Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Surf n' Turf

Even vegetarians can enjoy Saturday Surf n' Turf, because it has nothing to do with food, which is a rare event for me. The SST is a new feature I'm trying out on the blog; it will highlight one link to a great website, and one brick-and-mortar site, be it retail, attraction, or just something cool in the physical world. Knowing my redneck hippie chick self, I can say right now that it won't be a weekly feature, but I'll try to get an SST up every couple of weeks. Ready? Here we go! has always been one of my favorite sites for great tips on better living. I now swear by the blueberry-almond oatmeal combo featured in their fast, healthy breakfast post. But yesterday, I found another really helpful post, Top 30 Tips for Staying Productive and Sane While Working from Home. Some of these tips I've seen before, but others, like 'Don't go back to work when you're finished,' and 'Don't work an eight-hour day,' really helped me to put things in perspective. I can't separate my work space and living space right now, since my computer is temporarily in the living room, but a lot of the common sense listed made me re-think my daily routine. Whether I'll be any saner than normal remains to be seen, since all writers have their own little box of crazy they dip into every day for motivation.

Today's turf site is one of my favorite stores on the planet: Vintage Stock. It can't take the place of locally owned comic book stores, but my area VS store has a great selection of fun stuff sacred to Gen X, Y and the rest of the alphabet. From RPG supplies to trading cards, DVDs to LPs, plus cool collectibles, Vintage Stock rocks my never-grow-up heart. I don't expect to get a Wii anytime soon, but I can get games for my Nintendo 64, like Mario Kart 64 and Scooby-Doo, so I'm happy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting in the new year groove

I admit it, I haven't cracked open that 2008 Procrastinator's Calendar yet, but the new year is here anyway. There have been some wonderful articles on the web about getting organized and prepared for the new year, and I recommend every one of them. Get those receipts in order, breathe deep and cough for the tax man, and re-discover what color your desk is under all those magazines and sticky notes: all excellent suggestions. I do, however, have a few tips of my own to kick off the new year:

1. Indulge yourself. It's a new year, why not enjoy something new to spur that winter-weary muse? Go all out for a new computer if you can, but even if you can't afford something that big just yet, drop by Dollar Tree for a bright, colorful journal you can use as an idea book, a little bulletin board to keep those assignments straight (or at least to post a 'Hang in there, kitty' picture until the assignment start rolling in) or some fresh pens and pencils. Really want to kick it up a notch and boost that self-esteem? Vistaprint now offers pens with your business name printed right on the barrel, and if you get their free offers in your email, a single pen will cost just a few bucks for shipping. A cheap thrill, perhaps, but nothing beats looking down at your lovely writing instrument and seeing your own name above the word 'writer.'

2. Start a Woo-hoo folder. This is one folder you should never clean out, no matter how many years have rolled past. The recipe for a perfect Woo-hoo folder: take one colorful folder, or draw your own design on a plain manila folder. Stuff with things that make you go Woo-hoo! A nice note from an editor (one page in mine is from an editor who told me, 'I barely had to touch your article, it made my day!'), positive forum comments, even encouraging rejections. When that bad day comes along, the day when everything goes wrong and you wonder about being a writer at all, pull out the Woo-hoo folder and realize that there are more good moments than bad.

3. Print out the USPS holiday calendar. Yes, this tip is more practical than the first two, but it's one I swear by each year. In fact, I delayed this post until they had the new calendar up at Paypal may be a wonder in the modern writer's life, but the good old U.S. Mail still plays a part occasionally in getting paid and sending out queries; don't drive yourself crazy wondering if the mail will run on Washington's birthday, Feb. 22 (yes) or President's Day, Feb. 18 (no). I also print out postage rates and keep them next to my little old-school postal scale, but I used to work in a mailroom, so I'm a bit geeky like that.

With both the creative and logical sides set, I'm ready for the new year. Heck, I might even write something down in my new calendar. Before March.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Meow to the Roar

The wonderful, uber-talented Jenn Hollowell tagged me with A Roar for Powerful Words Award and meme; like any award, there's some work to be done before I can rest on my furry laurels, namely, list three things that are necessary to create good, powerful writing. I've given this a lot of thought over the past week (which is why I didn't post sooner, honestly!) and here are my contributions:

Listen to your little voice. Ever heard that little voice in your head that says, "Hey, this would make a great story!" and just ignore it because you're not confident enough, experienced enough, or just don't have enough right stuff? Ignore your 'enough' switch, and listen to the little voice. If something appeals to you, tackle it with gusto. Learn what you need to know to make the piece work smoothly. Passion for a project often translates into passion on the page, and your inner voice knows that. It also knows that your inner editor needs a good butt-kicking most of the time, that you shouldn't eat chocolate-drizzled pretzels before bedtime, and that the chances of crazed hawks attacking the mailman and flying off with your check are nearly nonexistent. Pretty smart cookie, that little voice.

Make sure your words get their beauty sleep. Write when you're passionate, definitely, but remember to catch a glimpse of those sentences in the cool daylight, after the beer goggles have dropped away. If that essay or article is still good-lookin' in the morning, then you're in good shape. More likely, you'll see some tweaking that needs to be done, some changes that need to be made. Always try to give yourself at least a day to step away from the project, so you can read it with fresh eyes, because powerful writing comes from both passion and reflection.

Roll with the punches. What makes writing powerful is a person's ability to relate to it. Not all works catch everyone by the heart; what moves you may not move someone else. Your stuff will get rejected, scoffed at, snarked upon and generally pierced by the stiletto heels of the world. Eh, it happens. Remember to not take that personally, if possible. But, occasionally, someone will leave you a comment, or come up to you after a seminar, or e-mail you after an article has come out to tell you how much your words touched them. That's the payoff for good and powerful writing.

And now that I've fulfilled my duties as Lion Queen, I give this mantle of writership to Rebecca at WritersRoundabout, April Aragam, Joanna at Life in the Middle, Dawn at Anything that Pays, and Quirky Jessi. For those newly anointed, here are the rules: Link back to the person who tagged you. List three things that you believe make writing good and powerful. Tag five more sages of blog wisdom, and let them know in their comments that they are the new chosen ones.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's crowded in here

It’s interesting how other writers have an effect on my life; tonight I realized just how my favorite blogs are subtly directing the brain cells in the back of my headroom.

Tonight, for instance, I watched the sad, touching movie ‘Ikiru,’ a 1952 Japanese pic with English subtitles about a city hall worker who tries to truly experience life before he dies of stomach cancer. Viewed through the time of post-war Japan, it’s uplifting in its own way. Japanese culture has been on my mind since I discovered Kappa no He, a wonderful blog that details Japanese life in delicious, tiny bits. After that, the remote landed on a paintball mockumentary called ‘Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story.’ I partly blame Dawn at It Had to Be Said for this, because I think of her paintball tank while watching this, and thinking how much better the movie could be if she and her tank ran through it.

I’ve started checking out old Erma Bombeck books from the library again, because I can’t get enough of reincarnated Erma, er, Amy, over at Mind Over Mullis. I’m thinking of sending her some very potent vitamins so she can post three times a day. Dave Barry should be polishing this woman’s shiny tiara with his Pulitzer, because she’s going to rack up fame and fortune soon.

Whenever I watch or read something about sassy women, I head over to Confessions of A Fat Chick to see if Jen’s posted about it. Right after the premiere of ‘How to Look Good Naked,’ a great show with Carson from Queer Eye about body image, I rushed over to Jen’s blog for her thoughts.

While writing a meeting travel article about Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill this weekend, I heard Virginia Lee in the back of my mind saying, ‘Make us look good, hon.’ Her fiction always leaves my jaw on the floor, and she has redefined the Southern soul for me.

Rebecca at Writer’s RoundAbout is my online reality check; when I believe I’ve examined a topic from every angle, she always surprises me by posting something unique and helpful. I loved her recent waterfall of ideas post, and I realized that my own waterfall of ideas more likely resembles a dog hiking his leg over a small tree.

There are so many others, like Karen’s amazing Be the Change blog, and I always have to know what Melanie’s up to in Mexico, another blog that fulfills the armchair travel researcher in me. There are so many others that I read frequently as well; it's a wonder that I get any work done at all, really. If I didn't list someone, don't feel bad, because I really do have a terrible memory. Even now, I'm thinking about Joanna's comic blog, Wordsmith and Wordsmyth, and how they deserve some linkage, too. All these viewpoints widen my own horizons, and make life more interesting. Thanks, everyone!