A List of Hobbies I Gave Up When I Got Serious About Writing

Baking Gardening Thai food cooking Garage sales Beadwork Jewelry making Watercolor painting T-shirt painting Apron painting Hot gluing used coffee filters to the tops of glass jars and stamping them with Amish-style stamp designs Hot gluing cotton balls to the tops of glass jars and then gluing fabric over the cotton balls to make the lids puffy and then filling the jars with candy Wreath-making from vines I cut from random bushes on the side of the road Knitting Cutting hearts out of the pages of old books and Mod Podging them to glass jars and putting candles inside Mod…

The Time I Fell Down In Dance Class

I fancied myself a dancer when I was a kid. Flashdance was important. I watched a lot of the television show Fame. I listened relentlessly to my Flashdance and Fame records every single day, filled with longing. I made my friends call me Alex for a while. My perms were tight as screws. I wore leg warmers long after they were stylish. I mean, long after. Even in the summer. I badgered my dad to take the car out of the garage so I could practice tap dancing on the smooth concrete. I made up my own dances, dancing for hours, practicing…

To You Who Are Doing Rejection Wrong

I’ve been rejected more than you. I don’t know, maybe I haven’t. But I’d be willing to bet I have and I hate gambling. I’ve been a writer knocking on the door of the publishing game for nineteen years, nine books, dozens of short stories, articles, and poems. My failure to success ratio is about one hundred to one and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  The only reason I’m mentioning my rejection rate now is because my long history of hearing “no thank you, not at this time” gives me authority to say to you this: You are doing…

Rock Star University: Pursue Excellence

In a fog of mourning last week, perusing every Prince interview available on Youtube, I found an odd little visit he made to The View some years ago. The hosts harass him until he leaves, but before he does he drops an important piece of wisdom. After Barbara Walters leans in to say that Justin Beiber had told them that he wanted to have a career as long as his, Prince just smiles. She says it to flatter him, but he isn’t flattered. His look is gentle but deeply knowing. Prince says, “The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can. I…

I Am Not Proud of You

Eighteen years ago, I had a colleague named Bertha at a pretty rough public elementary school where I taught fourth grade. This woman taught first grade with the masterful calm of a Jedi. Her room was an oasis of peace and productivity. I tried to learn as much as I could about teaching from Bertha. She was a goddess of a human being, which she would laugh at me for saying but it’s still true. One day Bertha was telling me about her grown son who had just started his dream job as a forest ranger. I said, “You must be…

Trust the Process

Today is the last day of my 31 Days of Advice challenge. I started a day early, left out two days in the middle, and gave yesterday a break for Savasana. My last piece of advice for myself is a phrase we say to one another on Kairos retreats at the school where I work. On a Kairos retreat, the seniors go on a four-day self and God-discovery journey with their teachers and peer leaders. Sometimes the going is rough. Trust the process, we remind each other. It’s the best advice of all. Trust the process may sound airy fairy, but one…

Work Hard

  I have a saying in my classroom: We work smarter not harder in Wanket World. (My name is Mrs. Wanket at work. I know. I know.)  That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. It just means we work with purpose and focus on our collective and individual goals. We don’t flail around with busy work. We have goals. We do more in such a way that we get more. More skill, more pages written, more ideas explored. The classroom scene gets me to thinking. . . .I can do so much more in all areas of my life with just a…

Remember Savasana

Today is a Sunday with no plans. Nowhere to be. At some point I’ll need to venture to the grocery store for lunch fixin’s for the week. That will take maybe thirty minutes. I did a little laundry. Made eggs for my daughter and her friend. Straightened up a bit. Putzed. Now I’ll write a few letters. Read. Think about things. Wander into the backyard and marvel at the plants and trees. My sweetheart is a good gardener. Two of my favorite TV characters when I was little were Farmer Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo and the Professor from Gilligan’s Island….

Ask the Quarterback to the Prom

I have a novel coming out in July of this year. My publishers asked me if I knew a few authors who would be willing to give a blurb to help promote the book I know a few authors. I attend workshops, a writer’s group, and every literary event in my vicinity that I can. I’ll stand in line for an hour to exchange a few words with someone whose books have meant something to me. (My students have suggested I am overzealous in my admiration of authors. To that I say, I am always respectful of boundaries and if anyone minds my…

5 Things Exercise Taught Me About Writing

I can do more than I think I can. When I begin, I can’t imagine finishing. Just go for ten minutes, I say to myself. Just give it a try. Focus only on this rep, this workout, this page. I try not to notice that it is five in the morning and dark outside. I once wrote ten thousand words in one day. Most days I work out before the sun rises. This isn’t the Army. This is my life. I can do more than I think I can. I can ignore the inner (and outer) naysayer.  Getting up at 4:30 in…