28 June 2012

There's a reason it's called a career *path*....

Photo source
Last month I found an opportunity I couldn't pass up. At first I was, I admit, a little skeptical.... it sounded too good to be true, and I've fallen for that before.

I know more about this opportunity now, and I'm excited at the prospect of it working out. It would be an amazing career opportunity for me. It would push my career in the direction I want it to go, and it would be an opportunity that I would stick with long-term.

I can't (well, won't) say what this opportunity is right now, or any real details about it, but it would utilize my education and experience, and (as I said) advance my career path.

I know. Vague. Sorry. When I can, I'll share more.

I've been thinking a lot about this opportunity over the past couple of days. I've been weighing the pros and cons of it, thinking about the possibilities of some of the details I don't know yet, and imagining how this will alter the path of my life and career. It will change a lot of things in my life, for a lot of reasons. And if it works out, there will be some transitions that will be difficult, but that I will have to get used to.

But that's how it works when you're on a career path isn't it? You're not supposed to stay still, stuck where you are. You should be pushing forward, striving for better, right? That's what this opportunity is.

I have a degree in English in order to have a career as a writer. I have been working as a freelance writer for the past four years (to the month, actually), and each project has given me more experience and samples for my career. I've strengthened my skills, and the projects I accept now are very different from those initial projects and articles.

The progress I have made as a freelance writer has been an effort to land an opportunity like this one. This opportunity is why I went to college, and why I have pushed myself (especially recently) in my freelance career. This would be my career-maker.

Of course, with this kind of opportunity, there are some adjustments that would need to be made. (Understandable. If I were working in a traditional job and had a big opportunity or promotion, adjustments would need to be made.) At first, those adjustments bothered me just a little bit. But I know that they come with the territory of advancing my career. And because of what these adjustments will ultimately mean for my family, any concerns I have are being set aside. They are minor in comparison to the benefits of what's to come if this opportunity pans out.

I don't know what's going to happen. I'm supposed to know more next week. Whether it works out or not, this opportunity is sending me on a whole new path.

25 June 2012

Counting down the days....

This is the last week that Puck and Tink will be with Monty for this visitation. They've been gone since the middle of the month, and I'll be so, so thankful when they're back! I've missed them like crazy, and while I've been doing what I can to stay busy, it's been very difficult to keep from...wallowing.

I readily admit that this visitation was more difficult for me. I know the kids are having fun and are being well taken care of, but I hate being away from them! There were many mornings I woke up and peeked in the kids' room, expecting them to be snoozing. Or, out of habit, I would pour two toddler cups of milk in the morning when I had Bug.

I can't wait until they're back. Like seriously.

But I've had a list of things that has to get done before they get home, and it's not finished yet. So in these last days before I get to cuddle the babies, I'm trying to carefully plan what I need to do, especially for work, in order to get everything done I need to before the kids are home.

It's going to be a busy week, but it will be worth it when I get to pick the kids up on Saturday!

What do you have to do this week?

22 June 2012

Why I create stories

As a freelance writer, I have worked on some very...interesting projects. I proofread and formatted a self-help e-book, I wrote articles about mixed martial clothing, and I've created lesson plans for novels.

This is the first time I've written a screenplay for a client.

Someone (we'll call him Nathan Lane*) contacted me and asked if I was interested in doing a screenplay. We both gathered a little basic information from each other (Me: What's the project? Him: What are your credentials? Me: Are you just a creeper?), then met for an initial meeting. He told me about the project and the work he does (which ties into the project), and I told him about my freelance experience. We talked legal details, and after the meeting, I was excited about the prospect of working on this project with him.

Setting aside the fact that this project is awesome because it's a screenplay, the specific story that's being told (as well as the broader scope of the subject of the film) is something that's important. This story, and many more like it, need to be told. So part of my excitement about working on the film is the prospect of getting to be a part of telling this story.

Okay. Getting back to the technical writing-y stuff.

I am somewhat familiar with screenplay-type stuff. I took a screenwriting class in college, and still have the texts used for it. ScriptFrenzy's site also has good resources. So I figured it would be best for me to sort of brush up on screenplay formatting in preparation for this project.

So as I leafed through my book, reminding myself of how to structure this story within the framework of putting it on film, I had a sort of mini-revelation. It wasn't an epiphany because it's something I know in my heart, but it was significant enough that it led me to stop leafing and write a blog post about it.

By trade, I am currently a freelance writer.† The vast majority of what I create for work is non-fiction. I do articles, blog posts, press releases, educational materials.... but at the end of the day, my heart is in crafting stories.

That's not to say I don't like freelancing. I really love it, actually. But if I had to choose between freelancing or fiction, I'd choose fiction.

I think this project with N.L. (see how I shortened it?) is going to be good for me. It'll flex my creative muscles a little more, and I'll have the opportunity to work in a more creative circle for a while. Yes, I can do that by working on the coffee house book, but this will be different. Maybe it'll help tighten up some dialogue in my other creative ventures.

Usually I like to sort of conclude my blog posts by trying to bring it full circle, or adding a sweet little conclusion, but since this post arose out of a spontaneous thought, I'm not sure how to wrap it up. So I'll just say..... happy writing.

Good enough.

*This man is the film's producer, so his code name is Nathan Lane who, of course, was in The Producers. I'm very creative, you know.

† I say "currently" because while I do make my living as a freelance writer, I know that if the write opportunity presented itself in a more traditional job, I would take it.

21 June 2012

In which I discuss poetry group again.

I had poetry group again last night. By the end of the night there were twelve of us, and we'd had a good variety of poems read, including Carl Sandburg, Elizabeth Bishop, X. J. Kennedy, Christina Rossetti, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, and Sherman Alexie. A few people read original poems, as well.

Last night's meeting was really a lot of fun. There was great poetry read (if you get the chance, read "Afraid So" by Jeanne Marie Beaumont and "The Facebook Sonnet" by Sherman Alexie), great conversation, and an impromptu reunion.

I'll explain. One of our regular members, Carole, was there. Another regular member, Andy, was also there, and invited his sister to visit. (She read two poems by Christina Rossetti and nearly made me cry. She is an excellent reader.) Through conversation, it was discovered that Carole was Andy's sister's fifth grade teacher! Of course, this was after Danny realized that three of us (including myself) were wearing the same watch, so Chris decided that he was going to go buy a lottery ticket.

See what fun can come from poetry?

Of course, aside from the reunions and sometimes silliness, there is still wonderful conversation about poetry. Last night's meeting began with "Iron" by Carl Sandburg, then "Grass" by the same poet, which launched a discussion about poetry that glorifies war, and how society has changed to glorify war in very, very different ways. We discussed writing poetry from the heart, an upcoming event celebrating Victorian women's literature, and ended with two light-hearted poems, one of which was Alexie's "Facebook Sonnet."

I have discovered that every time I go to poetry group, there are at least two poets discussed or read that I'm not familiar with. I may know the names but haven't read them, or they may be completely new to me. (And with such a long, long literary history of poetry in the Western world alone, there are sure to be more!) When I come home, I always find myself reading up on a new poet. I think that's one of the beauties of this group. After I graduated college, my poetry reading and studying sort of fell away. I am primarily a prosist, so I didn't make the time for poetry. Now that I'm in this group, not only have I made time to read and study poetry, but I've made time to write poetry again. And I think my prose is benefiting.

The imagery that poetry uses can be applied to prose (see "Blood-burning Moon" by Jean Toomer). And because poetry is generally condensed, applying that way of thinking to prose helps keep me from rambling for pages and pages to describe a single tree.

And, as if all this wasn't enough, I really love going to poetry group and connecting with local people who read, write, and appreciate poetry. Since the end of October 2011 this town has been my home, and where I intend for Puck and Tink to have roots. So I'm glad to be able to make the town more of a home by getting involved in the community. I never would have thought my town would have a poetry group--I was pleasantly surprised. I'm eager to see what else exists, and what else may develop as I settle here.

18 June 2012

Keeping track of projects

As a freelance writer, it's important to keep track of projects, especially if you have many "small" clients. I've tried different methods for keeping track of my projects from week to week (even day to day).

For a while, I was using spreadsheets to keep track of what projects were active, what phase of the project I was on, and when it was due. It was fine, but if I forgot to update the spreadsheets, things got jumbled and frustrating. So I abandoned that.

I've found what works for me is task lists and calendars, just as it works in my personal life. As soon as I get a project, I write the deadline on my calendar. Then, when I use my calendar to make my task list each week, I can see what deadlines are coming so I know what I need to work on and when. I have one task list that mixes home and work life, but since I work from home and those two aspects of my life are so interrelated, it makes more sense to me to list it that way. In addition, any meetings or appointments I have get written in the top margin of the task list page. As the week goes on, I add to the task lists, amend them, move things around, and generally make a mess of the pages. But it makes sense to me, and they help me get things done.

In addition to having my task lists, which I keep on my desk, I use my calendar for appointments, meetings, and deadlines. If there's a particularly important task I need to get done (email a sample to a client or call to move an appointment), I write those tasks on my calendar, as well. Once I have my weekly task list, I use my calendar to divide it into daily task lists. My planner has monthly and weekly pages, so I use the daily spaces on the weekly pages for  my daily task lists. It gets just as messy as my weekly task list pages, but having everything in my calendar helps me see what's going on and what's coming.

I've tried using digital calendars and organizers. I have a BlackBerry, and I've tried using a combination of the calendar and task list apps that came with it to keep myself organized, and know that I'd always have it with me. But I'm the type of person that has to write things down or I'll forget them. So as much as I'd like to use spreadsheets or something else to keep track of my projects, I just can't. I've tried, and it doesn't work for me. It's more important for me to find a system that works for me than to use something that's technologically advanced or whatever. So I'll stick to paper and ink, and help contribute to the materials used to make recycled paper products.

How do you keep track of your projects?

14 June 2012

Writing in June

Puck and Tink are safely in Florida with Monty until the end of the month. Puck, especially, was excited to see his Daddy again, and talked about little else except going to "Mickey's house." I know they'll have fun, and while I miss them fiercely, I'm trying to stay positive and use this opportunity to stay busy and get caught up on some things that have fallen behind.

Yes, these are my actual, factual task lists for this week.
There are some typical mom-related tasks on my list for this month, like deep-cleaning the house, rearranging the living room, and getting ready for Independence Day. But there are also a lot of writing things on my list.

I have a grant application that needs to be sent by November 1st, and I need to work on that. It's a whole big packet of "stuff" to send to the organization, and I want to make sure I have everything in order in plenty of time.

As part of the application packet, I need to work on the coffee house book. Not only do I want to work on the coffee house book in its own right, but I am including an excerpt from it as part of the application. I know what section I'm using, so I need to finish the background work for that section and write it.

I also decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I figured since the kids are gone for the last half of the month, I'd be able to make the time to write something for it, and it would be good for me to work on something other than freelancing or the coffee house book a little bit. Not that I don't love devoting my creative energies to them, but it's also nice to work on other things once in a while.

The novel I'm writing for camp is a sort of coming-of-age novel. It's intended to be pretty light reading, and I know I won't do anything with it other than write it for camp, but it's just something different to work on for a while. I figured that since the coffee house book is so dense, something lighter to work on would be good for me.

I always have a lot of writing to work on, but there's a lot of time this month to write. (And I hope that writing will help distract me from missing Puck and Tink.) I may just have to keep track of my word count for this month and see how much I actually get done.

What are you working on this month?

11 June 2012

My Life's Work

Thanks to Allena T. on Twitter, I was able to read this article this morning about how to tell whether or not you've found your life's work. As I was reading through it, I happily realized that I am, in fact, doing my life's work.

There came a point in my life and career when writing was no longer something I did. Instead, a writer was something I was. And though I spend a lot of days terrified of what I'm doing, doubting myself, worried that the summer of 2008 was one of the biggest mistakes of my life, I also spend more days excited to sit down to work, staying up late to finish fun projects, and telling anyone who will listen about the cool new thing I'm working on this week.

Yes, it's hard, and people think I'm crazy for choosing this crazy career path. It would be so much easier to have a "real" job to go to every day, wouldn't it? Well, in some ways, I'm sure it would be easier. It would be more regulated, when I got home I'd be able to be fully home (and not working), and I wouldn't get strange looks when I tell people what I do for a living.

On the other hand, I really and truly can't imagine doing anything except what I'm doing. Seriously. I wake up in the mornings and get to do something I love every day, and the best part is, I get to play with Puck and Tink in between articles and client emails. What could be better?

This is my life's work, and this is right where I'm supposed to be.

08 June 2012

Never give up! Never surrender!

I have been working on the coffee house book (sort off and on, I suppose) since November 2005. The idea behind it has changed quite a bit, and I'm very happy with the outline's current incarnation. But it's been a long, frustrating path to get where I am in it. There were many times I wanted to just walk away from the idea altogether, convinced it would never work, or that I wasn't good enough to do it justice, or that pursuing writing a novel at all was a colossal waste of my time.

I'm so glad I didn't quit. Because I really am excited and passionate about the coffee house book, and the other books that will come with it. (Collection. Not series.) In fact, I'm passionate enough about this project that I'm willing to devote as much of my writing career to the collection as is necessary to make it complete, whether it takes another year or ten.

I will not give up on this collection!

There's something strange that happens to writers when they get an idea they're supposed to write. It sticks with them like nothing else. I'm serious.

For the past seven years, the coffee has been rattling around in my mind almost nonstop. No matter what else I've worked on, what other job I've held, that damn book won't leave me alone. I smell the characters' favorite drinks when I make my own coffee in the mornings. I dream about the characters. When I play at writing other stories, elements of the collection creep into the narrative.

And so, for seven years, I've worked on the coffee house book. It's developed into a collection. I've got pages and pages of (necessary) background notes. And I'll keep working on the collection--starting with the coffee house book--until it's done.

There's a reason the coffee house book has taken over my brain. I honestly don't know what will happen once the book is done. Of course, I would love for it to be published, and my intention is to seek publication. But if that doesn't happen, I'm still going to write the rest of the books in the collection, even if no one else ever reads them. It's the only way to get these characters out of my head: tell their stories.

Never give up. Never surrender. And by Grabthar's hammer, the collection will get written.

04 June 2012

Poetry's the thing

So I've been going to this poetry group for the past couple of months. We meet twice a month. One meeting is at the library and the other is at the local bookstore. Tomorrow night we meet at the library.

I've really enjoyed going to the meetings. The size of the group has varied from as many as 18 to as few as 6, and there have been new people at every meeting. We've had a wide variety of poetry read by the members. I've discovered new poets, which is always fun, and been reminded of poets I'd read or studied but forgotten.

Those who attend who are writers have often been brave enough to read their own poems, and I love hearing the different styles and subjects that come from our diverse little group.

Of course, the best part is the discussion that comes from the meetings. My former academic advisor is a regular attendee, and his literary insights have often driven the conversation. He's able to offer background information about poets or styles or time periods, or relate seemingly unrelated poems to each other in interesting ways. And because our group is diverse (we range from librarians and college professors to fast food workers and retirees), there is always good insights and interesting perspectives that come up in conversation.

I'm so glad to be a part of this group. Not only has it been beneficial to my reading and appreciation of poetry, but a few of my own poems have come out of meetings, as well. (Including a found poem.) Getting in on the group from the very beginning, I'm helping shape the face of local poetry in my town, and get to know the people who write, read, study, and appreciate poetry. It's a good group. And I can't wait until tomorrow's meeting. (I guess I better get some editing done before tomorrow night!)

01 June 2012

100+ Books in a Year Reading Challenge Update

I know I haven't been updating the way I should, and I'm quite behind on my reviews of the books I have read, but I promise I've been reading! Not as much as I'd like to be, but I'm doing what I can. It helps that I have projects that involve reading fiction for a freelance client.

I don't know that I'll hit 100 books this year, which is fine. (I'd have to do a helluva lot of reading for the last half of the year, that's for sure!) The important thing is that I'm reading more than I would have otherwise, and I'm happy with that.

I've read 13 books as of May 31st, which totals 5,214 pages. I'm happy with that.

I hope to get a lot more reading done in the second half of the year, particularly as I expect things will normalize a little better than they have so far. And, if not, well, I read 13 books in 2012.

Right now I'm reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It's one I read quite some time ago, and it's one of those books I knew I'd want to reread. It just has that kind of story. So that's what I'm doing.

And I'll try to get past reviews up soon.

What are you reading?