My Writing Christmas List

We’re thirty days away from Christmas. (Hard to believe.) And by this time, kids and adults are compiling their Christmas lists. So I am going to give you my list of things I want for Christmas. And if you didn’t guess by the title, everything will be writing-related. Now, this is only a wish list. I don’t expect to get any of these items. But if there’s anyone willing to gift me any of these items, “Thank You” will be in order.

In no particular order…

  • Apple iPhone X. Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. I debated, and still am, on whether it’s worth getting the iPhone X or the 8 Plus. Either will fulfill my wants for more memory and a bigger screen. And either will have multiple uses besides using them for my writing and note-taking. The biggest questions come to cost and use of features. Am I going to use all the features that the iPhone X is offering? Will I sacrifice having the latest, greatest phone for ease of use? And what about the price? Am I willing to sign my life away—not that I already am—to have a phone that will be good until the newest model is announced? On a couple of occasions, I thought I had a definitive answer. Not so much now. But I have some time before deciding.

  • Bluetooth headphones. I like listening to music when I’m writing or doing anything else like outdoor chores or working out at the gym. Wired earbuds are a pain and I don’t keep up with the cushions on wireless earbuds. So I think having headphones will be better for me. They’re more comfortable and most will allow you to answer phone calls. Beats are the go-to, but there are others that are as good and cost less. I’m open to anything.

  • Writing Craft Books. I’ll be the first to admit that I need help with the writing craft. I get that books can only get you so far, but any help is welcome. Now I can compose a list just on this item alone, but I’ll list the books that are the most sought after. On the top of my list is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Ever since I learned of its existence and reading about how it’s helped so many writers. I can’t imagine not benefiting me. Next is Stephen King’s On Writing. The quintessential guide to the creative process. I used to have this book, but I gave it away. I want it back.

  • Writing Prompt Books. Like the craft books, I can compile a list based on this item. I research a lot of prompts on Pinterest and subscribe to a newsletter that posts new prompts every week. But having a book will be a boon. Will I use them all? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will get me thinking outside the box.

  • Short Story Collections. I like reading short stories as much as I like writing them. And The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories are the best out there. There are others like the O. Henry anthology. And there are collections by various writers that are on my list. What makes these collections and anthologies so great is that while they cannot possess the depth of a novel due to its format, there’s the potential of reading memorable characters and awesome storytelling. And I want to learn from as many writers as possible so that I can create memorable stories of my own.

  • Subscriptions to Literary Magazines. It’s one thing to learn from the best writers in the world. It’s another to discover and read works from local writers, whether first-time or seasoned. Georgia has some great literary magazines, like New South and The Georgia Review. I want a subscription to either one and, like the nationwide anthologies, learn what makes their stories special.

  • Writing Space. This may sound like an odd item, but hear me out. I live in a small house that’s filled to the brim with family and it’s always busy. Even when I have the time to write, I’m writing in the kitchen most of the time. And I don’t have the privacy I want and frankly need to concentrate on writing. I just want an area that’s designated for me and my writing. Someplace where people know that when I’m there, I don’t want to be disturbed, even if it’s for thirty minutes. And I don’t care if it’s at a corner of the living room. I don’t care if it’s in the laundry room. I just want a space that’s mine where I can write in peace.

So, there you have it. My writing wish list. Will I get everything I want? Odds point to “no.” But a writer can dream.

What about you? What are you hoping for on your wish list? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

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Thanksgiving: Remembering the Past and Building the Present

This week, my kids are off for the Thanksgiving holiday. Good for them. I have to work Thanksgiving Day and the day after, A. K. A. “Black Friday,” so I’ll be having Thanksgiving a day early. But as I’m preparing the for the upcoming days of madness, I’m thinking about how Thanksgiving was when I was my kids’ age. It wasn’t always about retailers getting a leg up on the competition. It wasn’t about fighting other customers over something that stores probably had a surplus of. No, Thanksgiving was not the cash cow as it is now. At least, not as much back when I was growing up.

It may be hard to believe, but I remember a time when you really celebrated Thanksgiving. When stores were actually closed, or at least had shortened hours. Let me take you down my memory lane; to how I spent most of my Thanksgivings.

I remember waking up to my mom cooking breakfast for the three of us. Biscuits, bacon, sausage, eggs. My brother and I ate the biscuits and meat mostly. I remember Saturday morning cartoons broadcasting on Thanksgiving morning. (We didn’t care for the parades.) I remember watching TV most of the day while Mom was hard at work putting the finishing touches on Thanksgiving dinner.

Before moving to Georgia, I remember traveling to Illinois to have Thanksgiving dinner with relatives. I remember streets and parking lots nearly barren because everyone stayed home. By the time we crossed the Missouri-Illinois state line, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are already there waiting for us. I remember being so hungry because we really didn’t have lunch. While we waited for Thanksgiving dinner, we watched more TV. Football, mostly, with a cartoon or holiday movie sprinkled in during commercials.

When it was time, we gathered around a big table, and we each said something we were thankful for. (That tradition continues when my family moved to Georgia.) After prayer, we lined up in the kitchen, digging in to the cornucopia of Thanksgiving delights. Turkey, ham, dressing, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, cranberry sauce (the canned kind), and sodas. I remember eating with my brother and cousins. Christmas wasn’t a thought until about a week after Thanksgiving.

That’s what I remember about my Thanksgivings growing up. It was such a fun time for us. (Maybe not so much for my mom.) But as Thanksgiving loses its moments as a time for families to come together, I feel it necessary to hold on to those traditions. Since I work retail, it’s hard to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, which explains why I’m celebrating the day before. And while we’re on the subject of being non-traditional, my wife and I have decided on a healthier spread for Thanksgiving. Am I going to miss a lot of the good from Thanksgivings past? Sure. But we’re striving to be more conscious about what we eat, and that means changing our diet. And it seems the kids are on board. But there is one tradition I want to continue: sharing one thing we’re thankful for. I feel it’s important to take that time to think about everything that we have and remember that we’re not guaranteed what we have.

So, thanks for letting me share my memories. I want to hear from you. What are your best Thanksgiving memories? What traditions do you have or want to start? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

What’s In a Name

Last month, I wrote a flash fiction piece on the parameter that it had to be told using dialogue only. I forgot where the prompt came from, but it was an interesting challenge. So, here’s my story.

“What do you mean?”

“Exactly what I said. We do not have an order for you.”

“Look…Lara. I put in an order three days ago for three dozen shamrock donuts to be picked up today. I have a receipt saying the order would be ready today. And now, you’re telling me I’m not in the system?”

“You don’t need to yell, sir. I can see the receipt. And it was sent to this location. I don’t understand what went wrong.”

“Let me talk to a manager. Right now.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll be right back.”

“I can’t believe this. I know I put in the order right. I may not be a techie, but I know my way around a computer. I know I put the order in right.”

“Sir, this is my manager, Derrick. He can help you.”

“So, there’s an issue with an order that was placed.”

“Long story short, Derrick, I placed an order for three dozen shamrock donuts for my daughter’s class three days ago. I got a receipt from your website that the order would be ready today. Now, she’s telling me that the order wasn’t placed when you can clearly see that it has.”

“Let me check my computers.”

“Could you please hurry up. My daughter’s expecting the donuts today.”

“What was the order under?”

“Ashlee. Frank Ashlee.”

“And how is that spelled?”

“A-S-H-L-E-E.”

“Ah. I see what happened. The computer corrected the spelling on our end. It didn’t recognize the spelling. And I see the order is ready. I’ll get them for you.”

“Thank you, Derrick.”

“I’ve never heard of anyone who spelled ‘Ashley’ that way.”

“I get that a lot. Believe me.”

So, how about you? I believe you can write a story using dialogue alone. Post your story in the comments. I would love to read them.

Weekend Coffee Share: Growing and Rehashing

Hi there.

Good to see you. I’m sorry if I haven’t been as active on these posts. Sometimes, there’s not a whole lot going on in my life that’s worth talking about. But I’m glad you’re here. Today is an apple cider kind of day. I just finished doing some yard work. And man, it was cold this morning, which is what it’s supposed to feel like in the fall. So I’m going to have my apple cider while you take in whatever you want. I also have some eggnog if you want a different kind of creamer. We also have coconut creamer. That’s Colleen’s new go-to creamer. We have to buy at least two a trip because she goes through it like she goes through unsweetened tea. 

Anyway, glad to see you here. We’ve been busy with the kids, especially Jaxon. Last week, he started school. It’s kind of scary. We were so used to carrying him around with us while running errands. Now that he’s attending special education, the house just doesn’t feel the same. Even when we took him to school, there was something so surreal about it. It was only yesterday that we let the bus pick him up. We met the driver upon meeting his teacher and seeing his classroom. I felt I was going to cry for a moment. It was difficult watching someone else strap him in. And then when he left, I stood there, hoping he would be okay. I thought he would cry when I left the bus. But he sat there, quiet. I was happy, and yet, sad because he was growing. 

It’s only been a week since he started special education, so it’s really unfair to measure progress. Reading the teacher’s reports, though. I get a sense of confidence. It seems like Jaxon is adapting well to the new routine. But even then, they don’t do the same thing every day. That’s good. I guess the one thing I’m trying to learn about having an autistic child is that the definition of progress and success is much different. There are a lot of things we take for granted that are a legitimate struggle for someone like Jaxon. Like following directions (which some people still struggle with), finding ways to communicate wants and needs, using the potty (though he’scoring around). Stuff like that. It’s normal to us, but we have to work extra hard to teach him, and even then, he won’t get it right away. So we have to be patient and adapt ourselves to a different “standard.”

I try not to listen to the news very much. As important as some of these stories are, I feel like the media wants to solely focus on the negative. I don’t know if it’s a ratings thing or what. But there is a direct correlation between what’s going on now and the shape of our country today and how it affects future generations. Take the stories of sexual misconduct that seem to be piling up. Victims have been speaking out more since the Weinstein story broke loose. And with every day that passes, someone new is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior. The thing that concerns me more that I don’t think is being addressed is the lessons we’re teaching our children, especially our young men. I’m concerned about the message we’re sending to them when it comes to women. As a father of two young children, I have a responsibility to teach them respect for themselves and for other people. I also have a responsibility to teach them to defend themselves and not be afraid to speak up against any kind of abuse. 

NaNo is in full swing. It’s been ten days, and I’ve read tweets and Facebook status updates on their progress. While I’m not participating in NaNo, I made it a point to write every day to build that habit. Sad to say, I failed in that goal. And I have no one to blame but me. I’ve let myself get distracted by other things and haven’t made writing a priority. There was one day where I was so stressed, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing a story I started. And even now, I’m thinking about scrapping it. It might have been the stress talking, or it might have been because I put too much pressure on myself to write a story by a certain time, based on advice I sought out. That never works out for me. In the end, I end up more miserable and unwilling to write anything. That’s something I’m trying to change. So for now, the story I started is on the shelf. But I started thinking of a new story in its place. But i’m taking my time because I want to make sure it’s a story I want to write. And I may incorporate elements of the last story into this one. We’ll see. 

Well, that’s it for today. I got to get dressed for work. Let me know how your week has been in the comments. Contrary to the belief, I do read them. I may not comment on the comments, but I want you to know that you are not being ignored.

So long for now. 

Why I Don’t Do NaNo: An IWSG Post


Good day, my friends. 

It’s the first Wednesday of the month. And that means it’s time for my contribution to the Insecure Writers Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, writers and bloggers share their writing stories to encourage writers of all levels. If you have any questions or would like to participate, clink on the link to learn more. 

So by this time, many writers have started their quest to write 50k words for NaNoWriMo. And this month’s optional question was geared toward NaNo. I haven’t even participated in NaNo, so answering the question is out of the question. But I thought I would insert my two cents and explain why I haven’t participated in NaNo at all.

I’ve been encouraged by a lot of writing friends to participate in this challenge. And it is a challenge. Even certain members of my family have spurred me to do it. But I feel NaNo isn’t right for me. But before I begin, this requires a preface. I recently posted on social media that I was listing off a lot of regrets in my writing journey. And it’s come at an inopportune time. So, take it with a grain of salt.

Now, here’s why I don’t think NaNo will work for me:

  1. I’m not good with word count goals. Don’t get me wrong. Writing so many words is a huge benchmark. But coming up with about 1700 words a day is daunting. It’s hard enough to produce even 1000 on any given day. And that’s even with me joining a Facebook writing group that encourages meeting word counts. Writing so many words for 30 days straight doesn’t seem feasible, even though I did such a feat back in July. And that leads me to my next reason. 
  2. I don’t have the time to sit and write every day. Like most writers, I have to balance writing with a full-time life. I work two jobs and I help out with the family. That’s roughly 3/4 of my day. Granted, I have my breaks during work, so I can write then, but I’m a slow writer. For me, meeting the ideal daily word count goal will take hours (with breaks sprinkled in, of course).
  3. I’m a writing perfectionist. Finding time to write is challenging enough for me. But I’m really bad when it comes to perfectionism. Even with a first draft, my inner critic is ever present, looking over my shoulder. It doesn’t matter if I write on my laptop or with paper and pen. Every fiber wants to make changes while I write. (It’s worse writing on my laptop, by the way.) I feel like I get nothing accomplished; like I made no progress. 
  4. I’m bad when it comes to creating ideas for projects. It’s said that there are no more original ideas; just better ways to tell the story. And I wholehearted agree with that statement. I will dare take it a step further and say the retellings are becoming redundant. Now granted, this is a lame excuse. I can research prompts on Google, Pinterest, or anywhere on social media. The problem is, like my yearning to be perfect in writing my draft, I have this need to be perfect in my execution. I freeze in fear just at the thought of trying to come up with something new.
  5. I’m constantly comparing myself to others. Like the perfectionism, there’s this fear that I will not be as good as others. I want to be happy for my fellow writers, but there’s a part of me that feels I should be where they are. I feel reading word count statuses will make things worse for my self-esteem. It’s bad enough I beat myself up for things I haven’t done. NaNo might make it ten times worse.
  6. I have a fear of failure. This is the last, and arguably, the most crippling reason. As much as I say I don’t, I can be pretty competitive. I feel the need to be good at whatever I do. Especially writing. 50k words is certainly doable, but what if I don’t meet that goal? What does that say to me as a writer? These are questions I ask myself even with the Writing Club on Facebook. I look at the stat sheet and see how many words people produce in a day. I feel inadequate because I have trouble meeting my measly goal every day. 

I apologize that this post is contradictory to the purposes of the group. But I have a responsibility to be honest with my blog followers. Now by no means, this is not to discourage anyone from participating in NaNo. And it’s not to say that I will never try at hand at the challenge. I might do Camp NaNo where I can set my own word count goal. But right now, I’m not at a place where I can commit to such a challenge. But rest assured, I will be on the sidelines, cheering my fellow writers on.

What about you? Are you participating in NaNo this year? Have you participated before? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments. I want to know your thoughts. 

Write on, my friends. And to those participating in NaNo, good luck.