Category Archives: Writing

Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

NewYearsWish_Page_1‘Til next time,

Jessica

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Where’s My Grammar Police Badge?

solecismI lovingly refer to my mother as the Comma Queen.  She’s my proofreader extraordinaire, when I can contract use of her services.  She is in very high demand, you know.

Making my own grammatical blunders always makes me cringe.  However, it happens. Sometimes, I know it before the words ever trip off my tongue, but I am unable to stop it.  Sometimes, I do it on purpose to drive someone crazy…what?  It can be fun!

‘Til next time,
Jessica

 


What’s Eating My Brain?

TYPEWRITER - STOCK PHOTOHello!  Long time, no blog.  I know, believe me.  The absence has been felt.  However, I’m back.  In part, thanks to my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions, but mostly because I missed this too much not make it a part of my life.

Things I’ve discovered since starting my new job.  A job in which I talk with people all day long eats my words if I don’t nurture them carefully.  For too long, I’ve come home exhausted and unable to string together a coherent sentence. (Hopefully, that is better now.)  This will stifle writing like…well, like forgetting how to talk will stifle a conversation.

However, this did not stop my creative drive. At.  All.  In fact, without the wonderful outlet of the written word, the need to create got a little manic sometimes.  Drawings, paintings, quilting, crocheting, playing music, Legos (of course) all stepped in to take over, and I’ve produced some really great stuff.

I missed my words though.  Like most of us who are driven to write, it is more who we are than what we do, and when that part gets locked away for whatever reason, it feels, for me anyway, like a wound that won’t stop aching.  During the  “wordless time” whenever I tried to write, the ache got worse because if the mocking cursor on the blank screen drew anything out of me, it was disjointed. Reviewing what I’d written was more painful, because the form (rambling though my style may be) was shoddy and little sense could be made from the pitiful scraps I was trying to sew together.

This being said.  Please bear with me as I try to find my voice again. I feel a bit like Peter Pan with his wayward shadow.  It is out there somewhere.  I. Just. Have. To. Find. It.

I’ve also been left with stacks of really great art, and no idea what to do with it.  I may be turning to all of you for some advice once I get an idea of how to part with these pieces…if I can part with it.

Art is a funny thing.  I feel deeply that it is meant to be shared, for what good is a vision no one else sees.  Why put pen to paper or brush to canvas unless you want to share your vision with someone else.  Right?  However, as an artist I feel particularly vulnerable whenever I let someone look at my pieces, much less go home with them.  Luckily, I’m convinced I’m not alone in this. (Thank you Amanda Palmer for The Art of Asking.  I’ll tell you guys more about that one a little later.) I also need to part with some of this so I can make room for more new pieces. (My house should not overflow with stuff.)

Life ate my brain for a while.  I’m sorry.  I think it is better now.  I hope.  Maybe?
‘Til next time,

Jessica


Resolution Resolved.

Happy New Year!

sparklers - stock photo

 

Alright. It is that time of year again. Last year my New Year’s Resolutions went…pretty well as far as these things go. More things got crossed off the list than left on there. I’m not thrilled, but I am resolved to do at least as well this year. So, here goes.

2015 New Year’s Resolutions

1. Run a 5K. (I planned to do this last year, but didn’t quite make it…circumstances.)

2. Spend 10 minutes a day training/playing with my dog. (I really want to teach him how to shut the door. I have faith!)

3. Take 30 minutes a day to read…something. Anything. I miss reading!

4. Clean my house 15 minutes a day. Who wants to spend their days off cleaning? A little every day should prevent the worst of that. Right?

5. Write every day. No. Seriously. Write every day. 20 minutes minimum. I miss my blog. I miss my stories. I’m fixing this too. (Yes, this was on my list last year. No it didn’t work the way I’d planned. I’m giving it another go.)

6. Practice gratitude. Every. Single. Day. It is easy to get bogged down in the darkness of the world. There are lights all over the place. Pockets of joy and hope, but I forget to look at them. The Golden List is being reinstated. Starting January 1st, every morning I’ll make a list of the things I’m grateful for.

7. Join the local food co-op. Eating more veggies and cooking more were last year’s resolution. This year that continues, but with the added bonus of supporting local business and trying new things.

8. Make more music. I don’t know. Join the church choir, play the ukulele, play the guitar, the piano. Something. I miss music. It makes me happy.

9. Make good art. Stories, music, paintings. Just…make good art. (Yes, I have listened to the Neil Gaiman graduation speech. If you haven’t, you should. Or pick up the book.)

10. Cherish and enjoy my family and friends. From video games to quiet dinners. Whatever it is. Make sure they know I love them. This is a never ending resolution. I’m not bad at this, (I don’t think) but we can all be better at ensuring the ones we love know they’re loved.

How’d your resolutions go last year? Did you make any for 2015?

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. Although this is getting posted on January 3rd rather than the 1st, I’m actually doing pretty well with the resolutions so far…ish…maybe.


Family

Candlewyck Cove ResortLast weekend, I joined my family at Grand Lake for our annual long weekend at the lake.  Every year we rent a house at Candlywyck Cove Resort (and a hotel room or two) and spend the weekend laughing, eating, swimming, fishing and playing dominos (and any other games we can come up with).  My dad and his brothers and sisters and their families (when they can) come in to just hang out and reconnect.  Most of the weekend we had about 15 people there, but on Saturday that jumped to around 25ish (I really didn’t count).  Let’s just say there were a lot of people.

Grand Lake has been a central meeting place for our family since I was a kid.  My grandparents retired there, and we would all gather at their house for every holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Easter, Labor Day…you get the idea) and as many weekends as possible every summer.  Some of my best memories were built on that lake.  I learned how to fish, helped “teach” my cousin to swim, drove a boat for the first time, told stories, enjoyed the fruits of my grandparents’ gardens, learned checkers, became a baseball fan, watched my first soap opera, got my first black eye, and so much more.  When we were looking for a gathering place in later years, it seemed only natural to choose Grand Lake.

Yes, we put everybody in one house, voluntarily, for four days.  This is apparently unusual for families.  I had no idea.  Until I became an “adult” (however, my nephew’s friend questioned my “adult” status this weekend), I thought everyone’s family was like this.  There’s lots of laughing and good-natured ribbing, but rarely a “real” argument.  Our discussions this last weekend ranged from health care and financial planning to theories on how my dad and his brothers managed to cheat at Apples to Apples (We’re not competitive at all: Insert sarcasm font here).  These weekends have been influential in a lot of my major decisions.  When I was trying to decide whether or not to take a job in Chicago, I brought it to the family on one of these weekends.  This year, I even brought the short story I’m going to be submitting for publication for them to read.  (The general consensus is basically that I’m weird, and it must be the weird books, television and movies I like.  This is an acceptable and expected response.)

Some of my favorite moments this year included taking my nephew and his friend out on a paddle boat (apparently kids under 14 can’t go alone.  My nephew was horrified.)  The wind blew so hard the little boat moved backwards, no matter how hard they paddled, and they had to work hard for their trip around the cove.  However, there were no (major) crashes with docks, a couple of turtle sightings, a threat was made to eject someone from the boat (and an unsuccessful attempt), and a lot of laughter (also a request to turn in the boat 15 minutes early).  Paddle boating is tiring.

My cousin’s boyfriend and my uncle attempted to teach us how to play the card game, Pitch.  We learned how to play a game, but I’m not sure it was Pitch.  They kept remembering rules they’d forgotten as we were playing (they were threatened with their lives discouraged from implementing new rules halfway through the game).  However, I think I have it now…maybe…there are a lot of rules.  The most important thing to come out of the game was a nickname for our new “teacher”.  He now goes by Pickles. (It is funnier if you were there).

Everyone got involved in Apples to Apples, which was a treat since one of my aunts usually refuses to play because she says we’re “awful”…not awful, just competitive.  (Really!)  Only a few of us had played the game before, so we got to teach it to everyone else.  The Three Amigos (otherwise known as my dad and his brothers) blew everyone else out of the water…especially my dad.  This is what led to the cheating accusations, well the unexpected domination in the game and a vast and varied history of cheating at board games.  (Seriously, they even cheat at checkers!)

Also there was singing!  My dad only knows one song, and only part of that.  Have you ever seen the movie Paint Your Wagon?  It is an old western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin.  Until I saw this 1969 film, I had no idea that Eastwood could sing, and although it is Harvey Purcell who sings my dad’s song, They Call the Wind Mariah, it was this unsuspected side of Dirty Harry that stuck with me.

 

If I remember correctly, this was one of the first movies my parents went to when they started dating.  The first time I sat through this film, I made my parents promise me that I wouldn’t have to watch it again for 10 years. (I think I was 10.)  I did watch the movie again, and really enjoyed it. (What can I say, it’s no Star Wars but it is pretty good.).  Now, I’m willing to watch it whenever they want to.  I suppose, it is pretty sweet that my dad still sings a song from one of my parents first dates.

 

All of this to say, there really is nothing quite like family.  Next year’s lake trip can’t come soon enough.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 


Neil Gaiman Talks: What ifs, Why fors, and Hows

Have I mentioned lately that I love Twitter?  Well, I do.  I find some of the greatest stuff there!  For example, today I haven’t even been on Twitter, but I got an email from them with tweets I may be interested in.  (You know the one I’m talking about).  Typically, I just delete the email and move on.  Really, I get too many emails (especially since I started applying for jobs online, 30 emails a day with results from job searches!).  This time the title Neil Gaiman Follows the Guiding Light of Instinct caught my attention, and I opened it up.  My mom may read this and see a bit of inspiration from him in the story I just gave her to edit (it is based on something her sister told her that scared her when she was little.  Oh yeah, she’s thrilled to be my editor on this one). Seriously though, I love reading his stuff.  The Ocean at the End of the LaneFragile ThingsStardust, Smoke & Mirrors…really, I haven’t found anything I didn’t enjoy.

This New York Times article delves into a bit of why we like to be scared by horror and frightening stories, they discuss his Carnegie Hall performance that is coming up the end of June, and his creative process.  His thought process as a kid reminds me a lot of myself.  I was always thinking of “what-if” scenarios…then torturing my sister with them.  When I asked if she thought I could scare someone in 2,000 words or less she didn’t even pause.  She interrupted me with a resounding “Yes, definitely!”.  If anyone would know, she would.  I practiced on her for our entire childhood…maybe I still use her as a guinea pig.  (Sometimes, I wonder why my family puts up with me.  I just gave my mom her childhood boogeyman to edit for me…hmm…best not ponder this one too much.)

TheTruthIsACaveInTheBlackMountainsThe Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains has been released in a special edition with the Eddie Campbell artwork, and, for those of you lucky enough to attend the Carnegie Hall performance, you’ll get to hear him read this to music by FourPlay string quartet and see the artwork.  You can purchase an edition of the book with illustrations by Eddie Campbell as well.  (Since not all of us can score tickets to Carnegie Hall…)  If you are attending this show, please email me or comment to tell me about it!

Did you ever play the “what if” game?  You know, making up terrible scenarios and stuff?

‘Til next time,

Jessica


Guess Who’s on Time Magazine’s Top 100 List?

There are so many amazing people on this list, but I’m only going to discuss a couple of my favorites.

First, have I mentioned how awesome John Greene is?  Like here and here and here and here and here and here and here?  Well, it turns out I’m not the only one who thinks so.  This month Time magazine named John as one of the top 100 influential people in the world.

In his bio written by Shailene Woodly (she stars in the film adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars, out June 6, 2014), she mentions a few of the awesome things John does, like best-selling author, vlogbrothers YouTube channel, VidCon, but there really is a lot more.  I could write about the reasons I think this guy is cool, for…a long time.  However, I’m going to let you see for yourself…as he talks about other people who should have made this list instead.

Another is Pharrell Williams.  Isn’t that the guy from that video you post incessantly?  Yes, yes he is.  Justin Timberlake wrote his bio and tells the world how Williams made him “fearless” after helping him with his first album.  Then he writes about Pharrell’s own music.

That’s what Pharrell does. He injects that vibrant energy into the music in a way that you can feel. Whether it’s the chord changes that remind you of another time or the melody that instantly grabs you, you are transported to another place. You smile, you dance, you clap along. His music actually does make you happy.  – Justin Timberlake, Time Magazine Top 100 Influential People in the World

I have to say Justin’s got it right.  I adore Pharrell’s music because it really does make me happy.

Malala Yousafzai is another on the list, and she is someone who inspires me to stand for what I believe.  She has amazing courage, heart and dedication.  As an advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan, Malala drew the attention of the Taliban.  Even knowing that her life was in danger, she continued in her cause. In 2012 a man came on to her school bus, asked for her by name shot her in the head at point-blank range.  She was 15.  Yousafzai didn’t let that stop her.  Since her recovery she’s gone on to speak at the United Nations and released a book last year.  At 16 she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Okay, so that’s only three out of 100.  A lot of interesting people made the list this year, and I definitely recommend you take a peek.  I’m still going through the list and all the bios myself, and it just gets more and more interesting.  Most of the people on this list inspire me to be more, to embrace life, to take chances, to do what’s right, and to be mindful of the impact my actions have on others.  I can’t say I like everyone on the list.  Some, I can’t say that I’ve heard of before, but I’ll not forget them now.  Who inspires or influences you?

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. There is a distinct possibility of another post coming.  Make sure you look for it…or beware…I’m not sure which.

 

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Happy!

I learned a line dance to this song last week. My friend is going to use it at her wedding. Fun stuff, I’m telling you.  That whole shebang will be going down a week from today.

What do you have going on this weekend?

For me, I’m headed to the Farmers’ Market bright and early tomorrow morning…fortunately the Cherry Street Coffee House is right there, and they make an awesome chai tea. If you don’t get a to-go cup, the large comes in a mug as big as a soup bowl…definitely going to be doing that.

There is a possibility that I’ll fire up the grill for the first time this year also…maybe steaks and some veggies from the Farmers’ Market? Sounds good to me!

A short story is in need of some major editing, and its calling my name.  It needed to sit on the “shelf” for a while to give me some distance before I attack it with a red pen.  Today it’s calling my name, so I think the wait is finally over.  I’m inspired, in no small part, by the tale I created to make one of my friends nervous about her security alarm going off for no particular reason…I need to remind her of that before she leaves…There’s a reason I like Cards Against Humanity so much.

Oh!  Cards Against Humanity!  A friend is staying with me all weekend…this may necessitate a gathering of individuals to play a card game…hmmm…

Sunday it is supposed to rain, but that just means that I will definitely finally see Dallas Buyers Club and maybe even Divergent…maybe, possibly…it could finally happen.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. What about that furniture I’m refinishing, you ask?  P.R.O.C.R.A.S.T.I.N.A.T.I.O.N…

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More poetry

Have you ever found something that worked its way inside and just refused to leave?  Coleridge’s Kubla Khan did that to me.  The very first time I read it or heard it, I just couldn’t let it go, and I don’t know if I could tell you exactly what grabbed me.  Each time I read it, I am caught again.  Every. Single. Time.

Kubla Khan

BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure
   Floated midway on the waves;
   Where was heard the mingled measure
   From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
   A damsel with a dulcimer
   In a vision once I saw:
   It was an Abyssinian maid
   And on her dulcimer she played,
   Singing of Mount Abora.
   Could I revive within me
   Her symphony and song,
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
I’ll resist delving into Coleridge’s story about an opium induced dream as the creation story for this piece…well, I’ll mostly resist.  Whether truly a dream, finished or unfinished, it doesn’t really matter.  It is just beautiful.  Are there any songs, poems, books that grab a hold of you this way?
‘Til next time,
Jessica
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Today’s Word

Today's Lesson

Today’s word is all me.  If I didn’t get yelled at so frequently for things like not eating or sleeping, I’d spend every evening writing until I ran out of words…or couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.  Heck, if I could find a way to pay the bills, I’d drop this job and spend all day writing too!  However, bills must get paid, and bodies need fuel and sleep (apparently).