New Year, New Things To Do

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve made to-do lists to keep me on track in terms of things I want to accomplish or to at least keep me focused in a few key areas that are important to me. 2018 turned out to be a year of great distraction, but also productive in some regards.

My To Do List for 2019 remains the same, but with a few adjustments.

  1. Read. A lot.

2018: Goodreads 2018 Challenge to read 40 books: Accomplished and Exceeded with 43 books).

2019: I set the same reading goal of 40 books. In addition, I joined a book discussion group online – a first for me! The idea is to keep up with it and be more involved in the literary community.

2. Write and Submit

2018: This is where I got distracted by a number of things. I did not write as much as I have in the past and only submitted a few pieces. The challenge of a new day job, increased activity in another area of interest, and a simple lack of motivation contributed to this.

2019: The realization of my distraction hit me hard and made realize how much I miss writing. This is going to be a year of finding my groove again and truly deciding what I want to write. I’m looking at some freelance opportunities and I know will absolutely continue writing poetry. However, I also want to jump back into fiction and blogging on a more regular basis. As far submitting goes, I think I have some soul-searching to do and once I find my groove, I can start thinking about what to submit and where. This is clearly a rebuilding year!

3. Travel.

2018: I thrived in this aspect traveling to Indiana multiple times, Florida (new to me!), Italy, and Switzerland. As someone who travelled extensively years ago, it was nice to get back in this saddle. I fully intend on continuing this trend.

2019: Wheels are already in motion on the travel front. I’ll be heading to Belgium in the summer with plans to visit at least one other bordering country while I’m there. I’m also hoping to visit a new state within the U.S.

4. Look for open doors and step through them.

2018: The open door I walked through lead to a new position at work. As a whole, I love what I’m doing, but it’s not without challenges and the frustration of learning a new job (for which there is no training!). Still, I love the concept of looking for opportunities and staying open to them instead of remaining complacent. Huge life lesson learned!

2019: Keep watch for those open doors and opportunities. Never again do I want to find myself bored and unstimulated because I’ve been doing the same thing for too long.

5. Give.

2018: I walked into this one with grand goals, which I constructed before I even thought about applying for my new job! That being said, I did end up accomplishing a fair amount of giving. With my students, we knit about 2 dozen hats for charity. Whenever, I have a few moments, I pick up my crochet hook or knitting needles and crank out a hat or a kennel blanket.

2019: I still plan on using my crafty skills to do some good. This year I’ll be looking for ways to get students more involved in the process, while carving out some personal time to create things that challenge my skills and benefit organizations I care about the most.

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c.b.w. 2019

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Choice

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half-awake I remember
yesterday was a bad day
I clutch the blankets
reluctant to move
All the things I want to avoid
are out there waiting for me
winning a battle I never
wanted to fight
It would be easier
to stay here and hide
To give in give up
and keep my nose clean
But that isn’t me
All those things
trying to win
Can’t beat my most
genius move
I have a choice
to rise
to fight
to smile
and give
give
give

 

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free-verse, c.b.w. 2018

 

Checking Off The 2017 To-Do List

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Last year, I made a to-do list instead of New Year’s Resolutions. Weirdly, it worked better than any set of goals or list of resolutions I’ve ever made. Some boxes still need to be checked, but overall I can count 2017 as being quite productive.

Item #1: Declutter

Give the state of my head, this one makes sense! However, the clutter in my head is only part of the problem. The house is cluttered, My classroom is cluttered. The past is cluttered.

Done! As someone who just seems to naturally collect things, this was a tough task. I cleared out more than 150 books, 100 CDs and DVDs, 20+ dolls, countless objects from closets, and even more stuff from my classroom and associated storage areas. My classroom in particular feels like an entirely new (and open) space.

In many ways, I have a clean and clear slate. It feels great! There’s still a little more work to do on some shelves and one closet, but I’m ready to dive in and clear even more out.

Item #2: Publish Something

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written over a thousand haiku. I think it’s about time to put together a chapbook or two! I’m probably going to self-publish using a digital platform. There are so many options out there, many of which are free, so I don’t have much of an excuse not to do this!

The same goes for my novel. I’m going to get back into the game of sending out query packages, but I’m also going to dig deeper into research regarding self-publishing outlets. It’s time to get this done!

This is still on the to-do list, unfortunately. However, it isn’t from lack of trying. I managed to score some little victories that pull the dream of publication closer to reality. Between personalized query responses, a top ten finish in a poetry competition, a full manuscript request, and upcoming competitions, this item still has my focus.

Item #3: Read 35 Books

As I have for the last five years, I’ve once again joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Done! I was a lean, mean reading machine this year with a grand total 47 books.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

The road to National Board Certification has been brutal … I have one more component to finish and hopefully it will be enough to not only survive, but achieve National Board Certification.

Done! By some miracle, I not only finished, but achieved National Board Certification. It’s still sinking in and it still feels totally and completely surreal.

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

I need to eat better, sleep better, and leave more stress at the door. I let the day job invade much too large of a space in my life and it’s time to push it back to where it belongs: at work.

Done in some areas, needs work in others. I’ve definitely created stronger divisions between my personal and professional life and it has impacted me in a positive way. I’ve eliminated a huge source of stress and I feel much better on a daily basis. It’s amazing how setting clear guidelines for your personal and professional time can make such a big difference. Sometimes work does have to come home with me, but I’m careful about how much time it’s allowed to take. Most things I think have to be done right now, can actually wait.

As far as eating better – I’m working on it. That darn chocolate and severe dislike of cooking are hurdles I will have to work harder at overcoming!

As for sleeping better – I’m a lost cause. I’m an insomniac to the core, but I’m getting better at relaxing at more reasonable hours.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

I miss traveling. It’s time for another adventure. 🙂

Yes, it is! My husband and I renewed our passports this summer. We were unable to go anywhere in 2017 due to our elderly furbaby who needed constant care. However, with his sad passing and taking the time to grieve, we have reached a new chapter in our lives. Amsterdam is at the top of our list for the coming summer!

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As 2018 approaches, I’m already thinking about what’s next on the To-Do List. Stay tuned! 🙂

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How did your To Do List go for 2017?

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c.b.w. 2017

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Nuggets of Good News

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It’s been a good month …

Three years ago I started the process for National Board Certification. For teachers this is an advanced credential that goes beyond state licensure, (and is often accepted in place of a Master’s Degree). Less than 5% of all teachers nationwide have National Board Certification. The process is rigorous and I almost quit after a few setbacks.

However, I stuck with it and didn’t give up. I’m proud to say I found out this weekend that all my hard work has paid off – I am a National Board Certified Teacher!

Like a dork, I put those little letters – NBCT – after my name within in a hour of receiving my scores. In my real-life, day job, this is huge and it’s still sinking in.

In my writing life, slow and steady progress continues. I participated in #PitMad on Twitter earlier this month and actually got a hit! An editor liked my pitch and requested a full manuscript. That’s the furthest I’ve ever made it in the query process. It still may end up as a rejection, but I’m still taking it as a victory for the simple fact that I’ve reached that mythical step of a manuscript request.

After a Top Ten Finish in the 2016 November PAD Challenge (via Poetic Asides and Writer’s Digest), I rode the momentum wave and created a chapbook for the 2017 competition. I’m in the final editing stages and will be submitting it within the next week or so.

With Winter Break approaching, I’ll be making the most of all this momentum. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2017

Peering Out From Rejection

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Can you see me over the enormous pile of rejections I’ve collected? Maybe if I jump you’ll catch a quick look at the top of my head. It’s rough out there and I’ve got the battle scars to prove it! That being said, this round of queries was actually more successful than all previous rounds. Success is all in how to you choose to define it, right?

I call this round successful because it has the highest rate of actual responses. This means I got personalized emails, rather than the usual deafening, soul crushing silence that makes me think my query package ended up in a black hole somewhere.

In total, I sent out 13 query packages that included a revamped query letter (which I created after taking a great workshop at Phoenix Comicon). Considering this was a test run for the new query letter and freshly drafted synopsis, I decided to keep the total number packages sent out on the low end.

Within 9 weeks, I received 6 personalized responses from agents. The last one came just a couple of weeks ago. All were very positive and encouraging, citing that my project just wasn’t right for them. While its never fun to be rejected, I do take some pride in the fact that I wasn’t chastised for terrible writing or told I should give up (I’ve heard horror stories from writers who have received rejections of this nature).

With 7 total responses, that means 53% took the time to answer me and they did so with something other than a form letter. You know what? I’ll take that with a smile. In previous rounds of queries, I was lucky to see a 30% response rate. This is progress.

On the other hand, there were six black holes. I’m in the process now of learning how to check in with agents who have not responded. I’ve never been brave enough to do it, but at this point, I don’t think I really have anything to lose!

In addition, I’m diving right back into the battlefield. I’ll be participating in #PitMad on Twitter today! Search the hashtag and you just might see my pitches for my novel. If an agent favorites the tweet, that means they are requesting a submission. It’s my first time, so I have no idea what to expect. Nothing may come of it, but I figure it’s worth a try. And it’ll be fun to see what other authors are pitching!

The rejection pile is high and mighty, but I keep telling myself one thing: All it takes is one “yes.”

 

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c.b.w. 2017