Tag Archives: books

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Lexile – find out what books your child should/could be reading……

If you have ever been to the library or book store with a child, you know full well how hard it can be to find a “just right” book for that child to read.

Well, Lexile will make choosing a book a (much) easier undertaking.

You can read the full details here – but I will try to break it down for you quickly.

Lexile analyzes the difficulty level of a particular piece (book, magazine article, etc) and assigns it a number. For example, Harry Potter has been given the rating of 88OL. (The “L” stands for Lexile. Clever, huh?) Read more »

On a (blog)roll……

It’s about time I updated my blogroll – that little list over to the right that shares my favorite places on the blog-o-sphere.

I hate to do it, but I am removing a couple of blogs – and not because I don’t love them dearly – they simply don’t write any more. boo. hiss. ** Imagine me throwing broken pencils at them for stopping. ** Oh, how I get it, though. This writing thing ain’t so easy to maintain.

The good news is there are quite a few additions – and they put fingers to keyboard just about all the time. 😎 Yeah!

I’ll give you a quick rundown…

My Name is Not Bob
Robert Lee Brewer writes about writing, poetry, and parenting. What’s not to love? And on Wednesday, March 21, he is going to feature one of my essays about living in India in the Life Changing Moments Series on his blog. (Part One of the essay appears Wednesday and Part Two will appear on Friday.) Yes. SQUEEAA!

He also blogs at Writer’s Digest about poetry. His blog is called Poetic Asides.

Writer UnBoxed
Also a blog about writing with a ton ‘o knowledgeable people contributing their thoughts and ideas. And on Friday, March 23rd, Writer UnBoxed will feature another essay from little ole me – it’s about my thoughts on believing in your writing.  Squeeeeeaaaa indeed!

Rachelle Gardner
Just so you don’t think you have to feature one of my essays on your blog to make my blogroll (although, Rachelle, if you’re listening 😉 ), this is another blog I read every. single. day. Rachelle is a literary agent with Books & Such. She is honest (balanced with kindness) about what agents do and don’t want. She has a ton of writing and publishing advice on her blog.

Seth Godin
Seth writes about everything. His posts are short and he always gives us something to think about.

Obscura Journal
This is a photography-slash-writing website. They post a monthly contest called Bridge the Gap. They show two photographs and you have to create a story in under 1,000 words to bridge the two pictures. It’s great fun and you can enter without paying a reading fee. Schweeet! This isn’t really a blog – but it is a tres coolio site.

So check them out – I heart them all and maybe you will too!

What would Dr. Seuss Do……….

I know times are tight and everyone is suffering, but my local library took it a little too far yesterday. I get it that checking books out at the library saves money – it is a wonderful convenience. So I try to do it. But I don’t always follow up with “part b” of that idea – the part of returning the books on time so you don’t have to pay fines – thus guaranteeing the saving money part of the deal.

In my attempt to be a productive member of society, I went to the library to pay any fines we owe. I thought this was pretty good – we are moving out of the country – I didn’t really have to do this – the library police aren’t really going to track me down in Delhi and make me read more books.

I get up to the counter – tell the librarian why I am there – apologize for not having my library card – ask if she would mind looking up our account numbers.

Librarian: Oh, you don’t have your card?
Me: No – I am sorry – we are moving – it’s been crazy – I don’t have the right purse – Is there a way you can look it up? Please. Pretty please with library fines on top.
Librarian: We charge for that service now
Me: Service? What service?
Librarian: Looking up your card number
Me: Isn’t it on the computer – the one right in front of you – the one you will be using to look up my fine anyway?
Librarian: Yes
Me: Ok then – how much is it?
Librarian: It is a dollar per account number
Me: Gasping for air – a dollar? I have 4 card numbers to look up – I just want to clear my account – I might not even have $4 in fines (yes, that was wishful thinking)
Librarian: Wait, are you just paying fines?
Me: (with no books in my hand) Yes – we are moving – don’t really need to check out anything – unless of course you have a reciprocity agreement with the Public Library of New Delhi – now that you mention it, I do need something good for the plane
Librarian – completely unamused
Me – that would be “yes”, I am just paying a fine, but I will need you to look up the fines on that computer – if I can’t even remember my library card, I certainly do not know how much my fines are
Librarian – in that case we won’t charge you
Me – Wow
Librarian: over-extending herself to enter my phone number – yes, all ten digits – to find my account numbers.

She had to do it 4 whole times and it took her about 2 and a half minutes to look up my numbers, calculate my fines, collect my money, and give me change. In fact, it took her longer to tell me about the charges than it did to collect the overdue fines. I can totally (not) see why they are charging for that service now. If I had books to check out and they mentioned charging me to simply look up my account number, I probably would have actually left the books at the counter. Seriously, enough is enough. That would certainly cause more work for the librarian than just entering those 10 digits into the computer.

So, I paid the $20 in fines (still cheaper than the book store) and I cleared my conscience of late fees and overdue books. Yes, I believe Dr. Seuss would be proud – very proud.

I know this is not cause for a riot – maybe it’s not even worthy of a blog post – but it really irritates me that the library would charge me for something they have to do anyway. Is it really that much more daunting to have to enter a phone number than to swipe a card? Really, is it? Isn’t this why computers were invented? To make life easier? Let’s use technology to our advantage. Seriously.

Blah Blah Blah………………

P.S. I don’t personally hold the librarian responsible for the decision to charge the fines – I know someone above her made that decision – don’t worry – no librarians were hurt or yelled at in the writing of this post.

old delhi………

I have heard a lot about Old Delhi – and I finally got to go. It is not the place you want to venture out on your own for your very first visit. I never, ever felt in danger – in fact I got some of the most beautiful smiles I have seen since I have been here – but it is narrow and dusty and fast moving. It is not laid out neatly – you can easily get turned around. So, it’s just better not to go at it alone the first time. It was a super quick trip and I plan to go again – and soon. But for now, here is a little taste of what I saw.

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We rode the Delhi metro – it was loverly. Really clean and very easy to navigate. This is the way to go!

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There were lots of vendors selling food. It is beautiful but, no, I did not eat any of it.

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I loved this water pump – it seemed so out of place and so in place all at the same time. This man is washing off his broom.

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You could buy veggies. Very fresh veggies.

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And tassles. Yummy tassles.

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And you can see people working really hard.

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And animals working really hard.

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And more wires than you could ever count – in the land of technical assistance call centers – this irony is not lost.

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This guy was a great big smile just waiting to happen.

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A great big smile.

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The streets are narrow and crowded – but it is a fascinating place.

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I was offered medical books here. Too bad I don’t need medical books. There was quite a selection.

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And you know I loved the kick arse doors in this place. They rock!

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This visit was too short. I plan to go back and see the wedding district, the spice market, and the nut market. Plus whatever else the day has to offer.

Spreading Cheer……

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Kiran Bedi – put your seat belt on. I had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak last week and I wanted to share her story with you.

First all all, she is not even 5 feet tall, but she stands like a giant in a room. She has a presence – you can truly feel her enter the room. She was running a little bit late (not surprising – when you are changing the world, you can’t always be on time) and seriously, the whole dynamic of the room changed the second she entered it. It did not become hushed – but energized. We moved to the side a little and she walked to the podium soaking us all in. As if she was there to learn from us – it was so interesting. She laughed that women are women – always talking, always laughing. She seems to take in every moment – acknowledge every smile.

She began her talk by saying that her job has always been to spread cheer. In every aspect of her life, she aims to spread cheer. Not to necessarily move mountains or shatter barriers, simply to spread cheer. Although the result of her spreading cheer has certainly been mountains moving and barriers shattering and much, much cheer spreading.

Kiran Bedi began her career in 1972 when she joined the Indian Police Service. She was the first woman to do so. She made so many waves and captured enough positive media attention that it was decided that she should take 9 months paid leave. Dr. Bedi said it was during that time that she began to write down her stories. She has published several books including “I Dare”, “It’s Always Possible”, and “What Went Wrong”.

Then someone wised up and decided that Dr. Bedi should not be paid for not working and put her in charge of the Tihar prison. I guess they thought that they would show her. Ha. She was given the position of Inspector General of Prisons for Tihar jail. It housed over 10,000 inmates.  If I remember correctly, Tihar houses every type of criminal and even houses a maximum security area. It is one of the world’s largest prison complexes. You can check out its website here – it is unlike any prison I have heard of before. First of all they have a factory where inmates work and learn a trade – like pottery, weaving, paper making, baking, etc. Now, there’s an idea.

During Kiran Bedi’s time at the prison (which I believe was only two years), she made radical and effective changes. The repeat offender rate of the Tihar jail inmates is significantly lower than most prisons across the world. She walked the prison floors everyday and interacted with the prisoners – no one had ever done that before. Previous Inspector Generals seemed to have stayed very far away from the actual task at hand. They found their air conditioned offices much more comfortable than being inside the prison walls. Everything was disconnected.

Immediately upon arriving, she saw drastic change was necessary to give the prisoners a sense of hope and humanness.

One of the first things she did was instituted a daily meditation ritual. She would pray with the prisoners every day. Dr. Bedi feels that this is what western prisons are lacking. It is easy to get too caught up in spirituality being religion and then conflict ensues. She said that meditation (spirituality) allows a person time to reflect – time to learn that the path they are on might not be working so well. She said we all need time to think about our choices. Daily meditation allows that – daily prayer offers hope. Both are essential for reform and rehabilitation.

This is one of my favorite parts of her story. She saw in the rules that “transistors, watches, and books were not permitted, unless permitted.” So  she simply permitted them. She did not need a high court decision or a council meeting or a vote – she simply wrote down on a piece of lovely green paper that transistors, books, and watches are now permitted and she thumb-tacked it up on a bulletin board. Brilliant.

She gave prisoners back the privilege of having watches and transistor radios because she did not want them disconnected from the outside world. She felt that if the inmates were unaware of what was happening outside of their walls, it would further alienate them when they returned to society.

Dr. Bedi also gave the prisoners books. She said she would visit local schools at the end of the year and take away their discarded text books. Talk about trash to treasure! She had many volunteers who would come in and teach classes. Companies would donate school supplies. Many of the inmates pursued degrees of various levels.

She realized the medical costs of running a prison were eating into her budget. So she declared the prison a smoke-free environment. She felt the poisons from cigarettes were damaging not just the physical health of the prisoners, but their mental health as well. She was concerned about the effect of second-hand smoke, so she simply said “no more”. And she saw a dramatic decrease in her medical expenses. Tuberculosis cases significantly decreased.

She was not without sympathy for the withdrawal symptoms the prisoners would face and instituted detox facilities. She also listened intently to the prisoners concerns that smoking was “all they had”. She asked them for alternative solutions but together they could not come up with a viable answer. So, Tihar remains a non-smoking environment.

In India, women can take their children to prison with them. My understanding is that there is not a social welfare system in India and there is great concern when children are separated from their mothers – no good can come from that. So the children often go with. Dr. Bedi started a preschool program for the children. Some of the women in the prison were interested in learning to be childcare providers – so they learned by watching the children in the prison. The mothers of those children could either take school classes or weaving classes.

When the children turn about 6 years old, their mothers can choose to send them to a boarding school where they get a proper education. Even if the mother is released from prison, the children can stay enrolled in school.

I asked Dr. Bedi if some women commit crimes just to have their children get these advantages. She simply said “sure”.

Dr. Bedi also instituted a petition box where the prisoners could share their concerns and complaints. She gave them a voice.

The thing that amazed me most about Dr. Bedi was the joy she described in every single thing. She truly seems to have no complaints whatsoever. She took being put on leave as an opportunity to write. She described the note that she posted on a bulletin board about watches and transitors being allowed and smiled so genuinely about the lovely soft shade of green the paper was. She laughed about the cobwebs and the rats that infested her not-so-new office at the prison. She joked that she challenged the rats to see who would be there longer.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Bedi and four other ladies after her talk. Dr. Bedi has advised government leaders and been invited to speak to the United Nations. She has her own television show that is similar to Judge Judy – but with more of a slant on teaching the law and explaining its nuances to Indian citizens. She is famous here. More than famous. It was a treat to have such a small audience with her.

One of the women asked her what Dr. Bedi thought was the reason for her tremendous success. I know the answer. She is letting her life take her where she is meant to be and she is finding joy along every step of the way. There are no obstacles, only opportunities. She strives to improve her life. She has recently given up eating meat because she was trying to find what else she could do to become a better person.

One of the other things she said that I found so interesting was that institutions will survive us all. So, we must work to make institutions that mean something, that have  a positive influence on the world – long after we are gone. When she left lunch with us, she was off to attend a meeting with people who are working to start a taxi business for women drivers.

She is changing the world and she is spreading cheer.

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