What’s Stopping You????

I am sitting at my small desk, quite a departure from my previous “office” of my last house. I now live on the second floor of a three story condo. Two bedrooms, two and a half baths. Small in comparison to the four bedroom, two car garage home I left behind. This past year, life has changed once more and it gave me an excuse to put down my pen for awhile. Too busy with the move and the changes that have come hurling at me as fast as a wayward hockey puck. have two big windows in front of me that face the road to the community garage. Cars come and go quite routinely. Being hyper-sensitive to distractions, my head bobs as though on a spring every time a car drives by or a neighbor decides to go for a stroll.

Before, in my large office, my windows faced a sprawling, peaceful field of gold. Rarely did I notice anything more than a fleeting butterfly or bird. Now, I have two big windows in front of me that face the road to the community garage. Cars come and go quite routinely. Being hyper-sensitive to distractions, my head bobs as though on a tightly coiled spring every time a car drives by or a neighbor decides to go for a stroll. To say I am distracted would be an understatement. Another excuse.

I close my eyes and say a little prayer for the wisdom and guidance I need to push myself   into the world I love. Suddenly, the words and thoughts start to flow! My fingers rattle over my keyboard and my words begin to come to life!

So it goes as a writer. One moment we are empty and giving ourselves a thousand reasons why we “can’t” write today. Then the next moment our minds are so full of stories, characters, and endings that we cannot be dragged from our desk for hours.

It is then I realize that the biggest enemy to my writing is ME! I am the one making excuses! I am the one putting my work out there! I am the one scared of rejection!

And so I pull down the shades on my windows and plod on. How about

How about you? What’s stopping you?

 

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One Good Thing…

It has been awhile since I have posted. Life got away with me. A move. Health. Time. Family. Growth. Lack of commitment to writing. Lots of excuses. But, I’m back! Fully refreshed and ready to rededicate myself to the craft I love.

For all of the excuses I gave myself, I found I received a benefit that was unexpected. As a writer, I vacillate between writing what I feel I should be writing and writing what others around me expect me to write. My inner voice is silenced by the roar of outside expectations. It squashed my ability to see what I needed to write, so I just sort of stopped writing altogether.

Today, because of my “time off” I sat at my desk and pounded out a story, something lost to me over the past several months. Thanks to the people who gently nudged and encouraged me to “just write.”

I am happy I have found my way to paper again and know that whatever direction I head from here in my writing, it will be where I need to be. The lesson of stepping back for a short time is the one good thing I needed!

 

 

STAY AT 17 INCHES..a note on Our Nation

I just came across this post by Chris Sperry. I don’t know where it was first published, but the message is powerful and right for our nation today! Enjoy!
STAY AT 17 INCHES

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment – “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung – a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally…

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?” more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.

“How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide is home plate in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello !” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”

Pause.

“Coaches…”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him. Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We simply, widen the plate!”

Pause.

Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence.

He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate and we see our country falling into a dark abyss while we watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that, which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to…”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.”… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players-no matter how good they are-your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself, ALL, at seventeen inches.

Written by Chris Sperry
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A World Full of Surprises!

I woke up this morning, grabbed a cup of coffee and began preparing notes and a presentation for my upcoming speaking engagements. My joy is palpable as I so enjoy sharing what I have learned with others. Grabbing my iPad, I read my devotions and then caught the headlines of the news. The United Kingdom voted to break away from the European Union and the Prime Minister had resigned. Although the news was startling, to me, the people’s choice to leave the EU signals the uneasiness around the world that  no one can explain. We feel it in our own nation, as well.

I slapped my coffee cup to the table and laughed right out loud thinking that my days were mostly quiet.   Then it hit me that I hadn’t had a quiet day in months! I began to think of all of the startling days I have had recently. My wonderful publisher closed its doors. Then I had a request for my new manuscript. A dear friend lost her mother. Another friend lived through a certain death heart surgery. I travelled to Florida overnight to visit an elderly friend. I taught an awesome creative writing class this semester. I was confined to bed for several days due to a muscle spasm. I got three rejections. News poured in day after day. Some news has been good, others, not so much.

I couldn’t help but smile, as I realized how surprising EVERY day is! I don’t need the news to tell me that something wild and crazy is going to happen today. It is how I react to the news that keeps my head on straight and allows others to see I have a Rock to cling to even in the dark times. I’m learning to expect the unexpected….and with that to enjoy whatever comes my way.

 

A Gift of Time…A Residency

I did something out of the ordinary for me today. I stretched myself. I just completed my first suspense manuscript about stolen Syrian art, a new genre for me. Although typing THE END is, for any writer, exciting, but we also understand that once the work is “completed,” doesn’t mean we don’t have more to do.

We read. We revise. We edit. We send the manuscript to beta readers or other writers to tear it apart, so that we can put it back together again. We usually don’t include close friends or family members as readers, because they love us and would never want to hurt our feelings. Then, when we have the work back in our hands, we go back it again to be sure it is the best it can be before we “shop” it around to editors and publishers. This all takes uninterrupted time, time that we usually cannot find in the midst of our busy lives.

So, because of Hope Clark’s wonderful website, Funds for Writers, I decided, on a whim, to apply for a residency. Now don’t get all excited, as I just completed the application. If you do not understand what a residency is, here is a quick run-down.

Residencies are available all over the world. Most include a free or low-cost place to stay. Some have all meals paid for in addition to a studio. Some include transportation. Very competitive residencies may offer a stipend.

Timing is year-round, though most residencies have set times with set dates of submission. Residencies can be from a few days to a year or more. Many are four to six weeks of interrupted time. Most are for single people and families are left behind. As a writer’s life is lonely, that kind of solitude is exactly what is necessary when completing a project.

Days at the residencies are self-directed. Usually there is a group of various artists, including painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, as well as writers. Most groups are small, from four to twelve people, each usually having a separate space in which to live and work. What is great about residencies is that the artist gets to work in uninterrupted space and engage with others only as they need a break. Everyone is there to focus on their work. It is challenging and expectations of each artists is high. Competition is also fierce, and filled with necessary documentation that takes days and days to get just right.

But today, I threw it all to the wind and pressed the “submit” button for my first attempt at winning a residency. My expectations are high because I am committed to writing and the difficult learning process I know I must go through to make my writing better. I am lucky to have the support to even think about this, as it was not always so.

I will never win if I never try. You might want to think about that, too!

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never thought you’d ever have the time, the money or support to do it? It doesn’t have to be writing. Maybe it is helping someone else fulfill there dream. Maybe it is giving to a cause that supports something you love. Maybe it is as simple as stopping to make a phone call to an old friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile.

Whatever your dream might be, is now your time to try?

 

 

 

I’m Holding Back a Secret

Off and on, writers find themselves hiding little things. We have story ideas we don’t want to share until they make their way to paper. We hide our thoughts, not because we think someone will steal them, (at least we hope not,) but because they have not fully developed enough to make the idea feasible to others. We hide plots, characters, settings and dialogue for the same reason. When others ask to read our work, it’s not that we don’t want to share it, (okay, maybe we don’t,) it is mostly because we are afraid that it won’t be good enough yet to share.

We pour our souls into our words and when we toss out just a few of our unedited thoughts, those that receive our words may toss back critiques we are not ready for. We knew when we shared our incomplete work that the story might not be near ready for review, yet the clamoring of the requests become like gongs in our ears and we relent even though we know there is much to be done.

When the responses are either too sugary, “It was great!” you know the reviewer loves you, but has no understanding of where the story was headed yet and might not fully grasp the storyline from the few pages you have shared. If they read and then start tossing out names of famous authors they follow and what they did right, well, you know you’ve pretty well lost them as a reader.

So, when writers don’t want to share their work or seem to be putting you off, understand that the work may not be in shape enough for others to read. Be patient, as they want to be proud of their work before they let it go, even to friends and family.

I have one particular story I have been working on for the past several years. It is a short story, only 1600 words or so. I finally sent it out in May….

Be patient and stay tuned…..I’m holding back this secret…..

For Valentine’s Day, show a writer “a little love!”

Valentine’s Day is rapidly descending upon us. A plague of sorts brought on by greed. Millions of crazy-eyed men will rush, last minute, into florists, jewelers and grocery stores to pick up some costly trinket, fattening treats, expensive flowers and balloons to appease their starry-eyed wives and girlfriends. The women will expect a fancy dinner and a card that should aptly express the undying love of their partner in words only Shakespeare could possibly write. No matter what the man comes up with, the lovey-dovey moment will probably last a nano-second, replaced  by a snarky remark as quickly as the flowers fade.

Sound a little caddy?  It’s not. It’s the reality of a writer’s life, only you replace the man with the writer and the woman with everyone else.

As writer’s, we often are crazy-eyed, rushing to and fro, trying to please everyone with our work. We edit things out, add things in, and move things around as we work to please the reader. Just when we think we have given our best, BAM, someone gives more advice and makes us realize how much more work must be done. It is a never ending battle. Poor writer’s. They need a little love!

So…..I thought of a great idea! This Valentine’s Day, why not take a moment to write a review for your favorite author or artist. They work their tails off to give you enjoyable reads that entertain, encourage and motivate their readers.  It’s time to show them you appreciate it! What a great way to show an author you love them! It won’t cost you a dime and takes just a little bit of effort! Think about that as you are rustling up a last minute present for your sweetie!

And as a reward, just for today, you can download The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance FOR FREE!!!!

Now, get out there and show a writer “a little love,” won’t you?