Reading, Reading, Reading (And a Dare)

Happy New Year’s, y’all!

And before you give me that look (because it’s January 9th), you should know that technically, it’s still the Christmas season. I just came back from my church and all the greenery is still up, all the manger scene men, women, sheep, and camels and the Baby Jesus are still hanging out. So really, I’m not late at all.

But I have been busy, reading books, coming up with a word for the year, thinking, thinking, thinking. And writing, too. I know. I’m surprised, too.

download (2)Oh, goodness, I love Bob Goff’s books! So when I saw that he had a daily devotional, I didn’t have to think about that choice, I just clicked. It’s called Live in Grace-Walk in Love and yes, it’s Christian-based but if you know anything about Bob Goff, you know he’s love-based. He’s a consummate storyteller and he uses these skills to make his points; I could grab a quote from each day but here’s one from Day 6 that moved me as a writer but I think it works for anyone who has big dreams and might be frustrated in the journey to accomplish them:

Go change the world from where you are, while you’re moving toward where you wish you were.

And then because I am a writer, I had a delightful time, hanging out with Julie Hedlund this year for the 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. That’s come and gone but lots of inspiration and fun, a good way to end a year and start a new year. (Pssst! If you’re a picture book writer, go see all that she offers!) And she read from Jane Yolen’s book, Take Joy. 

takejWell, I clicked on that, too, because I love Jane Yolen (and not just because she raved about the voice in my first page in a manuscript years ago). I clicked because I liked what Jane said in the very beginning: write because it brings you joy.

Speaking of Jane Yolen, she’ll be at our SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in March,along with daughter Heidi Stemple. So if you love Jane and Heidi (and really, the entire faculty at wik’20 is stellar!) and you’re somewhere around the Southeast, then come join us in Birmingham on March 13th and 14th. I will be very happy to introduce you to Jane and Heidi because we’re this close. Or we will be by the time the conference is over. If I’m not arrested for stalking.

AND one more book I have to mention is Make Your Bed. 

So when I was thinking, thinking, thinking about 2020, I kept coming back to “20 Hard Things You Need To Do to Be Happy” by Mark Chernoff.  (I told y’all, I was busy! In a sitting-around-reading-stuff-on-the-web sort of way.) And specifically, I kept thinking, thinking, thinking about Number 1:

You need to take small chances every day.

Now, I realize that taking a small chance is not exactly going to help change the world, but the more I thought, the more I began to figure that maybe taking a small chance might in fact, change my world.

I wondered if taking a small chance every day would move me past fear and into action. Because here’s the thing: when your world is rocked by crises or losses or major setbacks, you may be numb at first. But eventually, fear settles in your soul as you begin to realize that there’s so very little in this life we control. Love and faith and friends and family help--they help a lot!–but sometimes, we can be caught in the “playing it safe” zone because we’re so afraid of what may happen.

And so the word “dare” began to form in my mind. Dare to do something that you might not have done before. And not something big; I didn’t need to take a trip around the world. I just needed to maybe go to a movie by myself.

Which I haven’t quite done yet. But I did go into a restaurant and sat down to eat by myself. “Yes, table for one,” I said. And you know what? It was empowering! I know it’s a small thing, but honestly, I haven’t sat down in a restaurant to eat alone since my working days, before I had kids.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the WorldSo though I don’t usually do a word for the year, I chose DARE so that I’d keep that first hard thing foremost in my mind. I mean, even I can remember a word. Which leads me to Make Your Bedthe last book on the list.

Admiral William H. McRaven gave a speech at the University of Texas–you might’ve seen it, it went viral–and this book is a longer version of that speech. It won’t take you long to read it but he talks about changing the world, and gives ten lessons from his days as a Navy Seal that tells you exactly how you might change the world. One of them is taking risks. And in his book, he cites the British Special Air Services motto: “Who dares, wins.”

Now I will never take the kinds of risks a Navy Seal does; I won’t win any special medals for bravery. But if I don’t risk putting my writing out there, I’ll never know what might be possible in my life, how I might change the world of a child or adult who reads something I’ve written. And perhaps he or she might go on to change the world in some way.

It could happen, but only if I dare.

(Yikes! I’ve gone way past my usual ramble and I forgot to mention my Muffin post! So if you want to change the way you revise, take a look at “Writing Lessons Learned From Love It or List It.” And maybe you’ll start 2020 pulling out an old manuscript and giving it one more chance. Come on, I dare you.)

 

 

All I Really Want For Christmas

IMG_20191210_141622234

The Christmas Bookcase in my office, 2019

 

You know you’re getting old when you say, “No, no, don’t get me anything for Christmas! Just come over to the house. That’s enough for me.”

First, you’ve pulled out the Mom Guilt Card. The “I don’t want your money, I just want you to spend a little time with your poor, sainted mother.”

But it’s true, isn’t it? Because secondly, you really don’t want anything; you’re at that point in your life that when you want something, you get it yourself. That’s one of the perks of being old and having all your kids making their own livelihoods. I don’t have to give up those expensive boots I really want because Junior needs braces. (He may still need braces but that’s on him now.)

And I don’t have to wait for Christmas, either. When I want something, I just go and shake the money tree. If cash tumbles down, wheeee! If a few pennies knock me on the head, then I wait for the Money Tree Elf to come and do its magic. Either way, I’m happy.

So that’s what I was thinking about in “‘Tis the Season! Gifts for Writers” over at The Muffin today, that perk of being older (and maybe a teeny bit wiser) and the benefits that come along with age.

Mostly, that we don’t need a lot of things to make us happy, but that it’s a good idea to figure out what we do need, whether it’s a physical, mental, or emotional want, and to stop waiting for jolly old Santa to give it to us, or any loved one, for that matter.

Because love starts with yourself and then spreads to others. So go love yourself and have a joyful Christmas!

(P.S. This doesn’t mean Youngest Junior Hall is off the hook for getting that 20 lb bag of bird seed for me. You know your mother can’t lift that big bag but that’s all I want. Also, there’s still spider webs in the windows and they need to find another home for the holidays, so if Oldest Junior Hall could remove ’em, that’d be swell. But that’s it. Really. Until after Christmas when the lights need to be taken down. Juniorette Hall is good at that sort of thing. Maybe get the Hubs to take the tree back down to the basement? But seriously, that’s all.

For now.)

Being Thankful For the Weird That Is Me

autumn-mott-rodeheaver-SPd9CSoWCkY-unsplashI will be the first to say that I can do some pretty weird things. BUT they are weird things with a purpose.

Like the iron plant hanger with the hook on the end that I was waving about in the driveway? It was the perfect length to reach the gutters and the hook easily could sweep the leaves right out and onto my head.

I mean, sure, I could’ve paid my gutter cleaner guy, but I have a LOT of trees and I like to wait until the entire roof is covered with dead leaves and pine needles before I bring in the guy who spends fifteen minutes with a leaf blower. So to any of the neighbors driving by, I was not engaged in a New Age ritual leaf dance; I was saving money.

And I had a perfectly good reason for wearing two fitness trackers, and I would have been perfectly happy to explain the purpose to Youngest Junior Hall but he took one look at my arm and then held up his hand to stop me. “I don’t want to know,” he said.

Fine. But if you want to know–because it’s actually quite interesting–then you’ll need to zip over to The Muffin to read “Being Thankful For What Counts.”

I have lots to be thankful for, and having a creative mind that comes up with solutions (albeit weird ones) is easily in my Top Ten. I hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving, and if you’d like to share something from your Top Ten list for which you’re grateful, I know we’d love to celebrate with you!

Photo by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash

Time Flies And All That Jazz

IMG_20191113_135133422As I’m writing this, Libs (The Tiny Terror) is shivering in her…er, paws. Oh, she’ll throw out a little bark every once in a while, but mostly, she’s just cowering behind me. Because the Carpet Cleaner Guy is at the house!!!

Yeah, the Carpet Cleaner Guy. When I called him, I asked, “When did I get the carpets cleaned? Last November? Or was it September?” And there was this awkward little pause.

“Mrs. Hall,” he said. “It was three years ago.”

Which just goes to show that one minute, you’re thinking how nice and clean your house smells, and the next minute, it’s November (and you’re wondering why your house smells). Such is time flying and all that jazz. And that brings us to my blog post over at the Muffin today: NaNoWriMo: Are We Done Yet?

Because for cryin’ out loud, y’all, can it possibly be nearly the middle of November? If you’re toiling away at the National Novel Writing Month writing challenge–and lagging behind–then you’re going to want to read that post. But if you’re like me, skipping NaNoWriMo but just getting around to getting carpets cleaned after three years, then you might want to check your fridge.

Me and Libs both are scared of that.

 

The October WOOooOooo Wrap-up!

10626620_10204178615537318_786430566163493947_nOctober is a favorite month for me and not just because I happened to have been born on one of its spooktacular days. (But I’m not saying which because honestly, I pretty much celebrate the entire month. And Oldest Junior Hall is taking me to see Wicked this weekend as a birthday /Christmas gift–I suspect he’ll be using this adventure for the next couple years to cover everything–so the party’s not over until I sing so much that Oldest Junior Hall tells me to stop. And P.S. I won’t. Because yeah…it’s my birthday.)

The point is, lots going on in October and now it’s time to catch up:

Remember the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy over at Kaitlynn Leann Sanchez’ blog, Math is Everywhere? I wrote Worms Crawl In for this fun contest and boo-yah! I was a winner! I love when writers join together in community to support each other, and when there are prizes, too? Well, that’s just about the best in my book.

Of course, now that I’ve won a creep-tastic critique, I suppose I’ll have to write up something. I’ve got an idea for a sort of nonfiction, sort of funny picture book that I might work on in November during NaNoWriMo.

I’ve also got lots of opinions about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), so if you’re on the fence about whether to participate in this November writing challenge, you might want to give a read to “The Rights and Wrongs of NaNoWriMo” over at The Muffin.

And yes, I know that a picture book is not a novel, even if it’s a long non-fiction one. But I’ve been working on a revision of a middle grade paranormal all month and I’m this close to being stick-a-fork-in-it, I-really-mean-it-this-time done. So I’m kinda novel-ed out right now.

I’m not done with all my research, though. I’ve been binge-watching every ghost hunter show this October–who knew there were so many?–partly to pick up a pointer here and there, but also to get me in the paranormal mood. I even went to a presentation at my local library where a paranormal investigation crew played EVPs and answered questions and showed us ghostly, ghastly photos and videos.

It was all a bit oooOOOOooooo. Until I asked one of the investigators my burning question: Why do ghost hunters always hunt for spirits and such at night? I mean, time doesn’t mean anything to a ghost, right?

No photo description available.But it’s October, y’all, and hunting ghosts and telling spooky stories and getting ready for NaNoWriMo is what you do. Unless you got something different? Spill your guts, please, ’cause yeah…it’s still October for a day or two.