Gaming, writing for fun, and other seemingly useless activities.

I’ve always heard, when you don’t know what to write, just write something. But this ideal goes against my very nature. See, I’m the type of person that needs to see results for the things I do. If I am going to put hours, days, months into a writing project, I want it to be something I can submit when I’m done. If I’m going to paint something, it’s going to be something I’m going to sell or use as a sample for one of the painting classes I teach.

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Me, teaching a painting class with my business, The Easy Easel

In other words, I’m into functional art. It needs to have a purpose. I’ve never been the type of person who sits down to do something just for fun. My husband, however understands well the art of leisure. He is a gamer. I’ve never seen the purpose in it. Hours of effort and emotion poured into something that didn’t result in a product. Or so I thought. Sometimes the product of effort is not tangible, yet it’s just as valuable.

My husband and brother-n-laws started playing #Fortnite recently. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a video game where you and your partners– who are communicating remotely via headset– are dropped out of the sky from a floating party bus onto an island where an encroaching storm is constantly making your boarders smaller and bringing you closer to your enemies, which are also live players. The purpose is to be the last on the island to survive. My husband and his brothers coaxed me and their wives to play “just once,” and I caved.

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Me and my sis-n-laws playing Fortnite

It turns out, we didn’t suck! In fact, I had a great time, and it resulted in some quality time with my sis-n-laws that I drew from during the week. The plot arc in the game was inspiring as well. There was an actual product to doing something that wasn’t “productive.” It wasn’t something I could put my hands on. It wasn’t a word count. But there was something to show for it.

 

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My first, first place win in duo mode!

I started playing this game right around the time I was finishing up a manuscript that I sent my agent. It was the second new MS I’d sent her since going on submission, and it wasn’t great. Immediately, after realizing this, I had that rush of rage that accompanies “wasting my time,” and I started to get really down about it. But then I took a few days, thought about some things that she suggested, and along came a new idea. One of those ideas that effortlessly flows from your fingers. And guess what. Elements from the two other manuscripts started inspiring characters. Experiences in those other manuscripts became tools in my tool belt and the story felt so much more authentic. It was like I was trying for the past several months to take a screw out with a butter knife and someone had just handed me a Phillips screwdriver. Those hours, those days, those weeks were not a waste. There is a product for time spent working on our craft without the direct result of a finished piece of work. There is a benefit for doing things just for the sake of enjoying them. Though, if I’m honest, just saying those words still makes something inside me cringe; I’m going to try to make myself believe them more often.

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My Very Biased YA picks for 2018

From great turmoil comes great writing. 2018 is going to be living proof of that. Some legendary YA is about to enter the world this year, and I’ve been dying to celebrate the YA book babies of some of the people I’ve connected with at one point or another during my writing journey. So here it goes. 2018’s WHO TO READ LIST by a very biased reviewer with acutely impeccable taste in YA literature. That’s me.

Dear Rachel Maddow
 by Adrienne Kisner
coming June 5th
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This emotion-packed YA by my writing group buddy and literary phenom Adrienne Kisner features a troubled teen named Brynn Harper who idolizes Rachel Maddow and drafts emails to her as an outlet when everything around her seems to be falling apart. Brynn’s correspondences help her find her voice and stand up to the people in her life that want to shame her rather than see her potential as a leader.
Tyler Johnson Was Here
by Jay Coles
coming March 20th
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Oh man, this one. First, can we just talk about this cover? This YA by Jay Coles, a talented writer who signed and went out on submission with Dystel Gooderich & Bourret at about the same time I did, is a stunning and relevant piece about a boy named Tyler whose brother goes missing after a police raid on a party they attended. Tyler learns through a series of events that his brother was shot by police, and watches his mother unravel as he mourns. It’s a book about the real meaning of freedom and justice, and you need to read it.
Adib Khorram
Darius the Great is Not Okay
Cover art coming soon. 
Coming fall 2018
I’m thrilled about this one. I was connected with Adib through my good friend Rena Olsen author of THE GIRL BEFORE and WITH YOU ALWAYS coming in August, and through Midwest Writers Workshop, a great yearly conference held in Munci, Indiana. I fell in love with the main character the minute I read the description on Adib’s twitter feed. DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY is about a 15-year-old, “tea-obsessed, clinically depressed, half-Iranian, Star Trek nerd whose sense of self is transformed after his first trip to Iran.” You had me at tea-obsessed. You had me at tea-obsessed. I CANNOT wait to get my hands on this one.
A Touch of Gold
Book by Annie Sullivan
Coming August 14
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Annie is another Twitter acquaintance turned IRL acquaintance thanks to Midwest Writers. And she is as sparkling in person as the cover of her debut.  A TOUCH OF GOLD, is the little-known tale of the daughter King Midas turned to gold. If you’re a sucker for retellings like CINDER and THE WRATH OF DAWN, A TOUCH OF GOLD is going to make you so, so, so happy.
Miranda Asebedo
The Deepest Roots
Cover art coming soon
September 2018
Twitter is a magical place where you can meet the people that share your dreams. Miranda is one of those people, and I was SO thrilled when she announced her book deal for THE DEEPEST ROOTS. This book sounds so deliciously creepy! It’s about Cottonwood Hollow where girls have been born with various special abilities for the past century and three girls with similar abilities who discover that the truth behind Cottonwood Hollow has been under their feet the whole time.
There you have it friends: my YA list, for now. I’m so excited to celebrate these authors. I know they have put pieces of their soul into these works. I understand the passion felt for these projects. And it brings me such joy to watch their journeys unfold.
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Things are different now, and things are the same.

I remember thinking that when I got an agent magic would take over my world. Words would roll out of my fingers like ocean waves. Revisions would feel like a casual stroll rather than a marathon. People would line up at my door to read my beautiful, beautiful words.

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Let me be clear. It HAS been magical. And words DO come. And on occasion, people do like to read the tales I spin. But mostly… mostly, writing now is like writing then.

Hard. Beautiful. Gut-wrenching. Satisfying. Revealing.

Hard

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It’s still hard writing, post-agent. But sometimes for different reasons. I never had writers block before getting an agent. Never. Hate me if you will, but usually I had a hundred stories lined up in my head, waiting for a little attention. There is a mind switch that happens when you start writing for another reason. Revisions start to take priority, and you don’t let your mind wander as often, because you know it’s only a matter of time before you have to revisit that last story either for an R&R or to polish it up for submission. Sometimes the creative whiplash that occurs from jumping from world to world too often is just too much, so you just don’t write between stints of waiting on feedback on revisions. I’m not saying this is a good thing. I’m just saying it happens.

Beautiful 

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It’s still beautiful. Though I don’t get to create freely as often anymore, those moments when the story is taking shape and the characters are speaking… well, you know how it feels. It’s the first gaze into your newborn’s eyes. It’s a dive off the top of a roller coaster. It’s a plunge into icy water. It’s exhilarating and just plain beautiful. Thank goodness, that still happens.

Gut-wrenching

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You still have to wait, post-agent. And waiting can be so hard. Waiting while you know someone is reading your work. Waiting while you wonder if you sent your very best, if you could have sweat a little harder, bled a little more to make it better. Waiting, hoping, praying for good news. Yes, even after getting an agent, writing is still gut-wrenching.

Satisfying

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There’s nothing, before or after getting an agent, that is more deeply gratifying than typing those two final words: The. End. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, it just satisfies this deep, deep part of you that no one else but another writer understands. For me, editing can be almost as satisfying. It feels like clay taking shape under my fingers. The features come into view, start looking back at me with these life-like eyes, and I stare back at them and go, “Holy something… I made that!”

Revealing

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Writing has always been revealing for me, but something about this stage of writing has caused the process to reveal more of my inner self than I could have imagined. Over the past year, writing has been so intensely introspective, a reflection of my values, my brokenness and my strength. I’ve dug deeper and looked harder than ever before. It’s been surprising. And it’s forced growth.

So yes, things have changed in the past year, and no, they haven’t. Writing is the same and it’s oh, so different. It’s still all the things I love and hate. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Roller Coasters? Then you’ll LOVE writing!

A friend of mine recently tweeted a GIF of a roller coaster, comparing it to the publishing experience. It was sort of perfect.

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The experience is full of ups and downs, for sure. The best way to understand the full scope of this is to become a part of a writing community and listen as other writers share their hearts and emotions. I’ve done a lot of things for a living. I’ve cleaned houses, worked as a pharmacy tech, ran a daycare, worked in a hospital, taught in schools, worked in retail, taught painting classes. None of these fields of work affected me emotionally like writing does. Your words are your heart and soul. Your guts. Your very being. So the process of writing, or publishing can be both deeply gratifying and equally as distressing.

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As artists, we are our own worst critiques and biggest fans. Teetering between these two roles is one of the most exhausting experiences I’ve had in my adult life. One minute, I’m like, “Daaaaaang, who wrote this? It’s gooooood.” And the next, I’m embarrassed for having sent it out into the world. But as I share my journey with others, I’ve found this is the norm for writers. And this isn’t the only internal battle we face. There are other elements in the roller coaster as well: the steep inclines and dips and upside down turns of publishing itself.

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Publishing is all about waiting. And, waiting, I’ve found, is like that slow drag up to the peak of the coaster. For some of us, this portion of the journey is longer than others. And the longer it is, the more anticipation and anxiety that builds. Then there’s the matter of hitting the peak. There’s a number of ways we might react. We might take the go-dead-to-the-world, wake-me-up-when-it’s-over approach, or scream and freak out on the way down. Some of us actually enjoy the dive. While others are already thinking about the next peak before we even get to the valley. We’re asking ourselves, can I really do this again? And what happens after that? Another peak? Another valley? Can I live like this my whole life? Why did I ever get on this ride? 

The fact is, deep down, we really DO love the ride. We wouldn’t be satisfied with another life. If you’ve ever gone a long period of time without the elements of the roller coaster, you know, it’s pretty boring. There’s no reason to obsessively check your email. No news coming in. Nothing to create or promote. It’s true, this life isn’t for everyone. But for the roller coaster lovers, the rush is all a part of the journey.

Update for The Write Niche Writers Group

A Shuffle in the Schedule

For our first session tonight, we’ll be speaking to William Vaughn, author of two series in different genres. William has been gracious enough to speak to us on his success as a self published author with two series in different genres as well as technical writing.

WILLIAM VAUGHN

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Williamdsc_0229-2 Vaughn is a writer and has been for nearly forty years. More than a dozen of his technical books could be found in bookstores all over the world—but most of you haven’t read them unless you’re a student of data architectures. After retiring from programs and databases, he turned his creative talents to coming of age stories and time travel. His latest books include his three-book YA series The Seldith Chronicles, and his three-book NA series The Timkers. Yes, as with his first technical books, these are all independently published. Leveraging his eye for graphics design, he creates his own covers and internal layouts. As you might have guessed, he’s also a graphics artist, photographer and world traveler. He spends his days writing, when he can, mentoring when he can and travelling, dabbling with computers and watching film noir.

To see more about upcoming events for The Write Nice Writers Group CLICK HERE!

 

 

What goes around…

I’ve spent nights racking my brain for an original idea, knowing that it’s in there, deep, trapped like a dust bunny between synapsis.

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And then it comes to me: that never-been-done-before original idea. And, with vigor, I share it with my husband or my bestest writing buddies, and they’re like, “Oh, cool. So, like the Hunger Games then? ” After a few defensive rounds of, you’re not getting it, and let me explain it one more time, I realize they’re right. It’s the same story, with different characters.

A wise man once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Yeah, that Solomon guy was the bomb. A lot of experts agree with old Solomon. They theorize that there are really only a handful of plots out there. The idea that we keep telling the same stories with new twists and different characters has been around for a while. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s human nature to want to read familiar stories. We like stories we can identify with. This doesn’t mean the story is filled with things we’ve experienced ourselves or events that remind us of someone else’s experiences. It just means that some element of the story is relatable, or is something we can connect with on some sort of empathetic level. Generally, we can find something to connect with in even the most far-fetched stories. We love to read things that make us go, “Me too!”

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In my previous post, A FORMULA FOR A BEST SELLER?, I reference Vulture.com, a site that breaks basic plots into categories like impostors or forbidden love and then explains the plot devices within the story line. Using the works of  William Wallace Cook’s Plotto,  Christopher Booker’s The Basic Seven Plots, and Ronald B. Tobias’s 20 Master Plots, the claim is made that there are really only around eighty fictional plots out there. Other experts in literature claim there are as few as twenty. I suppose it depends on how broad or narrow a lens you’re viewing the plot from. I mean, something like the idea of survival could probably be identified in most stories. It’s interesting, however, to look through the list and see where the stories you’ve created fit.

Regardless of whether you think there are infinite plots or a handful of recycled ones, one thing can be certain. Themes do resurface, because humanity goes through cycles. It’s important to understand this as an author. Understanding plots can make us better, more effective writers and might even enable us to create stories that profoundly impact hearts.

Now, that’s a thought.

YOU USED TO BE SO AWESOME

Remember when you used to do random scavenger hunts for your coworkers? And remember when you used to have people over for movie nights and you used to make all these fun little finger foods. Oh! Oh! And remember how you decorated the break room to look like a tiki lounge that one time.

You used to be so awesome.

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No one has actually said these things about me. I don’t think. But I’ve been thinking them lately. Like recently: I teach science at a tiny school district in the heart of the country. Once a quarter, each of the middle school teachers is responsible for decorating a bulletin board. This is what I came up with this quarter.

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It’s cute, and clever, I’ll admit. But it doesn’t really meet the mark when I’m capable of this:

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Superheroes in acrylic on un-stretched canvas. -by Margie Brimer

As I stood in the hallway, cradling my chin in my hand to ponder my sub-par bulletin board, I started to wonder. When did I stop being awesome? But this still small voice inside me started to speak, and in the hallway left in the eerie quietness that all public institutions bear when empty, I listened. And here’s what I heard: I’m still awesome. My awesomeness has just shifted. And it will continue to shift. There was a time when I was a rockin’ momma. I did crafts with my kids DAILY! We went to petting zoos and camping and carnivals and the zoo and museums. We had picnics and went to the park all the time. I don’t do that stuff with my kids any more. And in the process of beating myself up over it, I realized I don’t do that stuff any more because my kids are teenagers, and they don’t LIKE that stuff any more. So I have to evolve and shift my awesomeness elsewhere. Think of it as the awesomeness Cupid Shuffle.

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There are seasons in our lives. Lysa Terkeurst embodies this concept so well with this quote: “Like a tree, a woman can’t carry the weight of two seasons simultaneously. In the violent struggle of trying, she’ll miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.” -The Best Yes. We can’t bear the weight of the leaves of spring and the snow of winter simultaneously. Knowing this is freedom. Freedom from the self-imposed and sometimes others-imposed expectations for us to keep doing all the awesome things we’ve always done while taking on more awesomeness.

As I stood in that quiet hallway, I realized this: I am still awesome. While I haven’t recently hosted a literature festival for 500 students, or won a float contest in a parade, or redecorated the entire house again, I have a book on submission. I’m teaching some awesome kids and we’re doing the coolest projects. And I’m playing in a rocking worship band twice a week. That’s enough for right now.

I hope you can take joy in looking back on the seasons you’ve had the pleasure of taking part in, and you can bring yourself to let go of your leaves when it’s time to enter another season. Know this: You are awesome. You always have been, and you always will be.