Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Up For Air

I'm popping my head through the surface of the writing pool to gulp some fresh air and say hello.  I've missed my blogging friends so much!  But the energy coursing through me for my newest writing project is high, high, HIGH and I am loving it.  Here's what I've been up to:

*  I'm deep in the planning stages of "Untitled WiP."  *note to self: Figure out a working title, at least!*

*  The characters have all shown up and are clamoring for my attention.  Some days, the greatest challenge is hushing one character so I can listen to what the other one is screaming at me.  Every new detail sends me in a scribble frenzy, trying to make bullet points of all the new ideas I'll need to expand upon, that have streamed out of that moment of inspiration.

*  One day, I stopped writing to massage my cramped hand when I heard the school bus outside.  My kids were home from school -- and I realized I'd been writing for FIVE hours straight!  That, my friends, has never happened to me before!

*  I've been researching on the Internet:  The first major turning point thrusts main character Piper Crow out of her regular life and jettisons her across the globe to the Central African Republic (CAR).  I lived in that country between 1994 and 1996, but a lot has changed there in the past fifteen years.  Also, the story will deal with characters who entered the CAR in 1960, fifty-one years before Piper was born.  I've needed to refresh my memory about the country's history, which I learned in preparation for my Peace Corps service but have since forgotten the specific details.  I want to weave CAR's historical past, with regard to the political and social climate at the time the country gained its independence from France, into those characters' backstories, as that storyline heavily impacts Piper's present-day life.

*  On the reading front, I'm mid-way through Jessica Bell's String Bridge!  Stunning book, so far!

*  Finally, I stumbled upon a wonderful YouTube series by Martha Alderson called How to Plot a Novel, Memoir or Screenplay.  I watched all 27 Steps and was guided and motivated by Martha's advice.  The series does not promote plotting in a strict sense, but rather provides a wealth of tips to help organize your thoughts and establish the rhythm of energy your book should have for the greatest emotional impact on the reading audience.  I especially liked Martha's down-to-earth, organic vibe in this entirely unscripted series.  If you are interested, here is the first Step.  If you enjoy it, you'll be able to follow the rest of the series from there:

And for anyone who'd like to see more photos from our extraordinary vacation on the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Malta, I'd like to link my Facebook photo albums.  These links are for public viewership, but if you have any trouble viewing them and we aren't FB friends already, just send me a friend request!

Until next time, happy writing!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Departure From Myself (+ PHOTOS!!)

Taken from our cliff side table at lunch, Ravello, Italy (Amalfi Coast)
The beauty of vacation lies in its pure departure from routine, everyday life. It's a reversal in quotidian tides; dessert before dinner. Heck, it's dessert instead of dinner. At least, that's how I'd describe my recent vacation to Italy and Malta. And though it was no surprise that I adjusted with yogic flexibility to the welcomed disruption in my personal life, I didn't anticipate how vacation would affect my writing life.

The Axioma, our home for two weeks.

With regard to my personal life, I am firmly rooted in America's middle class. So to sail the Mediterranean Sea by private yacht from Naples was a two-week out-of-body experience. We visited Capri and Italy's Amalfi Coast. We enjoyed the Eolian Islands before cruising between Calabria and Sicily through the strait of Messina and on to Malta.

The boat's crew of twelve outnumbered us. They were gracious and enthusiastic, and when they'd satisfied any needs we had, they catered to whims we hadn't yet thought of. With no household chores to perform or meals to prepare, I was free to bask in the sun and swim in the sea. To play with the kids and dance with my husband. To sip champagne with my sister, giggle like children, and whisper our secrets. We snorkeled, jet skied, kayaked, water skied and wake boarded. We went sightseeing and even climbed to a volcano's crater. And I wrote.

The kids knew where to find me each morning, on the top
deck, writing in my journal.
Just as my regular-life duties dissolved during vacation, so did my normal writing style. I am by nature a tightly wound writing instrument. Though my creativity flows freely, my process is laboriously obsessive. As images translate to words, their essence is usually sucked, sentence by sentence, back up off the paper to be kneaded and massaged in my mind, until some semblance of "first draft perfection" is regurgitated before I can go on to the next line. (I'm working on changing my habits, though it may require a few more vacations.)

In Italy, I wrote every day in my journal. The first entry was penned on the plane as we took off from Atlanta. Per usual, my handwriting was neat. I wrote in complete sentences and searched for creative modifiers to enhance my thoughts. Very quickly though, my style began to mutate. Within days, I'd deserted all my rules. I wrote with abandon, filling page after page with writing that looks and sounds nothing like my usual work.

My penmanship was loopy and messy. I wrote sentence fragments of misspelled words, sometimes in straight lines, but more often in clumps or sideways, following along the binding or page edges. I doodled. I expressed myself from the soul.

It was as exhilarating as flying full-throttle on a jet ski across the turquoise surface of the Mediterranean.

I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to keep a journal, and I intend to continue now that I've returned to regular life. Journaling frees your mind, helps you remember events, and connects you to your emotions. The absence of rules awakens your creativity and allows you to explore nonlinear thought patterns and expressions. Stories whisper from every page.

Every time I open my journal will be a little creative vacation from reality.


Who wouldn't be inspired to write in this location? (Capri, Italy)

My sister Natalie and I, after climbing 2000 steps from sea level to the top of the cliffs near Positano.  We actually swam back to the boat, anchored 900 ft offshore, after walking back down!

From the left, Sidney on the back of Christian's jet ski, and Cody and I in kayaks.

Me, Natalie and Christian during our 2000 step climb, enjoying the view from the cliffs.

(Remember the photo at the top of this post?) Sweet Sidney and I, taken during lunch.

Christian and I outside a spa on the island of Ischia, right after his deep-tissue massage and my hour-and-a-half long Chocolate Massage.  Yes, I was THAT spoiled on this trip!

Christian and I, climbing Vico Volcano. It's most recent eruption was 100 years ago...and we climbed right up to the crater.  Breathtaking!

Me, rocking the wake board!

Shot of Vico Volcano, taken from the deck of our boat.  (Sorry for the out-of-orderness of these photos, btw.  I got tired of battling Blogger.)

Me and my kids, ashore for dinner in Siracusa, Sicily.

From left, daughter Sidney, nephew Luchino, sister Natalie, me, and son Cody. When we snorkled at dive sites in open sea, we wore bright shirts so the crew could keep a regular "head count" from the tender.

I have so many photos of our time in Italy and Malta.  I'll definitely share more, soon!

Thanks for visiting today!!

[Text from this post was originally written for and published in the August 10, 2011 Drama Newsletter at  I am the original author :)) ]


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Strong & Beautiful, INSIDE & Out

Just found this new video of my sister.  Isn't she gorgeous?


Friday, August 5, 2011

Salmonella-spiked Turkey

(Hello! I'm working on a post to share some vacation pictures with you. Unfortunately, all my pix are enormous -- as in 4320x3240 pixels. Anyone know if it's possible to mass reduce the size of whole folders of photos? 'Cause doing it one pic at a time is going to put me over the edge... In the meantime, here's a random current events entry.)  

In an attempt to re-acclimate myself with the regular grind (as my switch is stubbornly stuck on Vacation Mode), I ventured to the grocery store yesterday for milk.

The drive to the nearest store is literally 3-1/2 minutes from my house, which is why I try not to shop there. At any time in the store's 24-hour day I am sure to bump into at least two neighbors; and during peak hours, I find myself leaning on my cart five to eight times and chatting up an extra hour or so that I hadn't allotted to errand-running. Time management is NOT my friend, to start with. So I often shop in a food store farther from my house.

However, since yesterday was just an excuse to get out of the house, I went to my neighborhood Kroger. At the register, I was surprised when the cashier handed me a receipt for milk that was long enough to categorize a week's worth of groceries. She explained the extra type dealt with the ground turkey recall.

Since I use my Kroger card when I shop in the store, the computer was able to spit out all the dates and UPC codes when I bought now-recalled ground turkey. I learned that since February 20, I bought fourteen packages of potentially tainted turkey. I guess I shop at Kroger more often than I realized.

I searched my freezers but found none of this turkey, which means we ate all of it. That's a lot of bullets to dodge.

But here's the thing I'm most struck by: The recalled turkey came from one processing center. "On August 3, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company’s Springdale, Ark., facility from Feb. 20, 2011, through Aug. 2, 2011, due to possible contamination with Salmonella Heidelberg." (Source) That same turkey has been sold under the following brands:

Honeysuckle White
Giant Eagle
Aldi’s Fit & Active
Fresh HEB
Shady Brook Farms
Natural Lean
Bulk packed ground turkey

So though I've often suspected, I now know for sure that when I pay $1.50-2.50 more per pound for Honeysuckle or Shady Brook Farms turkey, I'm getting the EXACT SAME product as if I spent less money on the store brand.

Friends, I've helped fund those name brand companies' marketing campaigns for the last time. Lesson learned!

Happy Friday!