Saturday, January 3, 2015

My 2015 Writing Goals

1. Treat writing as a career choice not a hobby.

2. Make a writing schedule. Treat these scheduled writing times as seriously as any other appointment.

3. Use this blog to build my audience. This includes networking, making the blog look more professional, and posting on a regular basis.

4. Establish a writing platform.

5. Read, read, read! Complete all the reading challenges I have set for myself on my blog Books Are Portable Magic.

 6. Complete the following writing assignments by Dec 31, 2015:

Write 12 poems (the list can be found here)

Write 12 short stories (the list can be found here)

Write 12 essays (the list can be found here)

Complete the rough draft of 1 novel
Working Title is:

6. Participate and win at least one Novel Writing Month challenge
Month won:

7. Submit my work for publication and be published by Dec 31, 2015.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Won NaNoWriMo!

I am so proud of myself! I have written 50,293 words!

Most of what I wrote was memoir. At first I was really unsure about writing memoir but in the end I am really glad I decided to do it. I learned so much about myself and my own voice. I learned what issues in my life are important for me to write about and what values really matter to me.

While what I wrote was memoir, I say that in the loosest possible way. My manuscript does not follow any sort of story arc and does not really have an ending. I think that is what I learned the most writing memoir. I am still in the process of living my story and it couldn't be a solid book yet because many of my life issues are still unresolved.

Much of what I wrote could be developed into some good essays or chapters though and I think all of this has given me a great start on writing a more structured memoir. Although I do love the idea of writing a book of essays as well.

I actually have some memoir that I wrote for a FebNoWriMo a couple years ago. I want to combine that manuscript with the one I have just written. I have so much material for a memoir now and it makes me extremely excited.

I plan on doing all of this rereading and editing in March and am really anxious for NaNoEdMo (National Novel Writing Month). They say they will be back in 2015. Hopefully the website will be active. Active website or no, I do want to work on reading through all I have written and editing it into an worthwhile book. Well hopefully it will be worthwhile book.

In the meantime, I am just going to bask in the afterglow of having won NaNoWriMo! If you follow this blog then you know I have really been struggling with getting any writing done and for me to have won this year is huge. HUGE!

I also will be working on getting this blog in better shape. I went through and deleted so much content which I really regret now. I need to work on building this blog back up and creating a real writing platform.

Most of all, I need to keep writing! This past November was wonderful but I need to keep this up. I need to keep writing. I feel like I have found my love for writing again. I can't wait to start working on essays, short stories, and a novel. I even want to start writing poetry again.

Writing this memoir for NaNoWriMo has made me realize it's not too late. It's never too late. I do feel like I missed out on a lot of years of good writing but I won't dwell on that anymore. I feel like winning NaNoWriMo has given newfound confidence to be the author that I have always wanted to be.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deciding to Write Memoir for NaNoWriMo

It's kind of a last minute decision but I've decided to write a memoir for NaNoWriMo after all. I've actually been debating this for months. While I do want to write a novel, I have strong feelings that if I'm going to write a memoir than now is the time to do it.


Because on Oct 15th it was my 39th birthday. I suppose maybe it would make more sense to write a memoir when I'm 40 but I feel like then it will be a new era in my life. I want to reflect about everything up until becoming 40. Writing this memoir will be for me so at this point I won't be writing for an audience. It will be an opportunity for me to explore the most significant events and people of my life and how they have shaped who I am.

I have always lived by the axiom "Know thyself" and feel that before I begin my forties, I need to have a better understanding of myself. I make it no secret that I struggle with borderline personality disorder and my biggest issue with the mental illness are my problems with my identity. As much as I want to write a fictional story, I know I NEED to do this for myself. It will address my mental health, help me grieve my lost loved ones, help me see where I've been, help me figure out what's next for me, and there's always the bonus of generating material for blog posts. (This blog is sorely lacking posts ever since I "cleaned it up.")

I do hope to eventually turn what I write into a published book. However, much of what I write will involve sensitive material regarding people that are still living and I'm not sure that I want any of that made public. Because of this I've often considered turning those stories into a novel based on my life experiences. 

Who knows? Maybe as the month of NaNoWriMo progresses my story will morph into a mostly true book with some fictional aspects to it. But then that would render the point of exploring the significant things of my life for personal examination pointless. Maybe I should make a rule for myself? Everything in the first 3 weeks of NaNoWriMo has to be 100% true but the last week I will let myself take the story wherever I want.

Even though there isn't much time left before NaNoWriMo starts (only nine days) I know if I walk into it without any kind of outline it will be a disaster. I still need some kind of plan. Even though this writing project is for myself, I'm still going to research the narrative arch in memoir and nonfiction writing. I don't want this to just be a month long exercise in journal writing. 

To be honest, this isn't the first time I attempted a memoir for NaNoWriMo. I did it once before in 2011 when my fictional story started to fizzle. It wasn't really a memoir though. It wasn't even a series of essays. What I wrote just turned into really long and repetitive diary-like entries. It was lazy writing. I just cared about reaching my word count instead of writing anything that resembled creative nonfiction. I won NaNoWriMo that year but it felt like I had cheated.

Maybe this second attempt at doing a memoir is me trying to make up for 2011. I want to write a memoir the right way, if there even is such a thing. Or maybe I'm just being pretentious. I just know I don't want this NaNoWriMo to turn into a 50,000 word diary entry.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How Do You Fix the Problem of Separate Blogs?

So I got rid of some of my blogs but I was still having problems with them being separate. Some months ago I had the idea to give all my blogs the same layout so when you click on them they look like they are all part of the same blog even though they aren't. Unfortunately they all still had different headers.

This was pretty good but I realized tonight that it didn't go far enough. I've been agonizing over the idea of keeping only one blog but which one? I was trying to decided between keeping the domain with my name ( or the domain with my niche name ( 

I came across this wonderful article called 4 Considerations in Picking a Website Name that gave the pros and cons of using your real name or a niche name. Ideally I would like to move everything to this blog but The Single Mommy has a bigger readership. I also am constantly wondering what I would do if I ever became a married mommy and my niche title was no longer fitting. That is a real problem that I hope I have to deal with someday! I was trying to come up with a way that I could merge them but not give up either domain names. 

I was visiting other bloggers (specifically authors) to see how they did it. When I clicked on a separate part of the blog it came to me. Their blogs are divided up by categories. The three blogs I've kept all have the same layout, but what if they also had the same header and the titles started with The Single Mommy Blog but had the subheading My Writing and My Art?

Problem solved!

I also decided to clean up the old posts on this blog. Again. I know I've done that what seems like a dozen times in the last four years. There's now only a handful of posts and those are different pieces of writing that I have done. I will be adding more examples of my writing, articles on writing, writing challenges, writing prompts, and posts about things like NaNoWriMo. Well maybe. I need to do some much needed research and studying on how to write a writing blog and create a platform.

According to When Do Writers Need Multiple Blogs? writers should not blog about the writing process. Kristen Lamb says blogging about our writing projects and how they are going is draining. It makes me wonder if that was my problem all along with this blog. For the past four years I've been trying to figure out how to blog about the writing process and I just could never get the hang of it.

So to be honest, I'm not quite sure what is going to end up on this blog. After four years, it is still a work in progress. Regardless of what goes on this particular section of my blog (and yes despite the different urls I consider it all part of The Single Mommy Blog now) it's all more synergistic. That certainly isn't a bad thing.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Six Word Memoirs: TWLOHA

I found the coolest website today. I was reading Memoir Writing for Dummies and it shared a website where you can submit your six word memoir. There are different topics too. You can give a six word memoir on life, advice, questions, love, among several other topics.

I decided to choose the topic TWLOHA. To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

The topic for the TWLOHA six word memoir is "Share your six words on pain and hope." Here are my six words:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The God Question (short story)

Thirteen year old Olivia jumped off the swing midair, turned around, and smirked at her brother Jayden. "You're wrong," she said. "God does exist and I can prove it!"

Jayden twisted around in the swing as he said, "You can't prove it one way or the other. Maybe there is God and maybe there isn't." He stopped turning when the chains were all twisted together and picked his feet up so he would spin.

When he stopped spinning Olivia said, "Just because you're fifteen, you think you know everything." She climbed back onto the black rubber seat and pouted.

"I think I know everything? At least I'm saying it can go either way. You're the one insisting that God does exist. Did it ever occur to you that God is just something people made up?"

Olivia's face turned red with anger. "God isn't made up, Jayden! There's proof." She relaxed her face then asked, "Who makes the sun shine and the flowers grow if God doesn't exist?"

"It just does. They just do," Jayden said. After a long pause he said, "We should ask somebody which one of us is right."

Olivia started swinging as high as she could. "Who should we ask?"

"We could ask Grandpa Jake. He goes to church every Sunday. He would know if God really exists."

Olivia stopped the swing suddenly with her feet. Her eyes went wide with fear. She shook her head as she pleaded, "No way. He says that God punishes people by sending them into a fiery pit if they don't believe in Him."

Jayden pursed his lips together then said, "I wonder what Grandpa Jake thinks God does to people that just aren't sure."

"We need to think of someone else. Someone who won't get mad just because we're asking the question."

"He wouldn't be mad at you, Olivia. You're the one who says God really does exist and there's proof."

Jayden climbed off the swing and flipped over so that his stomach was on the seat and his arms dangled down.

Olivia giggled. "You're too big for that. Your knees touch the ground now."

Jayden climbed off the swing. "I'm too big to be playing on a swing set period. So are you. I don't know why Mom insists on keeping this thing. I got it the year you were born you know. It was my consolation prize."

"What's a consolation prize?"

"I'll tell you later. Who are we are going to ask about this God question?" Jayden asked impatiently.

"It needs to be someone old like Grandpa."

"Maybe we could ask..." Jayden trailed off. "Nah, Mom and Dad wouldn't like it."

"Who?" Olivia asked.

"Ms. Wicker one street over," Jayden said.

"The woman everyone says is a witch?" Olivia gasped. "It'd be less scary to ask Grandpa Jake!"

Jayden laughed, "Don't be silly. She's not a witch."

"She is too. She has those weird things on her fence. They look like bones. Why don't we just ask Mom or Dad?"

"Because we need someone impartial and she's the oldest person we know other than our grandparents," Jayden explained.

"What's impartial mean?"

Jayden looked frustrated. "Geez, don't they teach you anything at school? Impartial means she's not afraid to tell the truth about who's right."

"But how do we know she also won't get mad because we're asking her?" Olivia asked. "Besides if she's a witch she probably doesn't believe in God. Witches are evil."

Jayden glared at her. "That sounds like something Grandpa Jake would say."

"Fine," Olivia agreed rolling her eyes. "Go ask Mom if we can go to the park. Ms. Wicker's house is on the way."

Jayden ran through the yard and opened the back door. He yelled for their mother and then asked when she came to the door. After a ten minute lecture about actually coming inside to ask her something, he and Olivia were able to leave for Ms. Wicker's house.

"What if she's not home?" Olivia asked as they walked around the corner onto Ms. Wicker's street.

"Then we'll find someone else."

The kids stopped just before Ms. Wicker's house and stood in front of the neighbor's yard. Ms. Wicker was outside attaching multicolored ribbons to the top of a pole.

"What's she doing?" Jayden asked.

"I don't know but I think it's pretty." Olivia said and smiled.

Jayden smiled back. "See, she can't be a witch. She's not doing scary things. I mean what kind of a witch attaches colored ribbon to a pole?"

"A good witch!" Olivia said laughing. She stopped when she saw the bones attached to the fence.

The kids started arguing about who was going to talk to Ms. Wicker first. They were so busy arguing they didn't notice her standing right in front of them. They jumped when she asked, "What is it that you want to ask me?"

Olivia nudged Jayden with her shoulder. He glared at her. He turned back towards Ms. Wicker with a nervous smile and said, "We want to know if there's proof that God really exists."

Ms. Wicker started laughing hysterically. It was a deep laugh that came from her belly. When she stopped she shook her head and said, "That certainly was not the question I was expecting." Then she said,  "I will answer your question but first I need your help with something."

Olivia looked a bit scared. Jayden just cocked his head to the side with curiosity.

"I need you kids to help me weave the ribbons around the Maypole." Ms. Wicker said as she pointed to her own yard. They walked over to the Maypole where she had them take an end of one of the ribbons. Ms. Wicker took the two left over. She showed them how to weave in and out and around until the ribbons were woven tightly to the pole.

Ms. Wicker clapped her hands with delight. "That's the first time in years I've been able to do a Maypole dance. I've always had to weave the ribbons around myself. It's not nearly as much fun. Thank you children!" She wiped sweat off her forehead. "Would you like some lemonade? I'm quite hot after doing the Maypole dance."

Ms. Wicker started to walk into the house. The children hesitated. "Our mom wouldn't like it if we went into your house without her knowing," Jayden explained.

"You're quite right. Shelly probably wouldn't approve," Ms. Wicker agreed.

Olivia looked at Jayden and mouthed "How does she know Mom's name?" Jayden just shrugged.

"Help me fetch three chairs off the porch and we'll sit in my yard. We can admire our handiwork on the Maypole. I don't think I've ever had one so beautiful."

After setting the chairs up, Ms. Wicker went inside to get the lemonade. When they were all settled with their drinks Jayden said, "I'm sorry to ask you such a serious question. I'm sure it's kind of weird."

Ms. Wicker laughed deeply again, "It's hardly the strangest question I've ever been asked."

"We wanted to ask the oldest person we know," Olivia confessed.

"Olivia!" Jayden scolded as he turned beet red.

Ms. Wicker waved the air, "No need to worry. I'm not offended in the least. I'm cool with being an old crone." She winked at the kids.

"Is that a kind of bird?" Olivia asked.

Ms. Wicker laughed again. "No dear. It's a very old woman."

Jayden scowled, "You're so stupid sometimes!" Olivia looked as if she was about to cry.

Ms. Wicker smiled at Olivia as she said, "There are no stupid questions. Which brings us to your question."

"Jayden says there's no proof that God exists. I say there is. We want to know who's right."

Ms. Wicker set her glass of lemonade on the grass next to her chair. She leaned forward and said, "I will answer your question with a story. It's a very old story. There are different versions but I have my own."

"I want you to imagine God is an elephant. There are four blind men touching different parts of the elephant. One blind man touches the ear. He describes God as a big leaf. Another man touches the trunk. He describes God as a tree. The third touches the elephant's body and describes God as a wall. The fourth blind man touches the tail and describes God as a rope. All four of these blind men spend their entire lives trying to convince each other they are right."

Ms. Wicker was a quiet a moment. "Do understand what the story is saying?"

Olivia shrugged her shoulders. "I think so."

Jayden looked at Olivia and back at Ms. Wicker. "Each man describes God as different. It's like how there's all different religions and they all have different ideas of what God is."

"Correct!" Ms. Wicker exclaimed. "I think there should be more four more blind men in the story though. There are three blind men not touching the elephant. One blind man keeps hearing the other men describe the parts they are touching. He waves his hands all around him but feels nothing. He decides the men are crazy and are making the elephant up. The second blind man keeps hearing the elephant breathe, stomp, and even the trumpet sound it makes but finds an explanation for each thing he hears. It's the wind or some other sound in nature. He thinks maybe it's an elephant but he really can't tell. He decides he doesn't care one way or another if there is an elephant so he goes on with his life. The third blind man keeps hearing the men describe this elephant and he's searching and searching for it but he can't find it. The man touching the tail yells 'Over here!' while the man at the ear does the same thing. The blind man trying to find the elephant is confused on which direction he should go. He believes the elephant is there and wants to find it very badly. He might actually find it if he stops listening to the men touching it and listens for the elephant instead."

Ms. Wicker stopped the story and reached down for her glass of lemonade. She took a long drink then said, "These three blind men are the atheist, the agnostic, and the seeker that never finds."

Jayden looked confused. "You said you think there should be four more blind men. You only described three. What is the fourth blind man doing?"

"Oh he was the most curious fellow indeed. He touched all the parts of the elephant. He listened to the all the blind mens' descriptions. He even let go of the elephant to find out what the men not touching the elephant had to say."

Ms. Wicker paused for long time. "The question is, which person are you?"

Olivia shook her head, "But that still doesn't answer our question. Which one of us is right?"

"Which blind man do you think was right in the story?" Ms. Wicker asked.

Jayden laughed, "None of them. All of them."

Ms. Wicker nodded, "Exactly. Now I will ask again, which one are you?" Jayden opened his mouth to answer but Ms. Wicker cut him off before he could speak, "You're young. You don't have to decide now. You have your whole life to decide."

"Which one are you?" Olivia asked.

"When I was growing up, I was at the ear. I was convinced that God was like a leaf. When I went off to college, I had a friend who was at the trunk. I listened to her and understood why she believed what she did, but it didn't seem right to me. But it made me curious. So I started asking all the blind men for their descriptions. The one at the tail fit me the best."

"Ms. Wicker, why is everyone in the story blind? Why isn't there anyone who can see the elephant?" Olivia asked.

Ms. Wicker clapped her hands together. "Oh my dear, what an excellent question! There are in some versions of the story. Even if a man who could see came by and could see the elephant, everyone else is still blind. Even though he knows what God is like he can only describe it to the blind men. They'll never see it for themselves. Or maybe they will. Who knows?"

Jayden laughed silently. "What is it, son?" Ms. Wicker asked.

"What if the man who could see knew it wasn't God? It was just an elephant mistaken for God."

Olivia added, "Or the man who could see lied about what he really saw."

Ms. Wicker nodded. "The possibilities are endless, aren't they? It's getting late children. Shelly is probably wondering where you are."

"Thank you for the story, Ms. Wicker. I'll never forget it." Jayden said as he stood up.

"Yes, thank you! But how do you know our Mom?" Olivia asked.

Ms. Wicker grinned from ear to ear. "That's story for a different day."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My First Night Home as a Widow (essay)

Part One
I didn't want to come home. My mother-in-law told me that my children and I were welcome to stay as long as we wanted, but in my heart and soul I knew it was time to go. All the out-of-town relatives had returned to their hometowns. Scott's funeral was over and everyone else went back to their normal lives. As I packed my four children in the one van that we had left, I thought about how it wasn't fair that everyone else got to return to normal. My life would never be normal again.

As I pulled into the driveway of our family home, my mind went back to the day when Scott and I first looked at the house. It had just been posted in the online ads that morning. Scott found it accidently when he went to check the address of a house we had an appointment to look at. That had been less than four months before his auto accident. Through my windshield I could see the basketball hoop and two-car garage. When it came to buying our home that was two requirements that he had. My dream of watching him shoot hoops with our children was gone. So was the dream of having his and hers cars parked in the garage.

I unlocked the front door with my key not knowing what I would feel. When I opened our front door I felt both comfort and despair rush over me. Scott was gone but it was still home. Before settling I walked through the house to see if there were any immediate painful reminders. On the coffee table was the case to the movie we had watched the night before he died. He had some dirty clothes in the laundry. His notebooks where he had been working on a new song laid on the nightstand. His guitars were in the corner of the bedroom. He had a small section of clothes in the closet and a few drawers. I marveled at how little belongings my husband had actually had.

I then sat down on our bed. Correction. It was no longer our bed but my bed. I stood up immediately. The one thing I knew I could not do on that first night was sleep in the bed. It would be a week before I slept in the bed and over a year before I stopped sleeping on the right side.

I walked back into the kitchen and stood there. What next? Do I go in the living room and watch my favorite television show? Do I sit down and finish reading the novel I had started the week before? I needed to go on with my life but I didn't know how to start. It was then that my daughter yelled to me that she couldn't find a clean pair of jeans. I told her I would wash her some and started the laundry.

My life as a widow had begun.

Part Two
Today would have been Scott's thirty-third birthday and I still sometimes feel as clueless about going on with my life as I did almost two years ago. I considered selling the house for some time, but felt that living in it was a memorial to Scott. The house provides me with shelter and comfort. It was Scott who made it possible for us to buy the house, so I view it as an extension of him. He can no longer take care of me but the house he had bought for us will continue to do so. Thinking this way has made it easier to continue living here.

It's still hard for me to believe that he lived less than four months in this house. It's even harder to believe he's gone when he still receives mail or gets a phone call from a telemarketer. I still have all the utilities in his name. I feel that if I put them in mine, I will be erasing him.

I have changed many parts of the rooms in the house, making them mine. He would have never approved the pink girlish bedding that I have on the bed. He didn't want to have a dog and I have a wonderful little terrier mix. I can do whatever I want with my house. He gazes down at me from pictures, but the house is no longer ours. It is mine. It was his gift to me.

Lovers Use Lies to Tell The Truth (poem)

From the very first time we hugged as strangers
To the very last goodbye
I was alone

You were present
But you were never there

At every dinner we ate together
On the dance floor
Every late night spent talking
On the road trip
At the haunted house
When watching movies on my couch
Every time we made love
Every time you fell asleep in my bed holding me
Every time you made me laugh
Every compliment
Every caress
Every kiss

You were present
But you were never there

Perhaps I can't blame you
You warned me from the beginning
I suppose I should be grateful
When we first met you claimed
You didn't want anyone
Perhaps you gave more
Than you ever originally intended

But instead I'm angry
You said you never wanted anyone to get hurt
How naïve of you
How selfish of you
When I told you how I felt
Did you expect anything different?
Why would you even continue
Instead of letting me go?

You can't understand how I feel used
So imagine having someone there every day
She wants to spend time with you
She wants to go out with you
She wants to talk to you
She wants to hold you
She wants to kiss you
She wants to make love to you
But she doesn't want you
She doesn't want to be with you

She never wants to be with you
Imagine her present
But never there

Your inability to give anything of yourself
Is ironic considering you told me
We are created to love

The Choice (flash fiction)

There once was a mother who fell asleep on the couch after leaving a lit cigarette sitting on the edge of an ashtray on an end table. She awoke with her living room in flames. Within seconds, the flames moved outward towards each end of the entryways on either end of the room.

Her son was in her bedroom to the left of the living room and her daughter in her own room to the right of the living room. Her son had wanted to sleep in her room because he had a nightmare. His restlessness kept her awake, so she came out to the living room to have a cigarette and then sleep on the couch.

She suddenly realized, with horror, that she only had time to go to one room before both entryways would be blocked by flames. She had to choose which one of her children she was going to save.

She also realized that if her husband had waited to leave her just one more day, he would've been there and they would've been able to save both children. He would've woken and rescued one, while she rescued the other. But he was gone and now she was alone and had to choose. She heard sirens in the distance but thought that it would be too late by the time the firemen arrived. She wondered who had called the fire department. She also regretted not having the smoke detectors on like she should've had.

She would later be amazed that she could think about so much in only a matter of seconds. She would have nightmares about this moment for the rest of her life and spend most of her waking days thinking about the choice she was about to make. Most of all she would curse God for having let it happen to her.

She turned and ran into the bedroom on the right and picked her daughter up from her bed. She carried her through the burning living room. Before going out the front door, she turned and looked back just as flames rose to the ceiling in the entryways. She saw her son standing on the other side of the flames screaming for her. She didn't notice that her daughter had woken and saw him as well. She cried as she carried her daughter through the front door and mumbled "I'm sorry" over and over to herself.

The screaming fire engines pulled up. A fireman jumped off the engine and yelled, "Is there anyone else in the house?"

It took the mother a second before she realized what he had asked. It was hard to hear him with the sirens blaring. "The bedroom on the left," she yelled.
The fireman nodded and rushed into the house. A minute later, he emerged carrying her son in his arms. The child had some minor burns and smoke inhalation, but was alive. He put him down in front of the mother.

The mother set her daughter down so she could hug both her children as she said, "I'm so happy you're both alright." When she pulled away, her son looked her in the eyes and whispered, "I hate you." The mother hugged her children again and thought, You probably always will. She didn't see her daughter look over at her brother and mouth the words "I hate her too."