WOW, my first author interview

happyLast summer I entered a flash fiction contest hosted by WOW, Women on Writing…and recently found out that I was a runner-up (much jumping and hand waving).

Pretty good as I truly struggled with the length limitation of 750 words. I had first submitted this piece during the winter contest and paid extra for the critique option.  I didn’t place in that contest, but I received valuable feedback on not only how to make that story better in particular, but how to improve and tighten-up any story.

Check out this amazing organization at: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com, they offer writing classes and have an ezine as well–and while you’re there, read my runner-up entry, The Reunion.

The Winter 2015 contest is closed, but the Spring 2015 one will be opening soon, so try your hand at Flash Fiction!

 

 

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Merry Chrismahanakwanzaa…or just plain old Happy Holidays!

medium_4198408656Happy Holidays to you all, whatever holiday you choose to celebrate. I can’t believe that 2014 is almost over and 2015 is peeking out from under the counter tops. I can just barely see the top of its fuzzy little newborn head, but I know that it’s there, hugging its chubby arms around itself while trying not to giggle and give its hiding space away. To be honest, I’m not quite ready for 2015 yet, with its earnest fresh-starts and gleaming resolutions. I’m not done with 2014–there’s still eleven, count ’em, eleven days to go! Let’s end this year on a high note of reflection. Let’s focus on all the good we’ve done–be it writing projects plotted and completed, showing up for work when we’d rather throw the covers over our head and sleep in or just taking time each day to be grateful for what we have. There’s a lot to be said for stopping to smell the roses no matter how cliche the saying is. So my wish for you all this season is this…no matter how crazy busy the next two weeks are for you, I wish you moments of peace and happiness. Maybe your days will be filled with last minute shopping, the arrival of unexpected guests and lots of holiday baking. Or perhaps this time of the year is difficult for you–maybe illness, loss or unemployment gnaw at you. For you, most of all, I wish you peace and hope. Recognize that while life is dark now, it will get better, if you can open yourself up to it. Allow yourself to see the beauty that unfolds before your eyes each day–the little beauties like trees covered in snow, a small child’s laughter or the simple kindness of someone holding a door open. Go out of your way to see the beauty and beauty will come to you.

I choose to focus these next eleven days on remembering the good things that have happened this year. They’ll be time enough for lists and resolutions come January 1st.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/unicoletti/4198408656/”>unicoletti</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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Count Your Blessings: In Praise of Gratitude

Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I thought the topic of gratitude would be appropriate. I’ve read several books recently that have gently reminded me to be conscious of how grateful I am for everything that is present in my life.  These books, in no particular order are, Never Too Late by Claire Cook, 21 Days to Master Success and Inner Peace by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and lastly, 21 Days to Master Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson. The 21-day series is based on the principle that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit.

Make Gratitude a Habit

The habit I’ve been working on is one of gratitude. Each morning before I get out of bed and each night as I drift off to sleep, I list all the things I’m grateful for. At first, I felt silly doing it, but if I’m going to be honest (and I am), I have never felt happier than now when I’m two months into my attitude of gratitude. I feel more optimistic about the future and am more able to cope with life’s daily ups and downs. My list gets longer each day too. I started off with the usual things such as I’m grateful for my husband, children, friends and colleagues, but as I’ve continued with this twice daily exercise, the list has become more granular. I’m grateful for electricity, my laptop, clean air and fresh running water, the food in my fridge, my house, the heating system that keeps the house warm in the winter. I’m grateful I live in a country that proclaims the freedom to pursue happiness as an inalienable right.

Grateful People are Happier

I did a little research on the subject of gratitude and my personal experiences from these past two months matches the research. Basically people who focus on the positive aspects of their life express a greater sense of well-being and contentment. In the studies by Peabody and McCullough (2003), they were able to show a connection between gratitude and increased happiness, desire to help others and even positive effects on sleep. When you think about it, it makes sense. On those days when you focus on the things that irritate you — you’re a knot of tension, unhappy and tend to only see the bad that’s around you. A positive and grateful focus naturally directs your mind to a more uplifting state. You’re less likely to think the world is out to get you. Which brings us to thanksgiving. Many cultures celebrate a day or days of thanksgiving. They recognize the need to stop and take a breath to realize all they’ve achieved and how grateful they are for the bounty that flows into their lives. The cornucopia dates back at least to the 5th century B.C. It’s the symbol of abundance otherwise known as the horn of plenty. To me, being grateful means not taking anything for granted. I also think it implies taking some sort of action on our part, such as working to achieve your goals and then paying it forward by helping others achieve their goals. If I’m grateful for the food I have, I must do something to help others that don’t have enough food, and so on.

Let Us Give Thanks

Our American celebration of Thanksgiving focuses on the food aspect of gratitude. This coming Thursday, as we pile our platters full of turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and the best pie ever — pumpkin pie, let us not forget the people that made it all happen. Since most of us don’t grow our own crops or raise turkeys, we need to be grateful to the farmers, food processors, truck drivers and grocery store personnel that work hard every day to bring the food to us. If our foods are imported, then we need to add shipping companies, their crews, the FDA, food inspectors…etc…the list goes on and on. We don’t live in a vacuum, we are all inter-connected. Before you dig into your abundant platters this Thursday, take some time to appreciate all that you have and then make a plan to help others. You’ll feel triply blessed, one for the food on your table, two for the realization of your many bounties and three for helping someone else experience that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Here are some links that may help you pay it forward:

http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/

http://www.goodnet.org/articles/1000 (clean water charities)

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Things that make you go…ummmm

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Thanks to C+C Music Factory for the title (just a little artistic license on my part). I was thinking about a game one of the local radio shows used to play during my morning commute. It was called The Um Game. The concept is deceptively simple. The host would give callers a topic and all they had to do was talk about it for 3 minutes…without saying um…and you’d win a prize. Most people didn’t make it past the first minute. Heck, some people didn’t make it past their first word.

DJ: Hi Rhonda, thanks for playing the UM Game. Tell us about your love of rutabaga for three minutes without saying Um. Ready?

Rhonda: Yes

DJ: OK, the clock starts…now.

Rhonda: Um

I would howl with laughter as one by one the contestants fell victim to the dreaded um. I’d tell myself that if I had the chance, I could do so much better than those poor saps. Then my company went through the first of many reorganizations and co-workers started getting laid-off. I kept hearing from them about the need for networking and developing your elevator pitch. Should be easy-right? Who knows what you do better than you do? I have struggled with the elevator pitch through each and every permutation of my job and it hasn’t gotten any easier. I should be able to disseminate the mysteries of my job in five minutes or less and without the hated um. I’ll let you know when I get it straight.

Okay, so I can’t discuss my day job, something I’ve been doing for the past eight years. Talking about my writing should be easier…not. I’m prepping now for a writing conference I’m attending in Boulder. To get me out of my comfort zone and to genuinely prepare me for pitching my YA novel, I’ve signed up for a ten-minute pitch session with an agent. A while back, I wrote about the query letter boot camp I took from Writer’s Digest. That was to get me ready for the live, in-person session in a couple of weeks. Hoo-boy, I am so not ready. I received good feedback from the WD boot camp agent I was assigned to and this session in Boulder is preceded by a critique of my written query. So far so good. I just need to fix what the WD agent said needed fixing and send it off for the critique and then I should be in good shape for the live, up close and personal pitch session…gulp.

Um, I’m going to need some more practice!

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Sleepless in North Carolina…or too tired to write.

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Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have trouble sleeping through the night? Do you find that you’ve just settled into your best sleep right before the alarm clock goes off? Do you have difficulty getting out of bed each morning? Do you find those happy morning people extremely irritating?

You’re not alone. The National Institute of Health states that at any given time, 30% of the population states they are sleep-deprived. Frighteningly, ten percent of these people suffer from noticeable daytime functional impairment. I’ve heard it said that driving sleep-deprived is the same as driving drunk.

Do you have insomnia?

People with insomnia either have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. Symptoms of poor sleep are:

  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating at school or at work
  • Mood swings/Irritability
  • Depression
  • Behavioral problems
  • Relationship Issues

There are two types of insomnia, acute and chronic. Acute insomnia refers to those transitory times when we just can’t fall asleep. These are times like Christmas Eve, the night before a new job or the first day of school. Acute insomnia doesn’t persist. It may last for a week or so, but eventually without any effort on your part, you go back to your normal sleep cycle. Chronic insomnia is different.

What is Chronic Insomnia?

Insomnia is considered chronic when you experience poor sleep at least three times a week for a minimum of three months.  Studies show that people who experience chronic insomnia are more prone to traffic accidents, state decreased job satisfaction, take more frequent sick days and are easily irritated.

What Can You Do About Chronic Insomnia?

Assess your diet. Caffeinated drinks such as sodas and coffee can impact your ability to fall asleep. I find that I can’t have caffeine after lunchtime. Each time this past month that I’ve had a caffeinated drink in the late afternoon, I’ve experienced difficulty falling asleep. And by difficulty, I mean I can’t fall asleep.

Alcohol use can also negatively affect your sleep. Although alcohol is a known sedative, it interferes with your body’s ability to achieve a deep and restful sleep. Limit yourself to one glass of wine or beer each evening.

Review your life. Have any major life events happened recently? Have you moved, lost or gained a job, or gotten a divorce? Major life changes, good or bad, can throw us for a loop. These changes can wreak havoc on your internal clock and negatively affect your natural sleep rhythms.  Be kind to yourself and consider therapy. Recent research has shown that the only treatment that works to remove the CAUSE of insomnia is talk therapy. Medication can help in the short-term, but unless you want to take medicine forever, therapy is your friend. Look for therapists who specialize in insomnia.

And last, but certainly not least, talk to your doctor about your insomnia; there may be an underlying medical cause for your inability to fall asleep. When’s the last time you had a complete physical? Keep a sleep and diet log to track your dietary habits against your sleep cycles. By tracking my caffeine use, I was able to see the correlation between drinking tea late in the day and my lack of sleep that evening. You don’t have to live in the foggy state of the perpetually sleep-deprived. Work to get the rest you desire so you can live the full life you deserve.

Take care of yourself. Don’t let poor sleep keep you from achieving your goals!  I made an appointment with my doctor for next week.

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My Journey as a Writer-Reinvention

This week is the Women’s Fiction Work Shop at WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association). Yesterday the forum topic was on platform and reader relationship as explained by the amazing Claire Cook. Yes, she discussed the need for a welcoming place that readers and other like-minded travelers want to visit…and your responsibility as the owner to not turn your welcoming spot into a marketing blitz. That was part of her post, but mostly, and the part that resonated the deepest within me was her theme of reinvention.

In my life I’ve reinvented myself many times. From shy daughter to fierce mama-bear to my own shy daughters. From a high-school educated girl to a woman who pursued a PhD in Immunology all the while tending to school-age children. From corporate worker who believed our dreams are no longer attainable once we hit middle-age to a middle-aged rebel who still works in corporate America, but uses the rest of her time pursing her dreams. Dreams are important, they are the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps us moving forward.

I’ve just started Claire Cook’s book, Never too Late: Your Road Map to Reinvention and already I feel inspired to work harder to reach my dream goals.  I believe in synchronicity and I also believe that when you open yourself up to change, the universe responds and provides you with opportunities.

Here’s to all the re-inventors in this world. May you dare to dream, have strength in your convictions and the wisdom to grab the opportunities that present themselves to you.

ocean

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulobrandao/2544963964/”>Paulo Brandão</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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My Journey as a Writer-NaNoWriMo

Image courtesy of jannoon028 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this July and had a blast. I used it as a way to set a deadline to finish the first draft of my YA fantasy novel. I made my goal and was amazed at how hard it was to write 30K words in a month. November starts NaNoWriMo and the goal for all participants is 50K, that works out to roughly 1667 words a day (I think). I want to use this artificial deadline/goal to work on the first draft of the sequel to my book. But I don’t want to go it alone.

In Camp NaNoWriMo, they place you in “tents” (unless you know people) with folks who write in the same genre as you. In theory, it is an awesome way to create a ready-made support group. In my experience, it was a flop. After a few encouraging posts at the beginning of the month, my tent disappeared into the mist, perhaps they were eaten by bears? I don’t want to go through that in November.

So, I joined the regional group for NaNoWriMo and attended my first meeting today. It was wonderful being surrounded by people who have actually won NaNoWriMo (wrote 50K words) multiple times. They were full of great advice and best of all,  there was a session on plotting by Cynthia Cooke, a multi-published author.  Her graphical outline of plotting elements immediately showed me where my first novel is lacking and gave me insight to how I want to approach my second novel.

I encourage you all to look into NaNoWriMo as a way to achieve your writing goals.

http://nanowrimo.org

Write because you want to, write because you must!

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How falling down and getting black eye can be a good thing…really

Happy Friday!

I thought I’d take a break from writing about writing and tell you about my life-long love of elephants. I ab-so-lutely adore them! I thought my obsession began when I lived in Pakistan as a child. I don’t actually recall seeing any elephants during the 3.5 years I lived there-there might have been some in the animal preserves or zoos, but I really don’t remember seeing any in the wild. Which makes it rather odd that we have quite a few carved wooden elephants that we picked up in various bazaars. I do remember the elephants in Thailand. They seemed to be everywhere. Something about their dark, moist eyes calls to me, they are so freaking intelligent…and so vulnerable.

Anyway, I’m thinking about contributing to elephant conservation and ordering genuine trunk-painted elephant art. If you’re interested as well, here’s a link: http://www.elephantartgallery.com/paintings

Researching where to buy a painting from made me ponder the genesis of my love…and then a memory came to me. Picture a tiny curly-haired Rosemary pulling a large pink elephant. The elephant had little marbles on the bottom of its feet and rolled perfectly along on our wooden floors. This memory predates my life in Pakistan by at least four years. So, maybe we went to the zoo? Prospect Park Zoo was still in existence back then or maybe I saw a nature show…I really don’t know.

Which takes me to the photograph included with this post. We were at the Asheboro Zoo in NC several years ago, I turned around and the elephants were SO CLOSE, you could almost touch them.  I whipped my digital camera out and started taking pictures. I was so excited. Did I mention I sort of climbed around bushes to get closer to the elephants. No? Well that’s important. I finished taking the pictures and of course I wanted to share them with my husband and daughter, who had wandered away–they don’t share my undying love of elephants, go fig.  I looked up, called out to them and promptly fell flat on my face. I broke my camera, bashed my lip (I had several loose teeth for a while), scraped up my face and ended up with an impressive black eye.

My husband and daughter came running over to see what had happened, by now a crowd had gathered around me. He pushed through the crowd and helped me to my wobbly feet, the only thing I could say to him as I started to cry is that I broke my camera. Tom immediately dried my tears by telling me the memory card would be all right, whew! The pictures came out great and I have a framed version in my bedroom–in an elephant frame no less. The blood, sweat and tears were worth it. However, when we went to National Zoo and stopped by to see the elephants, my husband kept a firm grip on me.

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My Journey as a Writer-Query Letters

It’s day two of the query letter boot camp and that means we have to write our letter, get the first ten pages of the manuscript in tip-top order and submit to our assigned agent by 11PM tomorrow night. I have the pages formatted and will review again before I send it out and I have the letter basically written. It was synchronicity that caused an order of books to be delivered today. I had ordered a submission bundle from Writer’s Digest and expected it to take days to deliver. Surely only Amazon and Jimmy Johns have lightening fast delivery?

Anyway, when I got home from work this evening, a box was sitting on the porch…and it was heavy. Without my glasses on, I just assumed it was for my husband, a man who is single-handedly keeping e-bay and dare I say the entire American economy afloat. I picked it up and left it on the living room end-table. I then rushed upstairs to take part in the last half hour of the boot camp chat. When the chat was over, I made my way downstairs…with my glasses on.

Yippee, the box was for me and it was loaded with books that are sure to a big help with the submission process. It contained Weekend Proposal, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, An Insider’s Guide to Publishing, The Author Training Manual, Formatting and Submitting your Manuscript and….Guide to Query Letters.  How amazing is that? Ok, not terribly amazing as I DID order the blasted books. What is amazing is that they arrived in time to be useful for this boot camp!

I know I said yesterday that there is a time to read books about writing and then you need to stop and JUST WRITE. Well, this is different, I know I have a writing book problem, but I don’t or didn’t have any books on prepping your manuscript and submitting. So really, this is completely different and I don’t have a problem…

The cool thing about this boot camp is that your assigned agent will read your materials and critique your query letter. I don’t expect anything further to happen from this exercise, the agent I was assigned to doesn’t represent science fiction/fantasy. What I’m hoping for is good feedback so I can craft an excellent query letter(s) to agents that DO represent my genre.

I’ll get the feedback sometime during the first week of October. I am excited to be on this journey.

Write because you want to, write because you must.

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The last time I saw my mother

The last time I saw my mother.

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