March Status Report: 2012 Goals


March has proven to be a busy in terms of the goals I set for 2012. This month was all about building my platform, which gave a few goals a nice jolt of progress.  However, the time and energy that went into platform building took time away from other projects on my list.  While frustrating at times, the lack of balance was a necessary evil.  The business of writing, (or in my case learning the business of writing), often asks writers to step back from the process of writing.  It’s painful to do, but I’m hoping it’ll pay off in the long run.

1) Submit five pieces of writing to contests, journal, literary magazines, or the newspaper.

When I wrote The Last Page I thought it might be something interesting to submit to some of the literary journals and magazines I have on my list.  It received good feedback and I’m encouraged to take it a step further after doing a tad more revising and editing. Thanks so much to everyone who left comments!

2) Finish minor changes in my first novel.

This is one of the projects that went untouched.  It’s going to get much more of my attention in April, mainly because of the progress made on Goal #4.

3) Work on my second novel.

Novel #2 kept me up at night with brainstorming and writing due to an almost constant stream of inspiration!  The story is moving forward with incredible speed, (I’ve never written anything this large so fast!) and I love how the plot line is coming together.  In addition,  the characters continue to evolve in amazing ways and I am so excited to be their chosen writer.

  • Starting word count: 49,651
  • End word count: 50,831
  • Total for March: 1,180

4) Send out five query letters and be ready with a synopsis.

The big news on this front is the fact that I finished writing a synopsis draft.  At the end of February I set a deadline of March 15 and that seemed to do the trick.  I was actually done well before that date and have already begun revisions.  In early April, I plan on sending a revised version to several beta readers.

As a result of completing the synopsis, my query letter got a total makeover.  Once sentence continues to bother me, but that will be resolved soon enough.

Seeing as deadlines seem to agree with me, I am setting a deadline of sending out my first query before the end of April.  Hold me to it!

5) Keep up with my blog.

Yet again, this goal has not been a problem.  I find so much inspiration and encouragement in the blogosphere!  I wrote and posted 25 blog entries this month and I appreciate everyone who stopped by to read and comment on them.

6) Network more with other writers.

Thanks to the Fourth Writers’ Platform Building Campaign, March was another banner month for my networking goals.  I’ve continued to meet and connect with so many wonderful people in the writing community.

In the campaign, my second entry (See Fatespeak), was shortlisted, but I have yet to hear anything more.  As soon as the site of the campaign is updated, I’ll have more information.  Regardless, I’m pretty excited to make it on the short list.  It’s the first time my writing has ever been recognized beyond the first round of judging in any competition.

UPDATE:  I found out this morning (thank you mywithershins and Melissa Maygrove for telling me!), that I won the Second Campaign Challenge!! I wish a had a better word than “excited,” but at the moment I’m too busy doing a happy dance to think of one!

As for social networking, my circle continues to grow as I follow writers, agents, and publishers.  I’m so honored to see my numbers grow on both Facebook and Twitter.  Thanks so much to everyone who follows me.

  • Facebook – I’m thrilled to report my Facebook page has experience another jump in followers, from 32 to 41.  My page was recently given a make-over to the timeline layout.  It looks amazing!  You can see it by clicking on the link: I appreciate all Likes so much. Thank you to those who have already clicked that button!
  • Twitter – 81 to 156 followers.  This was a huge a jump and I’m so excited to reach triple digits! While, I’m still learning Twitter lingo and etiquette, I’ve really enjoyed connecting to so many fellow writers.
  • If you are on Facebook or Twitter, follow along and I’ll follow back as long as you’re not a spambot. Shortcut buttons for both are on my sidebar.

Recently, I joined the World Literary Cafe, (see the button on my sidebar), and I plan on exploring this network over the next couple of weeks.  It looks like another golden opportunity to network with readers and writers.

7) Inspire other writers to keep writing.

As always, I can only hope I inspire those around me!

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c.b. 2012


Cliché Makeovers


I’ve heard “blind as a bat” so many times, I’m ready for that bat to be “dead as a doornail” just to put him out of his misery.  Clichés seem to invade everything from first drafts to finished novels and they will continue to do so until writers stop relying on them.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else, but a piece of wisdom I picked up a couple of years ago has reminded me to be a little more diligent about recognizing my cliché habits.

If it sounds like something you’ve heard before, you probably have and many times over.

This is not a new idea, but it’s one every writer should consider.  I don’t want to bore my readers and I certainly don’t want my writing to fall flat because I chose to use a cliché instead of conjuring something original.

While reading through Rip the Page by Karen Benke, I came across an exercise that fosters the ditching of clichés in a very interesting way.  Instead of avoiding them altogether, she challenges writers to put the zing back into these worn-out phrases:

  • Cold as snow
  • Hot as fire
  • Light as a feather
  • Pretty as a picture
  • Clever as a fox

Benke insists “your own golden language” is hiding underneath all those layers of cliché antiquity. Clichés are simply a place to start digging until the individual voice can speak.  She offers a little encouragement, by creating small prompts that give a new direction in which to think about each cliché.

  • Cold as the edge of . . .
  • Hot as the front row of a . . .
  • Light as the inside of . . .
  • Pretty as the sound of . . .
  • Clever as the way my dad . . .

I found this challenge irresistible and was immediately inspired to give these clichés a makeover. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Cold as the edge of a busy snow shovel.
  • Hot as the front row of a livestock show at the state fair.
  • Light as the inside of an angel food cake.
  • Pretty as the sound of pine needles sifting the wind.
  • Clever as the way my dad can get any old Chevy to start.

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How would you remake the above list of clichés?  Join in the fun and post your creative makeovers in the comments or post a link.  Stay inspired!

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For a great list of clichés, go here. I was surprised at some of the phrases that made the list and you might be as well!

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c.b. 2012

Seeds to Ponder


Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei is a profound work of art in both its simplicity and awe inspiring scope.  At first glance, it looks like a pile of sunflower seed husks, but upon closer inspection the incredible reality of this piece becomes apparent.  Each seed is handcrafted from porcelain and hand-painted.  No two are alike and more than 100 million were created for the initial exhibition that covered the the Turbine Hall at The Tate Modern.

"Sunflower Seeds" by Ai Weiwei, Original Exhibition in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, (Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons)

During the initial run of the exhibition, (October 2009 – May 2010), people were encouraged to interact with the installation by walking through, sitting or even lying down amid the seeds, but that was short lived as soon as health, safety, and preservation concerns caused it to be roped off.  I’m a little jealous of those who were able to tread through the seeds!

In 2011, the Tate put 8 million of the original seeds on display in response to Weiwei’s detainment by the Chinese government and subsequent disappearance¹.  The display, which represents about 1/10 of the original installation, sits in a large pile in an exhibition room on the third floor. While significantly smaller than the original, the intent and deeper meaning of Weiwei’s work has not been lost.

"Sunflower Seeds" by Ai Weiwei, Tate Museum, London, June 2011, c.b.w.

While open to interpretation on many levels, the intent of Sunflower Seeds reaches into a dark chapter of Chinese history and the human spirit.  During the Cultural Revolution, (a particularly brutal era in history where people lost basic human rights and were stripped of cultural traditions), Mao Zedong launched a massive propaganda campaign where in some instances he depicted himself as the sun and the people as sunflowers who turn their heads to follow him.  However, the artist sees sunflower seeds as a traditional food shared among friends in China and is therefore a symbol of friendship and compassion.  This duality of symbolism creates an interesting insight into the human spirit.  Even in times of strife and struggle, kindness and goodwill continue to survive.

In addition,  Weiwei’s installation offers social commentary on today’s society.  The Tate poses several questions to consider while viewing the seeds:

  • What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society?
  • Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together?
  • What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?

I had the pleasure of spending some time with this installation last summer, but even after an hour of regarding the Weiwei’s work and contemplating these questions I am no closer to answering them.  Though, I am reminded of a favorite quote, which sums up my general impression of the piece:

What happens to people who spend their lives afraid to voice their opinions? They stop thinking, most likely.

– Ivan Klíma

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¹He was released in June 2011, but remains under scrutiny.

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Tate Modern Exhibition Pages

Ai Weiwei on Wikipedia

The Guardian – Detained Artist Weiwei Remembered . . .

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c.b. 2012

Wreck This Journal: Back To Nature


As a child, I spent a lot of time wandering through the Northwoods of Wisconsin picking up leaves, sticks, acorns, rocks, and anything else I could find to add to my little collection.  Nature has always fascinated me from the largest trees to the smallest pebbles.  So, when Wreck This Journal gave directions to “press leaves and other found things,” I was ecstatic!

From the woods of Northern Wisconsin and the beaches of South Carolina

To complete this page, I went straight to my craft closet where, I have a drawer dedicated to “naturals” that has everything from rocks, pressed leaves, twigs and a slew of other things I’ve picked up over the years.

I paid homage to the Northwoods by representing Oak, Maple, Birch, and Popple trees with a pressed leaf for each.  Seeing as red maple leaves are my favorite, I made sure to include one on my page.  I ironed the leaves in between two sheets of wax paper to keep them safe, but to also relive a favorite childhood memory of making leaf “sun catchers” with the same technique.  I pasted it to the page and then set about adding a few more pieces of nature.  I glued some birch bark along the upper left corner and then attached a bag of  little keepsakes from a place other than the woods. The seashells and shark tooth are from the beaches of South Carolina, which always make me think of time I spent with my Dad.  He’s the one who taught me how to find shark teeth in the sand and that’s always been one of my favorite memories of him.

Once again, Wreck This Journal has conjured wonderful memories and returned me to a frame of mind where leaves rustle, trees sway, and waves crash against the shore.  Perhaps, I am drawn to natural beauty because it anchors me to the things that matter most.

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For previous Wreck This Journal posts, please visit my sidebar and tag cloud. Stay inspired!

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c.b. 2012

Spreading Some Sunshine


One of these days someone is going to have to explain to me why I’ve been blessed with such wonderful readers. Seriously, you all blow me away with your kindness and encouragement.  While I’m still giddy from last week’s Versatile Blog Award and breaking all those rules, now I’m even giddier with another kind nomination from mywithershins.  To receive The Sunshine Award from such a talented and delightful blogger is really quite an honor.  Thank you for posting such beautiful words and inspiration every day.

Spread Some Sunshine!

I broke a few rules last week and I’m ready to break a few more seeing as I accepted the Sunshine Award a few weeks ago.  Once again, I’d like to give the spotlight to a few very deserving blogs, but it also seems like a good idea to spread some sunshine to every reader on every blog.  So how about trying something a little different?

If you’re feeing a little rebellious, take the spirit of the Sunshine Award to heart and post sunshine related quotes, images, and pieces of writing as a means of accepting the award.  Being the little rebel I am, I’m accepting my Sunshine Award under these guidelines!

My sunshine related quote comes right out of the first pages of my quote journal as Helen Keller’s words are among my favorite.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.

– Helen Keller

With Vincent Van Gogh still very much on my mind, his brilliant painting of the sun seems a perfect partner for Keller’s words of wisdom.

Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun by Vincent Van Gogh

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May the light of the sun find you today and always.

– c.b.w.
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Each of these bloggers lights up my day with fantastic posts and insights and I’m so excited to nominate them for The Sunshine Blog Award.  To claim it, you may go the traditional route of following the rules or try the alternative activity of posting a sunshine related quote or piece of writing on your blog. When passing the award to 10 more people, you may again go with tradition or be a rebel.  For the traditional rules and requirements, see Now You’re All Just Spoiling Me.

Wings of Wonder – Your paintings and fearless creativity make your blog an incredibly inspiring place to be.  Thank you for always having such a positive outlook and for using bright colors!

Rough Water John – My favorite pirate poet, you are either writing the most beautiful poetry imaginable or making me laugh with your brilliant sense of humor.  Thank you for always being so creative and unique.

The View Outside – Hee hee! I get to tag you back with an award.  I hope you’ll take the sunshine challenge and write something beautiful, (just as you always do).

Peach Farm Studios – What would I do without Wry the typewriter?  Or all the beautiful images and nuggets of inspiration? Peach Farm feeds my muse like no other!

Doodlemum – I wait each day for your wonderful sketches of kids doing kid things, dogs, cats, and so many wonderful other daily life scenes.  Thank you for making me laugh and giving the little things in life a moment in center stage.

1 Story A Week – I am always amazed by the depth and quality of the stories you post each week.  Your characters and plot lines are so original and always reach someplace deep.  Thank you for pasting amazing fiction.

A Trail of Breadcrumbs – I have loved your blog since my first visit.  Your travels, photos, and unparalleled creativity always inspired me, but what I enjoy most is your spirited personality.  Your zest for life comes through in all your posts.  Thank you for giving joy such a strong voice.

The Gratitude Garden – Your posts on gratitude highlight the very best life has to offer.  Each list inspires me to make one of my own each day.  Thank you for shedding light on the beauty of being grateful for what we have.

Crow River Writer – I recently started following your blog and it is such a joy to read.  Your sense of humor gets me laughing and your kindness is knows no bounds.  Thank you for writing with so much enthusiasm and reminding me why I love YA fiction so much.

Melissa Maygrove – Your blog always gets me thinking with engaging topics of discussion.  Its easy to to see your passion for writing and determination to make your dreams come true.  I find that very inspiring and motivating – Thank you for giving a such a strong voice to aspiring authors.

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c.b. 2012