"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Guide to More Mediocre Housekeeping in Only Seven Days

I used to say I HATED housekeeping, but that was before “Hoarders.”Now I’m careful lest people think I sleep on piles of abandoned clothes and eat on a TV tray because my table’s buried under domestic flotsam.

So what's a girl to do? If I cleaned like the commercials imply I should, I'd never have time to write a word. Fortunately, turns out, everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten. Remember "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush"? A domestic primer for young ladies.

Here it is, cut and pasted from Wikipedia. 

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,
So early in the morning.

These are the chores we'll do this week,
Do this week,
Do this week.
These are the chores we'll do this week,
So early every morning.

This is the way we wash our clothes,
Wash our clothes,
Wash our clothes.
This is the way we wash our clothes,
So early Monday morning.

This is the way we iron our clothes,
Iron our clothes,
Iron our clothes.
This is the way we iron our clothes,
So early Tuesday morning.

This is the way we scrub the floor,
Scrub the floor,
Scrub the floor.
This is the way we scrub the floor,
So early Wednesday morning.

This is the way we mend our clothes,
Mend our clothes,
Mend our clothes.
This is the way we mend our clothes,
So early Thursday morning.

This is the way we sweep the floor,
Sweep the floor,
Sweep the floor.
This is the way we sweep the floor,
So early Friday morning.

This is the way we bake our bread,
Bake our bread,
Bake our bread.
This is the way we bake our bread,
So early Saturday morning.

This is the way we get dressed up,
Get dressed up,
Get dressed up.
This is the way we get dressed up,
So early Sunday morning.

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,
So early in the morning.

I paid attention at five years old. On Monday I wash clothes. And strip beds and remake beds. To save time, I pile a set of clean sheets on the bed and my husband has to make it up before he can go to sleep. Check! Job done.

Tuesday—who irons? I pile all the clean clothes on the sofa and fold them while I watch “What Not to Wear.” From the time my kids were five their pile got dumped on their dressers for them to put away any way they wanted. Check!

Wednesday—“Scrub” conjures an image of a wooden bucket and a large sloppy brush. I run my steam mop machine filled with distilled water over my tile floor and call it good. “Mulberry Bush” doesn’t say anything about vacuuming, but I run the vacuum around the wood floors and area rugs once a week whether they need it or not! Check!

Darning? I haven’t seen a hand-knit wool sock since my grandmother got liberated in the ’50s. Thursdays are for shopping. Couple of hours at TJ Maxx then I’m off to the grocery store with a fistful of coupons. Check!

Friday—hey, I’m ahead of the game. I swept on Wednesday so today I wash out the bathtub and sink while I wait for my Regenerist thermal treatment to work. Mother says a good housekeeper keeps her bathroom trash receptacles empty. Check!

Sometimes on Saturday I bake a loaf of gluten-free bread or cornbread with brown rice flour for binding. Cake. Cookies. Or even better, a trip to Apple Hill to buy a pie. Check!

Tradition is important, but I mix it up. If my husband isn’t home, I meet friends for brunch. Or drop by someone’s house on the way home from church. If he is, we go out to supper or take a motorcycle run out to Parkfield for buffalo burgers and beer. Long as we're home in time for my show. HBO has a great line-up that night.

 So that’s my week. You know how the military has a “need-to-know” rule? Well, I have a "need-to-clean" rule. Nothing but the basics, Ma’am. I’ve learned to walk around with a wet recycled wash cloth and hit the woodwork. Or a spritz of orange oil for dusting, or alcohol and water for the windows--and call it good. 

So today I get to write. 

Except that it’s Wednesday, and I have to run the forklift while Steve cuts a branch over the driveway. Or he needs help cutting and loading a chord of red oak for delivery to the widow who depends on us every year. Or the horses in the pasture next door get out and I have to run around the house and push them back into the corral. 

Let's see—tomorrow Steve’s cutting a new driveway for a neighbor. I’ll probably have to run to town for tractor parts in our ancient 1-ton Dodge diesel with the six-speed and the 25-pound clutch. I’ll be a wreck by the time I get home again.

You may think I'm joking, but we really did all of these things this past week. I write at night while he watches TV. It’s my compromise to a crazy hyphenated life. I haul my laptop into my writing room and work until midnight. I’d work inside, but it's sooo cozy when the fire's in the woodstove and the dogs and Steve are dozing in the living room, that I tend to get co-opted into the “Family Plan.”  

Like they say: Moderation in all things. Nobody’s going to eat off my kitchen floor, but that’s what plates are for.

How about you? Got any time-saving ideas to share?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

50 Rules To Live By

Everybody needs to have a list of rules to live by. If you don't happen to have one, feel free to borrow what you like from mine. I borrowed some, but most are mine. Listing my beliefs changed me. I hope it changes you. 

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. When choosing which path to take, pray for direction.
4. Be a daychanger. Make a difference everyday.
5. Learn to live on less than you earn.
6. You are not merely your job.
7. Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your
     friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
8. Pay off your credit cards every month.
9. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
10. Grieve with others. Send a sympathy card or make a call.
11. Put your change in a jar. It adds up.
12. Chocolate and pets aren’t everyone’s thing, and that’s OK.
13. Reconcile while your enemy is still living.
14. Other people’s success doesn’t reflect your abilities. Relax.
15. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
16. A cleansing breath calms the mind.
17. Hoarding is fear behavior. Share your excess.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. Sixty-five is a great time to start your next great adventure.
20. Determination can accomplish anything. Be tenacious.
21. Splurge on yourself today. Burn the candles, use the
     nice pillow cases, wear the fancy lingerie.
22. Over prepare, then relax and take life as it comes.
23. Be zany. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. Plan for the future, live in the moment, learn from the past.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ''In five
      years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything. And tell them so.
29. Spend your life developing your talents.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. You “arrive” as you discover your authentic self.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. Pay attention to the grace moments. Thank God for them.
35. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
36. Your children get only one childhood.
37. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
38. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
39. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw
        everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
40. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
41. Recognize excellence every time you experience it.
42. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
43. Nobody cares if you’re fast. Be thorough.
44.Cast your pebbles so they make a ripple in the pond.
45. Write something every day.
46. Television and internet aren’t real life.
47. Help someone on their journey.
48. Keep your living space clean and organized.
49. Allow time for meditation and prayer.
50. Everyone does the best they can do.

Anything you would add? Let me know what's on your list to live by.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Letter from a Fan

This morning I received a note from a woman I’ve never met. We connected on a LinkedIn discussion and she asked about my memoir. Short version, I shipped her a couple copies and she and her sister read them at the same time. 

Here’s what she wrote:

Hi Anne. Although I wrote a discussion feed (9-10 days ago) about your book, it hit me today that I wanted to write directly to you…. For me, reading your essays zinged my spirit. I laughed out loud and even had a few tearful moments. I had become more at rest within my own skin yet, after reading those essays, there was a settling-in related to body comfortability. Truly, I do not think there are any pockets of body hatred left (in me)!
Her letter resonated on every level. Sure, it’s a fan letter from a complete stranger.Woo-hoo, Hurray for me!! But it’s so much more, a thread on the warp of the universal blanket we’re all creating together. Her act of kindness in reaching out to me on a drizzly winter morning gave me encouragement. I write in part to create community for those wounded by body image, estrangement or lack of direction. D--’s words reminded me that my words matter. I like to think it's a pay-it-forward thing for all the reviews I've written for other authors.

She went on:
As for my sister, C--, she wanted me to tell you that ORDINARY APHRODITE "made me come alive!. C-- sees the good all around her and enjoys interacting with others. Life has not been easy for her. She had experienced soulful healing of most old wounds and makes no bones about her spiritual strength. Specifically, C-- wanted me to tell you, "Your essays cleansed my soul, made me feel better about myself than ever before. Thank You!"
Whoa. And SHE thinks I’m the writer? Communication comes in many forms. Performance art, Visual art, written art, intuitive, auditory, physical touch; if it touches the heart, it’s communication.

There’s a saying that bounces around from writer’s workshop to writer’s workshop—Nonfiction is about facts, but Fiction is about truth. For me, Memoir is a bit of each--and more. It combines fact in a subjective way that reveals the truth of the writer’s heart, soul and humanity. A memorist connects with the universal “us” or there’s no point in publishing. Without this connection the writing is a private path for healing. (A great reason for writing memoir, by the way.)

I feel like making everyone feel connected is payback for junior high. I make a point to notice young teens, to remind them that they’re special and wonderful. Someone needs to, and I personally think it’s the job of us Village Crones, the old ladies-around-the-campfire telling the stories and passing on the tribal lore.

I have this theory about my writing—I show what it feels like to be unblocked.

Lots of people are blocked. (It may be a Western Hemisphere and Brunai thing.) They feel like they need MORE. More money, more shoes, more sex, more booze, or whatever it is that makes them happy. Just fill them up until they say “When!” But they’re blocked so nothing ever feels like enough. I’ve made it my journey to become unblocked. Compared to a few years ago, I can take an amazingly little amount of—whatever—food, money, talent, (shoes) or opportunity and it feels like enough. Whatever I have passes through my writing fingers and comes out big enough to share.

This is the secret to success. Unblock the creative flow. Loosen the heart strings. Add a thread to the universal blanket. Proverbs says it best: Give away all the talents and more will come. God loves a cheerful giver.

I hate to admit it, but ORDINARY APHRODITE doesn’t contain the keys to the kingdom. It’s just a humorous, relaxing way to voyeur (can that be a verb?) into my life and see if anything works for you. Hey, I have plenty—help yourself. And if you find anything, I’d love it if you drop me a line. 

So what about you? Have you ever written a fan letter? Received one? Wanna share how it made you feel?   

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Here's 10 Ways to "Work" a Writer's Conference

It’s the day after the WWW Women Writing the West Conference in Seattle and I’m packing up. In my folder are business cards from an agent and two publishers who each want to see both novel manuscripts I pitched them.

It was a great conference, but it wasn’t all luck that brought me to this serendipitous place. I’m lucky—I’m not shy and that helps a lot in this industry. I just really love to connect with people.

If you went home feeling like you missed something, here’s a few suggestions for next time. They’re not my ideas. Most of these are points that agents and publishers make all the time. But sometimes it helps to see them written out so you can strategize for your next conference.   

1)      Study the conference flyer. That’s why it’s sent out in advance. Research every agent and publisher who is attending. Go to their websites. See what genres they represent and which books they acquire. Also study the other agents at their agency.
2)      Make an appointment for a one-on-one while the time-slot selection is good.

3)      Arrive early to the conference—the night before is perfect. At the Embassy Suites breakfast, I noticed a woman sitting alone. Even though I was finished eating, I introduced myself. Turns out she was an acquisitions editor. We had a delightful chat that had nothing to do with books or writing. During the conference we found other opportunities to talk. On Monday she emailed me to express her pleasure at having met me. And invited me to submit.

4)      Don’t assume someone isn’t “your type”. The YA agent who buys vampire books turned out to be a new friend. We sat together at the awards dinner and she quizzed me to see if I had anything she could take a look at. Turns out, I have a novel that she’s interested in if I change the protagonist’s age. I wasn’t pitching her—she was interested in me as a person and the offer just fell into place.

5)      Enter the conference contest. I found a short-story from a few years ago and entered it in the LAURA Awards. I didn’t win top place, but my third-place earned me a surprised glance from a publisher I had pitched earlier. As I returned to my table with my award and some flattering remarks about my writing ability, I watched her make the connection, face to pitch, and I know she’ll remember me.

6)      Make a point to speak to every faculty member. Ask questions of them. Establish a relationship and don’t obsess about your elevator pitch. If your conversation makes the pitch feel awkward right then, wait for a better time. The key is to be authentic.

7)      Dress for success. I always wear a brightly colored dress or black. I try to look professional and successful. No jeans for me at a conference—ever. After all, the presenters are all dressed professionally. It helps them to see me as one of them.

8)      Volunteer to introduce a speaker, moderate a panel, make an announcement or wrap raffle items. Anything to get your name mentioned. Ask pertinent questions at the Q & A. A writer is a speaker. Demonstrate your poise. Make your name stand out. It all helps.

9)      Buy a lot of books. Buy your fellow attendees’ books. Buy the presenters’ books. But be authentic about it. Talk up your common interests. Make friends. The conference is as much about face time as it is about learning new skills.

10)  Write thank you notes as soon as you return home. Work to perfect the novel you plan to submit. Mention the conference in your submission letter, but don’t assume liberties because you shared a Bloody Mary with an agent on Sunday morning.