Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in America. For me it is a time to share a meal with extended family. My husband and I will be going to my mother's house today and meet up with 23 other relatives, including aunts, siblings, and cousins. Our tradition is to share lots of wonderful food, catch up on news of siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins and all talk about what we are thankful for this year.

Here is my list of things I am thankful for:
  • The love of my husband who has taught me much about boundaries, forgiveness, and sticking through the hard times
  • The unconditional love of my parents throughout my life
  • The support of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins through ups and downs
  • The support of friends--some for brief periods of time when we intersected, others for decades of loyalty and support no matter where we moved or how far apart we live
  • Freedom to worship (or not worship), without persecution, as my personal path dictates--far too many countries do not allow this
  • My local church congregation who continuously teach me what it means to cherish the inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • All the teachers who taught me to love reading and education in early life, and all the professors who pushed me in college and let me run 
  • The amazing gifts that nature offers me every day--air to breathe, water to drink, trees to shade me, wind to push me, sun to nourish me, and fire to warm me. 
  • The gifts of children and grandchidren. I never thought I would have the chance for either, but through the magic of step-motherhood I now have both and cherish it
  • Modern technologies that help me communicate with those I love who live far away
  • The work of so many artists who create things to move me, challenge me, heal me--musicians, painters, sculpters, writers, actors, filmmakers, inventors
  • The unseen workers that I too often take for granted--I know you are there and I do appreciate your constancy 
Last but certainly not least ... The ability to wake up every morning and still be alive!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Joy of a Silent Author's Retreat

I've been at the Oregon coast all week with three other writers. All of us come for the same reason--to get away from the daily grind of life and to immerse ourselves in a world of make believe. All of us have deadlines for several titles each year, ranging from short stories to full novels. Between us we have published more than 80 titles. We all of the same goal on a retreat--complete a book and start another one.

Interestingly, we barely speak to each other. In fact, most days I can count on one hand the number of sentences I've said aloud to one of the other writers. We don't even share meals together until the final night. That's because we have different schedules and each person often eats while writing. I'm up at about 6am and write all day until close to midnight. I tend to take a break around 2pm to walk on the beach. Yesterday, I walked in the morning. Another woman here gets up in the late morning and writes until 2am or 3am. Yet another works from 9am to 9pm and walks twice a day--always alone.

Each persons need to stand or walk or putter in the kitchen depends on how the story is going. Sometimes I simply need to walk away from the characters and think about what just happened. Sometimes I'm facing a difficult emotional scene next and I need space before diving in. Then there are the times when I know I'm writing all around what's important. I can't seem to capture that illusive scene and put it on the page. It's clear in my mind, but there are no words yet to do it justice.

On our last full day, everyone is heads down fighting to meet their goal. Finish the book and turn it into the editor for me. Get to the halfway point in a new novel for another. Finish a novella and start a new project for a third. Turn in a short story for an anthology and get to the half way point in a new novel for the fourth. We had a deadline today of 7pm. It is our last day and we will go to dinner together and talk with each at length for the first time in five days. Fortunately, we each made our goals.

I finished a book that I've struggled with every step of the way. Nothing was easy about this book--not the characters, not the themes, not the climax or the denoument. It seemed that for every 10,000 words I wrote, I ended up changing 5,000 of them. But it is finished and now its off to the editor. One of the other writers had to throw out everything she'd written yesterday because she was over her maximum word limit for that story. Then she had to rework the entire manuscript so that the subplot and those characters were no longer mentioned anywhere. She finished too, at 5:30am. She stayed up all night to make her goal.

With our personal goals met, we could all now enjoy the camaraderie of friends who have managed to silently support each other while maintaining complete separateness. We could now toast to our shared success. Our conversation over dinner helped us take the first tentative steps in transitioning back to reality. We still have six hours tomorrow to tie up lose ends, pack up our characters and send them to the back of our minds. We will go home to husbands and children and grandchildren, dogs and cats and horses, laundry and jobs and house remodeling and volunteer hours. And we will each find small bits of time to write, as we always have. We all have another book still due this year. Most of us have more than one to finish before December 31st.

I'm already counting the days until the next retreat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nature's Beauty

It's been a very busy month for me between teaching author workshops, distributing new titles, and hiring a virtual assistant. Consequently, I've not been as good about posting. But now with help on the administrative side of things, I should be back to normal within a couple of weeks.

This week I am in Bend, Oregon on a little mini vacation.  On the way over, I witnessed something I've never seen before--clouds with rainbow colors. There was no rain in site, nor was there an actual rainbow anywhere.  It just felt like a real blessing to see it. It was about 2pm as I was driving east only Oregon Hwy 26 just before Madras.

Of course, as soon as we got to our lodgings I had to look this up.  Here are some interesting things I learned:

The phenomenon is called different things in different parts of the world: sundog; fire rainbow; and circumhorizontal arc came up the most.

What natural process creates it? I assumed there was rain in the clouds. Evidently it's not rain, but it happens when sunlight shines through Cirrus clouds which contain ice crystals. There are all kinds of rules about how high the clouds are and the angle of the sunlight as it hits the clouds. (click on the last picture in this post to get the facts)

Looking for other images online, I found a number of them.  Below are my three favorites. Each is linked to the website that talks about it.

All I can say is that seeing it made my day!!!