Some Days

Some days are just awesome.  Today was one of them.  Here’s why:

I unexpectedly got to attend the Grace Harris E. Leadership Institute Higher Ground Women’s Leadership Conference.  In addition to the obvious (super inspiring panels and keynotes) I also got to see Torski Dobson-Arnold in action (former high school Forensics club members unite).


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I also won an amazing pedicure package.  Umm . . .I never win anything, much less anything awesome and full of lavender and mint.

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And then there’s the snow.  Have I mentioned how I love snow in the city? So. Gorgeous.

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Hope your Friday was just as awesome!

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Making a Space

Photo Skitch Document

 

Deciding where the characters in a story live  is key.  The world you create, has to be real to the reader, whether it exists or not.  In fantasy this requires detailed descriptions to help the reader see a world with pink trees and streets paved in black licorice as if it were their own. (Fantasy writers please pardon my terrible example. This is precisely why I don’t write in that genre).  In realistic fiction it involves giving enough detail that readers can see your characters in their space without being drawn out of the story by idiosyncrasies (i.e., “wait a second, K street doesn’t intersect DuPont”).

So when I started Neverending Beginnings I decided to set it in Richmond and I moved my main character, Kate, into the apartment I lived in when I first moved to the city.  It was a fabulous one bedroom in the Renaissance Conference Center .  The apartment was on the second floor, the same floor as a large ballroom that can be rented out.  I still laugh about the December evenings I would run into the fabulously dressed couples headed to their corporate holiday parties while I (wearing sweatpants) was on the way upstairs to do my laundry.  The other awesome thing about this apartment was that the building had previously been owned by the Masons.  The walk-in safe that was part of their offices became my (huge!) closet; the painted, cast iron safe door a prominent feature in my bedroom.

Safe/ Closet Door

Safe/ Closet Door

The safe/closet interior. (aka the closet that made all other closets in my life seem inadequate)

The safe/closet interior. (aka the closet that made all other closets in my life seem inadequate)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an excerpt from my novel featuring the building and the safe turned closet:

“Well, this is me.”  I said stopping in front of my building.

“No way. I just helped my friend’s girlfriend move in here this past weekend.”

“Is her name Carolyn, by any chance?”

“Yeah. You know her?”

“We were college roommates, freshman year.  In some weird twist of housing fate, she’s my next door neighbor now.”

“No way.”  I just nodded, and he continued. “This is an amazing old building.  I think it was a Masonic temple at some point, right?”

I nodded again.  “Did you get to see the ballroom on the second floor?”

“It was locked.”

“You have to catch it when there’s a wedding reception or party that they’re setting up for. I’ve gotten to peek in a few times.  It has this amazing high ceiling and huge windows.”

“I saw the windows from the back of the building the other day.  They are pretty impressive.”

“The closet in my bedroom is actually the old safe from when the Masons were here.  It has the original iron door and everything.”

“You mean, right there on the wall in your bedroom.”

I nodded.

“Wow.  I would love to see that sometime,” he said, still staring at the building. Then he snapped back into reality, and quickly, apologetically, stumbled. “ I mean I’d love to see the how they repurposed the old safe, uh . . . not specifically your bedroom.  I wasn’t trying to be an ass.”

“I knew what you meant,” I said.

“So, this was fun . . .” he said sort of softly.

“Definitely.”  I shuffled my feet and started glanced at the ground.

“Right, so I guess I’ll see you Friday, um . . . at the rehearsal dinner.”

“Right.  See you then.”

“Okay,” he said as he turned and walked away.

As I watched him walk away I thought strong my urge to kiss him had been, pretty much from the adorably unnecessary apology on.  Much like my disappointment when he explained his move to Seattle, I had no idea where the idea even came from.  But the one thing I did know was that there was no point to any of it if he was leaving.  Why bother, if I already knew the ending?

Questions

In my senior year of college I reluctantly took over organizing several events for an organization I was part of.  It was my last year in college and just wanted to focus on classes and friends and soaking up what was the end of a really significant time in my life.  One that would be unlike any other.  Instead there I was, painting signs and making flyers and talking about budgets.

One particularly busy afternoon, I remember sitting in the organization’s office and thinking: I’m so tired of balancing all this with my class work and my life, but if I could do something like this as a job that could be pretty awesome.

Approximately seven years after that moment I decided to go to graduate school; seeking a degree that I would open the door to jobs in higher education.

Why did it take seven years?  There are countless reasons.  But one thing that I always come back to is the fact that I never thought to ask anyone who worked at the college how they got their job.  I had great relationships with several student affairs professionals, but it never crossed my mind to ask about their career paths.

I’m sure this just wasn’t on my 21-year-old mind at all.  I don’t blame myself, nor do I have regrets.  But I do find myself wanting to encourage others to ask the questions.

So if you’re sitting in a campus office or a coffee shop or a crowded hotel lobby tonight and you’re wondering how that person across the room or behind the bar or over there by the fireplace got where they are in this very moment – go ask them.  Who knows what you might learn about yourself through someone else’s story.

Published

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It was sort of a surreal experience; one moment there was this manuscript on my computer and the next it was out there in the electronic universe, just waiting to be clicked on. It still doesn’t particularly seem real to see it’s little icon sitting there on my virtual bookshelf.

Just like the band labeled an overnight success has actually played in basements and bars for years, my published overnight novel has a much longer backstory. It all began with a few chapters in a writing class at Visual Arts Center, probably about four years ago. I enrolled in the class just to explore whether or not I enjoyed writing and I left with the beginning of a story that wouldn’t let go until all 365 pages of it were out.

I finished the novel right around the time of the James River Writers annual conference and decided to pitch it to an agent. My plan was for this to be a “practice pitch” so that I would get some pointers on things to include in the query letters I would soon begin writing. The agent I spoke to asked me to send her the first few chapters. Then the full novel.

She ultimately passed on it, but offered some very insightful advice on how I might improve my manuscript. She indicated I should feel free to submit other work to her in the future. I loved her suggestions and could immediately see how they would make my work stronger; my themes more poignant. I made some fairly significant changes to my original manuscript and queried the same agent again. She accepted.

After numerous submissions to editors and another significant rewrite it became clear that the novel was not going to sell. I set it aside and began working on other projects. For way, way longer than I would like to admit I told myself that this novel would just end up being my second novel, after I published something else.

I can’t say exactly what caused the major “ah-ha” moment for me. The thing that finally caused me to give serious consideration to self-publishing. It was certainly something I knew existed as an option, I just didn’t view it as the right option for me until recently. It’s not at all that I’ve stopped believing in traditional publishing, or even that I won’t still try to go this route with my current projects in progress. I think it’s just that I finally realized that stories are meant to be read. On paper. On iPad. On Kindle. On Nook. On Kobo. On whatever else. It was time for my story to be heard.

I’m so excited that “Neverending Beginnings” is no longer just a file on my computer. I’m thrilled to be sharing it with all of you.

Here’s the “back cover” synopsis:

Kate is alarmed to find out that her best friend Amy is getting married after dating for only six months. Her alarm turns to shock when she learns that the groom-to-be is Kate’s old college ex. As the big day approaches, Kate’s inability to hide her feelings is threatening to ruin her friendship with Amy.

Kate’s last minute, vodka-fueled wedding toast has her wishing she could turn back the clock and make things right. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up the next day and finds out she can.

Forced to relive one of the most painful weeks of her life, Kate slowly works to repair the damage she has done. In the process, she learns a lot about herself and a finds herself looking forward to getting to know the cynically charming best man, Ben, better.

And here’s where to find it at your cyber-bookstore of choice:

Smashwords (downloads available in the format for most any reader, 15% off with code: GA82P )

iBookstore

Kobo

Amazon

Nook Bookstore *coming soon*

Thanks for reading, I’d love to know what you think!

Tagine

tagine

We got a new cookbook recently.  I knew on my first flip through it that I wanted to make this one particular recipe.  I called it Tangine up until a few days ago.  I also really knew nothing about it, except that in it’s picture it looked like an awesome winter meal; all chickpeas and sweet potato and broth and warmth.

So even thought I didn’t know what it was (or what it was correctly called) I couldn’t have been more right about how amazingly delicious it was.

In case you’re curious, Tagine is of  North African origin and named for the pot it was traditionally cooked in.  I learned this and got the awesome recipe from Kris Carr’s, Crazy Sexy Kitchen – which we’ve been cooking our way through for the last couple weeks.  Nothing has disappointed.  Seriously, nothing.  Love that!

Listing

Mullys

‘Tis the season of year-end lists.  And boy do I love a good list. (I’m currently making my way through Blue Ridge Outdoors’ “Essential 2012 Albums from the South”).  I got super excited about making my own list . . . movies and books and albums and restaurants – oh, my!  Except  I couldn’t think of more than a handful of movies I had seen or books I had read.  Somehow The 5 Movies I Saw This Year just doesn’t have the same ring as The Year’s Most Fabulous Movies Ever.  I was momentarily discouraged, feeling the dream of year-end list making slipping through my fingers.  But then, in a flicker of inspiration I realized there didn’t need to be such a standard theme.  There are lots of people, (probably more expert than I) counting down the best of the words written, songs sung and dishes prepared; so instead I give you my 2012 superlatives (in no particular order):

Album Played on Repeat for the Most Consecutive Days: a tie between I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers; and  The Lumineers, self-titled. (And yes I know The Avett Brothers have a new album this year – but this was the one I couldn’t get enough of.  That’s the beauty of this being my very own list!)

Best Place to Pick up that Skirt/Dress/Shirt  that will Make You Smile Every Time You Wear It: Ashby

Best Concert of the Year: Aquanett (Talk about smiling!  If you don’t leave this  show hoarse from singing along – you probably weren’t alive in the 80’s).

Best Random Yelp Recommendation: – The Pony Bar 

Most Unusual Beer I Drank: Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (just click the link, you know you want to know)

The Saddest Restaurant/Bar Closure: the deck at Mulligan’s (it’s the end of an era, folks)

Most Awesome Place to Celebrate a Birthday: Brooklyn Bowl (40 or 4, they’ve got you covered)

Coolest “Found” Object: my parent’s 1970 KLH turntable (now resting comfortably in our living room, so lovely)

The Best Way to Eat Your Veggies: Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen 

The Far-Away Bar I Wish was in My Neighborhood: Euclid Hall (and not just because of the awesome poutine) (*poutine defined*)

All the best to you in 2013, my friends!

Merry & Bright . . .

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I’m enjoying my quiet, decorated house for a few more days until the new year. I find myself hoping that this holiday season has been joyous for each of you; but at the same time acknowledging that this isn’t always the easiest time of the year.  Sometimes holes left in the fabric of family and friends seem wider, more gaping somehow.  Or distance further than ever.  Scars deeper.  If it’s not the merriest, brightest season for you, than my wish for you is a sense of  peace as the season settles.

Carry You Home

Carry – to hold or support while moving.  Hold. Support. Move forward.  We all need a little of this sometimes, right?  To be carried.   Not some huge grand gesture, but instead small sign of support when we most need it.  The  kind words genuinely spoken.  A few minutes taken out of  the day to listen.  The reassuring words when they exist and gentle honesty when they don’t.  We can use someone hoping a little harder or having just a little more faith than us in that very moment.

Sometimes we carry each other in face-to-face tangible ways.  Maybe by baking a favorite dessert or listening over coffee (or beer, or wine).  Taking a moment to send a note or an e-mail.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a smile and a hug; a hand held.  Other times we may simply carry someone close to our heart; thinking of them first and last each day.

Near or far; known or unknown – doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we keep carrying each other.

Oh, my brother
Won’t you stand here beside me
We shall carry each other
And should your soul grow weary
And the strength leave your bones
Oh my brother
I will carry you home

*The beautiful words above belong to Robbie Schaefer.  The song is Oh My Brother performed by Eddie from Ohio.  It’s proved elusive online,  but if you have a way to look it up and listen I promise it will be time well spent.