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Words of Wisdom
December, while being a hectic holiday time, is also a time of reflection. At least, it is for me. Between December 25th and January 25th, I make a point of reviewing the events of the past year to see how close I came to achieving my goals.
I also ponder on what I would like to accomplish in the new year. These are not resolutions. Resolutions are lucky to last a week or two. Instead of drunken promises made on New Year's Eve, I make a written list of goals that I would like to attain during the next 11 months. Be they personal, professional, or physical, I'm more likely to work toward them if they are written down and put in a prominent place where I can't help but see them and be reminded to make an effort.
It's a rare year that I check off everything on my list. It's also a rare year that I don't check off the majority of items on my list. The list gives me a direction to turn when I'm floundering. The list keeps me on track. The list is a constant reminder of the "promises" I've made to myself.
List making is one of life's constants for me. Over the years, I've collected thirty--give or take a few--annual lists. I keep them in a small file folder where I can review them every five to ten years. If the same goal pops up year after year, yet never gets accomplished, I have to ask myself why? Maybe, I write it down because I think it's something I should do, but would really rather not. Maybe, it's another's expectation of me. If it's something I want to accomplish, but don't, then maybe it's time for some professional help or a severe reality check on my part.
Some of the goals from my twenties are laughable to me now that I'm in my fifties. What seemed so important thirty years ago has little meaning in the world I live in today. From my lists, I can track my growth or the lack of it.
Lists are not for everyone, but they work for me.
How do you view the end of one year and the start of another? Do you have any traditions or rituals that have evolved over the years? If so, what are they? If you don't, might I suggest making a list?
|Below you'll find the review I posted on both Goodreads and Amazonfor Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.
Love, love, LOVE this book! I've tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, blogged, and reviewed this book. If I do anything more, author Robin Sloan is going to have to put me on the payroll!
I rarely get this excited about a book, but Mr. Penumbra's really resonated with the bibliophile in me. This debut novel abounds with quirky, intelligent characters on a quest. I truly adored Ms. Lapin! How could I not? She is me and I am her.
Rarely do technology and literature met and mesh. Just think about the ongoing debate over e-books. However, if technology and literature had a love child, this would be it. Even the cover glows in the dark!
From first to final page, the reader becomes part of a journey that he/she may not always understand (I'm not that technologically advanced.), but is always willing to follow. There are parts that are more bookish and in those sections, I felt like I was leading, guiding the others along the way. From Google headquarters to age-old libraries, Sloan blends the old with the new, and makes it work.
The truth he reveals/exposes is one you may have heard and forgotten. If it's your first time to see it, then enjoy and drink deeply of it.
I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who loves books, reading, technology, architecture, mystery, secret societies, libraries, independent book stores, gaming, and magic realism. Did I leave anyone out? In other words, this book is for everyone.
Buy it, read it, enjoy it, sleep with it under your pillow to inspire good dreams.
It's easy to get discouraged when writing. Sometimes, that discouragement comes from a lack of recognition for what you've done. Other times, discouragement comes from a lack of support for what you're attempting to do. Some people see the desire to become a writer as a pipe dream
. Some see it as a waste of time better spent doing something more concrete. Yet, the dream, the desire, the need to be a writer is
overwhelming and concrete
in the aspiring writer. For me, writing is as essential as breathing.
Yesterday was one of those days when I was discouraged. Not by people, but by events out of my control and memories of those events. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the death of someone I loved. The sadness always sneaks up on me despite my attempts to head it off. So yesterday I was broadsided with a sense of loss, a waterfall of tears, and a mental slideshow of memories from happier times that only seemed to emphasize what I don't have now.
Yesterday could have been a real bummer...
But, it wasn't.
In fact, yesterday turned out to be a great day. Why? Because of the people who love and care about me. My family, friends, and writer friends know that December 6th is difficult, so they came to my rescue. Individually and with no prompting other than a feeling they should call or stop by for a visit.
As a result, I went from down in the dumps to having a great, productive day.
Sadness in one area of your life can seep into other areas causing doubts and negative thoughts that generate more negativity until a person is sucked into the abyss of a depressive funk.
Thanks to the people who love me and showed me that love yesterday, I can face today with a much more positive attitude about everything. I look forward to get some writing done, both the necessary and the creative.
Writers tend to be a solitary sort, but that doesn't mean they don't need friends. I highly recommend finding similar writer types and forming a critique group that will improve your writing skills and in all likelihood become a group of friends that will be there for you when you need a boost.
I follow Nathan Bransford's blog and have for several years. He's an ex literary agent turned author, and all around informative guy with a huge and active following. Over the years, he has ranted and raved over his favorite book, The Great Gatsby. He, on occasion, includes quotes from the book which have never impressed me, and I didn't quite understand the appeal. I figured it was just a case of personal taste. Last week, I picked up a copy of Gatsby at Goodwill (one of my all-time favorite bookstores). At fifty cents, I didn't think I could go wrong even if I hated it and ended up donating it back.
I started reading it the same evening and much to my surprise I loved it! I didn't put it down until the wee hours of the morning when I finished!
I want to apologize to Nathan for doubting his taste. It's a great story, beautifully written, with layer upon layer of social commentary and observations of human nature. It's a love story, a story of obsession, gain, and loss, and ultimately, what is truly important in life.
Below is my apology to Nathan which I sent to his blog.
I want to formally apologize to you for ever doubting your taste in books.
I've followed your blog for years and have always questioned your belief that The Great Gatsby is a fantastic novel. Even when I read the various Gatsby quotes you've posted, I was unmoved.
I recently picked up a copy, and I must admit that I've been wrong. While I won't say that it's my favorite book, it is in the top 10. I read it through in one night, unable to put it down.
I'm also posting a link to this apology on my website so my followers can see me eat humble pie.
Sincerely and apologetically,
Tammy Setzer Denton
I think it's important to admit when you're wrong, and in this case, I certainly was. The takeaway from this is not to limit yourself with preconceived notions. I missed out for years because I was wrong. Don't let the same happen to you, and guess what? It doesn't just apply to books. Now, I have to re-evaluate all the things I've avoided over the years for a variety of reasons. It may be just the day/week/month/year to give them a try!
Let me know what you've been avoiding.
I find it difficult to juggle my freelance writing, creative writing, and my teaching job yet I can't imagine giving up any of them. Neither can I imagine giving up time with my children or grandchildren. As a result, there are weeks when nothing gets done or some things get done, but not very well.
I realized today as I was driving down the road teaching my grandson how to do addition while mentally rehashing a To Do List that never gets done that my thoughts are scattered and I've not be able to focus on anything long enough or well enough to do it correctly or to actually be in the moment.
So, as of today, I've decided to stop. To stop juggling. There is no way I can keep all those balls in the air at the same time. I don't want to give any of them up, but I've come to the conclusion that I don't have to do more than one of them at a time. This afternoon I did just that.
This afternoon, I played with my grandson without stopping to check my email every twenty minutes. We played without composing an article in my mind. He loved the attention, and although I struggled a bit to stay on track, I felt better afterward.
Later, I headed to the public library where I could write articles without the distraction of other people, music or the internet. Sure, I could have gotten the wireless password, but I didn't for three hours--not until I absolutely needed it. The result was nearly six articles written.
Finally, I headed back for a family gathering where I left my computer in the car, and let the battery in my cell phone die. Anyone who needed to talk to me was already there.
Tomorrow, my intent is to focus on painting a room in my house. Perhaps while waiting for the first coat of paint to dry, I will work on more freelance articles, but with a timer set to limit the minutes I spend away from the major task of the day. Working under a time constriction helps me to focus. That and turning off the TV, Facebook, and email.
It seems that items are getting checked off the To Do List faster so I'll give it another day or two.
Do you believe that multitasking means getting more done in less time or do you believe it decreases the quality of work involved in each task?
I had originally planned a lengthy post since it's been a while since I've written. However, my plans changed when a friend sent me a link to Martin Manley's website via Facebook.
Until today I'd never heard of him, but I wish I had. Martin Manley committed suicide today.
Manley orchestrated his own demise, the distribution of his few remaining possessions, the discovery of his body, and left a suicide note that exceeds all expectations. Whether or not his note provides reasons good enough to justify his death is unlikely as he mentions himself.
Part of me wonders if this is not an elaborate hoax, a way to gain notoriety for a struggling writer. Not that he was a writer in life, but will certainly be considered one in death providing that he’s really dead.
There are two sections to his site; death and life. I read all the death part first (human nature wants to see the train wreck and carnage) and found it all very logical. Too logical and perhaps, a bit premature. He makes his points, but none of them scream, "Shoot me!".
I'm only part way through his memoirs, if they can be called that. His childhood recollections seem aloof and dispassionate, possibly the result of his existence in a family he didn’t think was normal. All in all, I don't see where he's had a horrific life, but rather an ordinary one like most of us.
I'm still at a loss for words as to how to describe my feelings about this. I guess I thought of suicide as a desperate act by an emotionally charged person. Martin Manley's suicide was not. I'm somewhat disturbed that he wanted to leave a mark on the world, but felt he couldn't do so without dying. Is that really necessary? Instead of a mark, has he left a stain?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this. Read his blog if you will and get back to me. I'll be reading it as well.
|I've been staying so busy with freelancing that I've not had time to do much fiction writing for myself. How will I ever finish that first draft of my second novel, Spared Parts?
Today, I tried a technique called the Pomodoro Technique. I know it sounds like I'm making spaghetti sauce, but it's for writing, and guess what? It worked!
I had to do this while babysitting four grandchildren, ages 14, 10, 4, and 10 months. The baby was asleep, but the other three were wide awake, bouncing off the walls like pinballs, and tormenting one another. I set the timer for 25 minutes and hoped that SpongeBob would hold their attention. It did--sort of, and I was able to work--sort of. Not an ideal situation, but a person has to work with what she has.
The startling thing was that I couldn't even remember where I was in Spared Parts. I picked a random starting point and worked on it for 25 minutes. After a rocky start, the words started flowing. Nothing masterful, but words on paper which is much more than I've been able to do in months. Despite a couple of interruptions, I was able to write a page and a half.
A page and a half in 25 minutes isn't much, but it's 100% more than I've done in months. I think with practice the Pomodoro Technique might do the trick. I'm setting my timer for 25 minutes tomorrow as well. I'm not babysitting, but will have my freelance writing to contend with. Setting aside 25 minutes a day for pure creativity is something I think I can do.
I'll keep you posted.
I'm hoping my readers will hang in there while I attempt to get my computer problems under control. I currently have two laptops and one desktop computer of which zero work correctly.
I can receive emails on one, but can't send them out. I can write on one, but can't save it. I can write and save on one, but can't use the internet. I've ordered an external hard drive to back everything up and get at least one functioning rather than breaking down and buying a new one. Fortunately, my future son-in-law works with computers and has promised to help. I knew my daughter picked a good one!
In other news, I just sent out another query on my finished novel, Man of the House. Wish me luck! I've also applied for a small grant and should be hearing either "yay" or "nay" from them in the next week or two at the most. In addition, I've been working at my freelance writing career bringing in a little (but very appreciated) cash. Afterall, I may need to buy a new computer soon.
On a more personal note, I watched the season finale of Once Upon a Time, and will sadly miss all the characters for the next several months. I have developed quite a fancy for Robert Carlyle who plays Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. My friends think it's creepy that I find him attractive even as Rumple, but like Belle, I can see his inner goodness.
So, dear readers, please bear with me while I get my computer repaired and can communicate with you on a more regular basis. Until then, I'm still writing--the old fashion way with paper and pencil. Guess what? It still works!
with the Irene Goodman Agency
did a guest column at Writer's Digest
on April 4, 2013.
The column titled:
is possibly the funniest agent interview ever. I've re-posted a portion of the column, and you can read the entire article here
Once you've read all of it, you can check out my comments here
Trust me, you're going to love this.
What do you really think of speed-pitching events at conferences? Do
you secretly hate them? And how many of your new authors do you find at
writing conferences, versus the slush pile, versus other methods?
Well, let’s see. Here are some things that have happened to me at speed-dating-style pitch sessions:
After I said I would not be interested in looking at a man’s poetry
collection, he said he would kill himself—and the police had to be
• An octogenarian and his wife pitched his mystery and
she mouthed his memorized pitch next to him the whole time he talked,
and then clapped and cried when he was done—and I had to sit there
knowing from the start that a 42,000-word World War II mystery (which is
far too short to be viable, for starters) was something I was for sure
about to say no to. To this octogenarian’s life dream. In front of his
lifelong soul mate. Thank goodness the bar was within sprinting
• A woman sat down across from me and opened with,
“Jesus already told me you would be my agent, so I’m not nervous at
all.” I said, “That’s weird, when we had coffee the other day, he didn’t
mention you.” And then I chuckled. She did not. And then my bladder
loosened a bit in fear.
In the end, I very much like talking to
authors at conferences, but I wouldn’t buy a car from a guy who just
tells me about it; I need to see how she rides. So these days, when I’m
invited to participate in pitch sessions at writing events I attend, I
decline, but instead offer to take a look, in advance, at 10 pages of
the manuscript from each author who wished to pitch me, and to leave a
detailed critique for each one at the registration desk. I realize not
every agent (maybe not any other agent) favors this approach, but in my
case, I feel that this is more helpful for the writers, and better
suited for my evaluation style, too. If I want to meet with someone, I
leave a note and we connect.
Other than that, I am totally fine with
someone coming up to me anywhere, anytime, and telling me about his
book, but not in organized pitch sessions. It’s just too much pressure
on the authors. And my bladder.
Oh: And as for my own stats,
before adopting this policy, I signed five clients (and sold four of
their books to publishers) in five years’ worth of pitch sessions. So,
while connecting at those events does happen, that’s not a huge
percentage of my list. Again, that’s not the case for every agent, but
for me, the majority of my clients still find me through the regular
Author Media is a website that I highly recommend for anyone in the writing business.
It's run by Thomas Umstattd who is a veritable font of information.
Thomas Umstattd is the CEO of Castle Media Group the parent company of Author Media. You can follow him on Twitter @ThomasUmstattd.
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