypocrite, a traitor. Turning my back on everything I know, and the land that bore me. Being a Northwest Washington native, I find myself constantly playing defense to the plethora of negative insults and slander so often associated with the region that I call home. Yes it does rain, a lot, but without that constant moisture we wouldn’t have one of the most uniquely lush and green areas of the United States. This past Friday morning, I strayed from home in order to visit with a good friend who lives in LA, far down in Southern California, away from the rain, and calm that soothes me – and instead place myself in the midst of the hustle and bustle of horrible drivers who are either unaware of or completely oblivious to the invention of the turn signal – dry heat and more differing shades of brown and beige than a girl could ever know existed.

I landed in LA a little before 11am, the flight was smooth, with just enough turbulence to unnerve the Hispanic woman sitting beside me, and cause her to cling to her husbands arm like an owl clutching a vol.  Personally, I enjoy the little shakes and rattles experienced in the sky. It’s a reminder that while man may have mastered the power of flight – the forces on the exterior of our large phallic shaped vehicles will never be defeated completely, nor will they be ignored. On this particular flight the turbulence served an even greater purpose of quieting said Hispanic woman, allowing me a welcome, albeit brief, intermission midway through her rather detailed, and yet crudely enunciated life story and vacation plans. I quickly learned, well not that quickly, her English was lacking and my Spanish skills will get me nowhere but a bathroom or a bar, that this trip would be the first she and her husband had ever enjoyed, without their children. And, while she did miss her 3 kids, now that they were attending college, and creating lives of their own, she was giddy with anticipation for this much awaited trip, just the two of them. I’ll spare you the gory details, as I wish she had been kind enough to do, but will tell you that she’s got some serious plans for her husband and his appendages over the next few days. Horny Hispanic Lady has definitely been one of my most memorable “single serving friends,” as Tyler Durden would say, thus far.

I’ve been in LA 2 days now and am having the time of my life. The weather is amazing, aside from my having been tailed by a few stray rain clouds, which excites the natives here, and while helping to stifle any homesickness I may have experienced, I’m okay with them burning off and clearing way for the sun.  Saturday afternoon we went for a beautiful walk around the neighborhood, which included plenty of grass covered hill sides, horses, surely wicked tree remains, and breath taking view points. Aside from a handful of great photos, that still come no where close to doing the actual place justice, I also took home two of the largest blisters I’ve ever seen, one on the bottom of each foot. How is it I always manage to find a hiccup of sorts that will make my vacation less than enjoyable? I suppose it’s my subconscious’s way of keeping me in check, or perhaps it’s my mothers way of confirming I will return home and not decide to stay. (A recurring fear for her, for whatever reason.) But did this trips discomfort have to lodge itself on the sole of my feet? Ugh! Perhaps I’ll feel brave enough (read: inebriated enough) to perform surgery this afternoon, and I won’t look like I have such a large stick up my ass when I walk tomorrow.

This morning, Sunday, my friend and host took me for an amazing drive through the Malibu Canyon, and along the Pacific Coast Highway, cruising the coastline, to the invigorating purr of  CJ, his cherry red 1970 Dodge Challengers engine, and the relaxing lull of the ocean breeze. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, and shows a much softer, playful side of California, than the overcrowded, smog locked, barren desert I tend to think of.  That is of course leaving out the 3 minutes of driving through fields that for whatever reason smell disturbingly of celery. It was amazing to see how differently the Pacific Ocean looks here, than it does from my coast at home. The Washington coast always looks a little disgruntled, and maintains its undertone of grey no matter the weather pattern, with the waters edge dotted heavily by large boulders and jagged – but along the Pacific Coast Highway here in California, that same ocean has seemingly transformed into a crisp refreshing blue, complete with crashing waves capped in frothy white foam, reminiscent of the peaks on a well prepared lemon meringue, meeting a sandy graham cracker crust at the waters edge.

~ m

The End… (?)

Working part time as a caregiver for a handful of elderly clients has definitely introduced me to some unique individuals, as well as cementing my belief that each of us are different from the rest; that each of our stories is completely our own, and need to be shared. I have one client who remains as sharp, witty, and caring as she must have been 70 years ago, when I visit with her we chat about our days, our families, the weather, politics, and we people watch. Whether it be on tv, out the window, or in the lobby of her complex; giggling, poking each other, and making less than complimentary comments about some of her neighbors – those that she deems “the old folk.”

Another woman I work with has lost all use of her short term memory, leaving her with only recollections of her past. She seems to recognize me, and we greet with a hug, like old friends being reunited after too long apart. But soon she begins to ask me about my family, and quickly expresses great concern about my lack of a husband and any children. “You’ve got to find a good man soon,” she lectures me daily, “before they’re all taken, have grown beards, or are worn out.” She also explains to me with great care, daily, the importance of marrying a man with money, a nice house, a good job, and most importantly, “he must be a Menonite, or else our children will rot in hell!” *yes, that’s a direct quote*

This morning though, I met with a new client, a gentleman who while older than the rest, appears to be much younger. He’s presently struggling with the early onset of memory loss, and his doctors fear, dementia. While chatting in his comfortable living room, and getting to know each other, we discussed the weather, politics, family, and his daily routines. Then, after a few moments of silence, he quietly asked me, “if you could know, when you’d go, and how – would you want to?” I paused, and told him that no, I don’t believe I would want to posses that knowledge. I’d rather continue as I am, living my life, ignorant to the cause and time of my demise. I asked him what he believed, and he told me that he would prefer to know.

He explained that a few years back he decided that his family, his children, their children, and the babies after that, should know who he was, the life he lived, and the mistakes he made. Thus, he sat down, and in the course of a year, he penned his autobiography – he explained that it came in just under 100 pages, and that he printed copies for 20 or so family members. Pausing, he smiled over at me and whispered, “if I do too much more livin’ I’ll have to change the end.”

Once Upon A Time…

This past week Northwestern Washington received a rather large dumping of white stuff. And, which pleasing to school aged kids, seeing as how they’ve gotten the entire week off school, and still somehow find it enjoyable to be cold, wet, and lack sensation in their appendages. But, for us adults, a snow storm means shoveling, extra laundry, higher heating bills, and more groceries being utilized. For myself, the storm has been nasty enough that I was actually “snowed in” for a few days, leaving me with little to do aside from clean the house, bake, watch movies, read, and grow more and more depressed as the snow continued to fall. It took me two days, but I finally realized that this is the writing time I’ve been looking for, waiting for, hoping for… I’ve been so busy with small assignments from the local newspaper lately that I haven’t had time to even look at my own pieces, stuck in limbo for whatever reason.

So, yesterday afternoon, I curled up on the couch with the laptop and a mug of adult hot cocoa. I started with perusing the Poets & Writers site as they have a great list of Literary Magazines that are currently seeking submissions in all different genres of writing. I quickly started noticing though that the need for creative non-fiction/memoir/personal essays is lacking, while the desire for fiction, short and long, is overwhelming! I commiserated about this to a friend of mine, read: whined, and he promptly informed me that as a woman, I’m genetically equipped to be a better liar and more deceitful than most, so the ability to write fiction should really be like second nature to me! While I appreciate his honesty, and will spare you the sad story that is his dating history, I’ll summarize by saying he has horrific taste and I’m quite surprised he’s not jumped onto my plan of a one way ticket to a convent, well, monastery for him. Anyways, I explained to him that I can lie off the cuff like none other, pulling god know what out of god knows where at a moments notice when needed. After all I’ve worked (and excelled) in customer service, sales, and insurance for the past 12 years! But, that talent leaves me completely when I sit down and attempt to write something that isn’t true, something that I don’t know, something that I have to create.

Why is it that there’s such a huge difference for me do you think? I know that my inner editor, Agnes, is partially to blame. Her incessant mutterings and suggestions are bad enough when I’m writing about something that I have first hand knowledge of, but when I start creating something, from the ground up, piecing together a skeleton for a creature that only I know exists, *whew* her rants gets damn near unbearable!

So please, help me out here, if anyone’s actually reading this, and if any of you are fiction writers, or if you might just have a suggestion or two to toss my way – just about anything is appreciated! I’m setting a goal for myself to have a solid fiction piece, no word count restrictions, no topic as of yet, just that it has to be solid enough that I feel proud and hopeful in submitting it somewhere, prior to June… So let me have it, what’s the secret to bullshitting on paper?!?!?

* Sidenote: While googling for some sort of an image to include with this post I stumbled onto this site – Books of Adam – seriously?!!?!? If that guy can have THAT much creative energy, and pull some of that stuff out of his ass – I’ve got to be able to pull just a little tiny piece from my own – right?!?! And, I’ve now been reading through his site for 30 minutes, and will most likely be stalking him for possible inspiration – absolute hilarity!

This year I resolve to…

(The following is something I wrote a few weeks back, and was happily surprised to find printed in this past weeks local paper under their monthly “Women Talk” column – thought I might repost it here as well.)

… actually keep my new years resolutions! Or, more specifically, I resolve to not completely dissolve them prior to the end of January! As women our resolutions usually tend to fall into the same categories, year after year, or at least mine do. Since I can remember, I’ve sat down on January 1st, usually with a bit of a headache, and slightly closer to early afternoon than late morning, a gigantic cup of coffee, a cheesy fried breakfast and a task – to decide what goals I’m going to set for this new round of 365 days. What’s going to be different this year, to make this one stand out (for good reasons) from the rest?

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the memorable definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results – this year, I’ve decided I’m finished being insane, 2012 is going to be my year of health, success, happiness, and only mild awkwardness – a huge step away from true insanity! And so, I sat down bright and early on December 1st to set my 2012 resolutions; hedging my bets a little bit by opting for an entire extra month in which to start building the foundations for these great new habits I desire to possess, and amazingly, thus far it’s worked like a charm! While some of my resolutions are the same as in years past (losing weight and having a healthier lifestyle), I’m adding a few new ones as well (to more actively pursue relationships that will lead me in the direction of my dreams). And, I’m attacking all of these goals in a different way. Changing my method of madness if you will.

Starting in December instead of January was just step one. I’ve also decided that I’m making my goals public knowledge, not just to my close family and friends but to you, the entire community. Meaning, I’m no longer standing alone, struggling to hold myself accountable against the rest of the world; instead, I’m using the positive thoughts, and inspiring comments from my fellow ladies as fodder for morphing into the woman I intend to be. As Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village;” not only to raise a child, but also, I believe, to raise a well adjusted, self sufficient, proud, community minded, adult.             Women, talk. We do. It’s an inherent fact that young or old, Amish, Hindu, Catholic, or Greek, we, as women seek out others, like ourselves, kindred spirits, to hypothesize, discuss, debate, and gossip about our daily lives, struggles at home, office politics, and soap operas. So why not use that? Why not band together to form a larger support system to hedge the bets in our favor? I’m confident that with each other, we can make some pretty miraculous changes – in the world at large, in our small town communities, and in our own personal lives.

So, there you have it, my hopes, dreams, goals, plans, and weaknesses on a silver platter – please treat them with care. But, it’s your turn now, tell me, what are your goals for this year? What new habits are you going to adopt that will make 2012 a year to remember? And how can we, your newfound support system help inspire you? Lets tap into the collective positive power of our fellow women and make this year our best yet.