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Hey Kids! There’s a New Blog in Town!

Well, in my spare minute a day I started a new blog. I think you can never have too many irons in the fire, right? Anyway, it’s just a silly look at the many books out there that never quite made it to “Great American Novel” status. It just went up today, and if anyone is bored…please stop by and check it out! I plan to update it very often. Hope you like it!!

The Opposite of Bestseller

http://theoppositeofbestseller.wordpress.com/

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The Results Are In!

Thank you all so much for answering my survey I posted a few days ago. I was looking for insight from my wonderful blog readers on what types of stories I write here on “Fortyteen Candles” that you all find the most interesting, entertaining and enjoyable. Without a doubt, according to the results from my survey, the most interesting stories to you all are 1. Stories about living in suburbia and my neighbors (heh heh heh….) and 2. Stories about my experiences as a nurse.

Honestly, when I started this blog I KNEW it would be a great place for me to vent my frustrations about living in a cookie cutter town full of uninteresting people who like to form cliques and one up each other materialistically or child achievementally. Thank you all for confirming my belief that this is a very entertaining subject that is best suited to scathing sarcasm with a twist of sheer joy. My neighbors continue to drive me insane, and I’ll have more stories soon as our Halloween Trick or Treating interactions have awakened my muse and gotten her to work on some urgent therapeutic writing.

Something my survey pointed out that really surprised me was your interest in my work and experiences as a nurse. Nursing is something I went into in response to a strong desire I have to help and take care of other people. This is something that is just programmed into me and I don’t see it objectively. I never think what I do is anything above and beyond what humans should do for each other every day, or would do if they were in a situation to do so, therefore I never think it would be interesting or entertaining in any way for others to read about.

The interactions I have with my patients, families and co-workers are on an emotional, philosophical, moral and spiritual level at times. I don’t know how these translate into print, but my general impression since they evoke “feelings” is that they would be dull and non action-packed. Translation = “dull” writing-wise. However, the comments I’ve received on my stories about nursing, as well as on this survey, have really opened my eyes to the value of sharing these experiences with others. It is important for others to know that in this world of increasing depersonalization there are still people out there who care, and will always care, for others in need. I have taken these comments very seriously and it has given me a lot to think about as I organize my next big writing project.

So, since it is hard for me to only focus on one project at a time, I’ve started sorting in my mind two separate writing projects….one for suburbia and the neighbors who drive me insane, and one for my experiences as a nurse. I really appreciate the time you all took to give me your feedback. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again!

 

SO MANY AWARDS…WWSFD?

Seriously…What Would Sally Field Do? I have to replay this clip, because only she can express my gratitude in a way that goes beyond mere words on the page:

Alright, I’ve been such a slacker lately. Always putting off for tomorrow what I should be doing today. I’ve been so fortunate as to have been nominated for NINE AWARDS over the past few months. I always think, “I’ll do the requirements tomorrow and spread the love to some other deserving bloggers!” But, tomorrow comes and goes, and these amazing awards sit unacknowledged. I can stand it no longer. They deserve to see the light of day.

So…this morning I made it Priority Uno to sit down at my computer and put together a list of all the thoughtful people who have nominated my blog for a bounty of amazing awards. I would like to thank you all for considering me…and YES I ACCEPT EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM!!! You are all so kind and generous. I’m one lucky blogger, for sure! I hope you will be forgiving that I cannot follow the specific rules of each award requirement. I’ll do my best to morph them into one rule requirement so I can properly accept these. Following are the amazing bloggers and the awards they nominated me for. The next section is a list of who I’m nominating for each award, and the general acceptance criteria. Thank you, again, for your consideration! I can only hope you’ve enjoyed my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed and looked forward to reading all of yours!

1. Reader Appreciation Award, nominated by http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/ (p.s. this link was so old that it no longer appeared! I had to use my own creativity to come up with this show-stopper image):

2. Beautiful Blogger Award, nominated by http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com/ and http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

3. One Lovely Blog Award, nominated by http://teepee12.wordpress.com/ and http://tinylessonsblog.com/ and

http://mindfulness4now.wordpress.com/

4. Liebster Blog Award, nominated by http://viewfromthesunroom.wordpress.com/ and http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

5. Reality Blog Award, nominated by http://tinylessonsblog.com/

6. Addictive Blog Award, nominated by http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/

7. Very Inspiring Blogger Award, nominated by http://baarmychris.wordpress.com/

8. Seven Things About Me Award, nominated by http://thefurfiles.wordpress.com/ and http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

9. The Booker Award, nominated by http://mindfulness4now.wordpress.com/

The Rules of this Nomination:

1. Identify and show appreciation of the blogger who awarded you

2. You must add the award logo to your blog

3. Tell your readers 7 things about yourself

4. You must nominate 5 – 10 of your favorite bloggers for this award

5. Inform your nominees that you’ve nominated them

A. Appreciation!

1. Thank you to http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/ for your two nominations. You are so generous!

2. Thank you  http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com you are very kind!

3. Thank you http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/you are amazing!

3.  Thank you http://teepee12.wordpress.com/ you are wonderful!

5. Thank you http://tinylessonsblog.com you are thoughtful!

6. 4. Thank you …http://mindfulness4now.wordpress.com/ you are very lovely!

7. Thank you….//viewfromthesunroom.wordpress.com/ you are very supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

8. Thank you…http://baarmychris.wordpress.com/ you are very sweet!

9. Thank you…http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/ you are very supportive!

10. Thank you…http://thefurfiles.wordpress.com/ you are very awesome!

I love all of your blogs so much, you are all inspiring and creative people. Thanks so much for being part of my WordPress world!

B. Seven things about Fortyteen Candles:

1. Pets: two cats, a rabbit and a fish

2. I am horrible at returning library books on time. HORRIBLE!

3. I think I can count on one two hands the number of “great book ideas” I have floating around in my head.

4. I wish I was able to live by the ocean. I think the smell of salt air and the sound of endless waves are energizing to the soul.

5. Chocolate. Enough said.

6. Coffee. Ditto.

7. I hope to do more traveling someday. There is so much more of this world I’d like to know.

My Nominees…aka “The Fab Five-to-Ten-ish” If you accept this nomination, please pick an award from those listed above that you desire, follow the rules you’ve decided to follow and share the wealth with others.

1. http://s1ngal.wordpress.com/

2. http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

3. http://tinylessonsblog.com

4. http://wordsbecomesuperfluous.com

5. http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

6. http://bellybuttonblues.wordpress.com/

7. http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/

8. http://jillinoisrn.com/

9. http://lifeonwry.com/

10. http://40isthenew13.wordpress.com/

11. http://thefurfiles.wordpress.com/

Na.No.Wri.Slo

This November a yearly writing journey begins for thousands of aspiring novelists. National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo” was created years ago as a way for struggling writers to finally put a time limit on their dreams and commits them to finishing a novel in an international group effort.  Ideally, this would be one of the fabled Great American Novels. But, as any true writer knows, just having a completed manuscript is worth all the gold in the world. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in  the span of one month: November. That breaks down to about 1600 words a day. Sounds simple enough, right?

The writers that I’ve heard about who are able to work on this project literally start the day with a pot of coffee at Starbucks and sit in front of their laptops writing and writing and writing themselves insane. They take brief bathroom breaks, I believe. But not too long as to avoid any procrastination with buying more coffee. Or eaves dropping on another writer. Or doubting their work. Or wondering where their plot lines are going. Or wondering if they really have plot lines. Or plot points. Or becoming unsure if their work is a science fiction romance or a simple down home cookbook.

For years I always dreamed of writing a book. I mean, how romantic would it be to be part of a creative wave of writing energy, inspired by the dedication others around you have with pushing themselves forward to completion? Thinking this was the push I finally needed, since we all know writing in solitude can be tortuous, I went so far as to sign up for local chapters of NaNoWriMo a few different times in the past. Why not? A) It’s a global event B) that is free (just the right price for writers) and 3) it gives people the opportunity to get caught up in the creative updraft of a million pounding keyboards. Destiny? Finished book.Reality? Hmmmm….the idea looks good on paper.

Sadly, the furthest I’ve ever made it into NaNoWriMo was the actual signing with my local chapter before the event begins. Usually it is in September or October that I convince myself “This Is The Year I Will Write That Damned Book!” Must be the changing of the seasons, or the back to school mode, or Fall is just so darn inspiring. Anyway, as the days got closer to the November First start date every year, my email inbox would start to explode with emails of NaNoWriMo deadlines, inspiration, encouragement and tales of other’s writing success.

Let me explain that the idea of a writer toiling away in a creative frenzy doesn’t include the actual reality of many writers: Family. Jobs. Commitments. The day-to-day grind of washing dishes, preparing meals, keeping your loved ones clean, and who can ignore the daily “must do’s” of scrubbing the floors and curling up into a fetal position and crying? Please. And so on. These are the necessities of keeping life functioning and moving forward. Unless you are young and not married or without kids or are in a position to be able to dedicate thirty days to doing nothing other than writing, drinking coffee, writing, going to the bathroom, hallucinating. Not that there is anything wrong with this. This is my dream life if I ever win the lottery. No doubt.

But, back to reality. I am encouraged that so many aspiring authors are able to partake in this NaNoWriMo journey. However, I’m feeling the pain of the aspiring authors who aspire to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo one day. Sitting down to the keyboard is a luxury I treasure between breaking up fights among my kids, washing dishes, doing laundry, working, paying bills and staring out my front window onto the bounty that is my cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere.

So, this year I’ve decided this year to expand on the idea of NaNoWriMo….I am starting an offshoot program called NaNoWriSlo. Yes, it is the National Novel Writers (who write) Slowly club. Our goal is also to produce a 50,000 word novel, but it is at a more practical pace – between five to eighty-two words a day/week. At this rate your novel will be complete in about maybe a couple a years or so? It depends.  You might not finish it at all. And that is also ok. This group will be very supportive, and encouraging, but also very realistic. A daily schedule for the first day might go something like this:

  • Morning: Make coffee, sit down at key board. Enjoy sitting down for a minute. Time to check email.
  • Mid morning: Update Facebook status: “Just started NaNoWriSlo…WOOOO! Don’t count me out John Steinbeck!”
  • Late Morning: Clean bathroom and start dishes.
  • Lunch: lunch
  • Early Afternoon: Refreshed and ready to go! Start typing outline. After seeing what that crash was from upstairs.
  • Mid Afternoon: Call Plumber to fix toilet damaged earlier when book shelf fell onto it somehow. Or that’s the story your kids are going with.
  • Late Afternoon: Coffee time! Also time to go to the store to get food for dinner.
  • Homework: Plan to start Outline tomorrow, first thing. For real this time.

So, our group will start around November first-ish, and go on until you think you’ve finished your work, whatever form that may be in. No pressure. At all. Or not even. We’re mellow like that. And if you do manage to finish something following the strict guidelines above, you will become the face of the NaNoWriSlo international campaign I will start-up. Just as soon as I can get up from this nice comfortable chair.

“On the New York Times Bestseller List!, I Want to Be _________”

Sitting here gazing out from my vantage point on the cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere, I find it hard to believe I once had a literary agent. In fact, I once had a few literary agents wanting me to sign with them. Crazy? Yes. But it’s proof that persistence pays off.

At the time I was working as a grunt in the publishing industry. It’s amazing the inspiration you find living on barely enough money to pay your rent AND buy spaghetti noodles for dinner. Plus, typing out the payment requests for authors and illustrators every day reminded me that other people were, every minute of every day, fulfilling their dreams of becoming published.

Somehow, I was inspired by my living situation at the time and became 100% committed to writing a humorous book about my experiences in New York. I worked on that manuscript day and night, which is easy to do when you have no kids, and can’t afford a social life beyond the obligatory pint of beer after work. My manuscript came together quickly because I wrote it with passion. Things are easy to do when you enjoy them. One day it was finally finished. I then dutifully studied how to write the perfect pitch letter, and found suitable agents to query. Suddenly, agents wanted to read my manuscript. I couldn’t believe my luck when one day I received two letters from agents wanting to represent my work! Here, I, low man on the publishing assistant totem pole, was now having to decide between two literary agents.

One agent had his own literary agency, and the other agent was really an agent’s assistant at an international entertainment agency. I went with the agent who owned his own agency, and in good faith signed on. Unfortunately, the plans he had for my book coincidentally “inspired” the publication he showed my idea to. Two months later my book idea was a featured story on their magazine cover. I learned the hard way about copyrighting – and how you can’t copyright “inspiration.” Sigh. Life goes on. I was never able to reach my agent by phone again, but a few weeks after the magazine with my story idea came out he left me a scratchy and vague voice mail saying he was in Los Angeles. Whatever that was supposed to mean.

Fast forward to recent times. My fears of making more mistakes with my writing and the publishing industry – and knowing my belief in the good of people doesn’t always work well in the business world – stayed with me for years. I had writer’s constipation. I had many ideas, and started many books, but then with no end in sight I would let them fizzle out. All because of a fear that I’d make another naive mistake and get taken advantage of. Then along came Joyce Carol Oates.

My writing career was revived earlier this year, thanks to some words of wisdom from Joyce Carol Oates. I don’t remember the specific words, because I read them on a blog and didn’t memorize them. But her words stayed with me and haunted me and sank into my brain until I was convinced she was right. This was my green light to go forward with writing again.  She said something along the lines that if she had to give advice to new writers she would tell them to start with blogging. It is a way to find your audience, to fine tune your writing and get quick feedback on your work. So, I started this blog. And she was right. She was RIGHT. SHE WAS RIGHT!

In all my life’s ups and downs I have been so inspired by the bloggers here on WordPress. There is endless creativity out there, and an audience for everyone’s voice. I usually never know what to write about, but somehow the words show up. They always say to “Write what you know!” But that is hard to narrow down, and really not helpful. The freedom to write here on my blog without judgement, expectation or limits is what helps me color outside the lines.

I often get confused on what “humor” writing really is. Why are there two categories of humor that agents represent: Humor: Non-Fiction and Humor: Fiction? What is the difference? If I write about my experiences but embellish, or change the names to protect the innocent is it now fiction? These are the little details that lead to procrastination and a cobwebbed keyboard. I was so frustrated by this question that one time I asked a literary agent in an online discussion forum what the difference between these two categories was. I received a snarky and condescending answer in return. And I still didn’t know the difference between the two. Sigh, again.

I’ve recently been hit with a lightning bolt of an idea. One of those “Of course!” moments of what would be a fun and interesting writing project to take on. And taking a chance on writing is always a good gamble….it’s free! Which is good in this economy. Starting today I’ve created an outline of something that perhaps I might finish. And send off to some agents. And hopefully get published. And if I’m published, I damn well better get on the New York Time’s Bestseller List. No pressure, if you know what I mean.

School Supply High

The most wonderful time of the year is here, indeed. Buying school supplies is second on my list only to toy shopping. When my kids received their lists of what pens, pencils and folders they’ll need this school year it sent me out on a hunt like I was on a reality TV game show. Tearing off to the local store, I stood elbow to elbow with other well-meaning moms as we dug through the picked over bins of folders to find the perfect ones that will encourage our children to do their school work, have a successful school year and become President of the United States one day. Or win a gold medal at the Olympics. Considering each of my kids needed only needed about four items, I was a bit disappointed that my school supply shopping frenzy only took about ten minutes at one store.  I spent the entire summer revving up and practicing my store aisle drills in my hunt for obscure office supplies like reinforcements, poster board, tempera paint and rubber cement. Did I mention I love school supplies?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the idea of buying fresh notebooks with blank pages that are ready for recording lessons and dreams and plans and doodles. I love the idea of picking out pens in any color of the rainbow. Should it be a flare tip or a ball point?  Would spending extra money on a pen with a grip on the barrel really give me the ergodynamic confidence I need to write my way into literary history? Or, should I just save the extra fifty cents and be inspired by the starving artist spirit I channel in with my generic pack of plain pens in a bland color of ink?

Since I no longer care about being “cool” I’m not embarrassed to admit that at one time I knew the model numbers and names of a spectrum of Uni-ball pens. I drooled over certain models and fancy pens. I once casually met a man in a bar in New York City who, in hindsight, must have thought I was interested in him personally.  But all I kept looking at was his Mont Blanc pen. I’m serious. He insisted I take the pen, but then he would not stop calling me all the way from San Francisco.

I think it was my intense love of said supplies that encouraged me to become a writer. How could I not want to write with that state of the art Uni-ball? Having a blank journal with heavy-stock paper only cries out for poetry, sketches, dreams and inspiration. Ok….not only have I digressed, but apparently the ‘Nerd’ sign over my head is on with all lights a blazing.

Did you know that once you graduate from school the phrase “school supplies” becomes the phrase “office supplies?” I found this out first hand. My first job in the corporate world had me in a position where I was FREE TO ORDER ANY OFFICE SUPPLY I NEEDED! What? Yes! It’s true. I spent my lunch hours hunched over the office supply catalogue and dog-eared and post-it-ed many a page. Of course these items on my list were all things I NEEDED to do my job. I ordered a maroon stapler because I thought it was incredibly cool, a wire rack to display the rainbow-colored folders I’d also ordered. I picked out multi-colored folder labels and hanging files to match. And post its, and stickers to highlight important office business. And a lamp I needed so I could see the office supply catalogue better. Not only did my savvy office supply purchases make my gray cubicle “pop,”  I believe my work performance improved at least 350% because of my wise purchases.

I have vivid memories of the school supplies I had as a kid  in the nineteen seventies and eighties. Of course, there were the usual suspects…folders, notebooks, pens and pencils. But some supplies can only be chalked up to products of another era.

My first day of first grade I remember bringing in an oil cloth to cover my desk with. It was like a red greasy piece of fabric. What the heck was it? It smelled to high heaven and made me want to cry. The teacher who insisted every pupil bring one to class was about eighty years old. I can only assume that an oil cloth must have been a popular school supply when she was a youngster during the late eighteen hundreds. Whatever mess it was supposed to prevent I promised to not become involved with in the first place if I could keep that greasy red square out of my life.

Another elementary school staple…paste in a jar. Paste in a jar? Was this an era before liquids were invented? All I’m going to say is that the texture is greasy and lumpy and it’s minty flavor doesn’t taste as good as it smells.

In junior high Trapper Keepers were the happenist supply in the land. They were like binders that folded over and sealed with velcro. This was a bonus to keep papers intact incase an upper classmen decided to have fun at your expense and “flip your books.” Today this would be called a “bully” – and rightfully so. Trapper Keepers had cool stylings on them such as rainbows, unicorns, and even pictures of horses.

When I was in junior high I was obsessed with horses. I had myself convinced that I could keep one in the garage of my house in a suburban neighborhood. Hey, I guess that would have really put the “Neigh” in neighborhood, huh? Sorry. Anyway, during that school year we had to cover our books with book covers. We made them out of brown paper grocery bags. I personalized mine with stickers of horses. But, since I was in an unspoken competition with my best friend who also loved horses to prove who loved horses more, I wrote “I love horses” all over my book covers. I did this with every book cover for every book for every subject. In fact, had to open the books up to the cover page to actually see what subject they were for. This totally slowed things down at the locker during class change time, but it was the suffering I endured for my passion.

My horse-obsession came to a halt quickly one day when my health class teacher, high on her own anti-drug lectures, told me that if she didn’t know me personally she’d think my writing “I love horses” really meant “I love heroin.” She then sternly let me know that “Horse” is slang for “Heroin.” I don’t think I ever completely recovered because here I am thirty years later still stunned by her bizarre assumption.

Other school supplies I remember that are probably illegal by now…rubber cement, grease pencils, protractor, compass, T-square, and markers that smelled like fruit. Even as a kid I always thought it was a bad idea to encourage kids to sniff markers. It’s quite likely that there are liability issues in today’s world that prevent schools from having kids bring in any supplies that are/may be interpreted as being sharp, greasy or tasty.

The school supplies I’ve had to buy for my kids over the years makes me feel like they are living in a bubble: folders, tissues, glue sticks, coffee filters. Yes, coffee filters. Soft and non-threatening, I suppose. But I don’t know how you will keep a cool image when an upper classmen tries to have some fun at your expense and your coffee filters end up gently and quietly floating everywhere.

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