Posted in Creativity, Time, Writing

I Need More Time and Space: Part-Time Sunshine’s Summertime Dilemma

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I’m a high school English teacher and love summer break as much as my students do. Summer is for fun. Summer is the time to relax and recharge. Summer is socializing, exercising, and napping. Summer is the time to read more books. Summer is the time to write a book.

Scratch that last one. I need to be realistic. I always mislead myself into thinking I can write the first draft of a book during summer. I have false high hopes of getting large chunks of writing done during my favorite season, but I struggle to make the time and find the right space.  

During the school year, I relish the hour of quiet time at my desk each day before classes start. Morning is when my head is fresh and I’m most energetic to write new material. When time permits, I stay after school to write a little more.

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You’d think that when school’s out, I’d have all these extra hours to write whenever I want, but it doesn’t work that way.  My non-teaching husband works all year, so I’m a stay-at-home summer mom to our two non-driving, active teens, their friends, a dog, and a puppy. The freedom, fun, and firecrackers of the season make it hard for me to stick to schedules, especially one for writing.

Beyond my domestic routine of 70,000 tasks, add swimming pool care, weeding, puppy training, deck painting, and picnic hosting. It’s too hard to ignore the above and prove to anyone (even myself) that I should be writing instead. The household stuff needs to be done, so the writing has to wait.

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Although my daughters are old enough to take care of themselves, they still need me for many things, mostly food and rides. Summer is especially busy for squeezing in their various appointments. Chutes and Ladders!  I just realized I forgot to take Cara to physical therapy for her finger two hours ago!  UGH!  Where can I get a secretary, cleaning lady, dog whisperer, and chauffeur, all wrapped up in one person?  Oh yeah, I’m her…  I need another ME, just a more organized version.

The other writing challenge is that I lack a quiet workspace. I wish I could write without interruption at home, but it doesn’t happen.  I can’t expect my girls to take a vow of silence, but it’s like they talk through megaphones. Factor in their heavy footsteps, awful teenage music, singing, fighting, and contagious giggles and you’d think I had ten kids instead of two.  Their laughter is beautiful, but not when I’m trying to concentrate. Headphones help to a degree, but I still hear the kids and dogs.  I feel their movement.  I smell their breath. I sense their presence all around me.  

I had to hide in our basement to edit this piece, but Cara found me anyhow and disturbed my muse’s groove. She just wanted to say hello and check in on me.  We chatted a bit, then I suggested she go have a fresh asiago bagel with the soft pats of butter she took from the restaurant the night before. She thanked me for going to the bakery but asked If I was trying to get rid of her, and I said, “Absolutely. I’m sorry, but please don’t come back unless you or your bagel catch fire.”  I know. I know. I’m lucky my fifteen-year-old even acknowledges me, but sometimes I gotta get away and will use butter bagel bribes to make it happen.  FYI, she came back thrice since breakfast. She was NOT on fire.  

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Louie, our barking sheltie, accompanied Cara to the basement. I told her to take him back up with her, but she said he needed alone time, away from our puppy, Frankie. She had a point, so I let Louie stay.

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He was fine until he went bonkers over hearing a garbageman, neighbor, and UPS truck. Then he became a loud broken record, “Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf!” Geez, that was annoying to type, let alone listen to.   

Frankie, my 5:19 AM furry alarm clock, beckons to be freed from her crate when she hears the neighbor leaving for his early job. The piercing octaves Frankie woofs out hurt my teeth. For some reason, no one else hears her but me though. image2.jpg

Each morning (weekends included), I get up to let the dogs out, feed them, let them play, go out again, and bring them in when they bark at a butterfly, chipmunk, or moving cloud.  After all that, it’s time for me to choose to:

  1. Write.
  2. Work out.
  3. Clean the house.
  4. Go back to bed.  

Although choice “A” would be the responsible, author-esque selection, it just never works out for me. I have to do some activity before I can fire away at the keyboard.  keyboardIt would be best to exercise, shower, eat, then write, but the non-schedule of summer makes it too easy to go back to bed. 

Why don’t I just take the pressure off myself and give up this writing gig?  I don’t do it for fame or fortune.  Why do I bother? I guess I write because I need to.  If I don’t release the words, I’ll get stuffed, like when overeating at Thanksgiving.

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When I don’t write, I feel like I’m trying to hold back a sneeze during allergy season. I can’t stifle these stories, however silly or insignificant they might seem. I have to carve out more time and find a place outside of home to write or I’ll burst.Placeholder Image

What’s your creative talent?  How do you make time and space to let it flow? Or do you get stuffed?

Posted in Blogging, Writing

I Love my Own Voice: Confessions of a Narcissistic Writer

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I love the sound of my own writing voice. I can listen to my composed words all day long, like a favorite Bruce Springsteen song. I especially enjoy reading aloud to myself. During these private performances, I literally laugh and cry at my own words, pat myself on the back, and swoon over a lovely phrase. What I adore most about my writing voice is how lyrical, poetic, punny, and funny I think it is.

I am not bragging but am complaining. My voice vanity sacrifices substance and meaning. I confess: I am a sinner of word pride, a glutton for longer sentences, greedy for witty and lavish phrases. I kill stories. I am a killer.

I am skilled at murdering plots. I fire guns filled with fluff and random bullet points that scatter irrelevant details like shrapnel. I chop up focus and sink story arcs. Then I abandon entire worlds that I create. I violently shove the underdeveloped pages into a folder that I lock in a box, slam into a drawer, and starve in a basement. I can bury a body of work without anyone ever knowing. I am a sneaky, garrulous monster.

I brainstorm ideas, outline plots, write about 10,000 words then get confused. I lose focus, so I usually give up. Why do I kill so many stories? I think my frilly, rambling writing voice is the main culprit. I call her Fancy Nancy.

I write lyrical, artsy prose that tends to stall the story. I waste too much time on wordplay then lose interest in the piece. Still, Fancy Nancy tempts me and I write: I ceaselessly practice to compose a symphony of melodious sentences filled with scales of ABC’s until the score becomes too lengthy and twangs with discordance. When reciting these musical lines, I can’t help but exclaim, “Bravo!”clap

Then I feel a need to say it another crafty way: I paint stunning phrases better suited for a centerfold than a plot diagram. “Ooh, la la!”

I can’t stop myself: I am a word warrior who blasts the page with exploding metaphors and onomatopoeia. “Bam!”

Here’s another song: I’m a master at choreographing a scene that tap dances the keyboard with personification? “Click, click, click!”

What the hell? It took me two hours to come up with that stuff, a bunch of disconnected images of me being a wordy writer: composer, painter, soldier, and dancer. Before that, I was a sinner and killer. These lines are fun to write, but they make for a recipe that’s hard to follow and swallow. (Add rhyming cook to the list.)

What to say to the amateur who dabbles too much in the italicized, verbose passages? “Dammit, Donna! Just tell the story already.” (Although my mother considered naming me Nancy, my real name is Donna and nickname is Sunshine, and I know this is random, but I thought you would like to know how I refer to myself as “Dammit Donna” when I need a scolding reminder to focus, get it together, and quit screwing up. I call out to “her” daily. Hmm.“Dammit, Donna” would be a good name for a book title.  I write book titles more than books.  I could write a whole book of book titles.)

Dammit, Donna!

I’m trying to clean up the clever clutter and stick with storylines, but it’s a true challenge. The best approach is to write less and cut more. Oh, how it pains me to weed though. What if I accidentally pluck the best words, my pretty little flowers?

That’s where Dammit Donna needs to swoop in, display the blooms, elsewhere, like in a vase, and move on to more meaningful tasks.

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I really can’t stop the playful metaphoric ramblings, can I? I actually talk this way though. I have writer’s eyes, so I want to share the world with you the way I see it (Okay, now that line just made me cry proud tears.) My habit would be to go on and on about eyes, but I’m going to stop, and trust that you get it.

I don’t need to be a parrot, but I’m a mother and teacher who has to repeat, reiterate, restate, rephrase, echo, echo, echo… I AM wordy! (FYI – my quiet husband can successfully parent with one word, “No!” compared to my breathless arguments with our teenagers.)

I’ve received a lot of professional and constructive criticism about my writer’s voice. College professors told me I was trying too hard to sound like an English teacher, even though I majored in English education. An agent told me the first two pages of a book were too clever. An editor claimed I was too funny with too many punch lines. Ha! At first, this might seem like praise, but they quantified their comments with “too.” I get what they were saying. “Don’t over do it. Stay focused. Dammit, Donna, just tell the story already!”

Bruce Cherry, my Gotham Writers instructor for “Essay and Opinion Writing” offered this feedback concerning my voice:

You have a very exuberant way of using language that helps to convey the passion you feel. It dances right at the edge of becoming perhaps too florid once in awhile, but it’s really a matter of personal taste. Your writing style reminds me of the recordings of the great blues players like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters who went electric at Chess Studios in the 50’s and 60’s. They would play so exuberantly that they would occasionally cause compression in the mics and push the VU meters into the red–technically a big no-no. But they used the sound of that compression as an element of the recording, and it became a signature sound. Technically speaking, they were going too far, but they refused to be constrained by convention. So definitely use it to your advantage.

Second to rock and roll, I treasure the blues, so what an amazing comparison! My take-away from this is to amp up my signature sound when it works to my advantage. Although, I’m retraining to write more concisely, I’m not entirely abandoning my florid voice. I will continue to decorate pages but in moderation. Fancy Nancy needs to focus less on beauty tricks and more on working diligently with Dammit Donna. *The two voices need to be friends so I can author more pieces that an audience bigger than myself craves.

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The author in me needs to help balance Fancy Nancy and Dammit Donna.

I will continue to read my works aloud and praise them. Next time, I’ll set my voice to some background music, the blues. I’ll make a date with me. I’ll have wine and Muddy Waters and cherish the beautiful AND purposeful words resurrecting my stories. It will be delightful. I will be a better writer, not a killer.

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Getting ready for a date with me, Muddy, and my manuscript.

*My first book, The Pencil Sharpener, is being published by The Wild Rose Press.  It’s release date is July 26, 2017, and will be made available through The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.com. The Pencil Sharpener is a novella, a rosette, in which my editor, Melanie Billings, and a team of professionals helped me polish my prose into a piece I’m proud of and looking forward to sharing with you. I’ll blog more details soon.  Shine on!  ThePencilSharpener_w11567_ib (1)

Posted in Blogging, Social Media, Technology, Writing

Technical Difficulties: Building a Blogging Platform, one Story, Tweet, and Pin at a Time

I am not a tech savvy person.  Quite frankly, I feel like Wilma Flintstone when it comes to staying caught up in the information age.  One might think that I’d be more like Jane Jetson. After all, I am a cyber teacher, run this blog, teach at an iPad high school, can publish online school newspapers, and live with a techie husband and two teenagers whose thumbs can text a novel before I can get my iPhone friend Siri to define “streaking” on Snap Chat (FYI – does not involve opening up a trench coat to your birthday suit).

img_0483I am trying to build my blogging platform, but I get completely overwhelmed and distracted with all the social networks. Sometimes I want to give up, unplug, and build puzzles instead (with real cardboard pieces).

I read that to get more blogging “followers” I need to tap into social media beyond my WordPress Blog.  Here is what I know, which is minimal:

I’m pretty good at  Facebook and have been a FB Friend for years. Beyond my timeline, I started a Page. I’m still learning how to boost organic traffic to my Page.  I once paid five extra dollars to get more readers and it made me feel cheap and dirty (like opening up a trench coat to my birthday suit).  I refuse to try buying social media friends ever again. *There are better ways.  

As for Twitter, I have an account but barely know how to Twit. #whatisahashtag

I made one single Youtube video but forget how to access my account, so if you want to hear me playing the harmonica you will need to click here.

Pinterest truly is “the world’s catalog of ideas.” I have an old Pinterest account that I avoided using because I didn’t want to get addicted to pinning. After opening up the Pandora’s Box of everything that could potentially interest me, I am indeed hooked.  I just spent over an hour looking up sweaters for hairless hamsters.  Yes, there are some amazingly dressed hamsters out there.  After reading an article about making these little rodents cozy, I was asked to vote to promote the adorableness. Then I created this category on Pinterest.  Click the link for: Hairless Hamsters Need Clothes.  What in the hamster hell is going on here?  

Last Saturday, I spent most of my afternoon creating an Instagram account.  I thought I could get an App for it on my Mac, but there isn’t one.  I do not yet understand what a “story” is and how to stop “loving” my own pictures.  I asked my teenager for help, several times, and she frustratingly told me she was going to delete my account if I didn’t quit asking her so many questions.  I’m not sure how to promote my blog through Instagram anyhow so that medium might have to sit on the back burner.  You know what else has to sit on the back burner? A hairless hamster without his sweater, freezing his cheeks off.   

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My Very First Instagram Photo

I have so much to learn!   From tweets, streaks, and pins to widgets, links, and  posts. The technological jargon alone is mind boggling.  Luckily, I stumbled across a course called “WordPress for Writers” that started yesterday.  I paid $49 and signed up for it hoping for some extra blogging guidance.  I’ll let you know how it goes.   

While I tune in with technology, I’ll keep writing my stories and sharing with all who hop on to my horizon.  It’s a little too late to start pounding out tales on a rock tablet, so I gotta just keep moving forward.  

If you haven’t followed yet, please enter your email (via WordPress), so you don’t miss out on the part-time sunshine I hope to deliver.    

*If you are my FB Friend and you enjoy this blog could you share it with your FB Friends, and then your friends can be my friends, and we can all sing about it?  Thanks in advance for SHARING my FB Page on your Timeline:  Tales from a Part-Time Sunshine Kindly ask your friends to LIKE the Page.  If you still haven’t responded to your Invite to “Like” that page, give a thumbs up and feel the warmth.

Shine on!

Posted in Inspiration, Storytelling, Writing

Dedicated to my Mother, an Amazing Inspiration for Storytelling

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Today, on my mother’s birthday, I wish to share how influential she has been to me as a storyteller.  Ever since I was a little girl, I tuned into her talent for spinning a tale, sharing an anecdote, and captivating her listeners with heartfelt and humorous narratives.  Her stories stick with you like a favorite song you need to hear over and over again.

Her life has been blessed with a variety of experiences that she is more than willing to share with those interested. She is busy, involved, witty, and approachable, so she has a lot to talk about.  Her stories touch and include audiences of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.  Her plots grow out of the seeds of her actions, observations, and conversations which continue to dot her active, golden years.

My mother, a master of the oral storytelling tradition, is not a writer, but is a vibrant speaker.  Her knack for painting pictures with words encouraged me to use my voice as both speaker and writer; I am a high school English teacher with a  passion for storytelling.  I read, write, listen to, and tell stories, and I require my students to do the same.

I got more serious about my writing five years ago and composed a memoir of my life with my beloved father who is deceased.  Aside from writing many non-fiction pieces: personal narratives, essays, and reviews, I wrote one piece of fiction that is being published by The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

It is a novella about a a pencil sharpener, of all things, and my mother inspired my development of the protagonist and plot.  Most of the story is fiction, but it is based off of my mother and what she did on her birthday, exactly four years ago.  Here is how I recapped the situation then:

Happy birthday to my mother Mildred today! She continues to be witty, courageous, outrageous, youthful, and beautiful. She performed quite a stunt this evening when she visited her old Monaca home which she sold over three years ago!

Her mission was to ask the “new” owner if he still had the old heavy duty metal pencil sharpener that my father used to sharpen the tools of his artwork. I recently told her I regretted not dismounting that from the basement closet where it eternally hung. Tonight, she knocked on our old Washington Avenue door, reintroduced herself to John, the buyer/homeowner, and inquired about the piece of nostalgia, the sharpener I wished for my own classroom. John graciously unscrewed it from the cellar closet and gave it to her.

Wow! I’m not sentimental about “things,” but I truly can’t wait to get to polish dull pencils with that old powerhouse of a device. As a teacher, I know the value of having a strong writing tool, and although we put iPads into every student and teacher’s hands at my high school this year, I still embrace the reliable, old school pencil/paper method.

My mother continues to be as bold and beautiful on this birthday as on the few others she’s had. I’m excited and thankful that she retrieved such a mechanically symbolic tool that my father’s hands turned so often.

I’m thrilled we get to continue to exalt my mother in this world. A little touch of heaven poured into her hands full of #2 pencil shavings tonight. Each spin and point will keep my father’s Memory Eternal. Blessings and memories abound around precious birthday candles. May God grant her Many Years!

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Her retrieval of this treasure is the entry point of The Pencil Sharpener.  This piece is in the final stages of edits and will be available for purchase as an eBook when complete.  This will be my first published work, and I dedicate it to my mother, an amazing inspiration for storytelling.

Happy birthday, Mother!  Have a day you dreamed of!  xoxo

Posted in Creativity, Seize the Day!, Time, Writing

A Judging Squirrel Picture is Worth a Half-Thousand Words.

squagI have totally been misusing after-work hours today (and most others) neglecting my art, adult coloring books.  Ha!  I wish that was really the problem because I can’t get enough of those, and I have new gel pens and a bad words book.  It’s really funny to see flowing cursive curses surrounded by paisley patterns and glittery colors.

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Nuts and Bolts!  Can you imagine this guy with a swearing thought bubble!  It makes me laugh.  I’m so immature sometimes.

But my true neglected art is writing.  I promise to post a new blog!  I think I can.  I know I can. Squirrel!

Oh, how I procrastinate to create!  I interrupt my free time with online shopping, puzzle building, exercise, coloring, games of Skip Bo, social networking, and so on. All of this keeps me away from my stories though.

Why do I often hide from the keyboard?  I am not a squirrel but am a mole, tunneling underground with only a few finished projects and a messy yard.  I don’t play Whac-A-Mole and instead breed more reasons to keep from my writing.

Why do this?  I truly love words and making them sing on the page. I love writing and have so much to say.  I’m not secretive.  I’m not lazy.  But I think, therefore I am the intrusion to my own creative muse.  Thoughts come and go, and so do opportunities to write with a genuine commitment.  I let them soar away like a flying squirrel.

Squirrel!  I just want to go nutty on this little gavel pounding varmint.  Who is this fuzzy judge in the picture urging me to compose something new, refreshing, and interesting?   The pressure is on to create, yet I just want to go Bill Murray-Caddy Shack-Crazy and crush him.  I will steal his food. I will plug up his hole in the tree and…

And actually I will hug him.  Yes, yes I will.  I will call him George and I will love him and pet him and squeeze him. I will pet his feather duster tail and hand feed him buttery Ritz Crackers.  I will shake his little paw in thanks for getting me off the hide-and-seek writing hook. I do not want the squirrel of judgment looking down on me.

I really must balance on my alphabet beam or I’m going to lose some letters. Oh dear!  What would happen if I even lost one of the twenty-six alphabet characters.  I once went a whole day without the letter “L” on my keyboard where I teach.   It was very hard to be Mrs. _ucas.  What the “L”?  I needed that middle of the alphabet player, so I’m not willing to lose a single one, not even Q (I get it.  He needs U to make sense, but they’re quite a beautiful couple if you query me.)

Seriously, no more distractions.

Squirrel!  I have stories to tell, and this year I’m getting it done!!!

 

Posted in Seize the Day!, Writing

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo – November 1, 2016

Who out there knows what this is?  If you don’t are you curious?  Is it a name for a grandma?  Is it an expression from a new character on earth (similar to Mork from Ork — Nano Nano).  Is it the worst possible name to give to your brand new puppy?  How about your new kitty?  It stands for something, but if you’ve never seen it, then you might come up with all sorts of other balderdash meanings.  

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it happens to last the entire month of November.  Sometimes, I mistakenly substitute “November” for “Novel,” but it’s all good as long as you string together 50,000 words in a month: 11/1-11/30.    

This activity, contest, and writing incentive stretches beyond our nation and inspires people of all origins and nationalities.  It would just be weird to call it InNoWriMo after all these years (International November Novel Writing Month).  You can write in the language you feel most comfortable.  Hell, you can use OP talk if you want, but that would be really difficult and you would not entice a very large audience (See it here: http://www.wikihow.com/Speak-Oppish)

In a Nano Nutshell, the goal is to write the rough draft of a story using 50,000 words.  That’s a decent length (understatement for this 500 a word day gal) to cover in a month.  I wonder if there is a half marathon or 10k for this race.  Phew, I might be able to pull that off more than a full event…

Ahhhh!  Look at me already giving myself the boot, like I’m ready to kick my fingertips off of this endeavor.  I’m busy though!  

Wah!  All of us are busy.  That’s why we need things like NaNoWriMo to push us.  I think I can. I know I can. I know you can. I know we can.  OK.  Let’s chug along.  It doesn’t have to be perfect (not even close).  

To get down 50,000 words would take a lot of drafting and gobbledygook from me, so I am willing to cut it in half or even half of that (I don’t do math, so who knows what the hell I just didn’t commit to). Anyhow, I am promising to write something brand new each day for at least thirty minutes. My participation will be to show up each day and add new words that hopefully make some sense and contribute to my plot/s.

I vow not to revise what I slap on the screen until NaNoWriMo is over.  Perhaps I will mine some diamonds when I go back and edit and revise.I think that is a good plan for now.  

With that said, I better wrap up this blog so that I can start building my novel.  Ahh, nuts! It’s already 10:16 pm and my bedtime is 10:01.

Maybe tomorrow…

Posted in Seize the Day!, Writing

Forced into Submission

I am not the type of woman who readily submits.  I enjoy control of my own ideas, truths, and opinions.  If I submit and share myself with others, will I become possessed in ways I don’t want to be?  What challenges and new rules will I have to yield to? Will I lose the lifelong freedom I’ve maintained over my heart, mind, and soul?  What if I’m rejected?  What if I’m accepted?  Oh dear, it’s so much easier to just resist the process.  

These are the bizzarro thoughts I entertain when I consider taking my writing to the next level to seek publication. My writing process has been to write, recite parts of the story to anyone who will listen, revise, share a copy with a few loved ones, post it on Facebook (and now here on my blog), and/or put it into a random folder and bury it like junk mail.  What a writing graveyard I made!  R.I.P. is the final stamp on the tombs of my personal narratives, poetry, memoir, and stories.  Word ghosts haunt me.  

I often scold myself,  What a waste of paper, cyber space, time, and the alphabet!  Then with typing fingers and a hopeful change, I promise my muse, I will submit.  I think I can.  I know I can.  Squirrel!  And just like that, I get distracted and abandon the work I started.

I am a dirty little part-time sunshine when it comes to sticking with a piece of writing.  I have affairs and one-night stands with ideas; I enjoy the passion for a fresh story and hang out with it as much as I can until I get bored or stumble upon something I misconceive as better.  

You know what is better?  Running with the polished piece across the finish line to the cheers of a crowd.  I would love to be the one to add a little more cowbell to a reader’s day, to move, inspire, and entertain them with words. BUT, I have NEVER sent one piece of work to an agent, editor, or publisher.  I just quit rather than commit to entering the publishing world.  

Today, this will all change though.  I am not speaking figuratively here and literally vow to submit a short story to the editor I recently met at a writer’s conference.  I pitched to her and she expressed interest and requested the story.  

Wowza!  Whatever comes of this step, makes me thrilled to finally cross the threshold and send someone a completed piece of writing.  I loved creating this story and how it turned out.  She might too, but if not, her conversation at our pitch session inspired me enough to want to enter this unknown realm of publishing.  

I’m ready to seize and shake the writing cowbell today and wake the buried pieces of my heart, soul, and mind that have lain to rest.  

Use your talents.  You got ‘em!  Don’t wait for a rainy day… It’s gonna be a sunny one! Shine on! 

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