Ramblings and Current Happenings #Writerslife

For being nearly the middle of May, 2019 thus far has felt like a very l-o-n-g year.

With at least eight blizzards (between middle of January to early April) which kept us buried in several feet of snow, and then hubby was furloughed by the Federal gov’t for over 30 days, and then the near historic flooding of the Red River (thank goodness it was no where near the magnitude of the 1997 Flood, but bad enough)….

And even though it’s officially Spring, it still doesn’t feel like it up here.  Temp during the nights still bottom out in the upper 20s, and daytime highs rarely reach above 60…

Guess I am hoping for a nice change in the current pattern of things.

I’m ready for warm weather and lots of sunshine.  I’m also ready to get out of the house and interact with people.  These would be so good for my mental health as it has tanked in recent weeks.

Currently, I do have some potential outings coming up.  In early June, I will be spending one full week at the School for the Blind for their Adult Week (will go more in detail at a later posting).  The Fall will bring opportunities to fly out of state; one, to attend a Buffalo Bills’ game (either in Buffalo NY, or wherever we can score three affordable tickets), and second, with my hubby at one of his training sessions (San Antonio is a distinct possibility, or maybe even San Diego–yippee!).

The past several days I’ve been mulling over whether or not to apply to a few writers residencies. The one I am most interested in is at Hedgebrook -located on Whidbey Island (near Seattle).

I love my guys, but I need to spend some time away for a while and be me, the writer and mingle with other creatives who truly get me.  Now it’s a matter of sitting down and figuring out what my next project should be.  At this point, I know I want it to be a collection of essays; just have to decide on a theme.

Next week, I am hoping to check out a local writing group in Grand Forks, Northern Ink.

For me, a busy body makes for a healthier mindset.

Let’s roll.

At the Crossroads #IWSG #Writing

Have you ever gone through a period of time when no matter how hard you tried to do something, or in my case – complete a novel, you just can’t quite get there?

For years and years, I believed I was meant to be a fiction writer especially of suspenseful (and at times, horror) stories.  I still enjoy writing these stuff, but there’s a growing part of me that keeps telling me to shift my focus/attention to poetry and essays. I’ve resisted, well I tried to anyway, against this quiet tugging until recently.

In February and April of this year, I’ve participated in various month-long blogging/writing challenges where my original intentions were to focus on flash/micro fiction (suspense/horror kinds) and maybe sprinkle a few poems in there.

Well, I ended up writing mainly poetry. It wasn’t planned. It just happened that way.

As I wrote these poems, it occurred to me how the muse had tricked me (by the way, I’m nicknaming her “Trickster” from now on). All through these two months, whenever I picked up a pen (hovered my fingers over the keyboard), my first instinct was to write poetry – not fiction.

Wow…it hit me then (specifically, during the last week of April). I might have already said this in a guest post I wrote for another blog, but never truly believed in my heart at the time — I’m a writer of many things, but the essence of me is a poet.

Okay, I will admit that the Trickster (formerly known at “muse”) had been right all along — but…

Now what?

X Marks the Spot

Nearing the end of April, I find myself reading over the poems I’ve written for both NaPoWriMo and A to Z Challenge, and it kind of struck me how dark some of them sounded.

This must be me in some kind of funk (aka depression). The poem, Lonely, kind of nailed it on the head –

I sit at the window
And watch

As the world
Leaves me
Behind

This is exactly how I feel. Long story short, my hubby works long hours and travels out of state much of the time, and a son who’s busy with high school, sports, and hanging with his friends, so I am alone at home most of the time.

When I “retired” in 2015, I was looking forward to being home, and to be able to write without any time restraints. That same year we left the hectic city life that was Raleigh, NC and moved up to a farmstead just outside Grand Forks, it was just what I needed. I’d been battling anxiety which was steadily worsening and meds were not helping. With wide open spaces, I felt I was finally able to breathe.

Nearly four years later, anxiety is almost non-existent but depression is starting to take over my life. I mean, I am only in my 40s, and I feel I still have much to live for.

Everything that has happened to me, all the crap I went through, and the losses I’ve experienced, and they all come down to this—me, sitting at home, alone with just my laptop and nine cats.

I write, a lot. I interact with people via internet. But, I want more. I want to get back out into the world. I no longer want to hide and be left behind.

But, I am hampered with limitations of all kinds.

I don’t drive. There is public transportation but it’s limited to certain days and to certain places (none of where I’d love to go).

In the time I’ve lived here, I haven’t been able to establish any real friendships within the community (they tend to be quite “clicky” when it comes to “outsiders”).

Yet, with my hubby and son who practically can fend for themselves, I have no limit as to what I can do and where to go as far as time and availability. How do I narrow the chasm and break through to the other side?

As I sit here typing, there is a window next to the desk where I can watch birds pecking away on a pile of seeds my guys threw down weeks earlier, I am struck by how free they are to fly wherever they want yet they are limited. Limited by weather conditions and availability of food. These two determine where and when they fly. These limitations though do not seem to affect their attitude as they sing and flitter to and fro. Why? They take what they have in whatever condition things are and fly and sing anyway.

Yes, they have limitations but these do not stop them from being birds who still find ways to fly and sing to their little heart’s desire.

I want to do the same.

So, I will start with what I have and where I am at, and go from there. It’s time that I fly free regardless of my current limitations, and see where the sky leads me.

Mental Illness & Writing (My Story Part One)

“Being different and thinking differently make a person unforgettable.” –Suzy Kassem

My mental illness is definitely not something I generally like to talk about; however, it’s probably one of the main reasons why I write.

I saw this quote on the internet the other day, and it got me thinking about things.  Lots of things.

“No matter what we make, creativity always changes the creator.” -anonymous

Anyone who creates, whether you’re a photographer, musician, or writer (the list can go on and on), not only do you have the ability to change your own life through the act of creating, but other people’s lives as well.

How do creatives have such powerful impact?  One of the best answers I found was in this explanation:

“Art does not show people what to do, yet engaging with a good work of art can connect you to your senses, body, and mind. It can make the world felt. And this felt feeling may spur thinking, engagement, and even action.” -Olafur Eliasson, Why Art Has the Power To Change the World

To create is to connect. And in this day and age, we as the whole seemed to have lost the ability to truly connect with ourselves, to people, and to the world that surrounds us.

Is it a wonder to why we feel so lonely? So disconnected?

Yes, we have this thing called technology in abundance but it can NOT fully step into the role of the connector. While there is that feeling of being connected to someone on the other side of the digital barrier, it still feels artificial. Not real or alive.

On the other hand, creative arts have the ability to do just that.

Through music, paintings, sculptures, photographs, poetry, and on and on.  So, while art has the power to bring people together, it also has the power to heal especially for the creator (aka artist, songwriter, poet, etc…you get the idea).

How does art heal us?

Art and music affect every cell in the body instantly to create a healing physiology that changes the immune system and blood flow to all the organs. Art and Music also immediately change a person’s perceptions of their world. They change attitude, emotional state, and pain perception. They create hope and positivity and they help people cope with difficulties. They transform a person’s outlook and way of being in the world.” –How Art Heals-Mind/Body Physiology

Music has always been in my family especially on my mother’s side which yielded several musicians including an uncle who went on to play with an award-winning Native American-Folk band, December Wind.  As a girl, I can remember many occasions when family members gathered together at my Grandmother’s house for a “jam session” completed with guitars, banjo, fiddle, accordion, harmonica and even a set of spoons.  I was at an age where I was misunderstood (no one knew I was partially deaf until later) and music was something I understood. I’d sit on the floor, and “listened” to the beats and deep bass sounds for hours.

Although I loved music, I never learned to play an instrument (the desire was there though), I ended up singing in the school and church choirs for several years (I’d harmonized through the “beats” and reading music).

Since I couldn’t be a musician, I found myself drawn to words.  Words I also understood so I delved deep in the worlds created by words.  Here I connected with characters who became my friends since I had so few in the real world (byproduct of being “different”).  After accidentally discovering writing (the story behind this discovery can be found here), I’d took my favorite characters (Scooby Doo and Shaggy were among those) and created my own world with them in it.

Writing became a lifeline to the intense loneliness I’d felt.

When I was in college, I took to writing journals as a way of dealing with the stress and pressures that went with being a student living away from home.

In 1992, I stopped writing altogether.  This was the year I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome (a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa-progressive blindness-which included hearing loss).

Depression really emerged at this point in my life though I was never diagnosed.  And when I married my first husband, Aaron, anger replaced everything else I was feeling and he bore, unfortunately, the brunt of it.  The depression and anger steadily grew worse over time, and then the worst happened.

He was killed in a car accident.

Grief and regrets overwhelmed me, and I nearly did the unthinkable.  I backed out just before it was too late as I realized that this would be the ultimate regret that I could never return from.  Worse of all, it would hurt my family as well as Aaron’s.

I just couldn’t do it.

Instead, I poured all my attention and strength into finishing college (which I did over a year after Aaron’s death). By this time, I’d moved out in my own apartment, but also had regressed from all social activities becoming a hermit with very little contact to the outside world.

Then Jay came into my life (actually he returned to my life, but that is another story of its own).  He changed everything by not only marrying me, but by reintroducing writing back into my life through a gift of a leather-bound journal.

In this journal, I spew all my anger and pain like vomit.  When the pages were all full, I closed the book and packed it away (even to this day I have not gone back to read it).

Now being emptied, the healing can begin.

(This is just part one of my story.  I plan to continue in the near future)

Caged #IWSG

“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.”
― Richard Lovelace

For those of us who are attempting or have attempted to write our story (I’m referring to the story of our lives whether it’s a memoir or through short stories or poems), something always seem to stop us from finishing it (or in my case, starting).  It’s like there this solid wall blocking my way, more specifically my pen, from getting the words out of my head.

The words are there and so are the images, but I feel like my head (or something else altogether) is like a cage keeping them within invisible bars.

It is so utterly frustrating.

I keep asking myself – what’s holding me back?

Fear.

Fear of what? 

Of hurting someone who I love? Or, hurting myself?

Maybe both.

Fear of the truth. Of finally allowing myself to be freed of all the pain I kept locked in

A writer who’s caged by past regrets and unwilling to let them go because she believes she deserves all the pain she feels.

How messed up is that?

My heart knows I must write my story, but convincing whatever part of me that’s holding the words back has been a battle I’ve fought for years.

A battle I fear I will ultimately lose.

What about you? Are you struggling to free your words?

Q&A with Beth and Ezra Barany about PLAN YOUR NOVEL LIKE A PRO

 

 

*Today we have two very special and amazing guests with us! Let’s give Beth and Ezra Barany, both award-winning authors, a warm welcome! 

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about each of you, and why you both decided to work together as teachers and mentors.  When you’re not helping other writers, you both also write fiction. Tell us about them.

 

Beth here. Our collaboration didn’t happen overnight. When Ezra and I first met we were both writers, but not yet teachers. Pretty soon after getting married we decided to teach overseas. So we both got training in teaching English to foreigners. Then we went to Paris to teach English for two years.

When we got back home, Ezra got his credential to be a high school physics teacher and I went to work in a bookstore and then an office.

Fast forward 3 years, I decided to start a business helping writers as a creativity coach. Pretty soon when I started doing presentations, Ezra helped me with some of them. Then he had a break from teaching high school and started to teach more actively with me. He approaches writing differently than I do, so I really wanted to include his perspective so that the writers could benefit.

Over the years I’ve been asking him to teach various aspects that he knows well so that we have a more robust group of courses for writers.

I write young adult fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction mystery, and have series published in the first two. Many of my interests have been very different than Ezra’s and that’s been great. When I met him he was writing short stories in horror, mystery, and surrealistic fiction. Ezra has published 3 books in his Torah Codes series.

 

Presto! Ezra speaking! As Beth said, it took some time before we worked together as teachers. But uniting our teaching superpowers was inevitable by the way we both loved the craft and business of writing and wanted the world to see how fun it could be.

We toyed with the idea of cowriting a story, but our genres are so different, that we find it’s best if we stick to editing each other’s work.

 

  1. In what ways are your creative process different from one another, and how did you manage to weave them together as you teach and mentor other writers?

 

Beth here: I am much more of an organic writer than Ezra. I start with character and evolve the plot from there. I also start with a clear idea of my genre, and I think this is where he and I are similar.

And because I have an organic approach to the writing process I would notice where there were holes and ask to see if Ezra could fill them. Since he has a more linear approach to planning his novels I knew that would be helpful to some people, and I learned from it too.

 

Abracadabra! This is Ezra! I’m a plotter. A severe plotter. We’re talking write-every-detail-of-each-scene-on-index-cards plotter.

I tend to start with the “Holy crap! I didn’t see that coming!” idea of what happens in the thriller, and how it will make the reader want to share the thriller with all her friends.

From there, I think of the main moments that fit a standard hero’s journey or Act I II and III model, those moments that lead up to the climax I already have in mind. I usually do so by using a problem-solution tool, such as Problem: Jacob gets attacked by lobsters at the restaurant; Solution: Jennifer, chef extraordinaire, fends off the lobsters with a hatchet. I scribble the problem-solution scenes down on index cards and then I fill in missing scenes on more index cards.

My biggest issue is character development, and that’s where Beth saves the day. She asks me questions about the characters that make me discover there’s more to the story than I originally intended.

Overall, I’d say Beth’s strengths are my weaknesses in writing and vice-versa, so our skills complement each other in helping round out the skills of other writers.

 

  1. You both just published a book, Plan Your Novel Like a Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! Tell us about it, and about how you both put this together.

 

Beth here:This book is based on a course we have been teaching for over five years. The material just evolved out of mostly my process and then adding in Ezra’s process where it made sense.

I was the main driver in producing an editing the book and Ezra looked at everything, added editorial comments, and created the awesome cover with my input.

 

Ezra here: What she said.

 

  1. Where can we find this book?

 

You can find this book at all these vendors:

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

Other vendors

 

  1. Where is your favorite place to write?  Why?

 

Beth here: I love to plan and write my first draft at cafés. I love the ambient noise, the fact that even though I am alone in the project I am surrounded by other people doing their thing, and it gets me out of my house, so I have a change of pace.

 

Voila! Ezra at the post now! I love to dig holes in the ground and find chests of gold bullion and non-sequiturs.

As for places to write, I, too, like writing my first drafts at cafés. I like the possibility of someone coming up to me and saying, “You’re writing a thriller? No way! You’re the most amazing person in the world!”

It hasn’t happened yet, but yeah. That would be cool.

 

  1. In each of your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?

 

Beth here: One of the biggest obstacles facing writers today is just starting the process. Often writers don’t know where to begin and that can be overwhelming and confusing. Another huge obstacle is that they feel that there might be something wrong with them because their ideas don’t fit the mainstream. Lastly I see writers not even starting because they don’t think they can do it even though they really want to write a novel.

 

Ezra’s mouth talking now: I agree. B.I.C. is one of the toughest tasks writers have to overcome. B.I.C. stands for Butt In Chair. Getting started is hard for me and, I believe, for other writers. But there’s the five-minute solution. As soon as a writer sits down, tells herself, “I’m going to write for five minutes,” and starts writing, those five minutes typically end up being a half hour.

Another tough obstacle is the desire to get it right the first time. Analysis paralysis. I tell myself that my goal is to write crap and have fun doing it. Often, if I’m having fun writing the story, readers will enjoy reading it. Also, giving myself permission to write crap takes the pressure off to be perfect.

 

  1. Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?

 

Beth here: If you have the dream and the desire to write a novel but don’t know where to begin, then I recommend you start by setting the timer for five minutes and just write. Nonstop. Not caring about typos or anything. Not caring if you repeat yourself or write nonsense. Writing is a practice, writing is something you can get better at. And if you want to write a novel, you absolutely can. I believe in you.

 

Ezra here: *hug*

 

********

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

“I can honestly say this book saved a manuscript that was headed for the shredder!” — Ann W. Shannon

This book will help you get excited to plan your novel. The tools shared here are designed to spark your muse and give you confidence when you sit down to write your story. Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It! is for organic writers and pansters who want a roadmap to follow, so that they can let their creativity loose.

This 168-book comes with 20 chapters, lots of exercises, and a free bonus workbook.

 

About Beth Barany

Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist, master neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers. She specializes in helping writers experience clarity, so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers. Her courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. She runs an online school for fiction writers and a 12-month group coaching program to help them get published. More resources on publishing, book marketing, and novel writing are on her blog, Writer’s Fun Zone. When she’s not helping writers, Beth writes magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.

About Ezra Barany

Ezra Barany loves riveting readers with thrillers, but by order of the Department of Motor Vehicles he must place a warning on every book cover, “Do not read while driving.” His first two books in The Torah Codes series were award-winning international bestsellers. In his free time, he has eye-opening discussions on the art of writing novels with his wife and book coach Beth Barany. A high school physics teacher, Ezra lives in Oakland with his beloved wife and two cats working on the next book in The Torah Codes series. Ezra, not the cats. For a free short story in The Torah Codes series, “Mourner’s Kaddish,” go to http://www.thetorahcodes.com/.

 

 

 

 

Back On the Bandwagon! #Writerslife

Finally, have a new computer! Actually, it’s a (HP) laptop. Since I’ve never owned one before it has been a bit of a challenge getting used to the smaller screen and the compact keyboard; but, I can type again (no more finger-tapping on a tablet)!

Another challenge I’m facing is that I don’t have Word installed. On my old desktop, I was still working with the 2003 version which came with the computer, free! Guess they don’t do that anymore which sucks, but oh well. Now, I’m trying to figure out what’s the best way to get one–any suggestions?

Overall, I’m just really grateful to have something other than a tablet to work with especially as a writer who likes to type fast.

Why Writers Should Keep Writing

 

Some reasons as to why you should stay committed to your writing:

 

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
Peter Handke

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” —Albert Camus

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Ernest Hemingway

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
John Updike, WD

“I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.”
Andre Dubus III, WD

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
Ray Bradbury, WD

“Writers live twice.” —Natalie Goldberg

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
Paulo Coelho

“A day will come when the story inside you will want to breathe on it’s own. That’s when you’ll start writing.”
Sarah Noffke

“When we share our stories, what it does is, it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.”
Janine Shepherd

 

An Insecured Writer’s Rambles: Will My Writing Have Meaning?

 

*Note: Am participating in the #Write28Days (February) hosted by Anita Ojeda. Click here if you would like to participate.

 

Just celebrated a birthday last month. My 48th one. I’m finding it difficult to believe that I am almost the big 5-0 when most of the time my mind thinks I’m still in my 20’s.

Where on earth did the time go?

I can clearly remember my parents saying the same thing to me when they were in their 40’s.  The sad reality is, my father’s no longer with us. He passed away in 2014. He was only 67.

In my eyes, he was the true steward of God using his carpentry skills (he was so gifted with his hands especially in woodworking, crafting beautiful things) and his time for the church.  Those who knew my father always commented on how cheerful he was, all smiles and loved to whistle tunes from the 60’s as he worked.

Now, I’m looking at myself and wondering, what will people remember about me when I am gone from this earth? How have I used my talent/gift and time to reach others?

After a lifetime with disabilities (hearing and vision loss), I still struggle with my self-worth and whether my writing has any value (especially when most of what I write, both poetry and fiction, tend to be dark). It doesn’t help either when my husband and son think of my writing as just a “hobby” or “fantasy writing.”  And it also doesn’t help when my husband have discouraged me from ever publishing books since I am on disability benefits (there are other factors for his paranoia other than this one reason) when I have many, many stories and poetry within that I wish to share with the world.  So, I have resorted to having my short fiction and poetry published in non-paying zines a few times each year with the remaining items posted on this blog.

Is this me experiencing the dreaded “mid-life crisis?”  Is this me being vain as I worried if all that I’ve written will be lost forever once I am no longer here? How will people remember me? Just a woman who is so and so wife and mother?

I have been given this gift (writing) for a reason, and I don’t want to squander it.  So, no matter what, I will continue to write what’s on my heart and mind through whatever means I can find in the hope of reaching those who need reaching.