After

They kept us in the dark;
covered so we would not be afraid,
Rules to govern
because they knew without the walls we would roam free,
right over the edge and not
even see the danger;
not believe it was there.
But now the walls are eroded,
pocked full of holes,
no longer sustaining the shield.
Freedom feels like exposure,
Uncertainty,
Limitless troubles.
Can we go back to safety?
No, we can only erect new restraints,
Built by what we brought with us,
From the blind days,
Not walls, fences.
Boundaries in wisdom we declare,
We won’t go beyond.
We will be islands,
In the midst of anarchy.
Holding the ground we stand on.

Progress Report: NaNoWriMo Novel

“Kill Words” 72K words / Draft progression of Beginning

Below is the progression of drafts for the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel. I had a major edit this week thanks to the “Scribes” writer’s group who in subtle and direct ways gave me priceless feedback. Slashed 5-6 thousand words but came back up to 72K after all was said and done. Leave a comment, tell me what you think of the beginning. If you’d like to be a beta reader, leave a comment. As a reminder this is what this novel is about:

The title is “Kill Words”; genre – New Adult which means characters are in their mid-twenties just starting out in life. Maisey launches an anonymous blog as an outlet to express herself without the constraints of family expectations. She connects with another blogger, Tyler and is quickly mixed up with him in a blog cyber crime ring. Her life spins out of control until all the false pretenses she rested on are stripped away and she finds her true self.

CURRENT (final?) revision Beginning:

Lying on my bed, staring up at the swirly pattern on the ceiling of my childhood room, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a blog. I need a place where I can be me, not the me that everyone thinks I am. The me I know I am. I’ll be called Maeve. That’s a good, solid sounding name. Better than Maisey. Not that Maisey is a bad name, it’s just that it’s grandma Gertie’s middle name and Grandma Gertie was incredible. Widowed with ten kids at thirty, she built a business making children’s cloths. What am I building? Not even immunity, I catch a cold every other month chasing after kids as a teacher’s aide.

This kind of thinking is what happens on fall break. Give me some time and I see my life for what it is. I see clearly, I’ve bought into the lie that working hard, getting a degree with high honors means I’m destined for success. My mother was a five-time winner of the Midwest teacher of the Year award. Yet what kind of job do I land? One that does not even require a college degree; ‘preferred but not required’ to be exact.

A blog will not solve all my problems, but it won’t add to them.

SECOND revision Beginning:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

ORIGINAL First Draft Beginning:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

Going With the Flow

Evolution of thought happens without planning or purpose. It’s natural, not contrived and so there’s a bit of meandering about it and it’s only obvious on looking back, on evaluating what was there before and what it there now.

Here’s an example. Back in the day, one of the pillars of education was spelling. Children are still dogged by constant spelling tests, learning the correct way to put words in print but the necessity of it has slipped. Yet I remember when the teacher announced we would have a spelling bee everyone got excited including me and I’m not one to answer questions under pressure well. In fact, under pressure, my answers are usually not coherent. On the other hand, I thrive under competition so spelling bees were my joy and I overcame the propensity to have brain freeze when it was my turn to spell. I even remember the day I learned to spell ‘yesterday’. It’s a long word and I mastered it. And who can forget learning how to spell, ‘Mississippi’? Words, and spelling them have always been important to me. Until recently.

Okay, so the words are still important for sure but when I’m typing a mile a minute and I forget how to spell a word, or my fingers type the letters out of order, guess what? It doesn’t matter because most of the time, auto-correct makes them right.

At least, I used to try. Now, I just type close to what I think is right and let the word processor find the correct spelling. I don’t even force my brain to recall the ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ rule. Is it laziness? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just evolution of thought or better yet, conservation of thought. I’m not interrupting my creative flow on something the AI program can take care of. But have I lost something valuable? It’s hard to say.

Back in the day reciting long passages of literature or poetry was a thing. Not so much these days. Are we missing something? Maybe, but the fact is it is gone from our collective minds as important. We have moved on, broken new ground, created new rules and no one wants to look back long enough to see, have we lost something valuable? Has evolution of thought brought us to a place we should have been more purposeful to avoid? Are we happy where the flow has brought us? Is it where we wanted to be? Think about it, write about it.

Today, tomorrow, maybe next week…

I’m thinking about how easy it is to get distracted from a project, to lose the perspective that the commitment is worthwhile. There are certainly enough events going on in the world today to knock me off the singleness of mind I need to polish my NaNoWriMo novel and get queries out there.

But if the news ribbon wasn’t buzzing with the stuff leading up to a classic dystopian future previously only caught in the imaginations of great writers, I would still have plenty to be distracted by.

I’m not talking about the usual stuff; is everyone in my life happy? Can I stand another day of my job? Will we figure out how to get a new shower installed? It’s the philosophical spears that slice through my brain.

Did I miss my life calling thirty years ago? Have I changed at all or am I getting used to my mediocrity and it doesn’t feel uncomfortable anymore? What will I do with the perceived time I have left? Will my time be up tomorrow?

In light of all that, how can sitting in my closet editing and re-editing a novel, planning blog posts and tweaking a website be meaningful?

I’ve been down this path before. I’ve set aside projects. I’ve ‘lost interest’ which just means I’ve allowed my interest to evaporate into the air of life. Months, no actually years later, I’ve pulled out projects and I’ve found oxygen in my mind setting it on fire with a ‘whoop’ of re-connection, followed by thoughts of regret.

What am I saying in all this? Press on. Fight for what you’re working on. Don’t give it up too easily. Don’t give it up even if it is slipping away with the winds of conflict, uncertainty, and troubles. It’s like the lottery, you’ve got to be in it to win it. (This is not an endorsement to throw your hard earned money away on the very unlikely chance that you’ll hit it big and retire in joy and happiness.)

Write on. I know there are some famous authors out there just waiting to hit the bestseller list. Let me know when it’s you!

Dream On or Write On

I wrote my first novel in 7th grade history class. Every day, forty minutes of scribbling words on loose leaf paper right under the teacher’s nose. I didn’t do it rebelliously. I was an instant addict. I could not stop writing. I’m not sure how I got started, maybe English class. The book was titled “Dream Boy”. That should tell you something about the content. My older sisters found out about it and that was the end of my anonymity. They laughed and laughed as they read it. But the biggest laugh of all was how it ended, Robby, and Marla kiss under the ‘aura borealis’. That ultimate goal (and only plot point) in my thirteen your old mind was the pinnacle of life. Aura borealis are lights in the night sky that streak, and flash colors typically only happening in Northern locations like Alaska. The setting was not Alaska. It was New Jersey. But once when my family was driving through New York, my dad pulled over the car because he saw aura borealis. My parents were so excited. I remember staring and seeing white streaks that to me looked like clouds or just stars. Maybe they were the real deal, maybe not but the idea of it stayed in my head and seemed like the perfect romantic end to a boy meets girl story. It was the perfect sister tease, that much is true.

What is my point here? My writing started with writing. I have friends who say they want to write a book, but they don’t know where to begin. I tell them to think up a character, a situation that character is in and what he/she is going to do about it then start putting it down on paper (maybe not during a class). Write. It doesn’t have to be good. It could be pages and pages of scenes that overflow from your imagination. Whatever it is, it can be called a beginning. Write on!

Personal Notes on the New Year

Woke up in the new year, From a sound sleep,
To the pop of fireworks,
12:04 am.
Ha ha!
Thought something was hitting the window.
It’s a new year on the calendar,
Same world.
I want to do better in this current
12 month period.
Just not sure what
That looks like!
Not better at what I do,
Better at who I am,
But it’s a moving target,
And I feel like I’m missing the point,
Shooting arrows aimlessly.

Writing note- introspection and journaling can lead to great writing. I entered a contest a few months ago with a short story birthed from a few thoughts I jotted down and turned into a character’s situation. Winners will be announced soon. I’m not terribly hopeful but it’s a good story. I’ll post one day and see if you all agree. Maybe in my newsletter coming soon!

Happy 2021 may it be fruitful in all that is good and halt all that is bad.

You Are Amazing

Don’t let the day slip by,

Slip through the cracks of,

Yesterday, today and tomorrow,

Without catching,

The breath in your lungs,

Feeling the pounding of

your heart flowing blood,

Knowing,

The synapses carrying a thought,

Pausing and reflecting,

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

10 Ways to Stay on Track with Writing Goals – Part 2

Points 6-10

6. Have some cheerleaders. Find a writer’s group. There is likely one in your town or at least your state/province. It’s especially easy to be a part of a group now when most are meeting remotely. Having like-minded people that you can share your progress (and setbacks) with can be key to staying on track and keeping your motivation high. I’m starting a newsletter this winter (one of my more ambitious 2021 goals) and it will feature the opportunity for writers to share their goals and brag on progress reports – a shameless segue into point seven…

7. Set-up progress check points. Making a note on a calendar or agenda book is one way. Or programming an Event in Google calendar or scheduling emails to show up in your in-box with a reminder of where you intended to be at first quarter, second quarter, by the end of summer, this time next year! It’s like sending a message in a bottle to yourself. It’s also rewarding to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and even what changed and why. Don’t forget point two…no guilt, no worries.

8. Have fun. I know when you’re trying to get published or trying to stay published (no famous authors following this blog but if you’re incognito, please leave a hint!) it is not a hobby. For me it’s a pursuit of passion that won’t let go and I’ve been working on it forever though never more focused than now. Even so, it’s important to make sure that, as much as I take my goals seriously, I need it to be fun, something I look forward to.

9. Stay balanced. Goals are healthy; stretch goals even better to promote growth. I’ve learned this especially when it comes to fitness. (See post “Running the Writer Race” November 10, 2020). But there comes a point where writing and writing goals can become obsessive. That’s when something good starts nibbling away at other good things in your life. I dare say there are times when I’m in the middle of creating and I don’t care about a single person around me. I feel as though I don’t need them at all, that they are infringing on my self-expression. If I’m not careful, feelings of resentment can creep in and find cracks to fill and sever relationships. Writing for me has all the signs of an addiction. I find myself willing to manipulate, to throw off responsibilities, to squander a beautiful day outside to stay typing away in my closet, all things that are not indicative of a balanced mental state. I pay attention to the snippets of advice I hear or read about how addicts overcome the tyranny of drugs. Truth be told, addictions lie. They overshadow and diminish what is healthy and good in life and become the task master that they accuse everything else in our lives to be. The give and take of relationships, the joy of giving the best to the job and the humility of serving God on His terms, never abuses us. Point being, don’t let the goals, the writing, become too big in your life.

10. Write down your goals. Wait, no, that was point one. As point ten, this is different. After the year is over, reflect back on your goals and where you are at. Make a list. Learn from it so the coming year’s goals can keep points two through nine and end strong the following year.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this adventure in the blogging world; official followers and those that send “Likes” to my in-box. You are all much appreciated mostly because I see your blogs and your quest to communicate and it makes me happy to be part of this community.

Happy New Year, Happy writing!

Storm Weaver Part 3

Read Part 1 & 2 at links below:

https://claregraith.com/2020/10/24/storm-weaver/

https://claregraith.com/2020/12/04/storm-weaver-part-two-100-word-story/

He left behind the pouch and the five smooth stones inside.
A pink one,
A grey one,
A white one,
A green and a brown one.
I poured them out in my hand.
As I rolled the pink one,
My face warmed from the sun,
The grey caused a breeze, moist with rain.
The white, chill.
The green the smell of herbs,
And the brown caused the ground to shake,
Or it was just my imagination.
Where did the old man go?
Why did he leave these stones?
Why me? What next?
These questions weighed upon me,
I started home.