Category Archives: Series of Sorts

Those “Repeat Features” that show up from time to time

If We Were Having Coffee #16

It’s been a busy weekend, so I welcome the chance to sit back for a bit with some coffee (or tea, or cocoa, or eggnog…).   I hope your Thanksgiving went well (if you celebrate Thanksgiving).

This year we had a lot of family come over, and I took on the cooking.  Other people helped, my grandma made two of the dishes, my mom helped make a few, my sister made a few, people brought drinks, and did the clean-up.  We had relatives staying with us, and everyone arrived on Thursday, so we celebrated on Friday — but had family meals starting Thursday at lunch.  So much food was made, and consumed! The highlights, for me, of what I made were the pumpkin creme brulee for dessert, an artichoke-spinach dip for appetizers, and the turkey. The BACON WRAPPED turkey.

Behold, the bacon turkey!

I’d never made a turkey before — luckily my little brother has many times and was able to lend aid.  He also came to my rescue when I went all squeamish-silly about taking out the neck and gizzards bag.  Eww, eww, eww!  I was glad that I was “convinced” (it didn’t take much) to give up on the idea of brining, so the idea of doing just a rub came up, and then the decision to make a bacon-wrapped Turkey arose.  I’d talked to friends all the time about the idea, and already decided that this was the last turkey I will ever make (so much work for a meat I don’t really like), so might as well take the moment to make a bacon-turkey!

There were certainly some errors…like the bottom of the oven ending up catching the turkey-drippings after the flimsy pan had sprung a leak, but… it turned out well!   Yay!

I completed NaNoWriMo on Wednesday (got my 50k words!) and told myself that I would put the novel aside for a month now.  I may do some outlining, re-reading, and figuring so I know what needs to be done when I start revisions in January.  Are you NaNo-ing?  I hope, if you are, regardless of if you’ve reached (or think you have a shot of reaching) 50k before the end of the day, you’ve managed to get some writing done.  Because THAT is the most important thing about NaNoWriMo — the entire point is to spend some time writing, dedicate energy to your project.

Now I’m getting back to writing on Disparate Threads.  And getting back into the flow here on Eclectic Alli.  I’ve been terribly neglectful when it comes to replying to comments (I’ve read them all…just haven’t gotten to responding to them), and want to remedy that.  It will happen!

What are your plans as we move into this holiday season?  Anything exciting happening?



Thanks and Giving

Today is a bit different.  In the midst of celebrating Thankfulness, of playing games, and reflecting on those gifts that come with my writing, I want to take a moment to look at giving.

I have lived and worked in cities and towns of varying sizes.  Each one has its own personality, its own strengths (and weaknesses).  And all of them have homeless populations.

When I work now it is not unusual to encounter the homeless on my way to and from work.  I see them curled up in sleeping backs during my morning commute, and find them hovering near the stairwells of buildings.  Asking for change, or food, or something.

Different places do different things to help people out.  There are, of course, different charity drives, soup kitchens, warming shelters, and overnight shelters.  During the winter months, the holiday season, people tend to do more for the homeless, and others in need, though I would encourage you to think about helping out other times as well.  Those in need are not only in need during the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season.

It’s important to remember that the person huddled in that sleeping bag on the street-corner,  asking everyone who passes by for change, is first and foremost a person.  Often they get stigmatized, become stereotypes or caricatures, a part of the backdrop of your every day.   It can be easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, but I encourage you to try not to.  Those people you pass — just like the businessperson, or the teenagers, or the little kids  with their parent — are people with a myriad of needs, wants, desires.  They have lives that have been lived, people who have cared (and perhaps who still do care) about them.   They have stories and experiences.  Yes, there is need for food, warmth, and shelter.  Yes, there is a need for healthcare both physical and mental.  But let’s not forget that there are also other needs.

Those of us with food on the table, the luxury of warmth, and roofs over our heads would not be content with just those.  There are little things that we often overlook: the gloriousness  of a steaming hot beverage, the joy of being able to sit and escape into a book, passing smiles, hugs and physical touch, sitting and talking with friends, the time to feed their spirit and soul (in whatever form that may take).

Needs are not just physical.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to participate with some organizations that try to help provide a little something more.  “My” coffee cart (the wonderful Ole Coffee, in Portland, Oregon) has a “suspended coffee” board.  People can buy a coffee for someone else (at a discounted price), and then those who don’t have the money for a coffee can claim it at some point.  It’s awesome to look at the board, because it isn’t just drip coffees that get suspended.  Latte’s, baked goods, cocoa, espresso, anything on the menu can be suspended.  It’s a simple way to facilitate people being able to give in a way that is needed and wanted.

Another example is Grace Street Ministry, in Portland, Maine.  This isn’t that evangelical “we’re going to save your soul” kind of ministry.  The ministers involved in this spend most of their time not talking about religion at all — instead they are handing out shoes, coats, socks, sweaters, clothing, toiletries, gift cards for local eateries — you name it.  But they are always ready to offer a prayer, to hold a hand, to give a blessing — if that is what the person needs and wants in that moment.  They have gotten to know the people, can lend some assistance in finding resources, and do what they can to provide for the less tangible needs.  Weekly (weather permitting) they hold a very simple worship service on the street-corner across from the day-shelter.  I participated in one of these once and it was amazing in its simplicity and power.  There was no sermon, just a simple blessing with words we could all read.  We stood in a circle, holding hands (for those who wanted), during a prayer.  Then a communion of a croissant dipped in grape juice was offered.  Simple, short, and powerful.  Communion is not a part of my personal spiritual practice, but this one was powerful and meaningful even so.

Finally, I’ve been reading Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People, a blog with some great stories about the lives of those the author has gotten to know.  It is a great glimpse into their lives, and a reminder that we all have a story to tell.

It is easy to remember to give thanks for what we have in this season, and easy to remember to give to those who do not have as much.  But remember that there are needs outside of the season, and needs outside of the “basics.”  I give thanks that I am in a place that I can give to others.  Throughout the year I try to seek out ways to do this, to give where I can.  And every day I force myself to challenge my assumptions, to push past seeing a “homeless person” to simply seeing a person.  A person with stories and experiences, wants and needs, not far different from my own.

A Writer’s Thanks

Yesterday I started to delve back to my childhood with a Thankfulness game (please join the fun!), as part of my week of Thankfullness (please, join me, share your posts!)

I’ve been thinking a bit about those things that I am thankful for which come with being a fiction writer.  The more I think about it, the longer the list, but there is one thing that is standing out to me just now, the way that writing helps me to expand my ability to connect with an array of emotions.  To place myself, for moments, in the shoes of others.

When my characters are in a certain state, I try, at the very least to imagine that emotion.  This has its downsides… characters in grief, or suffering, can be hard to write, and sometimes if I dig too deep and don’t have the proper time to work my way back to reality I can carry their emotions and frustrations into the real world.  But sometimes there is a very bright side.  They can make me laugh, lift my spirits, and give me hope just as easily as they can make me sad, angry, or frustrated.

Right now I am working with two characters who are very much in love.  They’ve been in love a long time, so they aren’t at that lovey-dovey stage… rather the comfortable point where they have a long-standing friends and deeper emotions tied up within it.  They can exchange a great deal of meaning with a look or glance, and know one another well enough that there isn’t a lot of time spent having to explain themselves, instead being able to talk about what they are in the middle of, what is to come.  They are comfortable with one another, and know that they can be themselves.

I recently wrote a scene where the two of them were having the opportunity to create a story together, one that was theoretically about themselves (to fool someone else).  I was grinning at my computer like a mad-woman, laughing as they riffed off of one another to create the story while exchanging looks of silent communication.  And, for a brief moment, I got to enjoy that feeling.  Drawing on relationships of my own, bits and pieces that are, or have been, similar I am able to put my own emotional and relational understandings into their characters.   Since they are their own characters, not simply mimics of me, I also have the joy of seeing the scene unfold, living in the brief moments of them being themselves and just having fun.  As I was writing this particular scene (which very well may not end up in the final draft) I had that great feeling that comes with reading a good book.  I was there experiencing the story as it unfolded.  In that moment, I felt the characters become real… and it was a powerful feeling.  A silly little scene, nothing highly important to the plot, nothing that needs to happen — just them sitting there having fun, playing a little joke on the main characters niece.  Being relaxed and being themselves — and I love that I was able to share in the experience, share in the moment.

It is powerful, and I am so thankful that I am able to do such a thing as part of my craft.

If you are a writer or musician or artist, what are some of those moments within your work that you are thankful for?  Or what is it about the work of others that you are thankful for?  Or… anything else?

Alphabet of Thankfulness, a Game.

I remember a slew of different projects around Thanksgiving.  Those hand-trace-turkey pictures.  Lists of what we’re thankful for.  Drawing the cornucopia and filling it with stuff.  The ubiquitous word-search and cross-word puzzles.

In the spirit of these memories of tangentially relevant games, I’d like to host a game of my own.  One of those Alphabet-Poem kinds of things.  Comment on the post with the next letter of the alphabet, and something starting with that letter that you are thankful for.

Also, given the fact that I don’t like having my creativity so closely defined, feel free to provide a sentence starting with the appropriate letter or… something else entirely.  I just ask that we follow the (English) alphabet and the theme of Thankfulness.

I’ll start with A.
Awesome Friends.

If We Were Having Coffee — Thankfulness Edition

Coffee Time!
I’d tell you, as we settle down with our nice warm beverages, that I’m hoping to encourage people to look at what they are thankful for this week.  Today I’m realizing that it can be a good (if challenging) exercise to focus on thankfulness when things seem overwhelming.   I’ve ended up in the position to be in charge of most of the food preparation for Thanksgiving, and we have a crowd of people who will be staying at the house.  I’m also trying to finish up my novel for NaNo, and have had a busy weekend already.

It would be easy to get overwhelmed, but I can’t let it.  So instead, I look to the positive side, the things within this all to be thankful for.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I’m thankful for the opportunity to have a Thanksgiving dinner that will be prepared by three generations.  Grandma, Mom, and myself (and whoever else wants to step in and help) will be working together.  I’m not a huge fan of Thanksgiving food (I’ve said a few times that, left to me, we’d be having Nachos, or Pizza, or something of that sort).  But It will be cool to learn how to make these things. And I get to make Pumpkin Creme Brule for dessert – which I’m very excited about!

I love the interior of the Schnitz — such a beautiful place.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m thankful for days like yesterday — it was a busy day but overall amazing.  I was able to get tickets to go with a friend to see Bernadette Peters at the Schnitz, and we decided to make a nice evening of it — going out to dinner first.

Earlier in the day I had gone to a wine tasting with my Dad and Step-mom, which was also a lot of fun and I got to taste a few new wines that I like.   I’ve very thankful for family and friends that enjoy going out and doing those things with me that I enjoy doing.  Friends that help me laugh.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m thankful for what I’ve been learning participating in NaNoWriMo this month.  I’m getting very close to the goal of 50k words — though (as I predicted) the writing this second half of the month is going slower.  I do, however, feel like I am getting some really good stuff on the story, learning about the characters, the magic of the world, realizing things about different subplots that will help (or hinder) story cohesion.  It’s very cool, and it’s also been amazing to be gaining a sense of confidence that I can do this — I can write even when the story is getting to be a challenge.  I can pump out over 4k words in a day (I’ve done it a few times this month), and they are a decent base to jump from.

If we were having coffee, what would you have to say about your week?  The one past or the one to come?  What are you thankful for today?

If We Were Having Coffee (#14)

“Hey!  Good to see you again!”  I’ll give you a hug, if you’re open to hugs, because I’m in a hugging mood today.

Let’s settle in this lovely living room I’ve created in my imagination, overstuffed chairs (and a few old-fashioned, wood framed, lightly padded ones too, so you have options), the walls lined with shelves of books, the window looking out on some spectacular scene — city-scape, the ocean, mountains, lakes, mountain-lakes… take your pick.  It’s a living room of dreams, so it can take the form you want.

 I’m not actually drinking coffee this time, I need to detox a little bit after the spree of caffeinated beverages I had yesterday.  My NaNoWriMo region held a coffee-shop-hop, moving around the area from one coffee shop to another, writing our hearts out on our novels.  I spent an unhealthy amount of time at one of the shops, and then moved on to the next one with the group for a while.   I do not want to count how many shots of espresso I had in that time….  So, today is a bit of a detox day so that Monday mornings coffee can still be effective.

I can’t quite believe November is half over, but I’m really enjoying the work that I’ve been doing on my novel.  It’s kind of cool to watch the story finally unfold — after having vague ideas about it for so long it’s cool to see how things are playing out.  I’m actually starting to look forward to the editing and revising process!  REALLY hope that feeling lasts!

Not a whole lot else happened this week. I wrote a lot.  I spent large quantities of time in coffee shops for said writing.  We had a great threat of winter weather this week, which resulted in a little ice – but nothing too grand.

I feel like I’ve hit that point where my story is taking over much of my thought and energy — so I’m afraid my conversations are getting repetitive and dully, as I just keep trying to work through the story points over and over again.  Hopefully I’ll break through that soon — editing and revisions will at least cause me to look at it a bit differently and vary the conversation topics a tad.

In the meantime, what has your week been like?  Anything exciting going on?  What challenges are you facing?

Celebrate the Small Things (#11)

Friday Friday!

Let’s celebrate with a song!

Catchy, huh?  Check these guys out… they’re awesome (and doing quite a bit of touring these days).  Also, check out the awesome Ultra Tom, who’s been working with them behind the scenes, but does his own stuff too.

It isn’t that this week has been particularly bad.  Heck, it was even a short week — I had Tuesday off.  But strange weather has made everyone kind of off, and yesterday felt like it should have been Friday.

So, now that it’s actual Friday, I feel the need to do some celebrating!  Hey, there’s a blog-hop for that 🙂

My small celebrations:

First one is that previously mentioned Ultra Tom is currently back in town — which means I get to have the occasional lunch and coffee with my big brother.  I am so grateful that we’ve gotten the chance to reconnect as adults.  As he often jokes, “it’s a miracle we didn’t kill each other when we were younger.”

I’m a day ahead in NaNo, or at least, I will be again by the end of the day.  Met today’s word count during my morning commute.  This year NaNo is working a bit differently for me, less frantic rushing and going into overly-detailed description, and more actually moving along in the story, jumping from scene to scene, and figuring out different narrative threads.  I think it’s because of the approach I’ve taken in preparing for it — and my plans for after.  So really, the celebration isn’t that I’m on-top of things for NaNo, it’s that after years of thinking I wanted to be a writer and author, I’ve finally started to approach my life as one, and have gotten myself to a place where I know I can do this (and feel like I have finally settled on the right path for myself).  It’s an amazing feeling, and I know I can face the upcoming challenge (of revising, rewriting, editing, and figuring out the whole query-letter, submitting deal) head on.

I’m also celebrating winter.  I love winter!  At least, parts of it.  Living in the Northwest, after so many years in Northern New England, is still a shift for me.  Yesterday we were threatened with a winter storm, and there was a certain nostalgia watching as school-district, after school-district, canceled for the ice-threat.   Of course, where I work decided not to cancel or delay — but it honestly wasn’t bad traveling for me to get in to work (or home).  Snow boots (which were totally unnecessary, but are my best option for good-traction-footwear), scarf (I have quite the selection to chose from), gloves (also have a few to choose from, but — as is the nature of gloves — many of them have decided to go into hiding.  If I still lived in New England I would remedy that, as it is, three pairs is probably enough to pick from), hats (also a few options!) and my winter coat (which continues to need to have the zipper replaced, maybe this year will be the year I actually do that?  maybe?) — I bundle well – with so many options!  Last night, walking home from the bus-stop, it was amazing to be able to see the ice crystals on the leaves, little icicles forming — nothing like some of the epic ones I’ve seen in my day (do I sound old there?  huh, do I?) but they were fun to see.  Hopefully this will mean I’ll get some lovely-winter-weather to enjoy this year!

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