Eureka! I’m Writing in a New Genre

I’m writing a book.

Yes . . . yes . . . you’ve heard me say it before. But I’m really writing a book. As of today I’m in the beginnings of Chapter 7 and the word count breakdown of my chapters is as follows (for any of you interested in numbers):

  • Chapter 1:    3673
  • Chapter 2:    3093
  • Chapter 3:    2546
  • Chapter 4:    3714
  • Chapter 5:    2155
  • Chapter 6:    2343

For a GRAND TOTAL (as of now) of 17, 525 words. I think I’m aiming for about 40,000 words.

As some of you may know, I’ve had a lot of book ideas floating around my head for the past few years. I’ve made a lot of false starts and stops. In order to get this far, and give myself the kick in the butt that I needed, I signed up for a course through the Long Ridge Writer’s Group called “Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel.”  Through the course, you are assigned an “editor/instructor” of sorts to help guide you through the process. I find that, having someone who I have to report to in some way helps me stay focused.

Of course, because you are supposed to wait for feedback, it means that my writing has kind of been random instead of regular. (Not that I listened to the rules completely. I wrote some sections anyway, but I still wanted feedback before I moved too far forward).  But, in general I think having someone respond has helped me shape the novel. I’m finally in the flow of writing and now the biggest challenge is finding time to focus on my other obligations in life.

Except that’s not really the biggest challenge. If you notice, the third part of the title of this course is  “Sell Your Novel.” That means that, now that I have turned in the first three chapters and am onto learning about revision, the next step will be learning about querying and sending to publishers and/or agents.

This is the stuff I find truly terrifying.

Part of the problem, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is that my novel doesn’t fit traditionally into any specific label or genre. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know how much I hate labeling in all aspects of life.  But, if I am going to try to get this published through a traditional route (that’s still a BIG IF) I need to play the game like a good girl and label my work.

I, of course, decided to focus on writing a good story and figure the rest out later.

However a miracle of blogging and social media has a brought a little clarity into my life. Earlier this week, after I posted my 100 Word Challenge, Sandra Tyler over at A Writer Weaves a Tale asked if I was interested in fiction and if I would be interested in joining a writer’s group on Facebook.  Sure, I thought. it can’t hurt, and it’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. I just have to stop being afraid to share.

So, I went over and joined the group. Sandra asked us to introduce ourselves, and I did that. Then yesterday, I read one of the other introductions, and discovered a moment of clarity. Shall I share? Here’s a cut and paste image of the Facebook conversation

Did you get that? NA! New Adult! It’s a new label for a genre that isn’t quite YA but isn’t quite A. Here’s a link to a post on Misha’s blog (My First Book) called “What’s the Next Big Thing in Genre Fiction” that explains NA in more detail.

So now I can say. I’m writing a book. It’s a New Adult Fantasy/Sci Fi book that questions the role of government and religion over women in a world where power comes from unexpected places.

Anyone interested in reading it?

Alone But Not Lonely, Writing in a Crowd

“I know I should be working on my book/course work,” I said to Nathan this morning. “But the problem is my instructor chose the story A. I don’t know where that story begins. I don’t really know what the conflict is. I’ll never be a writer.”

“Let’s talk about this,” he said, and started asking me questions about the characters, the world, and anything he thought might help.

This all happened as he was packing up his lunch and preparing to leave for the day, which would leave me alone in a house where you would think I could get a lot of writing done. Except that I don’t. Or maybe I can’t. Or is it simply that, in my current state of confusion, I simply don’t want to write?

No that’s not it. I want to write. I want to create a story, a world. While deep down inside I hope that I write something good enough to be published, I know that I will never achieve that if I don’t sit down and write.

Nathan left for work. A quiet home. Do I sit down and write? No. I lie down and read, not even something new as I am rereading one of my favorite YA fantasy series (the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull). But thoughts begin to distract me, and I just down some ideas on my yellow pad. I finally think I know where the story can begin.

I hop into the shower, and a chapter begins to write itself in my head.

Of course, out of the shower, over at my computer, the first thing I do is check Facebook.  Uh oh! I think, time to make a move away from the lonely so that I can get some actual work done.

I’ve written about before about the pros and cons of a coffee shop office. The truth is there are times when I want to be in the comfort of my own home, locked away in the privacy of my office, working. But, recently I find that I accomplish more when I get myself out of the house, take myself to one of the two or three locations that have internet access and wall plugs, buy myself a warm drink and a little snack, and then face the blank screen.

I guess there’s just something about being alone in a crowd that helps me focus.

Today’s writing location. I’m sure you can figure out where it is.

It seems to have worked. I have managed to write a chapter, edit some others, write a rough draft of a 1500 word summary, and now I am working on this blog post.

I was going to quit after I finished the summary, but I hopped over to Facebook to find that blogging buddy Mckenzie is attempting to write at a bakery in the hopes that it will help her write. We chatted for a minute and I started this post. She is typing away (I hope) on a chapter as we speak.

See, I’m not alone. We had a short chat and it inspired this post. Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.

For me, at least, it seems I write better in a crowd. How about you?

Let’s Take Over Freshly Pressed

I admit that I stopped regularly reading Freshly Pressed a long time ago. Partially as a time-saving measure, partially because I have so many fabulous blogs to follow that I barely have enough  time to read them all, and partially because of a few too many Freshly Pressed posts that I personally thought were poorly written and uninteresting.

Yet that page still dangles before me.

I had managed to push Freshly Pressed out of my line of sight, focusing on writing posts I could be proud of and trying to keep up with all the fabulous posts I want to read each day, while (hopefully) contributing comments that helped me grow as a writer and a member of the community. While my blog hasn’t grown hugely, a few new friends join me every once in a while, and I have found some wonderful new blogs to follow myself. Once in a while an FP headline jumps out at me, and I wander over for a look, but for the most part I have been content with my quiet little circle of WordPress universe.

However, recent events have brought Freshly Pressed back into focus.

Perhaps it started when Jim Chaney, over at the Wordslinger had his (I believe third) Freshly Pressed post picked, called “Stop! In the Name Of . . . Terrible Baby Names”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Jim’s post was fabulously funny, and all the posts that he has written that went on to Freshly Pressed fame were wonderful. But, if (as I thought) FP is selected somewhat randomly, why then do some bloggers get an overabundance, and others get zilch, nada, zip–including posts that really should have their moment to shine?

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about the success of a program I started last spring, and linked to one of my original posts about the program. The fabulous Kathryn McCullough, who loved the original post from the beginning, wrote this:

That led to a Facebook discussion with another blogger about some of the (possible) secrets of Freshly Pressed. I will not go into details here.

I pushed the question into the back of my mind for a while, until I read Kathy’s fabulous post yesterday called, “Top 10 Reasons to Join the Bloggy Blast”. Kathryn has written numerous posts that should be read by millions of readers. This one was timely, as I sink into questioning “why bother” and wondering where all this writing and blogging is even taking me. Her post reminded me of the unexpected rewards of joining and maintaining a blogging community. At the same time, she brought into clear focus the ever-present shadow of Freshly Pressed, by writing

“It used to be that writers and artists gathered at literal locations like the Algonquin Round Table during the 1920s.  Today bloggers gather at a place likeFreshly Pressed—present the best of their work and hone their craft.  I may have felt honored to have my work featured on Freshly Pressed, but more importantly, a forum like Freshly Pressed offers examples of excellent work that other bloggers can strive to emulate.  It demonstrates what works.  It shows us how to be better writers, stronger photographers, more daring and accomplished artists.”

Freshly Pressed came back to my radar.

So I wrote an e-mail.  I made a suggestion. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

. . . I began wondering if there was a way to make FP more representative of the true quality of work out there. Many times I have read posts that deserve a broader audience, either for the quality of writing, the beauty of the images, or the importance of the message (or some combination of the three). Yet those posts rarely get recognition (although I have indeed called it a few times). Would it be possible to add a NOMINATE FOR FRESHLY PRESSED BUTTON to all posts, with guidelines like: You can only nominate 1 post a day; you cannot nominate yourself (otherwise you will be inundated with bloggers who just want attention); posts must contain original images or appropriate accreditation of sources; and so on (you know best).

I know that doing this would mean you would have tons of posts to sort through, but it would also give some attention to bloggers who are really creating work worthy of their fifteen minutes of fame and fortune (Ha! Ha!).  I also think it would strengthen FP and the  WordPress Community.

And here is the response:

“Thanks so much for taking the time to share your suggestion with us — it’s a fantastic idea! The idea has come up before, and although it isn’t currently on our to-do list, it’s certainly on our radar.

In the mean time, feel free to pass on nominations to editor@wordpress.com

Happy blogging,

Erica
Story Wrangler
WordPress.com | Automattic

So let’s do it. Let’s start sending her nominations for those stories that we feel truly should reach broader audiences. I’m not talking about our own egos here, where we claim our own writing is the most glorious thing in the universe and dangle even the most mediocre piece in front of her eyes. NO! I mean, let’s be thoughtful and nominate posts we read that we think deserve a little moment in the light of the wider blogging universe.

Of course, there should be some sort of criteria. Some of the things that make a post stand out for me, and make me wish others would read it too, include:

  • quality writing and/or images
  • a message that speaks to a wide audience
  • a message that needs to be heard
  • a post that makes you think or feel, whether that feeling is laughter or tears
  • truth and honesty
  • a post that doesn’t try too hard
  • . . .

What about you? What are your criteria for a post that you think should be Freshly Pressed?

I am not saying inundate them with nominations, but lets be thoughtful and really try to promote each other’s best work.  I nominated someone today. I won’t tell you who unless my nomination turns into success.

Anyone want to join me in taking over Freshly Pressed?

UPDATE

It works!!!! The blog I nominated was Kathy’s wonderful post which got Freshly Pressed today (April 17) !!!  They even sent me an e-mail to let me know. Can I have a WOO HOO!

Riding the Bus: A Love Story

Fung Wah Bus Van Hool C2045 coach on a stopove...

March 30, 2012, Boston, MA

I sit on the floor, the cold from the rust-colored tile seeping through my pants. There are seats next to me, but I want to try to get a front seat on the bus, so I sit in line. The Chinese bus (Fung Woh) just loaded, so I hear the chatter of Chinese around me. I’m watching people, trying to be subtle about it. I don’t really have to be subtle though, as most people protect themselves with various technological devices. I bet that travelling by bus in the past was friendlier, as people asked questions and discussed the adventure ahead, rather than hiding behind mini screens.

Flashback, A Peter Pan Bus, Sometime in 1990

I remember falling in love, briefly, with a man on a bus. I was taking the bus home from college, either just before or just after I graduated. I got into a discussion with this cute black guy who was heading home from college as well. We talked the whole ride: about our times at schools 20 minutes from each other, about our fears as both of us graduated, about life and dreams and where we were heading from there. My future was still unknown. I can’t recall what his was, maybe moving to New York or something. “I wish we had met earlier,” he said. “Me too.” I surprised myself with that reply as I was perennially shy with guys. He got off the bus before my stop, and we never saw each other again. These were the days before everyone had cell phones, e-mail addresses and Facebook. For people in transition, contact was more challenging. I believe we exchanged phone numbers, but his life was moving forward quickly. A flame for a moment that blew out with a puff of smoke.

March 30, 2012, Boston, MA

Now the line is silent. Nobody speaks, not even the people travelling together. There are a few hushed conversations, and a few less-hushed cell phone conversations. Most of the noise comes from buses beeping, honking, moving, backing up. Nobody really makes eye contact even. I try to look up and be friendly, open–but that is not the norm nowadays. That seems like such a sad loss. The Fung Wah bus backs out and moves away, opening the space for my Megabus to move in. It’s still early though, so there is nothing to do but wait.

Waiting for the bus home in NYC.

Creating Friendship in a 21st Century World

Gone are the days when making friends was as easy as walking into a classroom at school. Even for someone like myself, who is basically shy, I was bound to connect with one or two people and be able to call them friends.

Gone are the days of walking out the door, jumping on a bicycle and finding the gathering of neighborhood kids to play with.  Some of them I even called friends.

I know those neighborhoods still exist, but not where I live, and some of the freedom of those days has disappeared in a world where people seem to see a child molester around every corner. We often hole up in our homes, barely knowing our neighbors, and certainly not inviting them in for a cup of tea.

As an adult, it seems to becoming even more difficult to make friends. Sure, there is the instant camaraderie formed by people in work places, especially when you have interests in common. But what happens when you don’t have an office? What happens to people, like myself, who work on a project by project basis, or are only there one day a week, so don’t intermingle with office politics/celebrations/meetings?

Well, there’s always the PTO for parents. Or perhaps joining a gym or volunteering for an organization. Great places to meet people and make friends, right? Maybe, but I think even that has changed recently. Too often people have their own agendas for these types of activities, and there is really no way in the midst of planning, organizing, campaigning, and focusing on our own health to allow time to simply get to know each other. There is no time to make friends.

We have learned to hide behind our busy schedules and technology.

Yesterday, Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way wrote a post called “Disconnected Connections & Distractions” which, in addition to a few events this week, got me thinking about this topic. How and where do we make friends in the 21st century.

Last Tuesday I went to someone’s house for a cup of tea.

Shocking, isn’t it?

We had a lovely conversation, which turned into a light lunch before I headed back to do some more writing before Sarah got home.   Nothing strange about this scenario, right?

“I’ve never met someone this way,” my new friend said. “You know, where we just chatted for a minute at a coffee shop and now you came over my house. I was wondering if you left my address by the phone in case you disappeared today.  I mean, you don’t know me and basically came to a strangers house.”  We both laughed, but I admit that as I was driving to her house I had a moment of doubt . . . what am I driving to, I asked myself?

We have become a society of distrust, and that’s sad.

Before Christmas, I met another woman with whom I felt an instant connection. We started chatting as we dropped our daughters off at their musical theatre class, and I got the courage up to see if she had time for a cup of coffee. We went to the nearest coffee shop, and talked for almost an hour and  a half, until it was time to pick the kids up again. Great, I thought to myself, I’ve made a new friend.

We saw each other again briefly the next week at the musical theatre performance. Everything seemed great, and I thought, there’s a couple that we could become good friends with.

After the holidays, I sent an e-mail to her (she had given me her card when we first met) explaining that I was about to head to Slovakia but would love to meet up when I returned.

Her response? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

A few weeks back I read the “Candle Lighter Award” at If I Were Brave’s blog, and Dory gave me the courage to try a second e-mail. Maybe the first got spammed, I thought to myself. So I wrote a second one, cautious with my wording so I wouldn’t come off like a stalker:

“I just thought I would drop a note and say hello, as I haven’t seen you at the Music Theatre drop off. If you ever feel like meeting up for lunch or coffee sometime, let me know.”

Again the response was nothing, nada, zip, zilch.

I gave up.

Yesterday, at the drop off, just as I was about to leave she and her daughter come swooping in. “Hi!” she says, a huge smile on her face. “Hold on a second while I get her in.”  She says goodbye to her daughter and turns to me, “I’m sorry I never got back to your e-mails, I’ve just been swamped . . . ”

“That’s ok,” I said. “I just figured you thought I was a crazy stalker.”

“No, of course not . . .” and the conversation went on from there.

We didn’t extend the conversation for coffee as she had errands to run, but we did leave open the possibility of meeting up sometime next week (school vacation) or at least starting on Thursday’s when classes meet up again.

All this is a roundabout way to getting to my point. We are instantly connected with so many people now, through technology that we can even carry in our pockets. Yet, somehow that technology has made making friends more of a challenge. We  are surrounded daily by threatening stories, that terrify us as we cocoon ourselves behind the four walls of our safety zones. We have lost the ability to trust each other, and to simply say I want to get to know you better without the feeling that somehow we are invading someone’s privacy.

We hide behind the safety of communicating in our own time. We respond to questions when it suits our needs. We read at our leisure, carefully crafting comments before we hit send.

While I feel like I have made friends through blogging, I am still cautious about extending the “let’s meet in person” invitation. I remember my heart beating quickly with nerves as I was about to meet Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizons. I was honestly scared that she would think I was some kind of freak. But why should I feel that way? We already knew each other through pictures and words. We already knew each other through technology.

My fear stemmed from my general shyness, and a protective wall I’ve built around myself after being burned one to many times in friendship. But it also came from a pervasive loss that exists in our society–a loss stemming from continuous hiding behind technology. We have lost the ability to make friends simply by saying hello. We have lost the ability to trust. We have lost the idea that most people are good at heart.

We have become a society of lonely people.

I think that’s sad.

What do you think?

Discussion, Debate and Blogging Etiquette

One of the most amazing things about joining the blogging world is the opportunity to learn from other people. I don’t always read something I agree with, and I’m sure that many people don’t always agree with me. But, by reading other people’s ideas and perspectives on life, I clarify my own stance and often even understand issues from a different perspective.

I love the exchange of ideas.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t make many comments. I was afraid that commenting on other people’s posts was somehow intruding and that nobody really cared what I had to say. But, eventually I came to realize that a post without comments might as well be a post into a private journal. If that is the case, and if you are not going to interact with fellow bloggers, then why blog in the first place?

There is a danger, however, in commenting and responding to comments. It lies in the fact that we are communicating only through technology. Without face to face contact (and sometimes even with it) meanings can be misunderstood and interpreted incorrectly. Perhaps someone makes a sarcastic comment in good fun, but if you are only friends via this virtual tool, sometimes that sarcasm can be misunderstood.

Yet, as I get to know my fellow bloggers, I feel like I’ve established a relationship based on trust and a mutual respect for each other. We may not agree on everything, and life would be boring if we did, but we respect each other’s right to their beliefs and their right to write about those beliefs.  If I completely disagree with a person, I either do not respond, or try to respond with a question to promote discussion.

While I doubt my stance on things like religion, politics, women’s rights, war, education, etc. will ever do a complete 180, I am always open to a new way of looking at things. I don’t believe that any issues is completely black or white, but that every issue and situation needs to be judged from a variety of perspectives.

In other words, there is no ONE truth, but multi-faceted truths that lie somewhere between two sides.

I now find myself unintentionally embroiled in a debate of two truths. I’m not going to go into specifics, although most of my readers will know what I am talking about. Basically, the problem comes down to two people who don’t agree and one person who won’t let go. It also boils down to the issue of blogging etiquette.

What is blogging etiquette?

This complicated world of blogging introduces so many challenges in communication, that once in a while it is good to stop and think about how we interact with others. Here are some of the questions that have popped into my head at one time or another, followed by my (uninformed) opinion on the answer. Feel free to add more ideas below:

  • When is it good to respond to a post? I think commenting on posts is valuable at all times, but only if you have actually read the post and have something to say. I admit to sometimes skimming people’s posts when I am in a hurry, so for those ones I either hit the like button, comment briefly, or don’t comment at all.
  • What kind of comments are acceptable on posts? Comments that respond to the actual post are acceptable. Perhaps you don’t have much to say about the content, but want the writer to know that you’ve read, understand, or support what he/she is saying. Then it might be okay to write a very short supportive comment. Otherwise, I think comments should be substantial (ie contributing to the conversation) without being long. If you find yourself writing a long comment on a topic, perhaps you should write a post about it instead.
  • When should comments be blocked or deleted from posts? This one can be tricky, because if you want honest discussion it is important to include all sides, even the things you disagree with. However, if the comment attacks the writer or the readers of the blog in a disrespectful way, it doesn’t need to be kept. If the comment has absolutely nothing to do with the post, why keep it?
  • When is it okay to not respond to a comment? I try my best to respond to comments on my posts, but sometimes it is impossible. As most of my readers know, I have been dealing with a lot in the past month, including moving, no internet and other craziness. So, while I wanted to respond to comments, I had to prioritize, which meant I let a lot of responses slide. I made sure to explain that in posts. I tried to respond to any new readers, because I believe you can only build a relationship through commenting and visiting each other’s blogs. Ultimately, though, I don’t think you have to reply if the comment is something simple like “That’s great!” or “Thanks.”  You should, however, respond when someone has taken the time to submit a well thought out part of the discussion.
  • When is it best to simply remain on the sidelines and observe the conversation? You know the mantra “If you have nothing nice to say . . . “? Well, that might be a good guideline. If you have an opposing perspective that you can phrase respectfully, go ahead and join that conversation. But if your response is going to be simply to rant and rage, without any openness to discussion, perhaps you should keep your opinion to yourself.
  •  When should you make contact with someone outside of the blog, either through e-mail or through actual in person meetings? I have had contact with several bloggers outside of the blog, through Facebook, one phone call, e-mail, and once in person. Sometimes I’ve initiated the contact, sometimes the other person did. When I’ve initiated contact, it was because I felt like I had something to share with that person that was best shared privately, rather than in the public forum that is a blog. I try not to be too aggressive about contacting bloggers in other ways, but I always feel honored when someone reaches out to me.
  • Should you include links to your blog or other sources when commenting? It’s possible to find many debates and discussions on this topic, as including links can seem like simply trying to promote your own blog. I have, however, included links when I have a post that furthers the discussion or adds a different perspective. I also, occasionally, will add a link to some web page that provides information to the writer. However, I have it set up that all comments with links must be approved. Why? Because I don’t want to be linking to sites that make me uncomfortable. I often allow those posts, but if the links seem to lead to disrespectful stuff, bye-bye comment. Comments with excessive links often get sent straight to spam, which means they sometimes disappear quickly.
  •  When is it acceptable to use all caps? This relates to the challenges of communicating electronically rather than face-to-face. Capital letters have come to stand for YELLING! Nobody likes be yelled at. In addition, capital letters are harder to read. So, I suggest using them sparingly, to emphasize or show excitement. I don’t like reading posts that have lots of caps, and I would guess many readers agree.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, and it is only my opinion. I’d love to hear more of your suggestions or ideas (even if they disagree with mine) in the comments below.

Update About Related Posts: This post has sparked a lot of interesting discussion, both below in the comments and in other people’s posts. Please go check out the following for more interesting perspectives:

If you’ve come across any I have missed that should be added to the list, let me know.


Advertising Self

Me for Sale

Our world runs on advertising. Homes for sale or rent, products to sell,  places to visit, services . . . we all find them through advertisements.

But advertising, as I was reminded quite painfully yesterday, can be false. (Where do people think of these scams?)

I’ve been thinking a lot about advertising lately, as I try to figure out how best to move forward into the next adventure of my life. I have to advertise myself. I have to advocate for myself as well. I have to promote and sell myself, and I simply don’t know how. I can do it for other people really well, but when it comes to self-promotion or self-advertising I feel out of my depth.

The above image is just a bit of silliness that I put together when I thought about this weeks “Weekend Theme” from Viewfromtheside’s Blog. Advertising plays such a crucial and somewhat manipulative role in our society that it is something worth thinking about.

The problem, for me at least, is that I cannot advertise falsely–especially when it comes to promoting myself. But there are so many people out there who have mastered the art of marketing themselves gloriously. I’m not saying they are all guilty of false advertising, but somehow I haven’t found the way that markets ME to the best of my ability.

Maybe I need to hire myself an advertising agency. But that requires something that I don’t have–$$$. Ah, the vicious circles of life.

How do you promote yourself?

Pursuing Passion and Creating a Life in a World Gone Mad

I have never really followed a traditional career path.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had tons of jobs, and have been successful at each one. Give me a challenge and I live up to it and surpass that challenge. Most of my employers would hire me back in a second.

But I’m not really a  9-5 kind of gal. I can work 40 hour weeks, and I often work more than that, but I function best in jobs that offer variety and flexibility. When I do have full-time office jobs with regular hours, I tend to fill my other time with other kinds of work to fulfill this need for diversity. At the same time, I try to go above and beyond expectations at the job itself so that I get interesting tasks assigned to me and get diversity in my regular work.

In academia, I’ve never had a tenure track position. It has nothing to do with the quality of my work, as I’ve been nominated for teaching awards, given classes and opportunities based on my work, and very rarely receive negative evaluations. Yet, when it comes to interviewing for tenure track positions, even if I make the cut of the top three, I don’t usually get the job. Why? I think it’s because people can sense that somehow I function better in a more fluid type of position, where I follow projects with passion because I choose too, not because I have to. Of course, this usually means that I work as hard or harder than many of the faculty who are tenure track–for less pay, fewer benefits, and less recognition. I do it because I care about my work and the people I work with–and at least I usually don’t have to attend quite so many meetings. That is a definite plus. I mean, meetings with a purpose I’m all for, but meeting to have meetings–not so much.

Why am I talking about this? As you know, we are planning a move to Massachusetts, which has its challenges. Finding housing seems to be the biggest one, so we are looking at the possibility of buying again. We have good credit. We have a down payment. Nathan has a job. But, as of yet, I don’t and that could limit the possibilities of what we are able to buy.

So, I spent the morning updating my LinkedIn profile, creating an on-line portfolio, sending letters to a few people, working on expanding my network, and trying to establish a more professional presence as I search for work to help us with this move. [I’ve been working so long on this computer that I just had to scrounge for a replacement battery for my mouse ;)] Of course, working on this project forces me to think about what I really want out of employment. Do I want the traditional regular hour job that comes with a secure paycheck and benefits? Or, do I want the gypsy lifestyle of a freelance worker that comes with no security, a smaller paycheck, and no benefits– but does allow for options, a flexible schedule, and projects that I choose?

The truth is I want both. But, I may not have a choice in the matter. Trying to take a little break from the work, I wandered over to Facebook only to stumble upon this thrilling news “‘Unemployed need not apply’” from PBS. Now I’ve never been unemployed (except for a few months after I graduated from my MFA program, and for a semester after having Sarah) or collected unemployment–because I’ve never been fired or downsized. I’ve always walked away from jobs because of moves or starting school or something legitimate. I’ve always left a job without burning bridges. But, ever since I graduated from my doctoral program, I haven’t had a traditional contract either.  I have worked full time for the most part, sometimes teaching more credit hours than tenure track faculty while directing shows and teaching outside classes. I have been given year-long contracts that can be renewed yearly. But I have not followed a traditional path of employment, so it looks like I’m a scattered gypsy that might be an insecure risk–even though anyone who has ever employed me would probably sing my praises.

Yet, today we live in world where people lose jobs while the rich get richer and get tax cuts. Then those same jobless people cannot get jobs because they have been unemployed, or because they have passed an invisible age line that seems to get younger and younger. In a ridiculous reflection of American society, which values youth and beauty over wisdom and learning, the system gets tougher as you get older.  Life-wise, 40 may be the new 20, but job-wise 40 is closer to retirement and redundancy–somehow out of touch with the fast-paced changes of the world.

I am not out of touch. I learn and I grow and I challenge myself on a daily basis. But on paper, I am someone who has gaps or a non-traditional resume.

So what is one to do to help secure a life and a home for a family while also living a fulfilling life in a world that doesn’t seem to want hard workers to work? Only time will tell in my situation, but the adventure is going to be an interesting one.

The Power of Social Media, College Networks, and Support Systems

I have made a discovery!

In my panic of the past few days as I struggle to figure out how to move a family from Kansas to Massachusetts in less than a month without having to give up my dog babies, I have tried to expand my search for both housing and work. I announced the move on Facebook. I’ve updated my LinkedIn profile. I joined an alumnae group for Smith College on LinkedIn. And I’ve written posts here.

An amazing thing has started to happen. No, I haven’t found a place to live or a house yet, but suddenly I feel less alone. First came the wonderful and supportive comments on my posts here. Then came e-mails from the alumnae group–one from the CDO at Smith offering to help me find work, and one from a Smithie who lives in the Worcester area, offering to just help me in any way she can. Then came comments from friends on Facebook offering to hook me up with job possibilities and ask around for housing.

I now have plans for coffee dates and lunch dates (and possibly a tree viewing trip to Maine in the fall). I have a tentative meeting (either on phone or in person) to help find work. I have a job possibility, and two rental possibilities that are a little out of our price range but are better than nothing. I feel like I am building a valuable  support  community that will make this transition smoother and more successful.

I don’t know if I have any blogging buddies in Massachusetts, but I’d love to hear from you if I do. Or anywhere in the North East for that matter, as this network is an important one too.

I always forget the power of networking and the power of admitting that you need help. I tend to think I have to figure it all out on my own, but the world doesn’t really function that way.

“It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. ” Mike Davidson

“The way of the world is meeting people through other people.”  Robert Kerrigan

Really, I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, as I have often written about the connections that make this world such an intricate and interesting web of life.

So, I’d like to say thank you to the miracle of networking, the power of social media, the connections from all of my educational programming, and the wonderful support that people have offered me.

Now if I could only find  a place to live that will let me keep my dogs.

Birthday Wishes

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

Image via Wikipedia

I am reposting this birthday post from last year, because I think I should.

I don’t know what it is about March 14th but I know more people born on that day (myself included) than any other day of the year. It has never really just been my birthday, since I was born on my cousin’s sweet 16–which completely freaks me out when I do the math. One of my closest friends in college had the same birthday as well, which led to interesting celebrations involving kidnappings and late night diner adventures. On Facebook alone I have four friends celebrating their birthday today (the college friend included). Happy birthday to us all.

And of course, we are not alone, as there are numerous historical figures of all types who were born on this day, perhaps the most famous of which is Albert Einstein in 1879. I share my actual birthday with actress Megan Fellows who performed in Anne of Green Gables which is one of my favorite books and mini-series. There are also plenty of historical events including war and peace, joy and sadness.

But, let’s face it, the reason the day is important to me is because it is my birthday.

I admit, though, that I have a slight dread of birthdays now, as the years pile on and life becomes harder in some ways. I know that the looming date of my birthday has influenced the past week of posts, and I apologize for the kind of general gloom and doom of my recent posts.

But, I have decided ENOUGH OF THAT! I am going to chase those birthday blues away by putting some fabulous birthday wish energy out into the universe! It’s my birthday, I can wish what I want to. And what better place to do that then into the blogosphere?

The combined wish energy of all the people born today has potential power. So today, I am going to make birthday wishes for every year of my life–not just selfish wishes, but wishes that I hope will bring some wonderful things to this world. In case you are dying to know, that means 43 wishes. That’s a lot of wishes I think. I am not listing them in any particular order of priority, I just want to put that wish energy out there in the universe and see what happens. I recognize that some of my wishes are nearly impossible, but if we all put power behind our wishes maybe we can change the world.

Emma Thomson, Felicity wishes

So here goes:

  1. I am putting this one first because it is the most immediate. I hope that all goes well with my friend Elizabeth’s custody hearing today and her wonderful boys remain with their intelligent, beautiful, talented Mom.
  2. May the pain and suffering caused by natural disasters worldwide (especially in Japan now) bring this world closer to recognizing that we have to help and support each other rather than thrive on hatred and war. May the survivors be helped swiftly and gracefully. (Does that count as two wishes? I don’t think so.)
  3. I wish that Nathan, Sarah, and I could find the place/job/situation that we really want to call home soon (as in during this coming year).
  4. I wish that all of us with dreams of publishing find homes for our manuscript babies.
  5. I wish that my blogging family continue to grow and support each other, and create opportunities to meet, to create, and to expand our relationships.
  6. I wish that the government would come to its senses and leave women’s rights alone, embrace marriage equality for all, and support programming (such as the arts) that will strengthen our country, our educations system, and our health care. [This is probably my most unrealistic wish, I know 😉 ]
  7. I wish that discoveries would be made to help bring my father back to us, even if only for a short time.
  8. I hope my whole family stays healthy this year.
  9. I wish that I could continue the path towards becoming healthier and getting control over my own weight. I would like to not have to be on medication for my whole life, so I want to lose weight, exercise and eat right to enrich the life of my entire family.
  10. I hope that Sarah embraces whatever changes may come, and learns to love the friends she has and live in the Now.
  11. I wish for puppets, lots and lots of puppets.
  12. I wish that Nathan and I could take that trip to Ireland that we have been wanting to take. And that all three of us can take a real vacation together somewhere fabulous.
  13. I wish that all the people I have met recently who are searching for their purpose or some change in their lives can find their bliss and create a world that fulfills them.
  14. I hope that I can write another novel without second guessing myself.
  15. I wish that Tori Nelson would get book contract and mention me on the acknowledgments page. 🙂
  16. I hope that my dissertation writing friends complete their dissertations, graduate with glory, and then move on to discover whatever it is they really want to do. 🙂
  17. I hope my brother is able to pursue his passions and find his way to move forward.
  18. I wish I could create a really beautiful piece of art. I’m not sure what kind, but I want to create something really wonderful.
  19. I wish I could have a weekend at a spa, treating myself to peace, quiet and massage.
  20. I wish that I could organize my time better, to allow for more time to read, to write, to create and to spend with my family.
  21. I wish for some fabulous adventures of all types with my family, including some adventures abroad.
  22. I wish whatever was plaguing my e-mail would be fixed soon [perhaps the easiest wish to solve]
  23. I know that it is unrealistic to wish nothing sad would happen over the coming year, but I hope the times of joy are more numerous than the times of sadness.
  24. I wish we could sell our house in Durango . . . SOON!
  25. I wish that I could have a house that I am allowed to decorate again, the way I would like to.
  26. I wish I could have a reunion with all my Durango friends who I miss so much.
  27. I wish that I could reunite with other friends that I have been thinking about a lot lately.
  28. I wish Sarah would embrace happiness.
  29. I would like a slice of my mother’s chocolate cake.
  30. I hope that we can get my older dog’s health issues under control so that we find fewer poop balls lying around the house.
  31. I wish that I would figure out my new dreams soon, so that I could then make them happen.
  32. I wish the economy would be better so that the unemployed will find employment.
  33. I wish for books, lots and lots of fabulous books.
  34. I wish that, as I lose more weight, I can finally begin developing my style again–a style all my own I’m sure, but one that I would like to have.
  35. I wish Jasper, my younger dog, would realize that home is better than running away.
  36. I wish I could ride a horse.
  37. I wish Sarah could ride a horse.
  38. I wish Sarah and I could take a mother-daughter belly dance class together.
  39. I wish I could learn to meditate, or at least find more inner peace.
  40. I wish to be “Furiously Happy.”
  41. I wish the war would end, and no more wars would begin.
  42. I wish for a warm cup of chai every day.
  43. I wish I could take more naps.

Wow! It was actually really difficult to think up 43 wishes. But its my birthday, and I can wish if I want to.

What do you wish for?


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