Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Humor & Inspiration in Writing: Prairie Wife in Heels

Those shoes though...
Perhaps you haven't noticed my love of shoes. Maybe you've missed/ignored my many shoe selfies. (Suuuure.) Anyway, Cathy (AKA Prairie Wife in Heels) was one of the first people I connected with on Twitter, and I instantly thought, I like you! (See her profile pic on the left.)

Seriously, what's not to love? She's a city girl turned country girl with a shoe obsession. I tell you, Cathy, I can relate. 

Cathy (along with other life-minded cowgirls) writes a blog to inspire and uplift women. So when she asked if she could be a part of the Humor & Inspiration features, I was more than thrilled to pass her the mic. Take it away, mama!
* * *
The Idyllic Country Family
When most people think of the Wyoming Prairie they imagine deep blue sky as far as the eye can see, wide open grasslands, and fragrant sage brush gently rocking in the wind. Cowboys herding cows, galloping horses, and women in long skirts. Perhaps they even imagine a few children cheerfully tagging along waving sticks and singing…From a distance my “homestead” does look like this but, the closer you get the more the idyllic scene above is proven wrong.
Cowboy and Cowboy-in-training
More often than not the sage brush and grass is being blown sideways by 30mph winds and while we have four horses and mini mule, they are kept in a corral and not able to roam free. My Cowboy can be found herding one of our five children rather than cows. Long skirts have been replaced with sweats. I do constantly have children tagging along after me but, cheerful isn’t the word I would use to describe their typical attitude.
Offspring. Definitely not cheerful.
I have always enjoyed writing but, with the birth of my first child and the next two years of being a working mother, I found other ways to spend my few precious moments of free time (sleeping). Then my husband got a new job which resulted in a move 30 miles outside of town.

As a city girl known for her love of high heels, the move to the Prairie offered many new experiences. My Wyoming life as a Prairie Wife was so unusual to all my friends back home, that I found myself being asked to share the same stories repeatedly. Those who knew me growing up, found it hard to imagine me shooting raccoons out my bedroom window in the middle of the night. 
Who's chasing who? Go, mama!
My herd of children offered many varied parenting experiences, and my local friends were often handing out my number to their acquaintances so I could answer parenting and nursing** questions.
Eventually, I began my blog to share my stories with a wider audience and offer support to other women. I knew that having a blog would force me to take the time for myself and write. Finding opportunities to sit and write amidst the chaos of my life was overwhelming at first…but with true prairie wife grit and grace I kept at it. Soon, I began to notice that regularly taking time to blog was enriching my life in unexpected ways.

Writing has enabled me to reflect and grow. Feeding horses in -20 degree weather, in a foot of snow, nine months pregnant wasn’t funny at the time. But, I knew it would eventually make one hell of a blog post.

The connections I’ve made through our monthly interviews and social media has shown me that everyone has a story that we can learn from. What started as a way to take a few moments to myself, and perhaps help a few other women get through a rough day, has instead resulted in motivating me to be a better woman, wife, and mother.
* * *
Cathy AKA Prairie Wife in Heels
Carry on, funny mountain mama! 
For more, connect with Cathy online.
Prairie Wife in Heels website

And for more inspiration, read the first Humor & Inspiration post, No, I Won't Write Your Memoir featuring Lydia Thomas. 

If you're a blogger, writer, or author and you'd like to be featured in the Humor & Inspirations posts, leave a comment below. 
* * *
**The following, from Letter to the Grouchy Lady in Church shows Cathy's unique sense of humor. Apparently, after the little ones had jostled the Grouchy Lady coming and going, tossed their toys and mourned their loss, baby demanded lunch. 

“It is clear to me...that despite covering up with a blanket to nurse LittleMissH, I obviously offended your sensibilities. I of course refrained from pointing out that your breasts were only covered up by a piece of fabric as well. Though I will admit that your polyester black blazer offered a touch more coverage than my blanket. I have never prayed for a blanket to stay in place, or the baby to stay silent and not cry or burp before, how wonderful to have that experience while at church! Never before has the sound of a baby farting made me break into a cold sweat but I can attest to the fact that Secret Clinical Strength deodorant does work to hide stress sweat smell.

Snicker! As always, thanks for dropping by, friends. By the way, you can read all the Humor & Inspiration features below:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Epic Battles & Quiet Victories

I know, I know. You've already heard everything there is to hear about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All the creepy memes, spoiler alerts, wild speculations, and Facebook friends who threatened to unfriend you if you offered any of the aforementioned items on the list. *insert eye roll*
I forgot to mention bad jokes. Sorry.
Well, I only have one thing to add. It was amazing! Don't worry, I won't bend your ear with dorky Star Wars-isms. I just want to talk about why stories like Star Wars are so impressive. 
He has not aged well. Seriously.
It isn't all the schmancy pyrotechnics or highly paid actors. (Really, $34.7 million, Mr. Ford?). And it certainly isn't the cool locations or costumes (though they are really cool). Ultimately, our hearts are won by epic battles. Good vs. Evil. Dark vs. Light. All played out in vivid detail. We cheer when the protagonist overcomes impossible odds to win the war. Like when Luke wins over Vader. Or Harry Potter conquers Lord Voldemort. 

We need those phenomenal victories to lend us courage and strength in the game of life. After all, life isn't nearly as interesting as what is played out on the big screen, the odds are rarely in our favor, and there's no guarantee of victory. Stories of bravery and brilliance give us the fortitude to keep on going anyway.
Yeah. That happened.
But what about the quiet victories? When Elizabeth wins Darcy or Jane Eyre returns to Mr. Rochester? Quiet victories are every bit as satisfying to the heart and are every bit as important as epic adventures.
Oh yeah, that's satisfying.
As an awkward young woman, I identified with Anne Shirley of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. Anne's penchant for ridiculous situations and inevitably making matters worse resonated with me. In those days, I was the type of girl who did everything backwards. Through Anne, I learned the importance of apologizing correctly (rather than dramatically), that the best love is the one you work for instead of the one that falls into your lap, and that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. Those are lessons that I will always carry with me. 
I can relate, sister.
Even though we know that Good doesn't always win and Happily Ever After only occurs in fairytales, Epic Battles and Quiet Victories sell books and movies because they inspire us. The best ones throw a load of obstacles in the hero's way before the end, demanding ingenuity, bravery, and inner strength to come out on top. Sound like life? It does to me. In the end, these tales summon the superhero within and whisper of a better tomorrow.
* * *
Now you've heard my thoughts on the subject. I'd love to get your take on Epic Battles and Quiet Victories. Do you find one more appealing than the other? And what are your favorites? Leave me a comment! And thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Humor & Inspiration in Writing: No, I Won't Write Your Memoir

Completely unsolicited #BookSelfie
The following feature was penned by the oh-so-adorable Lydia Thomas. I became acquainted with Lydia's wit and generosity when she reviewed my book. It coincided with Becoming Beauty's blog tour and was more personal than several of the tour participants' posts. Since then I have been a huge fan of Miss Lydia and I am more than pleased to share her one-of-a-kind style with you. Enjoy! 
* * *
I truly thought they were being dramatic, those writers who complain about people who say, “You know what you should write...” or, “I have this story idea...” I guess I was just jealous because it had never happened to me.
Then, one fateful November day, I was typing away on my work computer – probably an email – and one of my co-workers says, “Working on your novel?”

“Oh, yeah, I think Oprah might actually put her sticker on this one.”

I thought my sarcasm had been clear until he asked, “How long have you been writing?”

“My whole life.”

And you know, usually that’s when someone will ask what I write about, but not this guy: “I have a story. What do they call it when it’s someone’s life story?”

“An autobiography.”

“No. Well, it’s like a biography, but more personal.” He told me the title he’d chosen, and then hit me with this: “You could retire off of this book deal.”
“Well, that’s not really--”

“I have all of the memories.” How it works. “I just need someone to put them together for me. I can start feeding them to you, and you can type them up.”

“Well, that’s not really--”

“Seriously, you could retire off of this book deal.” How I work. “We can split the royalties.”

As he related a memory from his truly tragic childhood to me, I wondered how to politely tell him that I don’t want to write his book.

I thought about telling him that I didn’t have time. After all, I’m editing my second book, A Year with the Baptists, writing the first draft of my third book, Rachael’s Unfolding, and plotting an unnamed fantasy series. And it’s not like when I’m done with all of that I’ll be at a loss for ideas.

I thought about telling him that the market is saturated, to say nothing at all about the memoir genre. Telling stories is not enough; you have to be able to get people to listen. In order to get people to listen to you, you have to be listening to them.

I thought about telling him that I get paid ahead of time for any freelance work I do, in case, you know, the co-writer can’t hack it. I think anyone whose opinion is that a writing career just happens won’t hack it, and would therefore be a poor investment of my time, energy, and significant talent.

I also thought about telling him that maybe I didn’t want to retire off of his book deal; I want to retire off my own.
I ended up going with, “You really want a writer who can do your memories justice, and memoir is really not my thing.”

Even though the encounter was every bit as frustrating as my writing friends had led me to believe, I was inspired to continue tapping out my own lowly story ideas, building relationships with people, and otherwise investing my time in worthwhile pursuits.
* * *
Lydia Thomas...just goofing around!
Lydia Thomas cannot dance or snap her fingers, but she can sing and write, so most days she feels pretty good about herself. She enjoys DIY projects and crafting, and spending time with family and friends, playing board games and watching movies. Her first book is The Field, and she’s working on her second and third, A Year with the Baptists and Rachael’s Unfolding.

Lydia Thomas can be found on:
* * *
Thus the Humor & Inspiration posts begin! Many wonderful writers have influenced me since I started my journey as a writer/wannabe author. Now it's time to shine the light on those who shared, uplifted, and mentored me along the way. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Achievable Resolutions

I tire of the high and lofty goals of January 1 which are forgotten more quickly than the stash of holiday candy you keep hiding from yourself.
Let's be honest, eh? We're going to do the best that we can. Maybe we're plumpy and addicted to chocolate. (Guilty.) Maybe we prefer racy television programs to intellectually stimulating literature. (So guilty!) Maybe we long for laughter and stupid humor more than adult conversation. (Stop now! For the love of...!)
Anyway, you get the picture. I rarely make New Years Resolutions because I don't enjoy disappointing myself. That being the case, I've penned the Achievable Resolutions for individuals like me who love marking items off a list but can't handle more than surviving the day.

The Achievable Resolutions

  • Change into pajamas after returning home from work. Who cares if it's 4:30?
  • Determine whether Oreos really are milk's favorite cookie. (Be prepared to invest the requisite time/calories in this experiment. By the way, the peanut butter ones are nice!)
  • Binge watch an entire season (of whatever you feel like) on Netflix. (Keep copious amounts of snacks within reach just in case.)
  • Visit Walmart in your pajamas. (Really, you'll fit right in.)
  • Rather than hitting the gym, hit the spa for a pedicure. (Priorities, people!)
  • Weep, laugh, and rage over amazing (fiction) books. (This is called research.) Throw them against the wall and/or put them in timeout as needed.
  • Buy pretty shoes, handbags, and accessories for no reason. (Enough is never enough. Plus you don't have that color yet...)
  • Whine about work on Mondays. Count the days until Saturday. Complain that weekends are too short on Sunday. Repeat.
  • Develop meaningful relationships with men. I recommend the nurturing duo Ben and Jerry.
  • Discover how long a human can go without bowing to society's demand for basic hygiene. (Eventually your hair either turns into rope or falls out, right? No big deal.)
You're welcome! Carry on, my darlings! Just like you, I'll be doing the best I can. If you'd like to add your own achievable resolution, I'd love to hear it. Leave me a comment.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Crafting Your Craft

Just like cheese, wine, and crazy friends who encourage you to act like an idiot, writing gets better with time. 

Perusing my website's stats revealed that my most viewed posts were published in 2015. Weird, right? In 2014, I worried about proving myself as a writer and making a splash when my book was released in November. Conversely, in 2015 I had to relax and accept my limits as a writer, blogger, and author because I began teaching at a new school and had to blog less frequently.

That's right. Less. 

I'd just released a book. On top of online marketing, I had to do the traditional high-heels-hit-the-pavement variety of marketing too. (Don't judge. I like to be pretty when I hit the pavement.) And stress hit an all-time high when I moved from the elementary school I'd been teaching at for 8 years to a charter school. 

The only plausible reason I could find for those pesky numbers was this: 
Practice Makes Perfect
(Or in my case, practice makes better.) 

Writing: In 2015, I went from crafting one-point-to-be-made posts to integrating other's posts, websites, books, themes, and links into my own posts. And I began to write about writing. I tackled topics like Indie vs Traditional Publishing and full-time vs part-time writing, the Waiting Game of writers and publishers, dealing with deadlines, the importance of keeping promises we make to readers, the ins and outs of world building, and how to break writing rules effectively. 

Connection: In 2015, I learned the value of connecting with other authors and writers as well as readers both online and in real life. I found a commonality with them and began discussing the struggles all writers face. I posted about other authors and their books more than ever before.  Also, I cracked the code on Twitter. Seriously. And finally, I understood the Power of the Share, which is something I plan to harness more in 2016. (If you want to be part of that process and be featured on my website, please leave me a comment below.)

Promotion: In 2015, I took advantage of #MondayBlogs and #ArchiveDay regularly, which boosted my readership drastically. Also, I learned to play the numbers game and promote my posts on all forums (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) in their own unique way and repeatedly post (not spam) for higher interaction. And I learned a bit more about marketing and online etiquette. (Because let's be honest, what does a kindergarten teacher know about marketing? Unlike buyers, the kids come to you! But hey, we know plenty about the pleases and thank yous of etiquette.)

Like years of piano lessons that refine musical ability, I refined my writing and consequently my website through weekly practice. I'm still not there yet. But I'm much closer than I was in 2014 and today I'm more excited than I was 2015.

Tally ho! Onward and upward in 2016, my friends!

* * *
I'd love to hear about your 2015 discoveries and how they effect your perception of the future. Leave me a comment below!