A sign of a good friendship…

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I don’t know precisely how the saying goes or if it is even really a “saying,” but the gist of it is: A sign of a good friendship is that no matter how much time passes between seeing each other you can pick up as if no time has passed at all.

Well, time has in fact passed since the Keys…a small group of would-be writers bonded over creative decisions and discussions and the pursuit of a Master’s Degree…have seen each other. It’s been at least two years since we last sat around that table discussing our writing endeavors, and five years since some of us finished that Master’s Program. And yet, last night it felt like no time had passed at all. We picked up our glasses, our banter, and our critiques with comfort. It was good to be in each others’ company, to be reassured that while some things change…projects, voices, opportunities…some things don’t…intention, interests, camaraderie.

But if we’re on the subject, the question that now presents itself to me is, do I have a good “friendship” with my writing, in all its forms…this blog, “the book,” short stories, new ideas? Time has indeed passed since I’ve given attention to any of it. Will I be able to pick up as if no time has passed at all…?

We shall see…

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Like a good French cheese…

FullSizeRender 2Has anyone been to the Berkeley Hills? I was there Thursday night for the first time…somewhere off Grizzly Peak Road amidst beautiful homes, a sunset and stars, and a small host of writers & readers gathered in one of those beautiful homes to hear Susan Shea and Cara Black discuss their latest books. I carried in a caramelized onion and mushroom quiche and was transported to France, where Susan’s new series is set in a small fictional Burgundian town and Cara’s long-running Aimée Leduc series is set in Paris (with New York best-selling results, I might add).

The event also helped me to see how I’ve matured…like a good French cheese. (Sorry…too good to resist!) What I mean by this is that I am finally appreciating spiritually what I’ve always known logically…that it isn’t the destination that brings the greatest reward, but the journey. In the past I would have gone to such an event with some aim in mind…to network, to make an impression, to get somewhere or get something. And I would have left feeling icky, unsatisfied, and unsuccessful. And I understand now it was because I was so focused on my expected outcomes that I was closed off to the magic and synchronicity that might have unfolded naturally…I was so focused on the results, that I missed the joys offered by the process.

So Thursday night I had no goal but to get to those Berkeley Hills before the event started…which was no small feat with quitting time traffic that took two and half hours! But with that accomplished and people tucking into the quiche, I took a seat and let anything or nothing happen. As it is, I met some lovely people, soaked in the discussions of setting (very pertinent to my own novel) and French current events (always interesting), and let myself be dissuaded by Susan from a drastic POV revision to my manuscript. In fact, that two and half hour drive might just have saved me weeks of work!

 

 

An unapologetic era…

Good morning! As I was taking Oscar for his morning walk…(for those not following on Instagram, Oscar is on his way to becoming a bona fide “Adventure Cat” under the alias of Licorice…hence the camo vest and far-reaching gaze)…I was getting caught up on Social Media and came across this quote…

“I’ve worked too hard on my happiness to be affected by people and things that don’t understand the energy and time I’ve put into myself” ~Billy Chapata

…and it gave me pause…enough pause to sit and write a post. Why…?

Perhaps because I’ve always been a people pleaser, and part of being a people pleaser is not letting others feel uncomfortable or put out, even at your own cost. As a result, we people pleasers apologize for our unique beauty, greatness, accomplishments…we diminish ourselves so others don’t have to feel less than. What many of us fail to understand before too much time has gone by or before it’s too late is that everyone’s greatness and beauty is individual…your accomplishments can’t diminish mine and vice versa because we each have our own gifts to give…and we each have our own spectacular beauty to fill the world with that that only we can offer. Unfortunately, some of us convince ourselves otherwise and spend too much of life apologizing, hiding, and negating ourselves.

Maybe it’s turning 40 or just a natural accumulation of life experiences which has made me intolerant of certain things…things like lies, cruelty, ignorance, and self-deprecation, just to name a few.

And so begins an unapologetic era…

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And what a leap it was!…

…all the way from the New Year to mid-summer! How did that happen…?

Well, I can only describe the first few months in my new position at the college as truly grabbing hold of a moving train and hanging on for dear life. But hang on I did, and manage to scramble aboard and squeeze myself into a rattling car. And it’s still full steam ahead. Then, in February, I turned 40 which called for an impromptu, creative jaunt to my beloved City of Dreaming Spires.

I returned to spend hours in the backyard stripping paint off doors and window trim in anticipation of remodeling my office…at the same time spending precious last days with my feline magician assistants, Copperfield and Houdini, who left me in April and May, and took with them all joy for a time.

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After seventeen years of company on every life step, dream, and scheme, the world within and without was sad and uninspired without them. For a time I didn’t care if the office got finished or the book published or what filled my free time. Thankfully, that part of grief does pass. And though those two are forever in our hearts and missed daily, there is a new addition to the family who has infused it anew with youth and joy. Realizing that we still had love and a home to share…and that a real writer needs a cat companion to write anything worthwhile!…my husband brought this fellow home from the local animal shelter…

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He was introduced to us as a twelve-year-old Licorish, but we now know him as the more-like-four-year-old Oscar.

But in this long leap of time and all that transpired, did I take the “true leap” I wrote about in January…the daily leap into the life and identity of a writer, filled with wonder and writing and inspiration, despite everything else that can get in the way? The short answer is yes…and no. I did…just not as much as I should or could have.

When I was in Oxford I spent five blissful days researching an exciting new treasure hunt of a story…I just haven’t made much progress on the actual writing of it. And I have been wrestling with and pondering important revisions to Shadow of a Woman, with good results, making it a stronger manuscript…but I haven’t yet resubmitted to agents. And I made it to a Sisters-in-Crime meeting…but only one. Still, here I am, having leaped, stumbled, had a bit of a rough landing, but brushed myself off and am ready to go.

And that’s the reality of leaps, I suppose…

 

Woosh! The curtains open…

I’m here! I’m here! *waving from the front windows*

I know, it’s been too long! I’ve just been in a little funk. The kind of funk where you eat too many donuts and drink too much coffee, abandon exercise altogether, and can’t properly get started on a writing project even when your sanity depends on it. (All you writers out there, is there such a thing as post-first-submissions-blues…?) And I *moved* into this beautiful new virtual space, had an *open house*, then proceeded to close all the curtains and wander around aimlessly! (All you bloggers out there, is it possible to have bloggers’ block…?)

But I’m back! And I can report the following good news—I have joined Mystery Writers of America, I am signed up for a Sisters-in-Crime writers conference in San Francisco next month, I will be guest lecturing again this fall, and I’m working diligently through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist Way.” Not only that, but school has started, so the college is buzzing with contagious energy, and the first leaves have started to fall, marking the approach of my favorite season. And even though I’ve been in a funk, I haven’t been completely idle. I’ve been working on getting my new home office set-up, completed two cross-stitch projects, traveled to Washington State to visit family, and started translating my grandmother’s cookbook with my father.

“How are the submissions going?” you ask.

In the month and a half since I sent out my first eight submissions, I’ve had two rejections, two non-responses, and am still waiting to hear back from four agents who note longer response times. I’ll admit there was a crisis of faith when I wasn’t instantly offered a deal…honestly, who doesn’t fantasize it’ll happen with the first response?!…but I have regrouped, read all those articles about famous authors being rejected dozens of times before acceptance to soothe my ego, and am actually excited about the next batch of submissions I’m preparing now.

“And how are you getting out of this funk?” you ask next.

Posting this is certainly a step in the right direction! Another must, is getting up early in the mornings to write and exercise, like I did this morning. I have learned that if I don’t, I’m a complete mess the rest of the day. And finally, just reminding myself that I am a writer, showing up to the life I want, and leaving the rest to God and the universe.