Thanks, January

So at long last, we say goodbye to January. It really is like the longest month ever, with its 31 days and its bitter cold and the starkness that follows the festive color and coziness of the holidays. I mean, that right there is January in a nutshell: January is the serious month of the year,right?

Or maybe that’s what it was for me and other folks were out there swinging from the New Year rafters and jumping feet first into their veggies and tofu diets–for the first couple of weeks at least. Then, I’m pretty sure they were right there with me in the January trenches, thinking ah, well. Here we go again.

clouds-hd-wallpaper-landscape-67832Except by the end of the month, I quit. And I’m not gonna lie, just typing “I quit” right now still makes my palms sweat a little and I get a sick clunk in the pit of my stomach. But I’m also–and you can imagine me singing along with Michael Buble here because that’s exactly what I’m doing–feeling good. 

 

There’s lots more to the story so you’ll want to read Just Quit over at The Muffin.

BUT. I’d just like to add that timing is everything when it comes to quitting, just in case there’s anyone thinking of making changes right now. The timing for me came when I’d had years of preparation and the means available, yes, but it was more–and mostly– about the changes in me and in my life now. 2019 Cathy has something to say that’s different from 2017 or 2015 and especially 2010 Cathy when the writing world was new.

So I guess I should thank that interminably long month of January for the time to process all that. And I hope that you have a January–whenever it may come–when you’re ready to do some thinking about your new dawn, your new day, your new life. (Yeah, you knew I’d work in a way to sing again, right?)

 

 

On Birds and Thoughts

afterglow-avian-backlit-556663Sometimes, being alone with my thoughts is pure heaven. I string out complicated story lines in my head, recalling weird names or characters so that I can…well, invent weird and interesting characters. I laugh out loud at crazy shenanigans I imagine but I can also get myself all worked up (which is code in the Hall House for crying) over a sad scene that plays out in my mind. Hours go by with just my constructive thoughts and it’s a fine thing.

But other times, being alone with my thoughts is hellish. I obsess over an imagined or real slight, building up a resentment. Or I let worry build into a whole giant thing over what may or may not even happen! Those negative thoughts play in a loop and I literally make myself miserable, possibly to the point of getting myself “all worked up.” And here’s the frustrating thing: I probably indulge in the unhealthy thoughts more than the creative, joyful ones.

And here’s another thing: I think many of us–maybe most of us–struggle with those kinds of thoughts. It’s part of the human condition. But I heard a quote the other day –and you know how I love my quotes– that smacked me upside the head.

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”   

~ Martin Luther

Hearing those words, I began to imagine a bird building a nest in my hair. But I wouldn’t just sit there, would I? Nope, I’d shoo the birds away, waving my arms, maybe even shouting. And if that didn’t work, I’d move somewhere, far away from the birds.

But when I allow destructive thoughts to build a nest in my mind, what do I do? Why, I just hang out there, watching intently, maybe even handing over more thoughts with which to build a bigger and stronger nest. Instead of actively doing something to shoo the thoughts away!

It was an eye-opening moment for me, y’all, thinking about those birds. And I’ve had a few times, alone with my thoughts these past days, where I’ve had to shoo the birds away. So thank you, Martin Luther (who has lots more fine quotes). And may you, friends, find a way to shoo those negative thoughts out of your mind and build instead a joyful nest that keeps you safe and happy.

And P.S. Almost forgot! Juniorette Hall said I always write a post that’s a plug for my WOW! posts. And I do have a post up over at the Muffin–“The Beauty of a Blog”–but it has nothing to do with birds or thoughts or Martin Luther, so there. Um… it might be helpful to you if you’re an author, so I hope you’ll take a look. (And yes, I know that’s a plug but Juniorette Hall is not the boss of me.)

Photo by luizclas from Pexels

 

 

Tuesday Tip: A Pinterest Primer

ImageI’m just going to start by saying I didn’t think I was the Pinterest type. You know–the artsy-craftsy, look-what-I-can-do-with-duct-tape-and-shiitake-mushrooms type.

To be honest, I wouldn’t know a shiitake from a Shia Labeouf. But I will, on occasion, do something craftsy. Not fancy craftsy, mind you. I like my crafts the way I like cooking: if it takes more than fifteen minutes, I’m probably going to pass.

But Pinterest is not just about crafts and recipes. I mean, there’s an awful lot of crafts and recipes there, but you’ll find other stuff that may inspire you in other ways. And for a writer, inspiration can be a very good thing.

So here’s a very simple primer for Pinterest from those keen folks at Mashable: Pinterest: A Beginner’s Guide to the Hot New Social Network.

And notice that Pinterest is a social network. It can’t hurt to expand your social networks, if you’re a writer. That’s why I waded into Pinterest.

(It can hurt if you stay in those artsy-craftsy-social waters so long that you forget to write. I’m just sayin’.)

Inspiration for the Picture Book Writer

It’s nearly the end of the month and I’m afraid that I still do not have my picture book manuscript completed for the 12 x 12 in ’12 competition.

But I’d marked Mem Fox’s delightful website and most particularly, her list of 20 Do’s and Don’ts of picture book writing. That list was like a condensed class in picture book writing, and very, very helpful.

But if I’m being really honest, it was stumbling upon Mem reading The Goblin and The Empty Chair that truly inspired me. First, because she so obviously loves reading, and the joy in her voice is absolutely contagious. Secondly, because it’s such a lovely story, and I’m such a sucker for fairy tale stories. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I was suddenly transported.

Just like that, I was a much younger mom, trooping through the library, watching my kidders pick out books, and bringing me their treasures. And there was a Mem Fox book in the bunch, and oh, how we loved her books.

Mem Fox’s books first came out way back when the Junior Halls were very Junior Halls. And the The Goblin and the Empty Chair was published in 2009. So there’s hope for me yet.

Mingling and Moving Forward

So I had a lovely time at Springmingle, the Southern Breeze’s SCBWI conference this past weekend in Atlanta. It’s all over, as they say, but the transcribing of the notes.

Er…I did take notes. When I’m listening to presentations on writing fine dialogue or how to punch up a plot or what makes a thriller, I scribble furiously. But when I’m listening to a speech that’s inspiring and thoughtful and just fills my soul with all those writerly words I need to hear, the notes sort of drift off into a word or two. Oopsies.

So I’m sorry that I can’t share Kirby Larson’s points from her wonderful keynote speech. But I can direct you to her blog where she lists all the books she mentioned (that was lucky, huh?) and you can follow her posts to get a little inspiration and/or information. (By the way, is it only in the South where mac ‘n cheese is a vegetable? I mean, if you go through the cafeteria line, where else are they going to put mac ‘n cheese???)

Anyway, I picked up her latest book, The Friendship Doll, and of course, Cathy-on-a-Stick had to get in the picture with ’em. (I think my pic was a little miffed that the pics on the book were all wearing delightful outfits while Cathy-on-a-stick was a tad under-dressed for the occasion.)

And I did remember the last poem that Kirby read called “God Says Yes to Me” by Kaylin Haught. I love the last lines…

what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Yep, I’ll keep going to conferences (and probably forget to take notes). But that’s okay. I’m listening and learning,  writing and growing. And someday, I’ll get my Yes.