30 April 2012

Screnzy pep talk: the final day

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we've reached the final day of Screnzy. Are you finished with your script? Yes? Awesome! No? Good--there's still time! Today is the last day of ScriptFrenzy. It's the last day to scribble stage (or screen) directions, let you characters ramble their speeches, and describe your scenes down to the last fiber of carpet in order to hit 100 pages. If you have to, add a scene in a stuck elevator or an unexpected explosion. Whatever it takes to keep your story going, right?

You can do it!

Remember, even if you don't hit 100 pages by the end of the day today, you still have more written than you did on March 31st. The whole goal of ScriptFrenzy is to prove to yourself that you do, in fact, have time to write a script. And whether you've finished your script or not, you've made time to write something. So that makes you a winner.

Good luck on the last day, and I'll see you on the other side!

29 April 2012


Puck and Tink are safely in Florida, and I am in central Illinois. It's strange being without them, and I'm told that while visitations get less strange, it will never be "okay" that the kids are not with me. Perhaps doubly-so because they're so little.

However, I'm trying to stay positive, so I'm using this time--especially today--to be alone.

As a mom of two--and a newly single mom--I don't have a lot of time to myself. In fact, I haven't had significant time to myself since 2007. (I remember it, in fact. Monty and I had just gotten married, and he helped escort a group on a cruise for his mother's travel business. He was gone five days.) When I do get more than a few minutes here or there, I never know what to do with myself. I always find things to do, of course. A mom's work is never done. But this time is different. This time I'm facing two weeks without Puck and Tink. I'll still be watching my niece, Bug, while Sisi is at work, but in the evenings and on the weekends, I'll have the apartment to myself. In addition, I'll have some extra days over the next couple of weeks to myself since Bug will likely spend a few days with Granny (my grandmother).

In the weeks leading up to Puck and Tink's visitation, I was nervous about the time alone. So much of my daily routine revolves around the kids that I envisioned myself scrubbing baseboards and power-washing the outsides of my windows to keep busy. I even made a list of 50 things I'd like to accomplish over the next couple of weeks. And I very well may get to nearly everything on that list. If I don't, it's okay. Because I need to spend some time in solitude, too.

Some time ago, I tried to start meditating regularly. Unfortunately, it didn't stick. Something about kids who weren't sleeping through the night. But now that they do both sleep through the night (and since they're gone right now, anyway), I may start taking time alone to meditate again. Maybe it will be the quiet moments I need to refresh myself, even if it's not a Sunday.

For someone who's always busy and surrounded by people, having time alone like this can be disquieting, despite the quiet of solitude. But I know it's important for me. I need time alone. So I will take the next two weeks and get things done as much as I can. And I will take the next two weeks to enjoy the time I have to myself to renew my spirit in solitude.

28 April 2012

On the occasion of my daughter's first birthday

Tink* turned one on Thursday. Not only did we get to sing to her and eat cake with strawberry frosting, but for about a second and a half, she stood unassisted! She'll be standing comfortably in no time, I'm sure!

Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Whenever I celebrate a child's birthday, I think about children's literature, and Thursday was no exception. I thought about what books my daughter might like to have as her first books, what stories I want to read to my children at bed times, and what authors I hope they grow to enjoy/appreciate as they explore literature on their own.

I remember loving Amelia Bedelia and anything by Dr. Seuss. I read the Berenstein Bears, and, of course, the Little Golden Books with great stories like The Pokey Little Puppy. Then, as I got older, I fell in love with Roald Dahl. I think Dahl was the first author I read that caused m to pick up other books simply because he'd written them. (I'd read and loved The BFG, so wouldn't it follow that I'd also love Matilda?) And I want my children to have memories of these stories, too.

But I also know that tastes in literature are as varied as tastes in fashion, so I don't want to force my tastes in literature onto my children. I, for example, never got into Nancy Drew. If my kids want to read everything associated with that name, that should be fine with me, right? And though I voraciously read R. L. Stine, it could be that neither of my kids will want to read Goosebumps. And that should be fine with me.

As a parent, I'm faced with the careful balance of introducing my children to the wonderful, wide world of stories and providing them a foundation of literature, but doing it in a way that will encourage their library explorations to take their own paths.

So, yes, the next time I take the kids into the book store I'll likely pick something for Tink that I like and will hope she likes, but I'll also let Puck choose for himself.

*Due to my children's personalities, I have decided that, for the purposes of this blog, they will be referred to as Puck (my son) and Tink (my daughter).

15 April 2012

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with Music

I don't listen to as much music as I used to. I used to listen to music while I was working, while I was driving (especially when I was driving all over the state as an admissions counselor), even throughout the day while I was cleaning or cooking or whatever else. That's not really the case anymore. Now that I'm the single mom of two munchkins, there's less time for music. And the music I do listen to is usually from Disney or Baby Einsteins (which I think is also Disney).

But every once in a while I'll have the opportunity to drive on my own, or the kids are asleep, so I'll turn on music I want to listen to. Sometimes it's classical, sometimes new age-y, sometimes it's something I can dance to. No matter what it is, it's something that renews my spirit. It touches me emotionally, and gives me the burst of life I need to keep on keeping on.

What music do you listen to when you need to be renewed?

14 April 2012

National Poetry Month: FAILURE TO THRIVE

            for my daughter

My daughter grins at me with a smile
not unlike the night-smile of my grandmother,
her day-smile in a glass on the bathroom sink.

It's one of the "Concerns,"
one of the by-the-ways mentioned
in the midst of lack of growth,
weak trunk,
slow development of gross motor skills.

The doctors use that phrase that stamps knots into mothers' stomachs:


that accusation I carry
from appointment to appointment,
the knot that remains,
test after test.

"She seems normal," it is said,
but there are hints that give it away:

The watch her play pat-a-cake.
(I see the slight lack of control in her frantic clapping.)
She flashes a smile.
(No tooth to be seen.)
Her wild pixie hair adds personality.
(And hides the soft spot that isn't closing quite fast enough.)
She scrambles across the floor, desperate to keep up with Brother.
(Her knees too wide as she crawls.)
When Brother climbs up on the couch, she turns her attention to the blocks.
(She is resigned in her inability to stand.)


I carry it with me, just as I carry the
handmade mint green blanket,
a gift from the hospital's pediatric ward.
Each next appointment promises answers,
brings more tests and evaluations and referrals:

But each next appointment begins with hope
that this appointment will be the one to replace
a list of symptoms with
            a Diagnosis.

And still, despite my fears, I am greeted each day with outstretched arms and
a wide, pink smile.

12 April 2012

The road I've taken: love thyself

A week ago, Carmen of Mom to the Screaming Masses wrote a lovely post about paths in life--expected and unexpected--and what takes us there. Her post has been rattling around in my head since I read it, particularly because of how my own path has so vastly diverged from what I expected. And I've spent more time writing this post than I've taken for posts in a long time because of the nature of the post. In fact, I've come thisclose to deleting it several times.

This time last year I was quite pregnant with my daughter, Tink, living in Florida as a work-at-home wife and mother. I thought that this was the path my life was meant to take, and that I would always be a Floridian wife and mother. In fact, this idea wasn't challenged until this past October. Since then, though, everything has changed.

In October, for a lot of reasons, my husband (who I'll call Monty) and I decided to move to Illinois. My father and I drove to Florida and packed the household, then drove back up. It was...an adventure. Of course, I was glad to be near my family in the midst of some of the struggles we were facing, but I was also sad to be leaving Florida behind for that time. (Monty and I had talked about going back to Florida after a time.) It was my home. It was were the children were born. It was...Florida. But it was a necessary move, and being with my family after being away for four and a half years certainly made the move easier.

My daughter, who turns one in a week and a half, has been going to a variety of doctor's appointments to try and find out why she's not growing like she should be. This has been going on since February. Out of a sense of privacy for her, as well as to keep Monty's privacy, I won't go into details about it. She is healthy and happy, we just have to figure a few things out.

In January, Monty left Illinois and went back to Florida. Initially, it was just a visit to his family, but it was decided that he would not be coming back to live with me. At the beginning of February, he filed for divorce.

There are a lot of reasons my marriage is over. I'm not going to be one of those women who complains about her ex-husband. I don't hate Monty. I really don't. I hate that things have happened the way they did. I hate that it's so complicated, especially right now. And, as crazy as it may sound to people, I hope that when the difficult and complicated parts are over, things will be be better between us, and I don't mean only for the sake of the children. (But that's another post for a different type of blog.)

There is one aspect of what's happening that I can talk about, and that's really the focus of this post because it has a lot to do with why I am where I am in my life right now.

I am a lesbian.

For those who know me, this likely comes as a surprise. Yeah, I know. Me, too. I don't want to talk much about the specifics of that, though if you're dying to know more, I'm happy to talk to you via email.

Obviously, this is a vastly different place than I expected even six months ago. But things have unfolded the way they have, and that's what I have been basing decisions and actions on every step of the way. And while I thought I was on a gravel garden path, I found myself--somehow--in the thick of the Hundred Acre Wood. And I'm not scared to be here. Because I know the path was taken carefully, step by step. To me, the path that got me to where I am made sense along the way. I couldn't always see what was coming, so I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, watching just the next step. Then, when I looked up, this is where I was. And when I look over my shoulder to see how I got here, I'm okay with it.

See, the thing is, there is no "road less traveled" when it comes to how our lives are lived. The only path for you is the path you are traveling right now. It doesn't matter where anyone else is on their life path because they're on a different path. Their garden or wood or whatever is a vastly different one from mine. I can't see them. So I try not to compare myself to others in that respect. It doesn't matter where I am vs. where they are because we've had different rocks and fallen branches encountered on the way. (Is this metaphor still working?)

Sure, I don't know where I'd have ended up if things had gone differently. But I'm happy where I am, for the most part. I try to remind myself that, yes, the garden could have been lovely, but it could have easily been the creepy labyrinth/maze from The Shining. So I'll take the Hundred Acre Wood.

09 April 2012

Screnzy pep talk: keep your conversations going

How's ScriptFrenzy going? If you're sticking with your schedule, you should be at about 25 pages. If you're not there yet, it's okay. There's still plenty of time, after all.

One of the things I run into sometimes is dead-ends in conversations. When you're dealing with prose, this isn't necessarily a problem. You can venture into a bit of description, reflect on the characters' thoughts or actions, or even make a note of the creepy stalker guy peeking at your protagonist from behind a bush.

Not as easy in script-writing.

Oh, sure, you can make something happen by adding some stage (or screen) directions, but in script-writing, conversations are key. If you have a dead-ended conversation, your scene has dead-ended.

There are things you can to do help keep your conversations (and scenes) going as you progress your plot and work toward 100 pages this month.

Ask questions.

If you feel like your conversation is winding down and it needs to continue, try asking questions of a character (or more than one character). Then, rather than directly answering the questions, ask more questions. Or answer them without actually answering them. Not only can this keep the conversation going, but it can help draw the audience into the story and build suspense.

Interrupt the conversation.

There are many times in life that a conversation is interrupted by someone or something, and after a brief distraction, the conversation resumes. This can be used in your script-writing, as well. If you feel a conversation fizzling out, bring in a character to interrupt, or have something happen to interrupt the characters. After the interruption is dealt with, the characters can go back to their original conversation, or can even discuss the interruption to lengthen the conversation.

We're about 1/4 of the way through the month. Don't worry if you're a little behind in your page count. Just keep pushing forward, adding pages, and before you know it, you'll be over 100 pages, maybe even before the end of the month!

Happy scribbling!

04 April 2012

The Experience of Poetry

I think it's particularly appropriate that my poetry group started meeting just before National Poetry Month started, don't you?

I'd forgotten how much I like poetry, really. I took a poetry-writing class in college, and I liked the challenge of conciseness and strong imagery. And, as I'm sure many of you can figure, my prose benefited from writing poetry.

I think this poetry group is going to keep reminding me that poetry is an important component of literature. Sure, I'm a prose writer, and when it comes to the bulk of my work, I probably always will be. But writing poetry from time to time is a good thing, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to delve into poetry--mine or other people's, both published unpublished--every other week or so.

The writer in me wishes we were meeting weekly, but I know I wouldn't be able to go every week, and I'm sure many others would not be able to, either. So I'm happy with twice a month for now.

I was feeling particularly adventurous tonight at poetry group, so I read an original poem. It's a new one, and still needs work, but it was important to me to share because of the subject's influence on my life right now. Sorry about the vagueness, but I can't discuss more right now (when I can, I will).

It took a great deal of courage for me to read my poem tonight. I used to willingly share my writing with other writers and with my professors, welcoming feedback to improve. But in recent years I've been a different person. I became quite a bit more closed off (to a lot of things). I'm happy to say that reading my poem tonight is one of the signs that I'm getting back to my old self--my real self.

And, if I may be cheesy again for a moment, poetry is helping.

Poetry is an experience. By reading about others' experiences and writing accounts of my own experiences, I'm facing aspects of myself that I used to be afraid of. I'm able to process things I'm going through with a clarity that can only come from verse.

The challenge in writing poetry is to convey these experiences to others so they can share the clarity I feel. I'm not always successful in this challenge, but I like to think I get better each time I try.

02 April 2012

Screnzy Pep Talk: the first week

Welcome to the first week of ScriptFrenzy! Are you in a frenzy yet? This is the beautiful phase of the month in which the conversations and stage (or screen) directions flow freely. You'll find yourself flying through the story.

Enjoy it. Take advantage of it. Use it.

A couple of weeks from now when you're looking anxiously at the calendar and back at your page count, concerned that you won't actually be able to do it this time, remember how you feel right now. Today and this week is the motivation you need to push through to the end of the month, and to push through to hit 100+ pages.

This will not be an easy project. If script-writing were easy, everyone would do it, right? But it's a fun project. It's one that is meant to challenge your skills, stretch your writing muscles, and remind you of why you love writing so much.

So while I urge you to hold on tight to the exciting motivation you're feeling this week, I ask you to do whatever you can to keep writing when the excitement begins to fade a bit. Remember how you feel right now, and know that when you hit 100 pages (and beyond), you will feel it again.

This is just the beginning of a crazy, fun, frightening adventure. And it's worth it to see it through to the end.

01 April 2012

Reading Challenge Update for March

Well, another month has passed. I'm still behind in my reading, but I'm still plugging along. In March I read Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, and The Chosen by Chaim Potok (review coming soon).

While I very well may not hit 100 books this year, the challenge is reminding me to read more, and I'm thankful for that.

Things are going to be pretty busy over the next couple of weeks, but my hope is that, at the beginning of May, things will settle down a bit and I'll be able to read more. (I've had books on my list since January that I just haven't gotten to yet, and I very much want to read them.) In fact, I may even be able to get caught up before the end of summer!

Now that April has arrived, I've decided to take a little time to read some drama in honor of ScriptFrenzy, as well as some poetry in honor of National Poetry Month. First up is Angels in America by Tony Kushner.

What are you reading?

Renew Your Spirit with Poetry

Along with being the first day of Screnzy, April 1st marks the first day of National Poetry Month (and that isn't a prank!). It's a good opportunity to explore some writers you've never read before along with a medium you may not be as familiar (or comfortable) with.

A college professor once told me that poetry is an experience. If you find a poem or poet that shares an experience you have had, it can be a very powerful connection.

I urge you to take some time today to read a poem or two, and maybe even share some poetry with someone in your life.