Writer dare or truth

TRUTH

I have the pleasure of teaching a creative writing class at my school, and every day I’m thankful, so thankful, I get to follow my passion, my creativity. Sometimes, like tonight, I deliberately do the same assignment I give my students.

We’re working out of Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. During one of her Initiation Exercises, she asks the readers to complete the following sentence ten times.

A writer is _______.

Cameron then asks the reader to follow up with an explanation, a positive spin to what some writers could have initially considered to be a negative.

For example, one person might say, “A writer is broke.” An optimistic outlook would point out that the writer spends her money on conference fees and ink cartridges so that there’s no money left over for those delectable, calorie-laden pastries, available wherever $5 cups of coffee are sold, pastries like scones and cupcakes and pumpkin bread and donuts that add to the waistline and deplete the wallet.

I’m taking the challenge, but with a twist. I’m calling it Truth or Dare, the (unpublished, totally unknown) Writer Truth or Dare, only backwards.

A writer dares to be adventurous.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer’s idea of adventure is going to a workshop by herself for the first time. She walks into a large convention room for the opening mixer and picks up a fancy dessert and drink and sits down at a table with a group of people who have been congregating at this particular conference for the last decade. These people are so excited to see one another again that they don’t notice the outsider, that is, until she gets up to leave. Then the other people at the table assume she is part of the help, and they hand her their dirty dishes.

A writer dares to write 1,500 words a day, no excuses.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer writes 1,500 words a day…and then erases them one by one even though she has been taught to write first, edit later. It’s not easy being a perfectionist. Has anybody other than God ever gotten it right the first time?

A writer dares to take on every interview, every guest blog, every question to promote her book.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer sits down with her favorite group of busybodies and prepares to answer their questions and to listen to their free advice:

“Your Johnny told my Johnny that he had to eat another supper out of a fast food bag last night. In my house, we consider missing a deadline if we’re all not sitting down at the dinner table at five. Just what do you consider a priority at your house? Maybe you should put away your little hobby for a little while and focus on what really matters.”

(Never mind that she has worked all day at a full time job, delivered all the children to their dance lessons, football practices, and scout meetings on time, and saved up enough extra cash to treat the kids once a month to their favorite happy meal so she can finish another chapter.)

A writer dares to write every opportunity she gets.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer will wash the dishes, wash the laundry, wash the car, and wash the dog before she writes one word because she is afraid that one word will be the wrong word. She will also sweep, dust, and mop. And, yes, she will do windows if it means she can procrastinate twenty more minutes.

A writer dares to flaunt her glamorous writing lifestyle, which may or may not include sharing a cup of coffee with Jan Karon, Karen Kingsbury, or Kaye Dacus.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer dares to flaunt even the most pathetic detail of her “glamorous” writing lifestyle, especially after she has attended a big writer’s conference:

“I just made my first elevator pitch!”

“No, it wasn’t with an agent…it was with Terri Blackstock’s housekeeper.”

“What? How do I know that was her housekeeper? I was watching her room to see if I could catch a glimpse of Terri Blackstock.”

“No, I do not consider that stalking. I call it research and investigation. Anyway, I think the housekeeper liked it. She smiled a lot…before she ran out the door.”

Why There’s No V-Day Post

LOVE BLOG

I have ten reasons why I cannot post a Valentine’s Blog today.

1. I had planned to ask Cupid to guest blog, but he was busy.

2. I’ve been writing songs lately. But you’d think people would have had enough of silly love songs.

3. At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. See #2. This blog is all about the prose, baby.

4. Pearl Bailey says what the world needs is more love and less paper work. Does that also include electronic paper like the Kindle or the laptop?

5. Anais Nin says the role of a writer is not to say what we all can say,  but what we are unable to say.

6.

(Talk to Anais Nin about #6.)

7. Saul Bellow said, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” I should have gotten out of bed.

8. The road to hell is paved with adverbs, so sayeth Stephen King. That’s not really a reason, but I think Stephen King is pretty funny.

9. Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment, so sayeth Robert Benchley.

10. According to an old Arabian proverb, a promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain. I have a deadline hanging over my head, a story to write. My editor deserves a downpour.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Six degrees of the blues vs. fifty shades of grey? I’ll take the blues.

square dance

A serendipitous life is like an “allemande left.”

In square dance terms, this call requires each dancer to take the other’s hand, making it easier to enter and exit the movement. Serendipitous dancers move freely in life, acknowledging that all things work together like an “allemande left” to allow them to take take hold of and to learn from the fortunate accidents they encounter.

A few weeks ago, I had a creative dream. When I woke up, song lyrics trickled in my head like a gentle stream. But one word  spewed forth like the spring–Celie.

Never heard it–at least, so I thought.

I wrote down the lyrics but changed the name to Cecilia, which is what I thought my mind was probably trying to dream. Hey, it worked for Paul Simon.

Of course, my OCD nature compelled me to research the name’s meaning. Historically, Cecilia was the patroness of music because when she was dying she sang to God. A little more research revealed the name’s meaning refers to “a way for the blind.” Hmm. Music? A way for the blind? Yes. And, of course, “blind” can be interpreted on a myriad of levels.

I was so pumped. What a very cool dream. But one thing kept nagging at me. I didn’t dream the name “Cecilia.” I dreamed “Celie.” Once again, I felt compelled to grasp the hand before me and examine the next clue to find out why I dreamed this song.

Turns out Celie is derived from Cecilia. I don’t want to give away my song ideas, but I wanted the song to have a Delta feel about it. As most of you know, I love, love, love the blues, so I built the song around a mysterious woman named Celie who could read people.

A little more research revealed the French origins of the name. Okay. Louisiana. That works. And according to my Internet “baby names” search, people with the name “Celie” are often great analyzers or mystics.

Perfect.

At this point, I had the whole song written with multiple layers of meaning. I thought I was finished, but then I found one more detail that put the icing on my joconde. (So, I’m trying to be clever here. Get it? For those of you who don’t know, a joconde is a French opera cake. It will make even more sense when you read the next couple of sentences.)

So here’s the missing link (literally) to today’s serendipitous story.

I’m a fan of the show Nashville. I serendipitously showed up at a taping and was an extra. I serendipitously met one of the stars at the Aerosmith concert. My favorite singer on the show is Clare Bowen, who plays Juliet. While I was creeping my Facebook newsfeed, I found a post from my favorite shop, the upscale Two Old Hippies in the REAL downtown Nashville.

(Sidebar:  I love Nashville, the city. I really like to visit  Two Old Hippies. It’s fun to browse for, not just merchandise, but also details and vibes for stories and songs.)

Back to story, the post revealed that Clare Bowen had just bought the last pair of Liberty fringe boots, the same pair of boots I admired but could not purchase. The Two Old Hippies post included a video clip of Clare wearing the boots on The View with Whoopie Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.

I don’t always click on links, but, hey. I like Two Old Hippies. I like Clare Bowen. And I like the boots. I clicked on it.

(Another sidebar…I had the opportunity to interview Sherri Shepherd several years ago. What a lovely lady! Her presence in this story just makes me smile. Squirrel! Yes, I know. I’m a little spastic.)

Back to the story…again.

Anyway, when they interviewed Clare Bowen, the ladies of The View revealed that the beautifully Southern singer was actually from Australia.

AUSTRALIA?

And she was a trained opera singer. (Remember when I made the witty remark about the joconde?) Clare had to learn country. And she had to learn Southern.

Turns out Clare Bowen herself was having a serendipitous moment on the show.

She couldn’t tell her own story without revealing how a song about Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Miss Celie in  The Color Purple, changed her life.

(Sidebar Number Three…Miss Celie! My dream! Maybe I had buried that little detail far back in my brain and my subconscious was trying to help me dig it out. We can’t even comprehend how God designed our brains. We think we know so much.)

“Miss Celie’s Blues” opened the door to a new understanding of music for Clare Bowen. She found freedom in the blues. She loved the bluesy feel of the song.

The blues. Miss Celie’s blues. Sister Celie’s blues.  Of course! THE BLUES!

Clare Bowen’s first real taste of the blues change her life and brought her to Nashville. How serendipitous.

And, had  I not been sick for seven days with what I am sure is the plague, I would have never have had to leave work today to go to the doctor. And if I did not receive the dreaded shots, I would not have had to go home instead of back to work.

Because I came home when I did, I serendipitously read the Two Old Hippies / Bowen post as it was the first to pop up on my Facebook feed.

Now I know how Clare Bowen, Two Old Hippies, the show Nashville, Liberty fringe cowboy boots, Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg, the plague, and THE BLUES worked together today to create my tailor-made serendipitous story.

“Allemande left” everyone.

 

More than the quintessential cow girl

COW

The other night I watched The Words (Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, and Zoe Saldana). I didn’t plan on watching it, but any movie about a writer struggling to “make it” begs me to watch it.

The movie bases its foundation on one question: “Just how far would you go to be the person you want to be?”

In other words, would you steal someone else’s story just to be who you wanted to become?

The film portrays an old man who says, “We all make choices; the hard thing is to live with them, and there ain’t nobody that can help you with that.”

Wow.

I write. All the time. Something. Anything. Celebrity profiles. Fiction. Notes on papers I’m grading. Blogs. Texts. A few emails. Poor attempts at song lyrics.

So far everything I have written has been true. I have never stolen nothing, no not a thing—well, with the exception of the deliberate theft of that last sentence. If you know song lyrics, you’ll understand. If not, proceed. It’s no big thing.

I have a new group of creative writing students this semester, and once again, my goal for them and for me is for us to take our writing to the next level, to step out of our comfort zones.

My new class of creative writers has been very good for me. So far my students cut me no slack. If they have to write, they expect me to write. My homework for them? Create a blog with its own unique writing. Their homework for me? Write a blog about them.

But what can I say? I don’t know them well—yet. So far I have met the super intelligent Batman, a Halo freak who shares his cheerios, three musicians, an artist, a baton twirler, Lady Wit, a runaway who gets to stay, and a very shy girl who kind of reminds me of myself.

But when I get to know them, can I say more? If I tell their stories without their permission, will I invade their privacy? Will I steal their stories for my gain? But what happens if their story IS my story? I believe people’s paths cross for a reason.

Never should I define people by the characters they play in my life story, for tomorrow they will grow into somebody else. You change; I change. Not everything about us, just some things.

I, for example, will always love God, my family, and the Red Sox. I can’t imagine ever giving up writing or music. And I won’t give up the people I love. I do, however, abandon certain fads. I left the leg warmers in the eighties, and I don’t perm my hair.

I’m what they call a “seasoned teacher.” You can’t fool me. That’s just another way of saying old. No matter how you say it, I have been a supporting cast member in the stories of many students’ lives. I don’t mind. I just don’t want them to sell that chapter as my entire story.

When I first started teaching, I decorated my classroom in a black and white spotted motif. The next thing I knew I became the crazy teacher who liked black and white bovines. I like cows, but they don’t necessarily moooove me. I have, in fact, ridden a cow backwards across a barnyard. That, my friends, is another story, one better left in the barnyard.

During my “cow phase,” I acquired a lot (literally) of Holstein items, including a stool with udders, which I thought was utterly hilarious. Heck, even the baseball coach brought me a cow ink pen from a coaching clinic. The cow lady. That’s who I had become.

During another phase, I was the crazy lady who loved Julius Caesar. I still do. I received anonymous letters from students warning me to “Beware the Ides of March.” While some teachers had to be on the look out for yard rollers on Halloween, I had to keep up my guard the night of March 15. But that’s okay. My rollers and I are now great friends. But they should remember the evil that men (and women) do lives after them. Paybacks are killer.

At another point of my career, I voraciously taught my students the importance of vocabulary, and we started with the word QUINTESSENTIAL. Every student I had during this phase used the word either to impress or distress me. And even now, my co-workers smile when they use the word around me. I think it’s funny, especially when QUINTESSENTIAL shows up on my Facebook timeline.

There was a time when Michael W. Smith was my favorite singer, and, yes, in fact, I did name my younger child after him. I didn’t just like Michael W. Smith; I wanted to be like Michael W. Smith. I wanted to own a place like his Nashville-based Rocketown so that I could positively impact kids’ lives with music. I still do.

And now I’m the crazy Steven Tyler stalker. I don’t know why. I just am. I guess Steven became a symbol for me, a reminder that regardless of one’s age, a person can never be too old to act a little crazy,  to love music and to love people, the latter, I think, Steven Tyler maybe too much. But again, there’s another story, and we haven’t the time.

If I become a character in my students’ memoirs, I have no idea which persona I will portray. I hope the writers paint the truth and avoid portraying me as a one-dimensional character.

All people leave their colors on other people’s canvases, some more vividly than others. And believe me, whether or not it’s in print, we read each others’ stories daily. We should be careful to avoid over generalizing and assuming.

I have stories about my life I can’t tell, won’t tell, because my life isn’t its own. I am a vault. I could never make it as a member of the paparazzi.

I also don’t want to be painted as the crazy cow-loving cat lady who stalked Steven Tyler in the most quintessential way. I’m a whole lot more than that.

If we have met, YOU have become a character in MY story. You are paint on my canvas.  And if I do tell my story, I’ll do my best to paint you with an honest brush and to write you with an trustworthy pen.

Going postal

Dearest Readers,

I have another confession to make. I hate being the bad guy. I will if I have to, but it is not something I relish.

Today I was the bad guy. I didn’t choose to be, but sometimes life just puts you in unfortunate situations.

See, it all went down this way. I am on fall break, my VACATION from school. It’s been a stressful year so far. I had to take 12 graduate hours during the summer—no break. I missed the first week of school because I was still in grad school. Then I developed bronchitis, almost pneumonia. Whatever. I was really sick.

I also had a newspaper to publish, a new class to develop, a new email system to learn, a new grading program to learn. Papers to grade. MOUNDS of papers to grade from four preps. I found myself struggling to keep up.

My most stressful incident  had to do with boarding an airplane for the first time, well, a big airplane for the first time, not counting the kiddie rides at the fair or the four-seater I rode with my parents when I was a terror-stricken elementary school student. That plane ride changed my whole outlook on flying, and I found Biblical scriptures to back my belief.

Matthew 28:20. “Lo, I am with thee.”

That’s what God said. Low. Not way up there. Right? The Bible offers no proof we have any business soaring around the clouds on wings attached to high-powered engines that can suck up ducks and eagles and then send the craft crashing to the ground. Nope. Scripture does not back that.

Nevertheless, I flew.

All my life people have told me what to do, and I usually listen and do as told. Not this time. For years I remained adamant that I would not step onto a plan until I felt the time was right.

I had a plan. I am going to Ireland—someday. I figure the world is in great turmoil, and perhaps the rapture will happen soon. My plan was to fly to Ireland and to “live” Ireland for a short time and then to fly back. If the plane crashed, well, then, I would have crossed off my Number One item on my bucket list. I was at peace with that.

I have never felt at peace about stepping aboard a plane otherwise.

But then something very cool happened. I was named a Genesis Finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers contest in the Young Adult category. I had to attend a gala in Dallas to find out the results. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. The experience was worth it all. I am confident God has a plan for my writing. Many other cool things did happen.

Being named a finalist, however, put me in a dilemma. If I went to Dallas, I would HAVE to fly, and I would have to miss my son performing with his band at the county fair. Flying was no problem. I had a definite peace about that.

“Lo, I am with thee.”

I made up my mind long ago that the only time I would step on a plan was when I felt a peace about it. For the first time I felt peace, and I wasn’t even flying to Ireland. However, I was really sad, to the point of tears, that I had to miss Michael’s performance. I have always been there for him.

I have coached his Little League teams, his Upward basketball teams, and his soccer teams. I’ve put on catcher gear to help him when he tried to pitch. I have thrown footballs for him to catch. I have escaped with him from wild animal attacks on nature walks. We’re a team. I have always been there for him.

But this time I had to go by myself and let him go by himself.

I walked through the airport doors alone and made it all the way to security where I had to empty my pockets. I almost made it through without incident except for the can of Mink hairspray I was packin’ in my carry on. I had a choice—toss it or check it. I tossed it. Grumble. That stuff isn’t easy to find, and it was  a new can. I don’t like throwing away money.

Oh yeah, my jean pockets were too sparkly too. The scanner didn’t like that either.

Once I made it to my waiting area to board, I was scared, just a wee bit, but I was ready. But then they announced that my scheduled plane had problems. In other words, it was broken.

Broke? Broke was not what I was expecting to hear.

I had to board another plane. At this point I was in official freak-out mode. When I get nervous, I either sit in a catatonic state, or I talk nonstop. My students think something is “wrong” with me when I go into nonstop talk mode. But most journalism advisers understand—they too have experienced the “I gotta make deadline, but the computer’s crashed, the picture’s not there, we forgot to write that story, and Dear Lord, please, don’t let me get fired over something I missed” panic attacks.

So in my non-stop talkative mood, I started interviewing people waiting in line. We were in Nashville, so there were lots of people with guitars. Naturally, I sought them out. I listened in on their conversations and then inserted my comments into their conversations. I don’t usually do that, but, hey, MY AIRPLANE BROKE!

I noticed a couple of guys having a nice chat. One of them carried an acoustic case, so I turned my antenna in that direction and heard one word—Ireland. And so I interrupted.

Fortunately, these guys were nice and told me they had just returned from a gig in Ireland. And what style of music did the guitarist play? Country blues.

Ah. The anxiety levels dropped considerably. Good enough. I felt as if it were a sign. It was time to board the new plane.

I lugged my carry on, and a nice person helped me store it in the overhead. I was too short and too wimpy to load it myself. I hugged my laptop for dear life, but the flight attendant made me store in upon take off. I got it back asap.

My security blanket.

The flight itself was a breeze. I even asked to sit by the window. I looked out and saw a patchwork quilt of earth below. I saw the topside of clouds. It was all cool.

Landing was fine.

It was all fine.

Until I got back home and flipped on the TV and saw all the reports of American Airlines plans having problems with the seats coming unbolted.

Well, it just figures.

So what does all this have to do with me being the bad guy?

Not much. Not really.

I didn’t fly today, but I had a minor mishap in my doctor’s parking lot. I kind of crashed. Not bad crashed, just itsy, bitsy, “I still feel like crying” crashed.

You see, I had a check up today, and I overslept. My doctor’s office has a new rule that says we have to be there 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. Well, I got there by the appointment time, but I was not 15 minutes early.

The poor lady in front of my looked as if she should have been in the hospital, and she was three minutes late according to their clock and missed being 15 minutes early. She was going to have to reschedule. So was I.

I was ready to be the bad guy. To take my punishment. To reschedule. But I felt so bad for her. She was distraught. They finally relented and let her see the doctor after receiving permission from the office manager.

Me? No, I was sent away.

I was upset because I had failed. I had messed up. I always feel bad when I mess  up. I was distracted a wee bit. And then it went from bad to worse as I was leaving. I backed up my truck and felt a slight crash.

I took out a mail truck.

To make matters worse, by-standers jumped out of their truck. They checked to see if we were all right, but they were ready to identify me should I try to make a run for it. They told the nice mail man they would tell the police everything that happened. They liked him. They didn’t like me. I was the bad guy.

Criminal. I felt like a criminal.

To make matters even worse than that, the mail man had come into the doc’s office in such a happy mood. Leave it to me to dent his good cheer.

And then the police came. And the rescue squad. And I couldn’t find my insurance card. And I didn’t have my phone. And I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. The policeman was really nice—a former student. I pictured myself in the back of this squad car. I was hoping for dear life I was a nice teacher to him.

I was ready to pose for my mug shot. Be finger printed. Get cuffed. Get maced. Get clubbed. Wait for the noose around my neck. I was ready for whatever I had coming to me. I felt pretty bad.

All I could do was tell the mail man, “I’m sorry I ruined your day.”

So here I am—the bad guy. Not much I can do about it now.

And as I write this, I’m thinking, “What in the Sam Hill do flying and crashing have to do with each other?”  Well, obviously if it’s the airplane that’s both flying and crashing, there is a connection. But flying in plane and denting the door of a mail truck really have nothing in common, except maybe for this scripture.

“Lo, I am with thee.”

Maybe I’ve been misinterpreting that scripture. See, my nickname forever has been Tee, but when I had my short run of kick (my butt) boxing classes, my friends gave me a new nick name—Jet Lo. You know, kind of like Jet Li, the martial arts champion?

So, I can hear God saying, “[Jet] Lo, I am with thee. Up. Down. High. Low. Good days and bad. I’m right here. Always.”

I am still stubborn enough to believe I will know when God calls me to do something. I don’t have to be guilted into doing something I don’t feel a peace about. But I’m also reminded that God understands my fears, my hurts, my triumphs, my let downs, my failures. He loves me just the same.

As a writer, I hope I can convey that message to my readers. There’s only one thing I really want to get across—love, love, love. THAT’S what I feel called to do. And a little laughter doesn’t hurt either.

So, my dear friends, take it from me, the Fearless Flyer. a.k.a. the Mail Man Mauler, God has got you covered. All you have to do is believe it. Go seek the truth, the whole truth, and believe it. It doesn’t matter if you are the good guy or the bad guy. God loves you just the same. Seek him and find out for yourself.

I wouldn’t say if it weren’t so.

Sincerely yours,
Jet Lo

Angry writer

I cannot not write.

I’m still amazed that when I write a blog some reads it. If that someone is you, well, then, thank you. I know I possess no profound wisdom. Occasionally, I make a few people laugh. But is that enough?

I don’t always write for approval. But then again, neither did Emily Dickinson, who tied up her nearly 1,800 poems and kept then neatly hidden away.

I write academically. I do have an opinion.

I write journalistically. I like to tell other people’s stories. Doesn’t bother me a bit to hang out behind the scenes.

But for me to write about me? Well, on so many levels, that’s just wrong. I mean, who really cares?

But still there’s that burning feeling in the bit of my stomach, “fire in the belly,” Margret Britton Vaughn once said, that makes me voice my thoughts to the wind. And to whoever happened to flow with the surf and land on this page, well, I am obliged that you stuck around long enough to read this.

Sometimes I want to say something so badly, but I can’t find the words. e. e. cummings’ poem “since feeling is first” comes to mind.

So when I want to write and can’t find the words to say, I evoke Plinky.com for help. And then I shut down my laptop and put it to sleep when my cyber muse fails me.

But tonight after turning to Plinky, I have chosen to write about the Plinky topics I would NEVER write about. This is my one act of defiance before I set into my more disciplined writing life I have deemed shall start tomorrow.

I must finish my WIP.

Not two mention a couple of graduate papers. But I digress.

So, dear reader, now that you have landed here on my island, perhaps shipwrecked due to loneliness as to having nothing better to do because sleep won’t come, now you can read my Top Ten List of Plinky Prompts I Would Never Write About.

1.       Who makes the best pizza?

My answer? Who cares? Really. First, I try to avoid pizza. It is incredibly fattening and not healthy when it is prepared most deliciously. Who wants to eat skinny pizza? But since I choose not to be curt, my polite answer would have to be Justin, James, and Billy. You are my friends, and you discount my order, an added perk. But Ioyalty to my friends is paramount.

2.       Have you ever broken a bone?

No. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I had chicken pox. I never missed one day of school, never came in late, never checked out early, all my twelve years. What does that say about me? I’m incredibly healthy? No. I’m incredibly obsessive.

3.       What new hobby would you like to try out?

Fashion designing. No, really. Don’t laugh. True, I’m not domestic. The thought of being cooped up makes me fidget, even now. But I think I would like to design clothing that fits my free-spirited mood. I think I would like to take gently worn garments and turn them into new creations. Vintage, yet chic. I will never do this. I do not sew, nor do I have the patience to learn.

4.       At what point in your life did you start feeling like an adult?

Never. I’m still waiting.

5.       Who do you trust with your biggest secrets?

That, my dear, is a secret. I am the best secret holder in the world. Besides, if I told ya, I’d have to kill ya.

6.       Do you have a favorite park?

Colorado. Every little town in Colorado has one or more parks, emphasis on the more. And towns may be 30 miles or more apart. I like parks. I just don’t like crowded ones. Therefore, I rarely go to the one here at home, especially during ball season, which I have avoided. Sometimes I travel down the road a bit to a secluded little haven and sit under the pavilion and write. Most recently, I went to Old Stone Fort to read. But favorite? No. Not yet. I’m sure by the time summer is over I will.

7.       What qualities do you value most in friends?

Honesty. Hands down. And trustworthiness. I choose friends carefully and slowly. Once I let you in, I expect you to stay. No one wants to be discarded.

8.       List the top three things you want to do before you kick the bucket.

Love. See my published novel. Go (to Ireland).

9.       What is your favorite way to cook eggs?

See! See what I’m saying. How could I possibly write a blog about this? Plinky Dude, what are you thinking? Yes, I know you didn’t create your site for me, but you can do better. My favorite way to cook an egg is to take a slice of bread and use a glass to make a whole in the center. I crack the egg. Pour it in the center and fry it in the middle of the bread. And I like omelets

And the last thing I would never write about?

10.   Do you believe in fate?

I believe in serendipity. Things happen for a reason. We shouldn’t be so arrogant to dismiss what’s right in front of our noses.

I don’t wanna grow up

I don’t want to grow up.

I’m a middle-aged woman with children, a steady full-time job, a new business venture, and a freelance writing business. Still, I have the mind of a juvenile.

I like it that way.

But I may have to tighten up the reins a little bit, especially if I get back in the saddle and continue my writing journey. I guess I’ll have to start with my blog. I mean, who’s going to take me seriously if I all I write about is chasing celebrities. I’m not the paparazzi.

No, perhaps I should focus on more literary-minded topics, such as agents, contracts, conferences, etc. That’s what I should be doing, but that’s not what I want to do. I like sparking the adventure in my reader. It’s okay to be a kid at heart. There’s a time and place for everything. I write to inspire, to make people laugh, to make people feel something. For without feeling, there is nothing left to say.

I ran into my dear friend Rebekah this morning. She’s the one who launched my journey by taking me on as a regular columnist in the paper she published. She’s fearless, possessing no qualms about approaching a source and asking anything.

See, we both like shooting famous people. Not with weaponry—with our cameras. We went on a few trips together to Nashville during GMA week and hung out at the Renaissance Hotel, gawking at every celebrity.

She attacked. I lurked, gathering the nerve to strike up conversations. But we both came home with stories to tell. Treasures.

I miss the hunt…the snag…the trophy shot…the adrenaline rush.

I try to surround myself with people who share my sense of adventure. I have a couple of writer friends at work who are literary groupies. They’re much too sophisticated to call themselves that, but I’m the one doing the writing here. I call it as I see it.

I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my groupie friends actually tracked down one of the most famous writers in the history of all of American literature—Harper Lee.

Brought the woman a milkshake to her assisted living facility. Was promptly asked to leave. But my friend has a story to tell.

Said friend also helped me follow my literary hero Rick Bragg during the Southern Festivals of Books. All I wanted was a trophy photo of me and him. Mission accomplished. My younger son, Michael, however ruined my story by accusing me and Bragg of being intoxicated. The first thing he asked was “Mom, who’s that drunk man you’re standing by?”

Okay, kid. Rick Bragg was exasperated–not drunk. He could not outrun me and my Harper Lee stalker friend through the back alleys and hallways of the War Memorial Auditorium. And I, dear Michael, had been carrying a professional camera bag, a notebook, a bag full of books, and a purse. I’m five feet tall. I was also out of breath and exhilarated. Can’t you see I looked a bit disheveled with good reason?

The dazed look in our eyes is easy to explain. I’m sure he was thinking, “Who is this woman, and what does she want from me?” And I was thinking, “Na-na, na-na, na, na. I got a picture of Rick Bragg —and You don’t.” Whoever You is.

But back to the story. I don’t want to grow up.

After a year off from promoting my writing, I’m hitting the publishing streets with literary feats in the running. I have a passion for helping others like myself find an outlet for their creativity, so I have agreed to sign on as a board member with the Tennessee Writers Alliance. It was through the TWA that I met Etta Wilson, who sparked my desire to write for young adults. I would like to pass on the torch that ignites the dreams of other writers.

I’m preparing to register for my Dallas ACFW conference, and I’m polishing two manuscripts. I have three more sitting in my brain. Two were spawned from killer titles, and the third is based on a late-night adventure a friend and I had while traveling through a small town, laced with mystery and intrigue.

If we hadn’t been in a silly mood that night, if we hadn’t been incognito, if we hadn’t been overzealous and in the red on the juvenile meter, I never would have come up with the plot. Actually, after I went home that night, I dreamed the entire story. Now it’s waiting to be written. A juvenile mind does have its merits.

I don’t want to lose my sense of adventure. The quest leads me to the story.

I take mental snapshots of the places I go so I can weave the experiences into the stories I write:  my trip to Roswell, New Mexico; my visit to Fishtail, Montana, to the world’s best little bait shop-gem shop-coffee house ever; my stop in the art district of Oklahoma City to wander into Galileo’s Coffee Shop. There are too many more to mention: Voodoo Village in Memphis, Elam’s Mansion in the Boro, and the Badlands of South Dakota top the tip of my inspirational iceberg.

But, alas, this summer I have to put on my writer face and behave like a professional. At least in public. And I can’t just talk about writing; I have to do something about it. It’s time to get my manuscripts to the agents and editors. I think I have my strength back. I think I can do this.

When God gives us gifts, He does so for a purpose. There is nothing in the world that makes me feel better than giving to the people I love. Maybe I can do for someone else what my writing mentors have done for me.

As an added challenge to my writing summer, I’ll also be taking graduate classes in English. I don’t want my professors to think I’m totally looney, so I have to be very careful not to spaz out. Focus, focus, focus. Focus shall be my mantra.

It’s only May 3, but already I feel summer coming on. I write best at night when no one else is around. And, like Gus on Psych, I have a super sniffer. I am very sensitive to smell. Honeysuckle and campfires spark my creative passion. Have you been outside at night lately? The fragrances are alluring.

Let the adventure begin. Yeah, I know. I’ve got to tone it down. Study. Do my homework. Dress professionally—save the tee shirts, flip flops and shorts for summer nights. Ease up on my Southern accent. Leave my yalls at home.  

But I shall always, always, always carry my notebook with me. Because no matter how sophisticated and cultured people appear to be, they’ve all got their quirks. They’re all characters waiting to appear in in somebody’s story.

Ode to my fairy godmother, by proxy

Have you ever contemplated jail time?

I mean just how bad does the offense have to be before they send you to the Big House?

I’m not planning anything a jewelry heist or embezzlement. I’m not even sure my dirty deed is criminal. But my motto has always been if the opportunity presents itself, then, by George, don’t sit there, man. Do something about it!

I want to meet Steven Tyler, and my opportunities are limited. I think my only option is to rush the concert stage when Aerosmith plays Atlanta.

Surely, I would get off with a plea of temporary insanity. Sane middle-aged school teachers don’t normally risk a record for a photo op with a singing sensation. But then again I’m not normal, and this is no ordinary singing sensation. We’re talking Steven Tyler.

Now let’s get this straight. I am not obsessed with Steven Tyler. I don’t hide the fact that I really, really like his hair and its charms, braids, and feathers. But I do not in any way, shape, or form endorse his beliefs or code of morality, whatever it may be. I do like his bluesy voice. I like his voice a lot. Almost as much as I like his hair.

Steven Tyler is an icon to me, not an idol. I do not worship him. I do admire his talent. I do not want to stalk him. I simply want to mark off one more “to do” on my bucket list. And that, my friend, is meeting him and getting a photo to document the occasion.

I know that it’s standard procedure for authorities to take said mug shot at the station when they haul in the perpetrator, but I was hoping, should I be arrested for rushing the stage, that said authorities might be kind enough to snap my mug shot WITH Steven Tyler before I’m taken to the precinct. Mission accomplished. That’s the plan. Bail can’t be that much. Can it?

I embarrass my children talking like this. Yet, they are just as quirky as I am. Both of them. They’ll understand someday when their opportunities for adventure grow limited, when they have to either deal with their own quirkiticity or lose any creativity they ever had.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m a teacher. I never really have to grow up. Except for a short departure to the Boro, I’ve never really graduated from Central High.

I’ve accepted the fact that my destiny is to be one of “them,” the crazy teachers the students all whisper about between classes. I hear them talking.

 “Did you hear about Mrs. L? Yeah, she’s on that Tyler kick again.”

“Aw, man. I was just getting into our discussion of the futility of the American dream in Death of a Salesman. Now all we’re going to talk about is American Idol. Again.”

But the good thing about being a teacher is that I work with adolescents who have not yet embraced the mature adult state of mind that prohibits quirkiticity and embraces stoic etiquette.

I just found out Steven Tyler is hosting a Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in LA. The thought of spending any time in a Playboy mansion disgusts me. But here we have one more very real opportunity to get a shot with the man.

And that is ALL I want. I do not lust after Steven Tyler. I do not desire his fame, his fortune. Well, maybe I DO covet his hair…and his clothing. My son Michael says we can go shopping together. He’s right.

My family members have been calling the radio station trying to help me win the contest that will send me to said fantasy camp. I’m sure they relish the idea of me just getting this notion out of my system so that I can go on to the next item on my list. Or they just want to get rid of me.

Fantasy camp is probably a no go. Oh, I clicked on the web site and filled out the online application—except the part where I had to enter my credit card number. The digits came close to $9000. I did not click enter.

So maybe the camp’s out of reach, but the concert is in the bag. Literally. I have my ticket in my school satchel. Notice I said ticket. My family won’t even go with me for fear I’ll embarrass them all, ruin their reputations. Get caught on camera by CNN.

I just don’t get it. I would never do anything lewd or immoral. I just want a picture. Is that too much to ask?

Well, and maybe one of his scarves. A scarf would be nice.

This is MY bucket list. And again, I do not endorse Steven Tyler’s beliefs, his morals, his lyrics.. My pursuit is just a manifestation of my quirkiticity. And I think he does a great job of helping the American Idol kids pursue their dreams.

I don’t want to go to jail. But a girl has to do what a girl has to do. My major concern is that this blog is evidence of premeditation.

But doesn’t premeditation just apply to murder and really bad crimes? I’m really not committing any crime. Not really.

I’m not even stalking the man. I just want a picture. (And maybe a scarf.) Is that too much to ask? I’m an aged, soft-spoken little woman. Do I look like a criminal? Surely, someone will take pity upon me.

I believe in the six degrees of separation.

Perhaps one of you bloggers out there knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Steven Tyler. How hard would it be for one of Steven’s people to send a simple meet and greet pass to a simple school teacher who has given the majority of her life to help build America’s future?

I know how the music industry works. It’s all about who you know. And right now I don’t know Jack Squat.

If only I had a fairy godmother to grant me a wish. But, hey, I believe in serendipity. Perhaps the right person has stumbled onto this blog by accident. Maybe you could make a few calls, and bring a short little woman in a Tennessee hick town great happiness by sending her a meet and greet pass for a little concert in Atlanta,

I’ll let you know how it works out. Otherwise, look for me on CNN.

Snarks and sharks

I am a self-confessed control freak.

I don’t want to take charge of other people. I just want to take of situations. I am such a people pleaser that I worry, worry, worry if I hurt anyone’s feelings.

That doesn’t sound like such a bad flaw, but really it is, especially for a writer. There is simply no way to please everyone. And everyone is a critic, both in a literary and a literal sense.

The experience of teaching has been a great teacher for me. I’ve never had any type of real discipline problem in my classroom. I have a quiet voice. I stand five feet tall, yet when I was younger, older adults who had never stepped into my classroom used to say, “Oh, I bet you have trouble keeping the kids in line.”

Their words fired me up. How dare they judge me without knowing me!

The first year I taught one of my students nominated me as “My Favorite Teacher.” A Channel 4 newsman surprised me with his camera crew, visited my classroom, and presented me with my award. I was on TV. Ms. Supa-stah Teachah.

Not.

I had to go through a season of my life when I learned I was not a superstar. Everyone didn’t love me.

There’s a quote by Natsuki Takaya that says, “Even the smallest of words can be the words to hurt you, or save you.” I learned the hard way that telling a teenager “no” can be dangerous to one’s self esteem.

The last year has been a struggle. I’ll never forget the week my mother was dying. I had two separate altercations with students, both simply because I told them “no”—not out of meanness but because I was doing what had to be done.

One might think my foes would have had more compassion, but they didn’t. I had to face a firing squad. Even when I tried to tell them I still cared about them, they responded with hatred.

It’s not like it was the first time I’ve had to deal with mean people.

Snarks and sharks. That’s what I call them.

Snarks are those people who serve up backhanded compliments and snide remarks. Sharks are those people who attack when their prey is weak.

I used to do a lot of ministry work, but I’ve learned snarks and sharks are everywhere, even churches. Once I took a group of junior high girls to Nashville for an overnight Bible study. A relative loaned us his old limousine—emphasis on OLD as in ratty and falling apart, and off we went.

The girls felt as though they were princesses on their way to a ball. (I didn’t tell them about the rat we found later in the trunk.) We stayed downtown in a hotel with inside doors, a first for most of them.

When we returned, a lady from our church compared us to “the streetwalkers on Second Avenue.” And all we did was eat in a restaurant, play a game of laser tag, and have a Bible study. (I will admit one of the girls entertained the crowd at the Melting Pot restaurant by doing a monkey walk in front of the restaurant window, but she wasn’t imitating a streetwalker. She was imitating a monkey. There is a difference.)

Why would someone say something so mean?

When my oldest son was born, he almost died from a prolapsed umbilical cord. I had to have emergency surgery, and he was completely blue at birth. The doctor told us to keep him at home for a month with limited visitors. Yet, the pastor of my church chastised me for missing. “God gave you that baby,” he said. “And he can take him away.”

How could someone be so callous?

I’ve often asked God, “Why do some people hurt us at our weakest moments? Why do some people kick us when all we want to do is be kind?”

The answer He gave me is really very easy. We can’t force another person to love us, and we can’t be forced to love anyone else. That’s why God gave us free will. Even though God loves us, He won’t force us to love Him.

Love isn’t love when it’s forced.

Love has to be given and accepted unconditionally. I know that if there is anything good in my life, anything that speaks of love, it is from God. God is love.

I’ve had limited success as a writer, mostly as a freelance journalist. If I had to give any advice to a beginner, I would say, “Toughen up. Not everyone is going to love what you write. You’ve got to learn your craft. Take the advice your mentors give to you in love, and shake off the criticism from the snarks and sharks.”

To be honest, if I do get published as a novelist, I will be overjoyed, but I won’t be overly surprised. You see, everything that I’ve ever prayed about and dedicated my heart to, God has given me. He gives us the desires of our heart because He puts them there.

I may not be writing for BMI, Rolling Stone, or any of the major music publications, but I get to write. I get to interview some of the most interesting people in the world. I couldn’t ask for anything more. A bigger paycheck couldn’t buy me any more happiness.

My goal as a writer for young adults is simple. I want my readers to believe that this author loves them and understands them, unconditionally, just as they are.

Maybe they’ll find a way to reciprocate that love and pay it forward, maybe even to a snark or a shark.

Vicarious

When I was a little kid, I believed I could do anything.

I wanted a pony, and I didn’t depend on Santa to bring it. I devised a plan myself. I saved my pennies in a glass jar. I listened to the Swap and Shop program on WMSR radio, and when a farmer advertised his pony for sale, I called him.

I interrogated him over the phone. I decided he had what I wanted, and I asked him to deliver it to my grandparents’ house. And that he did in a old pick-up truck. I paid him the $25 I had saved, and I had my pony. I think I was in second grade.

What I didn’t realize is how much that pony would cost. My dad traded his shotgun for a new saddle, and they paid my grandparent’s neighbor for boarding. I also didn’t figure on old Jerry, my pony’s name, to be a mean son of gun. The first day I got him I sat proudly on his back while he was tethered in my grandparents’ front yard.

My silly uncle teased me by neighing like a horse, and for no good reason at all Jerry bucked me off in front of my entire family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents. I was humiliated. But my grandfather talked me into getting back on again, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.

Jerry didn’t stay around too long, but my little pony experience taught me never to stop believing dreams can true.

I miss being a little kid. When we’re little kids, time has no meaning. Life seems to go on forever, and the only thing about time we dreaded was bedtime. But the next day provided another opportunity for adventure.

When you’re a little kid, you can play and pretend and be anything you want to be. When you fall down, scrape your knee, or getting thrown by a horse, there’s usually someone there to pick you up again.

But when we grow up, recess goes away. There’s no time to pretend. No time to play. No time to think our own thoughts. Everyone says, “No you can’t,” and we stop believing we can.

Last night I saw a beautiful sight. My twelve year old was sprawled on my bed reading The Hunger Games. I didn’t force him to read. He asked me to buy the book. I didn’t beg him to read. He sneaked away by himself and took the initiative.

I’m a teacher. I don’t see many young kids, especially boys, who volunteer to read anything.

I get excited when I see young people read because reading gives them a chance to be anything, do anything they want, even if they have to live vicariously through characters in the book.

I wouldn’t discourage any type of reading as long as it wasn’t moral pollution. Comic books, graphic novels, sports magazines, romance novels, etc. I like to read interviews and biographies. Why? Because I can live vicariously through the writers who interviewed the people. In addition to being a novelist in training, I’m a freelance music journalist, and I love writing about artists and their music.

When I read biographies and music magazines, I always imagine myself having a candid one on one chat with the person the story is about.

Some readers like fantasies with dragons, fairies, and all sorts of mythological creatures. Whe readers open the page, they can be on another planet, in another dimension, or in a different era. Reading takes away the “can’t” factor.

I love to read, but I really LOVE to write because I still like to believe all things are possible. I live vicariously through my characters—and so far my books and articles always have a happy ending because I CAN make it happen.

In schools across the state, children of all ages have an “I CAN” mantra. They work from bell to bell, learning one state standard after another. We push, push, push them. And that’s great. We want them to learn.

But I wish they a little more time to pretend again, to play, to imagine, to read for pleasure, to live vicariously through the characters, to believe they CAN do what everyone else says is impossible.

If my dreams do come true, I want to reach the kids who don’t believe they can any more. I want them to take a recess, open their imaginations, dream a dream and believe it CAN come true.

I may have unrealistic expectations, but I still believe in happy endings.