Wednesday, September 20

#WW: On Refilling the Well ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

My friend Shay coined the term (at least in Kristina-Land) "refilling the well". I've used the phrase many times, and a lot of people take it as a vacation - sitting beside a lake or beach or mountain and simply contemplating the silence or a place in the universe. I suppose, in a very literal sense, it could mean sitting back and contemplating.

Every fall, our writer's group takes a long weekend to refill the well. We call it Brainstorming Weekend. Last year we brainstorming 20+ books, wrote a ton (my workcount for the weekend was around 20,000 words), and laughed so hard my cheeks went numb from smiling at one point.

In our sense 'refilling the well' is less about being silent and alone, and more about being surrounded by other writers - talking writing, actually writing, plotting full stories, brainstorming smaller get the picture.

I think the key to a weekend like this is to know what you want to get out of the retreat before you leave.

These are questions I ask as I'm prepping for retreat: Do I want to plot a series? Finish a book? Figure out character motivations?

Knowing the answers to these questions helps me narrow my focus. From that narrowed focus, I sit down with my planner and look at what deadlines I have coming up. I look at promotion plans I've started. I look at books I've wanted to write but haven't had time to start working on. I look at my business plan for the six months after the retreat to get a sense of time-frames for contracted and uncontracted projects. From there, I make a list of 3-5 things I want to accomplish at the retreat. One of those things is always a close-time goal (like X-number of words toward my closest deadline), another is a long-term goal (like, a 'closet project' that I've though about but haven't pushed forward on), other goals might include something not book related (like coming up with blog post topics, or meme ideas for promotion), another goal could be brainstorming turning points of a book or beefing up character motivations. You get the drift.

Once I have those goals in mind, I pack my stuff, and I hit the road fully expecting not to actually accomplish every.single.thing. on my list, but knowing that I'll come away feeling refreshed, and having accomplished some (usually most) of the things on my list. 

What about you? Have you attended a writer's retreat, and if so, what was your favorite activity?                                                                                                                           ~Kristina

Tuesday, September 19

Untethered and Adrift

Yesterday Liz talked about the little pieces of ideas that wander through her writer’s mind—snippets of conversations, words, things we notice that perhaps no one else notices. I told her I loved her lavender couch when we chatted this morning, which of course got us going on what kind of dream house we'd each have. It also got me thinking about where my random ideas rest—on a chintz chair, I think. Faded old flowered fabric on a huge overstuffed chair sitting in a sunny spot in my house. Maybe an ottoman, but it doesn’t have to match because honestly, my decorating style is as random as my ideas. So, here’s a list of just a few of the thoughts from my chintz chair. I’d love to hear yours!
  • Streaky sunset
  • She exuded grace and intelligence
  • A child mute and blinking in terror
  • He let go of my hand and suddenly I was untethered and adrift in my own thoughts.
  • Rumpled (isn’t that a great word?)
  • A train stops at a small snow-covered station
  • What if I look in the mirror and someone else stares back.
  • He crooked his finger in a come-hither gesture (Okay, I used that one in Saving Sarah, but it’s still on the table because it’s such a wonderfully sexy word picture.)
  • earthy and raw
  • Coffee that tasted like morning . . . or was it the other way around?
Oh, and while you’re out there shopping in the ebook world, preordering Liz’s Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, I'd love it if you'd click again and preorder Saving Sarah, which releases on September 26. Merci beaucoup! Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

Saving Sarah


Monday, September 18

Population 62 and the lavender couch @Liz Flaherty

I was talking to Nan yesterday and we did a little unintended brainstorming. I'm not going to tell you what it's about because she might surprise you with it one of these days, but the conversation made me think of some little bitty seeds of information that had either made their way into a story--mine or someone else's--or are lying there on a lavender couch at the back of my mind taking root. Some of them have been there, dormant, for years, but I like them anyway. They remind me a little of worry beads or prayer stones--they give you a good place to go when your mind needs to settle.

Here is my list.

  • Population, 62.
  • A plane named Sunflower.
  • They called him Tru Drew.
  • We rode the Electrolux down the stairs.
  • Never. Not even once.
  • She could barely ride a bicycle--what was she doing on a mechanical bull?
  • "Of course your son's a good kid--you're the idiot."
  • Joy shimmered.
  • Heat made invisible blisters everywhere he touched her.
I'm pretty sure I'll never use all of these but it was fun pulling them off the purple couch to take a look at. How about you? Do you have a list of seeds?

And, just in case you haven't pre-ordered yet, Heartwarming Holiday Wishes is out there, as is Christmas Town's very own website. Stop by!

Saturday, September 16

Adventures in Nova Scotia

We're on holidays in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, we got off to a bad start. Our first full day began with rain so bad that my husband was drenched to the bone when he tried to go out.  I woke to this scene out our hotel room window:

In case you can't tell, that's two cruise ships in the harbor. And it's raining. Pouring, actually. Margie, I wish I could have sent some of this your way.

In the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, we decided to do a few things very close to our hotel in downtown Halifax. All the people on the cruise ships had the same idea, making the Halifax Farmer's Market one crowded place.

Since outdoor pursuits were soggy, we decided to stay indoors and visit the Pier 21 Museum. Pier 21 is one of the places in Canada where immigrants came to on their way to becoming Canadian citizens.

Wall of Ships at Pier 21 Museum. Pictures of the ships that brought immigrants to Canada

And if all else fails, you can always sit in a pub and drink beer. Which we did.

A fine selection from Garrison Brewery.
Fortunately, the weather cleared and we were able to do a lot of fun stuff in Halifax, including going to a distillery to sample their rums (I detect a pattern here), and listening to live music at a downtown pub. So much fun! We went on the Harbor Hopper which is an amphibious vehicle that takes you from the streets of Halifax right into the harbor. It was a hoot!

Next we visited Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. My friend Janet, who also happens to be my editor on my current self-publishing project, lives in the area. It was so great to catch up with her. She showed me around her beautiful corner of the world, and of course we got to talk about writing which is always fun.
Our horse-drawn tour of Lunenburg. Our horse was named Ernie.
We're currently in Cape Breton just outside of Sydney, Nova Scotia. Yesterday we toured the Fortress of Louisbourg, an 18th town/military post established by the French in 1713. If you're interested in learning about that period of history in North America, Louisbourg is a fabulous place to go.

One of the "French soldiers" at Louisbourg. He told us to look out for English spies.
Next on the agenda is driving the Cabot Trail through Cape Breton. I'm hoping to take in a ceilidh or two. And perhaps there's more craft beer tastings in my future! I'll report back in future blogs.

What do you like to do on vacations?

Friday, September 15

Change Stays the Same

Happy Friday, Wranglers! I normally try for a funny and upbeat Friday post (or at the very least, snarky). However, in light of Margie's post and the passing of her father-in-law, I don't want to be glib or careless. It all brings to mind the fact that change is the one thing in our lives that remains the same.

Having spent nearly two decades with my previous employer, I saw lots of change. And the way people reacted to change was always interesting. The merest whiff of change might drive some people over the edge, no matter how calmly we spoke and how many assurances we made that they would be ok. Others could ride that tide, that pendulum, that storm (funny how there are so many ways to even look at change) with admirable stoicism. Maybe they were certain it wouldn't affect them, maybe they just didn't care. Personally, I found myself not worrying over things I couldn't control (or maybe just burying my head in the sand... Again, so many ways to view it).

And now I'm on the cusp of more change. The job search continues, but (at the risk of jinxing myself) I'm in the final phases of one specific job interview process. Assuming it all goes well (cross your fingers, please!), I might be employed soon.

Oddly enough, that fact has me a little off-kilter. My new "normal" is about to change, and it's elevating my stress level. Who's going to take the kiddos to school if I have a job? Will I be off in time to run them to their activities? When will I find time to write? Will I make enough money? Will my vacation plans get chucked? Who is going to stay home and love on the precious kitties and open the window close the window open the window close the window all day if I'm not there?

Gasp! Things are going to change, and I'm going to have to adapt. And my zen-like serenity has flown out the window. This job is a whole new adventure...a whole new unknown...and I'm way more nervous about it than I would have thought.

Deep breaths. In my mind, I know everything will be ok. I have faith that there is a plan for me and whatever is meant to be shall. I believe that good people land on their feet (and bad pennies always turn up... so I'm covered no matter what ;-) And yet the thought of change (you know, the change that I've been applying for, hoping for, working toward...) has me on the edge of my seat in a will-the-clown-from-the-IT-movie-drag-me-down-the-sewer-too kind of way.

I don't know which I dislike more: the thought of the upcoming change, or the fact that I'm skittish about it. Deep breaths. I can't stop change. I can only meet it head on, right? Accept it and deal with it as best as I can.

So how do you handle change?