To Do List: 2017

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I hesitate to make so-called resolutions, but I do love a good to-do list. Instead of making the oh so predictable list of goals for the year, I’m going to dig through the list of things in my head I keep meaning to do. These are things that keep piling up thanks to life getting in the way or they are simply forgotten in the cluttered mess that is my head.

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.

The last one is probably why everything else in my life is full of just too much. After four years of many personal losses, it’s been hard to let things go. The fact that I have awareness and understanding of this fact is why I’m now able to move forward. I no longer need to hold onto so many things to feel anchored. I can let go.

The following areas are where I’m focusing my energy:

Shelves

  • Bookshelves throughout the house. This is actually where I started. On January 1, I cleared out close to 150 books.
  • DVD shelf – we have almost 1,000 DVDs. There’s no way we need that many. Clearly, we love TV and Movies, but I know there are quite a few duds on the shelf!
  • CD Shelf – Same deal as the DVD shelf. There is some weird stuff on this shelf and it’s time to sift out the duds.

Closets: There’s too much of just about everything: blankets, sheets, clothes, shoes, etc.

  • master closet
  • linen closet
  • hobby closet

Hobby/Guest Room

  • Multiple shelves jammed with stuff (not even sure what)
  • Barbie Collection – I have close to a hundred dolls, but I want the collection to be more streamlined to reflect my love of vintage and vintage-look dolls. So far, I’ve pulled 21 dolls to give away or sell. 

Writing Area

  • One of the biggest culprits of clutter are old journals, multiple novel drafts, and writing reference books. A lot of this comes from figuring out who I am as a writer. I’ve figured it out and now it’s time to sort through the paper trail and discard what no longer matters, (i.e. rough drafts, journals full of scribbles).

Classroom

  • Supply closet – OMG. So much stuff has landed here over 17 years.
  • Storage area in department office – started this last year, but more work needs to be done

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!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

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

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

The road to National Board Certification has been brutal. It is not fun navigating a newly rolled out process because there are so many unknowns. Previously certified teachers can’t really help, nor can the coaches. I have one more component to finish and hopefully it will be enough to not only survive, but achieve National Board Certification.

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.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

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

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What’s on your To Do List for 2017?

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c.b.w. 2017

Favorite Thing Friday: Letting Stuff Go

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We all have that one closet. You know, the one that hasn’t been opened in months for fear of an avalanche. Such a closet lurks within the clean exterior of my guest bedroom. For years, I’ve been slowly filling it with scrapbooking supplies, beads, buttons, ribbon, fabric, tools, glue, paint, and about a million other things.  Yup, my avalanche closet is the craft closet. Every time I open the door, I wonder if I should have worn a helmut. How scary is that??

Every crafter has the same problem. Where do you put all the little odds and ends left over from a project? Or the supplies you bought for a project you’ll make in the future? What about the half finished projects you’ll get around to finishing later? Before you know it, an entire closet is filled from floor to ceiling.

My craft closet may classify me as a pre-hoarder. For the last 15 years, I’ve saved everything craft related because I kept thinking there would be a project down the line where a thingamabob would be useful. On top of that, I inherited a bunch of stuff from my grandma’s craft closet. Saving her craft items went beyond possible future use. In many ways, holding onto her things helped me hold onto her.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that saving a mountain of objects to preserve an emotional attachment to a loved one is not healthy. Nor is it a good idea to hold onto five different colors of unused raffia for ten years. There comes a point where it’s time to clear things out and let them go.

This week, I started the grueling process of pulling out boxes, sorting items, and organizing. Despite my practical attachment to useful items, I’m finding it surprisingly easy to discard items I no longer need, (no matter how good it is). Some things end up in the trash, while others go in a donation box. I found a great little thrift store that accepts gently used craft items. Boy, are they in for a windfall donation when I get done with this closet!

While the clearing out process has been invigorating, there are moments of struggle. Yesterday, I went through all of my paper crafting  supplies and rubber stamps. Making cards and scrapbook journals were projects I did with my Grandma and many of the items I have belonged to her.

As I sat with two giant boxes of stamps and stacks of decorative card stock, I thought about a conversation I had with my mother. She reminded me that I don’t have to hold onto every little thing my Grandma owned in order to remember her. The memories are always going to be there, even without the stuff. And you know what? My mother is 100% right.

I kept a few things I know I’ll use, but I got rid of the rest. Another donation box is full and I have a feeling my Grandma would approve. As more things leave my closet, so does the weight of keeping all of that stuff. What a nice feeling it is to be so light.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2015

Favorite Thing Friday: Knitting Nook

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For the last year, all of my knitting supplies have wandered aimlessly through the house. The yarn squatted in a corner by the bookshelf, my tools and current projects took up residence on the dining room table, and my pattern books scattered to just about every room in the house. It was starting to get a little ridiculous.

Part of the problem was I didn’t really have a “thing” that could hold everything or a place where everything could be organized. That all changed this week.

Years ago, my Grandma told me she wanted me to have her sewing cabinet. This week my Grandpa told me I could take it home. It’s an old and beautiful piece of furniture that held all of her thread, needles, buttons, and scissors.  As a child, I spent many hours sitting beside it while learning how to sew. Over the years, its been refinished many times with varnish, paint, and new knobs, but it always looks the same to me! No matter what, I will always see my Grandma opening those drawers.

I was so excited to bring my Grandma’s sewing cabinet home! I stayed up late polishing the wood and cleaning out the drawers. It turns out all my knitting needles fit in the bottom drawer and all my knitting tools fit perfectly into the sections for spools of thread. Finally, a “thing” for my knitting stuff!

I scooted the cabinet into a bay window and everything else just fell into place. The yarn baskets fit snuggly along the side wall. A magazine holder my Grandpa made holds all my previously scattered knitting magazines. Likewise, a wooden stool he made is now a “shelf” for all of my pattern books. The top of the cabinet is the new home for my current project and knitting journal. In addition, a craft lamp I’ve haven’t used in years finally has a place to sit (that isn’t in a closet).

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Do you think I have enough yarn?

My little knitting nook makes me want to knit even more than I already do. It’s cozy, warm, and holds beautiful memories of my grandparents. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Let The Query Games Begin!

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Now that the final draft of my novel is complete, it’s time to start pitching! This is no easy task as finding the right agent is a lot like trying to buy the perfect pair of jeans – there is only one that will fit perfectly.

Over the last few months, I’ve compiled a list of possible agencies and agents that might be interested in representing my work. Even with a small list, there is a lot to keep track of in terms of submission requirements and information about specific agents. To stay organized, I created a spreadsheet that lists everything I need to remember before, during, and after my query letter is out of the gate.

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The first column is pretty basic with the agency name, but I get a little more detailed in the second column. This is where I list a specific agent within the agency along with a contact e-mail. In addition, I included quoted material from his or her profile that reminds me why I think he or she might be interested in my novel. I figure I can use this information to personalize my query letter to that particular agent.

The third column includes submission data such as requirements specific to the agent/agency and any actions I have taken. Not only does this save me the time of having to constantly revisit agency websites, but it ensures I avoid making the monumental mistake of sending my query letter more than once to the same agent.

The last column is where I record my current status with a given agent/agency. I suspect I’ll be adding the word “rejected” throughout this column, but the optimist in me knows I only need one box to read “full manuscript request.”

My system might be tad over-organized, but that’s how I roll. Once things start happening, I’m sure I’ll add a color-coding component in the Status column!

Luck has a lot to do with landing an agent, but a little organization can’t hurt, either!

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How do you stay organized in your writing life?

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c.b.w. 2013

A Bookshelf of Organized Chaos

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Recently, the photograph that runs along my sidebar was a topic of conversation with a friend.  It isn’t something I pulled off the internet, but rather a photograph I took of my personal bookshelf.   The shelf is one of the more noticeable features of my home as it covers the an entire wall in my dining room.  It reaches all the way to the ceiling and it is rammed with hundreds of books.  With such a large collection, it would make sense to have  a sophisticated system of organization – like alphabetizing or Dewey Decimal – to make it easy to find any book.  I’ve mentioned my highly organized nature, so naturally there is a system in place, but no one really knows how it works except for me!   Nothing is alphabetized or numbered and genre based categories are not utilized. Everything is neatly shelved, but aside from that it looks like a haphazard stack to the untrained eye.  Despite my unorthodox ways, I know where each and every book is located.  Below is a larger scale photograph of my shelf and a list of the categories I use to keep everything in working order.

Writers I Admire
Location: Second Shelf

I carved out a special section to store the books of authors who I hold in high regard as a reader and as an aspiring writer.  The likes of David Foster Wallace, Ivan Klíma, John Irving, Michael Chabon, Paul Auster, Dennis Potter, Guy de Maupassant, Vladimir Nabokov, and Paulo Coehlo populate this area of the wall along with a few other new recruits.  I keep these writers grouped together because they inspire me to continue experimenting with my own style of writing.  I don’t want to emulate them, but rather write with the same spirit of courage, creativity, honesty, boldness, and heart.

Books I’ve Read
Location: Second Shelf (far right, part of which is not visible in the picture), Third Shelf (1/4 way in from the left and extends to the far right which is not visible), Fourth Shelf (From the left edge up to The Da Vanci Code).

If you have visited the “My Bookshelf” tab, you’ll probably spot several of those titles stacked on my shelves.  I keep most books I’ve read if I enjoyed them, (some are double stacked behind what is visible).  Whatever I don’t keep is sold to Half-Price Books where I usually have the cash in my hands for an entire five minutes before buying something “new.”

The books are grouped in such a strange pattern on different shelves in order to link different categories without creating too much disruption.  I tend to read YA at a fast pace, which means just about every book in that section has been read.  That creates a nice meeting point to start stacking all other books I’ve read.  The other meeting point connects to Authors I Admire as the vast majority of those books have also been read.

These books are shelved in the order in which they were read.  Books on the right are the most recently read, which makes it easier to distinguish them from the next category . . .

Books I Haven’t Read
Location: Third Shelf (far right, starting after Martin Amis and continuing to a point that is not visible in the photograph), Fourth Shelf (starting after The Da Vinci Code and extending beyond the scope of photograph).

The largest category by far, but I would rather have too much to read than not enough.  The books are stacked on different shelves for a purely logistical reason – size.  The hardcovers are too big to fit on the third shelf and the collection as a whole is too big to fit all on one shelf.

Almost Finished Reading
Location: Third Shelf (in the middle, right after Water For Elephants and stopping at The Collected Short Stories of Anton Chekov)

These are books that for whatever reason I never got to the last page.  Perhaps another book caught my attention or I just didn’t get into the story.  I can usually remember where I left off and almost always return to them at one time or another.  I figured the perfect place for them was right in between read and unread, like a buffer zone of sorts.

Young Adult

Location: Third Shelf (left Side) and Fourth Shelf (left Side)

Ever since I read Twilight, (yeah, I’m one of those people), I found myself drawn into the YA genre.  There are a number of series of which I’ve become a devoted follower.  What I love about YA is the storytelling aspect.  The writing may not be fine literature, but the stories are usually very original and always a good bit of fun.  After reading something heavy or difficult, I love jumping into a realm where I don’t have to analyze every single word.

The series I’ve collected include, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Twilight series, (which has actually turned into anything by Stephanie Meyer), Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, Lauren Kate’s Fallen Series, Percy Jackson, and Claudia Gray’s Evernight series.

I tend to mix read with unread, but only because I go through them so quickly.  At the moment, there’s only a few I haven’t read, which means it’s time to start stockpiling again!

Size again plays a role in why YA occupies two shelves instead of one.  Harry Potter and parts of the Twilight collection are too tall to fit the third shelf, while the rest of YA is too short to properly fill up the fourth shelf, (sometimes aesthetics have to be considered).

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