Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bylines Calendar

This is not my office; it is a picture of Will Rogers' desk (a replica), gracing the cover of the 2010 Bylines Calendar in which I have an entry.
I love it already. It has a place for my goals, things to do, and even things I've not thought of, which I should do! There's a place to keep track of writing income and expenses, and a list of helpful books and resources. But best of all, every week, there is a little story to read and I already feel as though I'm making new writing friends through this calendar.
If you want a copy, order yours here or here. I know it's almost the end of January, but you have eleven more months to go. Buy it for yourself or as a gift for a writer-friend.
At a time when I don't have many acceptances (my own fault for not submitting) it is again a reminder how lovely it is to work on a short piece and see it in print. And now I have a writing calendar to track my progress on the Great American Novel, which I will finish this year.

Friday, January 22, 2010

March for Life

Roe v Wade (January 22, 1973). I learned about this historic decision to legalize abortion in high school. Having come from a poor country, I knew how difficult life can be for those destitute. Why bring another unwanted child into the world? Yet, the idea of killing a baby inside the womb was chilling. For years, I felt that even though I personally wouldn't have an abortion, I couldn't tell another woman not to have one. She should have the freedom of choice. However, once I had my own babies, I changed my views ... abortion should be outlawed.

The article here explains very clearly the role of law.

This Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, thousands will march to mourn the historic decision that has allowed so much death.

For those who need help and healing, please go here. I know five dear women who grieve silently for their babies, who regret their abortion, and how I wish I'd had the courage back then to say, "I will help you take care of your baby" instead of saying, "I will support whatever choice you make." We are all culpable for this culture of death.

Let us pray to end abortion.

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My dear friend Bish is passing on the happy meme.

When I was in India, my mother had a book called "Happiness is a Habit." I never read it so I don't know if the link I've made is the correct one but the title always stuck with me because it resonates. Happiness is a habit. When one has a grateful heart, just being alive makes one happy.

Let me list a few things that bring happiness in my life:

1. Walking with my kids and dog to school.
2. Snuggling up with my husband to watch a good movie.
3. Reading.
4. Writing. Fast-flowing pens, sharpened pencils.
5. Cooking. And eating.
6. Cuddling with the kitties.
7. Reading and writing letters. Being connected with family and friends.
8. Sitting in church, listening to the Word.
9. Our home.
10. All of nature, but especially the sunshine.

As you can see, these are all so very simple things, but they bring me great joy every day, even on gray and cloudy days.

Be well. Be happy. And let me know what makes you happy. If you follow my blog, I'll be checking your blogs in the next few days.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The tragedy in Haiti always reminds me of poor places like India, where a flood or an earthquake can wipe out thousands in a day. We are so fortunate in America, that when natural disaster strikes, that our losses number in the tens or hundreds.

My friend, Jen Heger, has a lovely post on what she has observed here. Go read it.

And if you are in a position to help, please do so. There are many organizations. One of my favorites is Catholic Relief Services. They operate worldwide and have an extremely low overhead -- 10%. Also, many big companies like Boeing and Microsoft make matching donations, so don't forget that option as well.

And as always, God listens to the prayers of His people. So don't forget to pray.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Being Detached, Being Married

News of this past week reminds me of the Buddhist tale that I happened to read in Mitch Albom's HAVE A LITTLE FAITH. The story goes like this:

A farmer discovers his horse has run off.
The neighbors say, "That's terrible."
Farmer says, "Maybe."
The next day the horse comes back with several horse-friends.
The neighbors say, "Wonderful."
Farmer says, "Maybe."
The farmer's son rides one of the new horses and falls, breaking his leg.
The neighbors say, "Terrible."
Farmer says, "Maybe."
The next day, officials come to draft the son to go to war, but because of his broken leg, don't take him.
The neighbors say, "Such good luck."
Farmer says, "Maybe."

Albom says he's heard stories like this before. "They are beautiful in their simplicity and surrender to the universe. I wonder if I could be attached to something so detached. I don't know. Maybe."

I feel the same way. I am fiercely attached to my family, but other things, I try to let go. Last week, I learned that David of OCCBWW has decided not to have the second workshop after all -- I was slated to teach magazine and nonfiction writing at that one. I was very, very disappointed. But in the grand scheme of things, who knows whether this is good or not. I leave that up to our good Lord. Because the one thing I've learned is that no matter what, things happen for a reason. I cannot see the tapestry of my life, but God does. He sees the white and gold threads as well as the black and red ones. He sees the beautiful top and the messy bottom. And so, I've let it go. There will be another time, I'm sure of it.

I've also learned my niece is getting married. There is so much excitement in the air, I could burst. Aside from thinking about the gifts I would like to give, I pray for the young couple, that they always remain committed to each other. May their love grow strong over the years.

I remember my own wedding, taking the vows ... to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health, till death to us part ... and laughing and crying all at once because my husband and I are bound together. This fall we took those same vows and had them blessed. Made them sacred. Nothing, absolutely nothing can tear us apart because what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Time to end this rambly post and get back to work. I have a novel to write. Have a great week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back Up

This is a reminder to back up all your stuff. Last week, my laptop somehow got infected with a particularly nasty virus so that I couldn't open any file to work on it. Thankfully, my husband has set up automatic backup of all my teaching and writing once a week to our family computer. He tried many things to get rid of the virus, but in the end, he had to reformat and reload everything. Took all day ... he's such a sweetie.

Added to this frustration was that our modem and Internet has been acting temperamental for the past few weeks. I don't mind being off-line when I *choose* to be offline but I do quite a bit of work where I need to be online, like when I download my lessons or upload essays or test questions into a company website.

Of course, I admit that when the net is down, I get more writing done :)

So, back up your stuff. You can use a thumb drive, or another computer in the home. I believe there are also companies that will store data on their servers for a small fee. I have also backed up drafts of my first novel on my email account.

Please share how you safeguard your writing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Great Critique and Highlights Contest

The Great Critique always sneaks up on me ... it's next Tuesday and I'll be critiquing magazine and nonfiction manuscripts. This event gets sold out in a couple of days after it opens for registration, but I know people have managed to get in who are on the waiting list. You know, people break a leg over Christmas once in a while ...

I started writing about my first time and felt like I'd written about it already ... and sure enough I had here. Gee, not one original thought in my head.

Well, the kiddos are back at school after a wonderful two weeks at home, and I am working on both my novel and a couple of shorts for the Highlights contest. This is a yearly ritual and although I've never won the contest, I'd love to, so I keep on trying.

This year's theme is: Fiction based on a true story from your family. And the prizes as always are fabulous: Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.

Doesn't this make you want to work on a family story? Even if you don't win, your story might be purchased for regular publication, and you will now have a family story that you can give as a gift for Christmas.

Good Luck!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Writerly Meme

Bish tagged me a while back and the lazy girl I am, I'm just now getting round to this fun meme. It almost slipped my mind, but I ran across Mary's answers and enjoyed them so much, I decided to play right then. The children and pets have been fed and watered, I've gotten a good start on my WIP, I think I can afford to procrastinate a bit ...

1) What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have? The last thing I wrote was on my WIP, Damaged. It's nice to get back into the writing groove. I still have the first little stories I wrote about my baby boy and cat. They are darling. I confess I even had the gall to send out dummies of those first ... ahem ... picture books. Does getting a good rejection count? All eight editors said I had a cute baby. Hee hee.

2) Write poetry? Yes! And it's what I use to transition from nonfiction writing to fiction. Many of my published poems came from these transitions, and not surprisingly they are mostly of the nonfiction kind.

3) Angsty poetry? Nope. Never. Not even as a teenager.

4) Favorite genre of writing? Only one? Impossible. My favorites: historical fiction, science, memoir, picture books.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created? I don't really have an annoying character ... I don't think I could inhabit one. However, I'm sure many of you will find them annoying.

6) Best plot you've ever created? I'm not saying because the work is unpublished. But I like plotting. And I always have a twist in the end. Sometimes, it feels like getting punched in the stomach, though if you look carefully, you should've seen it coming.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created? Not saying. You'll find out when you read my books :)

8) How often do you get writer's block? Daily. I will do everything else but write ... but then, when I finally get started, it feels so good, I don't understand why I do this to myself. I suppose I'm a mother, housewife, teacher first before I'm a writer ... and truthfully, even though I dream of being a full-time writer, I'm probably better off writing in the hurly-burly of life because like Natalie Goldberg, I'd probably water the plants to death. Truthfully, I don't get writer's block, but as you can see, I'm an expert procrastinator.

9) Write fan fiction? Never. Though some characters have lingered in my heart for years.

10) Do you type or write by hand? Both. And if I'm working out something pesky, I find it best to hand write. My hand knows things my head doesn't. Seriously. It was the same when I was a scientist. I'd literally doodle myself an answer.

11) Do you save everything you write? No. So much of it is utter crap, I throw it out. And if it's good enough or meant to be, it'll come back in a better way.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it? I don't think I've ever truly abandoned an idea. Ideas are always in motion, some grow tall, other send off side shoots, still others hibernate. Sometimes two or three ideas gel together into something wonderful years later.

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written? Stories about my children and the cats, stories about my mother, about food and laundry.

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written? Adults like Driving Lessons. Kids love my cat books.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama? I've written the bones of a very dark/horror adult romance. But is it romance? Not sure. No angsty teen drama. Sorry.

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters? Setting plays a huge part in all my stories. So I don't have a favorite one. But it's the right one for each story.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now? One YA novel, a couple of short stories, and preparing a talk.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing? Yes! A couple of times. And it's still thrilling to think about. I am utterly grateful for that extra outside validation and opportunities they gave me.

19) What are your five favorite words? Hah! I have a hundred -- raccoon, pesky, cranberry, squeaky, catalyst. I'm sorry but mosquito is trying to sneak in here as well ...

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself? Reshma, in my first novel, Emergency, is most like me. But truthfully, even the villains have a bit of me in them.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters? From real life ... almost every character begins based on a real person, whether I'm borrowing a trait or their situation. During writing, they come into their own and it's always a surprise how they evolve into their own person, distinct from the people they were based upon. Even Reshma.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams? I hardly remember my dreams, but yes, once in a while, I've been given a story in my dreams and I had the good fortune to wake up and remember it long enough to write it down.

23) Do you favor happy endings? Yes! I like to see good triumph over evil and so in the end, I will make sure that no matter how many rocks I throw at my characters, that they will get up at the end.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write? I tend to revise and edit as I write and spelling and grammar are the easiest to fix so while my mind works on one problem, at least I can fix those things along the way.

25) Does music help you write? Never. It's a terrible distraction. Either I love it, and I'm listening to it, or else I dislike it and it feels like noise pollution. I like to write in quiet.

26) Quote something you've written. From Driving Lessons:

My mother is driving me crazy. Literally. I’m teaching her how to drive. Just six months ago, she stood stiffly in her sari and sneakers in Oldenrod’s Used Cars parking lot while I bought the clunky Chevy Nova with my own money for my seventeenth birthday. Not a single congratulatory word came out of her pursed mouth.
“You’re going to kill yourself,” she said.
“You don’t need a car,” she said.
“You did this so you could drive away from me,” she said.
She’s right on all three counts.


And now I'm supposed to tag a few other people. However, most of the people I know have already played, so if you haven't consider yourself tagged.