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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

There Is A Louse In My House #drasticmeasures #amNOTwriting

I've been behind on my NaNoWriMo word count but nothing a few word sprints couldn't solve… But, when you have three children, you never know what surprises might keep you from your plans. This time, it was lice.

Remember my blog post a while back titled "I Wasn't Prepared for THIS!"? Well, add lice to the list of things I did not think of when my children were just a twinkle in my eye. More specifically, the idea that I, at 38 years old, would be experiencing my first case of head lice.

For all of you out there who have not had the wonderful experience of head lice in 2014 – it is not like in the 80s when a treatment of Nix would knock those suckers, eggs and all, out of the park. No, those of us inclined to put pesticides in our hair will soon learn that these lice are immune to it. So, in a word, it’s useless. A fine tooth comb and some time (HOURS A DAY) to sift through your hair is really the only sure fire way. There are natural alternative on the market (like Fairytale Goodbye Lice), and certain shampoos (like Coal Tar Shampoo), certain conditioners (like Suave Coconut Conditioner), and good ol' fashion home remedies (like mayonnaise and saran wrap), plus blow drying and flat ironing. Ultimately, though, you still have to sit and pick those suckers out with a comb every single day. Which I've been doing. Not to mention all the laundry which is a completely separate blog post for me because as some of you know I have been using a Laundromat since March even though I have a fancy washer and dryer in my basement (we have gas/propane/plumbing issues that are going to be solved “any day now”).

Anywho, my excuse for not writing this week thus far is that I have been busy de-lousing. Going  slightly crazy as one does when fear of infestation takes over. One might say I went a little more than slightly crazy when I was alone picking through my long locks, imagining the lice taunting me like the mucus guy in those commercials: "We’re setting up shop in here! You’ll never find us in all these tangles!” That’s when I found myself reaching for the scissors….

Drastic times call for drastic measures
 Take that you lousy louse!

I have to admit it looks cute in a it-looks-like-you-cut-your-own-hair kind of way... More pictures to come (after I find a proper hair dresser to fix it and give me a good dye job). Now off to write (after another trip to the laundromat).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No Excuses, Just Write!

I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for many reasons none of which are the misconception that at the end of the month I will have a completely finished and publishable novel. My goal is simply to have the 50,000 word skeleton of a novel in which I can add the meat during revisions. In a few months’ time, I’d like to have a draft I’m willing to show someone. In the meantime, I am just writing.

NaNoWriMo strips away all my excuses. I am forced to sit down daily and plug away as fast as I can at my novel whether I feel inspired or not. I have to push away all negative thoughts and procrastinations and just write. I don’t have to think of any rules, tricks, or techniques, I just write. I don’t have to worry about what a potential agent, publisher, or audience is going to think, I just write. NaNoWriMo is about finding your voice and telling the story you want to tell and ignoring everything else (like your inner critic).

11 days, 14,000 words, and 45 pages later – I am still writing. Some days the writing is great and I’m excited. Other days, not so much. But I continue to show up and write, when I am lucky the muse joins me. When I’m not so lucky, I push through anyway.

Week two of NaNoWriMo is notoriously tough and I have not been the exception. But I continue to try to push away the excuses and keep going (slowly but surely). What keeps me going is the knowledge that successful novelists have worked this way too. Like Sara Gruen for one. Check out this list of 14 published novels written during NaNoWriMo:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/53481/14-published-novels-written-during-nanowrimo

For tips on getting through the week two blues, check out this entry in the NaNoWriMo Blog:
http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/102283215611/5-tips-for-nanowrimo-from-gwen-hicks-writers-block

Or, for more info, you can check out these previous blog posts of mine:

NaNoWriMo What?

Need Some Motivation

No Excuses, Just Write!

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Want To Be Braver Than Katniss #MockingJay


It’s hard to deny that kick-ass Katniss Everdeen is brave. And we can all fantasize that if the fate of the world rested in our hands, we’d kick-ass too. But I want to be brave in the real world. Braver than even Katniss Everdeen. 

In her everyday life, Katniss wasn't all that brave. She didn't have the courage to talk to the boy that gave her the bread. She might have snuck out to go hunting with Gale, but never had the courage to explore any feelings she had for him beyond friendship. She wasn't brave enough to confront her mother about the things that were bothering her. She wasn't brave enough to step out of her comfort zone and make friends at school. Until her sister’s name was called at the reaping, she did not show much bravery. And after that, much of what she did was just a reaction to what was happening to her. 

In my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) prep, I did some exercises from the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. One of the exercises is to think of a real life hero and the qualities of him/her that you admire. Since my protagonist is a teenager, I tried to think of a teenager I admire. I came up with a young lady from Pitman New Jersey named Katelyn Darrow. When Katelyn was just 12 years old she started a program called Angels of God Clothing Closet to helps families in crisis (such as after a house fire) get some essentials to help keep them going. Katelyn saw a need in the community and was brave enough to fill it. Five years later, Katelyn’s Angels of God Clothing Closet continues to live up to their mission of helping disadvantaged people and relieve financial stress by providing clothing, toiletries, food and more to those in need at no cost to them through their store-front location and also through school supply drives, holiday gift giving, costume donations, etc. Katelyn also works in the community and beyond speaking to groups, scouts, schools. She has won awards and was even on the Steve Harvey show last month.

I met Katelyn last year during her monthly Kids on a Quest meeting in which she shows kids how they can help in their community. Not only is she brave enough to do extraordinary things but she is also 100 % relatable – she is sweet and down to earth. She talked to the kids about normal stuff too – swim team, friends, the homecoming dance. That is the kind of hero I admire. Someone who is ordinary and relatable while having the bravery to do extraordinary things in everyday life.

I wish I had that courage when I was her age. I wish I had that courage now. That is the kind of bravery I want my protagonist to have (in addition to some kick-ass Katniss bravery).

Learn more about Angels of God Clothing Closet including ways you can help at: http://www.angelsofgod.org/help/donate.html

And, in case you've missed the trailer demonstrating some of Katniss’s kick-ass bravery in the upcoming MockingJay movie, check it out at:
Are you braver than Katniss Everdeen? Do you know someone that is?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Igniting Or Extinguishing The Creative Spark?

I am on the brink. If this is my "make it or break it year" then the month of November, National Novel Writing Month, must be my "make it or break it month." So, today, five days away from NaNoWriMo — I am on the brink.

Perched on the edge of the brink, has led me to extreme introspection. Beyond the obvious "can I do this?" I have also asked myself: "why have I never done this before?" If, at various points in my much younger life — high school, college, young adulthood (i.e. before kids) — I have failed to ignite the creative spark within me, how will I suddenly be able do it now?

A few weeks ago I attended WAMFest (Words And Music Festival) at Fairleigh Dickson University with numerous young college students on the brink of either igniting or extinguishing their own creative sparks. The presenters I saw (Neil Burger, Neil Gaiman, and Salman Rushdie) had all begun reaching for and ultimately achieving their creative goals at a fairly young age. I wondered, what about them gave them the courage to ignite their creative sparks early on and why didn't I? 

Ultimately, I think, I just wasn't ready before — I was too immature. But now, being only slightly more mature, I am ready. Now is my time. This is my year. I am on the brink.

But, what about my daughter who, at ten years old, also sits on the brink — on the edge of childhood and adolescence? Will she have the courage to ignite her creative spark? And, what will I do to ignite it or extinguish it?

I fear that we, normal well-meaning parents, do more to extinguish the creative spark in our children than ignite it. Maybe we are afraid that by signing up our daughter for all the acting classes she's been requesting, we are setting her up for a life of disappointment or failure. Our son may show artistic talent but instead of signing him up for art classes, we sign him up for soccer because it's good exercise. Maybe out of a misguided sense of protection, we'd rather snuff the creative spark in our children then send them out into the big bad world and have someone else do it. Maybe we'd rather our son pursue a career he has no passion for than be a 35 year old living in our basement waiting for the muse. Maybe we'd rather our daughter have a career than wait on tables in some NYC dive while she waits for that big break. Are we doing our children a horrible disservice by never allowing them to burn bright and achieve their creative dreams? Or are we just being realistic?

If I had majored in Creative Writing in college and spent my young adulthood penning trite novels and short stories — where would I be today? Would I still be sitting here on the brink? Would I already be there or would I have long given up trying?

There is no way to really know. I just trust that everything I've done up until now has brought me here and since I am happy where I am, all the what-ifs are meaningless.

However, there are no what-ifs for my children. Yet. I hope that I can help them achieve their own goals whatever they may be and not extinguish them.

How about you? What do you do to ignite or extinguish your own or your children's creative sparks?

Igniting the creative spark
Ignite the light and let it shine?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Is That A Pencil In My Bed? #amwriting

The other morning, I woke to something long and hard jabbing me in the side. I'll skip to the punch line: It was a pencil. 

NaNoWriMo 2014 (NaNoWriMo What?) is almost here – so I have taken to carrying around a nice sharpened pencil and notes with me everywhere, sometimes even to bed. This might be the longest I've ever prepared to write anything that didn't involve Google, Wikipedia, and Internet distractions (alright, fine, there have been plenty of distractions too but I am *trying* to be good!).


My pencil and I have had some fun the last few weeks – brainstorming, plotting, and outlining. Of course, I've also abused my pencil – thrown it, cursed it, threatened to leave it forever. This outlining stuff is tedious – to think of all the minute details that may never even make it into the novel.

10 more days to NaNoWriMo and we’ll see if my pencil-time has paid off! Of course, then it’ll be time to break out the red pen which I know is even more frustrating hence why I generally give up at that point… But I’m determined not to let that happen again (if only so my daughter can witness me seeing it through)!   


Now excuse me while I go finish plotting with my pencil…

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

730 Days of Lame Excuses Later...

     I have been toying around with the idea of being a writer for decades - jotting down random notes and pieces of stories in notebooks for more than half of my life figuring one day I'd be a "real" writer. A few years back, as I watched my babies turn into big kids right before my eyes, I realized - if I don't make this work NOW, when will I?

     At some point on my quest to make this writing thing work, I came across a blog titled something to the effect of "365 Days of Novel Writing" (although I can't seem to find it now). Essentially, a women was blogging about her journey to write a novel in one year (I have no idea if she wrote that novel or what became of it). When I saw the blog I scoffed at myself and thought I should write a blog titled "365 Excuses NOT to Write a Novel" because knowing my undisciplined procrastinating self, I figured that is what would happen... Thus, the seed was planted...

     Roughly two years ago today "365 Excuses by Julie" was born. 47 excuses later - I still don't have any published short stories or novels but I have been writing more than ever before and will continue to plug away at it... I am gearing up for NaNoWriMo again this year (NaNoWriMo What?) and am not only determined to be a NaNoWriMo winner but to complete a manuscript worth sending out into the world. If for no other reason than to show my children it can be done.

     To celebrate the two year anniversary of my documented writing life (or poor excuse for one), I've put together this "flashback blog." Here are some of the "365 Excuses By Julie" blog posts of note from the past two years:

Excuse Me! - This is my first blog post and, since I almost never talk about being a writer in real life, this is how I "came out" as being writer to all the people I know (virtually). 
I Was Too Desensitized - This blog post after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting bears repeating for multiple reasons: One, let us never be so desensitized by violence that a headline about a school shooting seems common-place; Two, let us never forget the children and teachers that lost their lives. Three, let us remember the brave teachers that saved their students' lives that day. Four, let us never take advantage of every single day that we have with our own children because it can be ripped away from us in one instant. 
I Need Some Obsession Up In Here - Go head and click this blog entry because not many other people have. This blog article is one of my lowest clicked blog posts so I figured I'd revisit it here. I envy those that have obsessive drive and determination -- those that have let nothing get in the way of their goals and dreams. Those that have succeeded even when their dreams have seemed far-fetched and unattainable. In short, I wish I was a little more obsessive with my dreams... 
Because One Day The Kids Will Be Grown - Just because... 
I Need To Put My Butt In A Chair - Writer's write. Everyday. No matter what. Just write. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be written. You can't edit or revise a blank page. End of story. I need this reminder glued to my forehead. Because daily I have excuses of why I didn't write when I really just need to put my butt in the chair and write! 
You Don't Really Want A Gift, Do You? -- I have to include this blog in the list because I get a lot of clicks and some flak for writing it. I wrote it because I felt like Teacher Appreciation Day was becoming a way to flaunt Pinterest-prowess and not necessarily a way to show appreciation for teachers. I feel like teachers should be appreciated every day and not just on Teacher Appreciation Day. But I do understand as a homemade mother's day gift hoarder that some teachers (and nurses) do appreciate these gifts and am not really trying to say that they shouldn't get them but just that maybe we should try harder every day to show appreciation... 
I Used To Be The Best Mom - I just like this one because, like most moms, I fall way short of the super-mom I envisioned I would be. 
Worth The Move - I am a strong believer that everyone comes into your life for a reason. Sadly, I have moved away from too many wonderful people. The wonderful ladies from my Moonwriters group being top of the list. I wish my stint in South Jersey wasn't so short but am grateful you came into my life and look forward to working with you ladies if only through Facebook and email. 
If Cliches Came In An Adam Levine Package - Go figure, this is my top clicked blog post. Apparently, if you put "Adam Levine" in your title you get lots of clicks (I wonder what happens if you put Adam Levine in the body of your blog or what if you write the words "Adam Levine" and "body" close together...). Those clicks might not be the most targeted since the blog post has less to do with Adam Levine and more to do with my bemoaning my writing as always sounding trite and cliched. This is a common problem for me and other newbie writers (so much so I have two blog entries about cliched writing). 
Need Some Motivation - As I gear up for NaNoWriMo take two, this seems like a good blog post to include in the list. It has some helpful pep talks from real live successful published authors.
     There you have it - 10 of the 47 excuses I have written over the last two years: Click. Read. Enjoy. Comment. Share. Repeat often.

     Bonus: I was trying to decide what picture to include in this flashback blog post when I came across this picture of Snotty Lottie from my blog post titled I Wasn't Prepared For THIS! So that's my picture this week, just to make you laugh...


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Am Not Meant For This!

     After I put my youngest on the bus, I surveyed the disaster that my children left in their wake, got down on my knees and cried out “I am not meant for this sh$t!” Then my dog put his stinky muzzle in my face, licked the lone tear, and hacked something on my cheek.

    Hopefully, it was the lack of sleep that made me question the 10 years I have spent doing exactly this shit. See, the night before my husband and I were sleeping in our usual positions – on opposite edges of the mattress with our five year old sprawled perpendicular between us – when our son wakes us with the declaration, “I peed myself.” We dutifully sent him off to change and wash his hands while we inched further away from the middle lest the pee touch us whispering blame: Did you make sure he peed before bed? Did you let him have something to drink before bed? You have to actually watch him pee because he lies. Maybe you shouldn't have given him that fourth juice box. The boy returned, crawled into my arms and fell back asleep cradled over the edge of the bed. Me, watching the clock until it was time to go downstairs and make breakfast and lunches, dreading the choices: cereal is processed and has too much sugar; oatmeal but not the instant because that too is processed and has too much sugar; or eggs but only the free range ones from a local farm otherwise the chickens most likely were caged up cannibals injected with antibiotics and hormones. And, for lunch: do I use whole wheat bread or does that have too much gluten? Am I allowed to use peanut butter or is the kid sitting next to my daughter going to go into anaphylactic shock? How about hazelnut, is that actually a nut? 

     Sleep deprivation aside, if I am not meant to do this shit, what am I meant to do? And, why is it that I can’t seem to manage to do the same shit that women were doing for centuries before me? What is my excuse? 

     Logically, I can blame my mother. Maybe she, in the post-feminist world, didn't feel it necessary to prepare me for this shit so logically when I am faced with the conundrums: how do I make this from scratch; how do I iron that; how do I sew this; how do I clean that? The answer is: I don’t f'ing know. And neither does she! So maybe that means I blame her mother or her mother’s mother. Maybe for generations women have been whispering into their baby girls' ears: “You are not meant for this shit.” 

     Now what? Who’s going to do this shit? Are we turning into a generation of stay at home moms that send their two year olds to school because we don’t know what to do with them; send the laundry and the mending out; hire cleaning ladies; cook all our meals with a box, 2 cups of water and a microwave? And, if we absolve ourselves from all activities that were once meant for women, do we then absolve our husbands – are they no longer obligated to fix our cars; mow our lawns; pay our bills? And, if so, what are we all going to do – sit around watching Netflix? Piddling around with novels while really just reading articles posted to Facebook?


     Maybe we just have too much shit to do. Do our kids really have to wear something cute and unique every single day? Does that cute outfit then have to immediately be stain-treated, washed, and folded neatly in the drawer with 20 other cute and unique outfits? Do they have to be in every sport offered per season plus piano lessons, art classes, and Sunday school? Do we have to seek out BFFs for them and make sure to jam-pack free time with playdates so they never feel unpopular at school? 

     Or, maybe, I really am just tired. Maybe I’ll change the pee sheets, take a nap, take a shower, bake those homemade sugar-free, gluten-free, peanut-free muffins I found on Pinterest and feel like supermom by the time the kindergarten bus rolls in... (Or, search for the recipe, get distracted by an article about the Kardashian's until my son's school bus is sitting out front honking at me.).