Deadlines…

One of the attractive perks of being a writer is that for the most part you get to set your own hours and create your own working environment.  When you are not under contract you also decide when your deadlines are.  The only deadlines I have are the ones that I have imposed upon myself and missing them usually only means a loss of productivity.

Currently I have a deadline to submit a fiction piece to an anthology.  They close the submission window at the end of the month and will accept nothing outside of that window. The piece I’m working on is a thirty page fantasy that I’ve submitted before without success.   When I reread the story for this anthology I realized that it had several fundamental weaknesses that had to be fixed.

The problem is, when I revise something and am not careful I will end up rewriting the whole thing.  This not only takes huge amounts of time but it also requires more editing passes to correct any new passages that I end up writing.  I had hoped to have the revisions done by today so that I could have a friend give it a test read, but I still have 18 pages to go.

This might have been easier had I not gone on a family camping trip this weekend. I had envisioned sitting back with my tablet as the kids played around the campsite whittling away at this story and having plenty of time to get it finished, but that wasn’t the case. Every time I sat down a family member would come join me that wanted to talk. In the spirit of niceness I obliged.

Now I’m starting to sweat a little.  I’d love to have this piece published and to have some real writing credentials under my belt, but I can’t submit something that’s not ready either.

With luck I’ll find a few large chunks of extra time today to finish it!

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Counting Pennies

For over a decade I’ve carried a heavy shoe box full of tubs of pennies from house to house. These were not my pennies, but my grandfathers that he had collected year after year.  In his top dresser drawer he kept an empty margarine tub, Fleishman’s soft, and at the end of every day he would empty his pockets.  I have no idea how long he collected these pennies and I’m not sure why either. I seem to remember it had something to do with us grand kids, maybe for a starter college fund, maybe just for fun.

The day finally came where I knew I needed to do something about the pennies. After living on backs of shelves and under beds and in other forgotten corners for years it was time for them to go. Just turning them in to the bank seemed wrong, these pennies represented years of collecting. They deserved more than that. To me they represent far more than material worth, there are memories locked in there.

Part of me wants to keep the pennies because they hold many of those memories of spending time with my grandfather.  Memories like the process of making popcorn with his air popper, using the heat to melt a huge chunk of butter on top, then pouring it all into a 5 gallon ice cream tub and putting the lid on and shaking it until the seeds all bounced toward the lip so they could be removed. I love buttered popcorn to this day.

Grandpa was a solid man, tall and proud.  If there was a project he wanted to finish or a skill he wanted to learn, he went out and invested his time and money to learn about it.  He was a photographer, a horse man, a book binder, a wood-carver, and probably much more beyond what I ever saw. I wasn’t around when he was pursuing many of his hobbies, in fact I don’t remember much about his hobbies than what my brother and I found in his basement when we came over for Sunday dinners and the adults wanted to talk.

There were the trophies for his horses and other animals, there were the books, he had a dark room – which for me and my brother was the coolest thing ever.  Deep in the unfinished part of the basement were the wood working tools and carefully labeled boxes of supplies. And then there were the pennies which he kept on the upper shelf of a closet.  Each time he would fill a margarine tub he’d tape it shut and put it with the rest.

Every day for the past few weeks I’ve spent time sorting through the pennies and separating the wheat pennies from those with the Lincoln memorial. The heavy shoe box is gone now, and so are the brittle and cracked tubs of Fleishman’s. Of the pennies only a small box remains of all the special ones, the wheat pennies, the all nickel ones, the ones that he had set aside in a yellowed envelope.  Those I will keep, if anything to relive the memories that I have.

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Being a Mom and a Writer

I’m a very creative person.  I’m so creative, I create people.  Three of them to be exact, and each enough different from the other that there is no user’s guide, no “What to Expect When…” book, that covers them all.

I’m not talking about fictional characters here, although I’ve created dozens of those as well.  I’m talking about walking, talking, screaming, whining, hugging, cuddly little kids.  They are the reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I’m so happy to get back into bed at night.  They fill my every waking hour with surprises, challenges, and messes.

                         My Groupies

I love my little monkeys, from their toothy smiles to their dirty feet.  Every minute of the day they are there, reminding me how needed I am in their world.

I remember when I came home with my first child.  Leaving the hospital, I had this weird paranoia that a nurse was going to stop us at any minute and tell us that we weren’t qualified to take a baby home with us.  And as first time parents, we probably weren’t.  Qualifications are measured in spit up stains, diaper changing speeds, and being able to find lost binkies in the dark.  No one comes with those skills built in, they are gained with experience.

Being a mom means finding solutions.  Everyday there are countless questions and problems to be solved.  What’s for lunch? Where are the keys? How do you remove crayon from tile? Where did the baby go?  It’s a relentless task that refuses to be put on hold, even for a potty break.

On the flip side, being a writer means long hours in thought finding the best way to present a scene, or construct an essay.  Many of these hours are spent in front of a screen typing in these fragile thoughts that are likely to shatter when disturbed.  Sometimes it takes a while of churning out text before we find what we really want to say.  The rest of those hours happen in our heads as we work on everything else from driving to sleeping.

Being a mom and a writer is an impossible situation.  Children, especially young children, require endless immediate intervention to keep them from harm’s way.  Writing while they are awake ends up being an exercise in frustration.  Writing while they are asleep is unpredictable.

Although it is impossible, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  If I didn’t have my kids I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  They have taught me confidence, humility, and grace. At the same time, being a writer brings an added dimension to my life.  It’s a challenge and a reward.  One day I would love my kiddos to hold up a favorite book and be able to say, “Hey, my Mom wrote this!”