Where is my mind?

Answer: On paper.

When chatting with Peggy, I realized how old-fashioned I am. I keep most of my thoughts, to-dos and writing on paper, either typed or written in pen. Peggy uses her computer and phone, in other words, technology, to keep track of things.

In order to remember things I have to write them down, literally. I have notebooks for everything it seems. I even print out a monthly handout on the moon cycles that I follow along with. If it’s anywhere, it’s on my desk.

I take dictation (from whom? not sure about that one) on some of my poems, the rest I struggle with.

I have a planner with my daily to-do lists, a habit tracker, a writing tracker, a poetry notebook, a writing notebook, a prioritized to-do list, and a little green shopping list notebook. I’m more wannabe organized person than actually organized. Here are some pictures of how I keep track:

IMG_4119IMG_4120IMG_4121IMG_4123IMG_4126IMG_4130My trusty pen (and water bottle)!

2013: Looking Forward

Today begins a new year, a new Age. A time for re-evaluations, making new goals and adjusting old ones. I, for one, didn’t do very well on the goals I set in 2012. Rather than do a repeat, with likely similar results, I’m changing the way I make changes. I’m taking it from the verbal to the visual. I saw some pretty butterfly stickers at WalMart and snagged them as the basis of my reward sheet. I pulled out all my scrapbook and craft supplies, and came up with this:

IncentiveSheet

My main goals are to exercise and write more, and get the house in shape as well. Very vague and insubstantial.

Exercise

I’ve set a weight loss goal, but I know it takes time and the day to day can get discouraging. Solution? Celebrate both individual exercise sessions, to get in the habit and get healthy, as well as the weight loss milestones.

I’m going to add one butterfly sticker to the picture for each exercise session. For every ten butterflies, I give myself a mini-reward. Every 5 pounds lost (see the ladybug markers) earns me a bigger reward. If I lose the full 25 pounds, I get the BIG reward: a Steampunk corset.

 

Writing

StickersMy past experience with NaNoWriMo and writing in general has taught me that I’m not very good at focusing on one project all the way through. Rather than beat myself up for that fact, I’ll work with it. I don’t care what I work on, I just need to write! My major rule is: No new projects until I finish at least one of my FIVE Works in Progress (WIP’s).

For the sheet, one flower added for every 2500 words written. Every ten flowers gets rewarded. When I actually finish a WIP, I am taking a writers retreat. Probably something really small and local this year, like a night or two at a hotel. I think this big reward would be well earned, since I haven’t actually finished a novel since November 2007. That’s five years! No wonder I’m feeling unaccomplished.

Household

Zone CalendarThis past five months or so I’ve been trying FlyLady. There’s great ideas there, but I hate having my days so structured. I do need some sort of plan, as my house is more a mess than not most weeks. There are a few ideas from FlyLady that work well with my shotgun approach. My biggest lesson: You Can Do Anything in 15 Minutes. That goes for my writing, housework, exercise (a starting point until I get stamina for longer sessions. Everyone can fit in at least one 15 minute session a day.

The other thing I’m taking from FlyLady is Zones. I tweaked her list a bit to come up with my own personalized House Zones. 5 Zones to cover the entire house. One zone per week, so every five weeks I’ve given attention to each part of the house. If I do a minimum of one cleaning session (15 minutes!) each day, with one day off, that’s an hour and a half cleaning in each zone. Depending on the room, I could be spending that time decluttering, or deep cleaning, or organizing. I got a little calendar from BHG. I highlighted each week in a different color for different zones.

Zone 1 (yellow): Entrance, Front Porch, and Hall
Zone 2 (orange): Kitchen and Dining
Zone 3 (green): Bathrooms and Laundry Room
Zone 4 (blue): Bedrooms and Corner Room
Zone 5 (pink): Family Room and Front Room

Looking Forward

Hopefully taking this more visual approach will be a boon. I love stickers, and butterflies and pretty things, so adding to my flower garden chart will be a motivation in and of itself. I do, however, need to start brainstorming some reward ideas for those smaller milestones. Any ideas? What are your goals for the new year?

Mary Butterfly Signature

Looking back on November: Poem a day

Again this year I participated in Robert Lee Brewer’s November Poem A Day challenge. The poems are supposed to form a chapbook, but I wasn’t aiming for that. I simply wanted to write poetry.

My muse has been in an un-serious mood most of the month. I’ve done a lot of rhyming and a lot of, well …

Here are a couple of poems:
Poetic Formless

Dust like stars. Any storm in a port. The eye of my apple. Dust the bite.  Blind a turned eye. Fuse a blow. Worm an open can. A death worse than fate. Ice the break. Knot the tie. A society of pillars.

Moons with rock piles made of diamonds, worlds of water where huge ships sail, never reaching shore, jungles full of purple cows, green tigers, and yellow elephants, dragons, fairies two feet tall, ten-foot-tall giants, magic wands, movies that turn themselves on with a blink of an eye.

My car sprouts helicopter wings. I look down on the cars lined up on route 95 as it winds through downtown Providence, and I open my mouth and sing, loudly, beautifully on pitch, remembering all the words.

The Truth about Truth

I desire a Truth
in my Christmas stocking.
Instead, in my head,
I hear a voice mocking.

“Truth’s much too fat
to be hung from a ledge
above a hot fire.”
Alas, though I pledge

she’ll never get burned,
she just shakes her large head.
Perhaps I will dream her
tonight in my bed.

She’ll plop on my blanket,
speak low in my ear.
I hope I’ll be able
to shut up and hear.

When He’s Gone

Alas, my laptop, Joe, is dead.
He tripped and fell right on his head.
The light went off. I almost cried,
the night my laptop, Joseph, died.

I had another laptop, Lou.
Unfortunately, he’s finished, too.
I spilled some coffee on his head,
and now my laptop, Lou, is dead.

Alas, I fear I’ll be offline
until November 12 at nine
AM when I return to work,
and leap onto my desktop, Kirk.

So for a time, I bid adieu
while I consider what to do:
to buy another or repair
or find someone who has a spare.

 



Mary's Expression: Embracing the Passion

Mary's dove music boxI am a passionate person. Most people don’t get to see that. In fact, most people don’t really see me at all. I’m the quiet one in the background, invisible. At times I felt there wouldn’t even be a ripple if left. No one would notice. But there have been a few special people who have seen through that invisible shield, seen the passion I have inside.

I have a strong empathy for people. This leads me to blindly trust, believing a person to express truthfully. I need to believe in the goodness of people. There is so much pain and ugliness in the world. I’d rather see the beauty, even if it blinds me. I’m sure I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t been badly burned. Not since I was little anyway… but I digress. I live by my emotions. My head may plan and compare and list, but my emotions are generally stronger. They’ve gotten me into much more trouble than my blind trust.

But I’d rather feel strongly than not at all. In eighth grade I was hospitalized for depression. Depression isn’t a feeling, it’s not accurate to describe it as sadness. It’s a lack of feeling. No sadness, joy, passion, pain. It’s a lack of emotion. It’s much more dangerous to not care than it is to feel. At least this way I can experience, learn, and grow, rather than remain stagnant. It can be so easy to retreat within myself, to block out all emotion, but that blocks out people as well. People that are an important, wonderful part of my life. People that care for me. Maybe that’s why I haven’t tried to control my feelings. I’m afraid that if I block one emotion I’ll do the same to the rest. I can’t afford to go back to that. I have responsibilities, people that need me. So, I will direct my passion rather than cut it off completely.

There are many things in this world that I enjoy, but there are few that I am truly passionate about, that I cannot live my life without. As you may have surmised, my close friends and family are up at the top. Other passions include dancing, poetry, my fantasy novel, books, playing the piano, and nature. I thought I could live without the last, but I find I crave fresh air. I need to spend time outside, feel the sun and the wind. These passions are what make me feel alive. Take away one of my passions and I will survive. Without a piano, I could only play when I visited my parents. But, as I crave the outdoors, I crave to feel my fingers on the keys of a piano. To make music, let it enfold me. As I read, the urge to write my own stories builds. They are all connected. Take away all my passions and I think I would die. What would I have left to live for? My fire would burn out. I’m grateful to those who have seen my passion and helped to keep the fires alive.

What are you grateful for? What are your passions? What drives you?

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Mary’s Expression: Embracing the Passion

Mary's dove music boxI am a passionate person. Most people don’t get to see that. In fact, most people don’t really see me at all. I’m the quiet one in the background, invisible. At times I felt there wouldn’t even be a ripple if left. No one would notice. But there have been a few special people who have seen through that invisible shield, seen the passion I have inside.

I have a strong empathy for people. This leads me to blindly trust, believing a person to express truthfully. I need to believe in the goodness of people. There is so much pain and ugliness in the world. I’d rather see the beauty, even if it blinds me. I’m sure I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t been badly burned. Not since I was little anyway… but I digress. I live by my emotions. My head may plan and compare and list, but my emotions are generally stronger. They’ve gotten me into much more trouble than my blind trust.

But I’d rather feel strongly than not at all. In eighth grade I was hospitalized for depression. Depression isn’t a feeling, it’s not accurate to describe it as sadness. It’s a lack of feeling. No sadness, joy, passion, pain. It’s a lack of emotion. It’s much more dangerous to not care than it is to feel. At least this way I can experience, learn, and grow, rather than remain stagnant. It can be so easy to retreat within myself, to block out all emotion, but that blocks out people as well. People that are an important, wonderful part of my life. People that care for me. Maybe that’s why I haven’t tried to control my feelings. I’m afraid that if I block one emotion I’ll do the same to the rest. I can’t afford to go back to that. I have responsibilities, people that need me. So, I will direct my passion rather than cut it off completely.

There are many things in this world that I enjoy, but there are few that I am truly passionate about, that I cannot live my life without. As you may have surmised, my close friends and family are up at the top. Other passions include dancing, poetry, my fantasy novel, books, playing the piano, and nature. I thought I could live without the last, but I find I crave fresh air. I need to spend time outside, feel the sun and the wind. These passions are what make me feel alive. Take away one of my passions and I will survive. Without a piano, I could only play when I visited my parents. But, as I crave the outdoors, I crave to feel my fingers on the keys of a piano. To make music, let it enfold me. As I read, the urge to write my own stories builds. They are all connected. Take away all my passions and I think I would die. What would I have left to live for? My fire would burn out. I’m grateful to those who have seen my passion and helped to keep the fires alive.

What are you grateful for? What are your passions? What drives you?

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Mary’s Muse Conference Experience

Last week was the annual Muse Online Writers Conference. The Muselings have a history with this conference.

Our group emerged from this conference, we learned the tools to create our poetry collection LIFELINES. We pitched our book to publishers at a later Muse Conference, and it was during Muse Con of last year that we got our acceptance letter. We owe the success of this group and our book to Muse Conference.

And this year we paid it forward. For the first time, the Poetic Muselings presented a workshop. Poetry: Not Just for Writing Verses.

It was a great experience all around. We talked poetry, wrote poetry, critiqued poetry. Hopefully those that attended learned something and made their own connections to continue in the days ahead.

On Saturday’s topic, Michele brought up some questions to help us look at how poetry can enhance our other writing. It made me take a look at the relationship between my two types of writing. Sometimes I try to keep them in two separate boxes, a poet in one moment and a fiction writer in another. But they are both a part of me, and they definitely bleed into each other.

One thing I’m still working on is taking my strengths from each form and applying them to the other. I need to be more descriptive in my fiction, and use more story in my poetry. My best writing has elements of both.

I spent most of my week in our poetry forum, but I also dabbled in some of the other workshops. One of my favorites of the week was Creating a Writerly Logo. I learned the importance of choosing good font and color, spacing and shapes. It was a lot of fun coming up with a logo that represented both sides of my writing.

Here is my final result:

 

 

If you have different hobbies, or write different styles or genres, how do they overlap?

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Mary's Muse Conference Experience

Last week was the annual Muse Online Writers Conference. The Muselings have a history with this conference.

Our group emerged from this conference, we learned the tools to create our poetry collection LIFELINES. We pitched our book to publishers at a later Muse Conference, and it was during Muse Con of last year that we got our acceptance letter. We owe the success of this group and our book to Muse Conference.

And this year we paid it forward. For the first time, the Poetic Muselings presented a workshop. Poetry: Not Just for Writing Verses.

It was a great experience all around. We talked poetry, wrote poetry, critiqued poetry. Hopefully those that attended learned something and made their own connections to continue in the days ahead.

On Saturday’s topic, Michele brought up some questions to help us look at how poetry can enhance our other writing. It made me take a look at the relationship between my two types of writing. Sometimes I try to keep them in two separate boxes, a poet in one moment and a fiction writer in another. But they are both a part of me, and they definitely bleed into each other.

One thing I’m still working on is taking my strengths from each form and applying them to the other. I need to be more descriptive in my fiction, and use more story in my poetry. My best writing has elements of both.

I spent most of my week in our poetry forum, but I also dabbled in some of the other workshops. One of my favorites of the week was Creating a Writerly Logo. I learned the importance of choosing good font and color, spacing and shapes. It was a lot of fun coming up with a logo that represented both sides of my writing.

Here is my final result:

 

 

If you have different hobbies, or write different styles or genres, how do they overlap?

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Sometimes We Stumble

It’s been almost a year since I wrote the following in response to a discussion question on Why do I Write? It spiraled further than I was expecting, and it’s something I keep circling back to.

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write. From my very first stories in first grade, and the encouraging words of my teacher, and my love of books. Even as my other interests varied, the desire to be an author when I grew up remained constant. Books were my escape (which being an introvert with eight siblings was much needed), and I wanted to create my own worlds, share that wonder with readers. Now writing has become an escape for me, much as reading has been.

Fantasy has always inspired me. Creating fantastical worlds, or bringing the fantastic into our own. In writing I try to capture that magic. And when it works, when I can read something I wrote and get carried away, and think “I actually wrote that!”, is a form of magic in itself. A huge sense of accomplishment. There really isn’t anything in life that affects me the same way.

In high school I finally started being serious about writing. Wrote and submitted poetry, even got a few published. Wrote short stories. Started plotting out my novel. But it wasn’t for another couple years that I really started writing that novel. Each new page, each chapter, excited me. I was finally going after my dream. And I had the wonderful support of one of my sisters who was also writing *her* first book. So we read and praised each others work, challenged each other to deadlines, and actually managed to finish the same month.

Having already experienced the challenges of getting published through my efforts with poetry and short stories, I knew enough to edit my book before sending it out. And while I edited, I researched publishing. Learned I wanted to target an agent before tackling the big publishers. So after a year of editing (with the feedback of a couple beta readers, and many drafts), I used QueryTracker to help me find agents for my genre and charged forward gungho. One year later, fifty queries behind me with only a sparse handful of requests and no serious feedback or bites… I figured something must be seriously wrong with my first novel and didn’t know how to fix it. So I benched it.

I had already started a couple of novels at this point, so the new goal was to finish a second book. That was two [now three] years ago. I’ve been struggling ever since. I love my stories, I’ve heard my writing has improved massively since my first book, and I can spend hours plotting, doing character work, research. But when it comes to the actual writing I tend to freeze up. I’ve tried many techniques, but the writing still comes in inconsistent spurts. So I write less often… and get even more out of the habit. But those story ideas are still pestering. And when I read what I *do* have, I know it needs work but that excitement and love is still there.

Maybe I am afraid. All that frustration trying to publish my first book, all those hours, a total of nine revisions, multiple query rewrites and all those rejections… Why would I want to put so much work into another project only to see it fail too? I read these wonderful books that I can’t put down, and feel I can’t compete, that no matter how much I write I’ll always fall short.

Back to the present: The only light in the tunnel was a few days after posting this, we heard word that Lifelines was to be published. That gave me focus for a while. But now I’m emotionally back to this same space. Any advice for a struggling writer?

Make Visible: End of the Year Self-Evaluation for Writers

The end of the year is a fantastic time to evaluate one’s writing life with an eye to the future.  It’s a time to look at the big picture and see if you have met, exceeded, or fallen short of your self-created writing goals for the year.  This self-evaluation was inspired by the About.com Graduate School post, Check in With Yourself: End of Semester Self-Evaluation.  I’ve found that doing a regular self-evaluation is a great tool for reflection on my graduate school experiences.  This evaluation is not an excuse for you to beat yourself up; instead it will allow you to get a clearer picture of your writing life.

Consider your responses to these questions.  It might help to actually write them down:)

Consider the last year:

  • How did my year begin?
  • What were my submission plans, writing goals, and marketing plans (if applicable)?
  • Did I allocate enough time for writing, typing and editing my work?
  • Were my expectations met?
  • What surprised me this year?
  • If I could do anything over, what would I choose?  What would I do differently?
  • What are my writing strengths and witnesses?
  • How might I address these weaknesses?
  • How can I augment these strengths?
  • What have I learned this year?  About writing?  About subjects of interest to me?  Personally?

After thoughtful consideration, what can you conclude about your year?  What will you do differently next year?

Some ideas to think about for 2012:

Set aside regular times to write.  Be flexible.  If you are a morning person write in the mornings, if not, write in the afternoons or evenings.  Consider investing in writing prompt books or get writing prompts off the internet, so you are not stuck for ideas.  Remember, writers write!

Consider collaborating on a writing project with a writing friend or online critique group.  Collaborating is a great way to support one another while holding each other accountable.

Take time at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012 to revisit your writing goals.  Are they too ambitious or not ambitious enough?  Can you break your goals down into smaller, more manageable steps?  If you haven’t made any writing goals, is it time to do so?  Think about sharing your writing goals with supportive family members and friends.  Do you have any deadlines looming?  Make a note of those and give yourself time to meet them.

Reflect on any Works in Progress (WIPs) you have.  Is it time to let your WIPs go or is it time to breathe new life into a WIP?

Every year is a new beginning.  A new year is a great time to establish good writing habits and to reflect on the past year.  It’s also a good time to congratulate yourself on what you accomplished in 2011 and realize what you did right. See you in 2012!

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Make Visible: Restoration Earth Journal Issue 1 Vol 1

"Lounging" by Anne Westlund

I’m happy to share the publication of my photos and poems in “Restoration Earth:  An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Nature & Civilization”.  Alongside my work are other poems embedded within scholarly articles and the photos of Katie Batten MacDowell and my brother, Chris Westlund.  This highlights how intimately wed our perception of nature and ourselves is with our thoughts about the relationship of ourselves to nature. When you read this journal, don’t see the poems and photos as discrete artwork, but as a complement to the scholarly sections, perhaps as a resting point on your journey through Restoration Earth. The sum is really greater than the individual components.

These poems reflect my spirituality along with my observations of the natural world.  Except for “My Town” these poems emerged from the class, Ecology and the Sacred, that I’m taking at Ocean Seminary College.  The photos are shots of deer and a seal, a child and her rabbit, and a drawing in the sand on the beach.  To me, they all represent impermanence, a moment in time that my eye and camera caught:  a deer resting, a seal waiting for it’s mother to come back, a young girl with her pet bunny, and a drawing of a geoglyph on the beach, soon to be washed away by the tide.  I’m thrilled to contribute to the Restoration Earth Journal and to be a part of this publication.

This journal was released in November and is available as a free download, see below.  It’s not every day that my work is featured alongside such illustrious scholars.  This journal is put out by Ocean Seminary College and edited by Katherine Batten (MacDowell), D.Th and Mark Schroll, PhD.

Here is a description of the authors and writings included in the first issue of the Restoration Earth journal:

“Our debut issue has several contributions from students as well as several leading thinkers in the field of environmental studies and ecology and philosophy, including a previously unpublished essay by Arne Naess–the founder of the deep ecology movement and ecophilosophy; Alan Drengson a world-renowned professor and writer on deep ecology, environmental studies, and ecophilosopy; Michael Caley a well-known evolutionary biologist who has been running the ecosophical journal The Trumpeter for a number of years; and Florence R. Shepard a professor of biology and a widely published writer and the editor of all her late husband, Paul Shepard’s (whom many of you have read, one of his most famous works is Nature and Madness) work. Additionally, Mark Schroll is the leading expert on transpersonal ecosophy and for shamanic students he’s a very good brain to pick if you are working on your dissertation.

Our student contributions come from Mark Glasgow who has written a qualitative study on an interventional strategy associated with ecopsychology; Anne Westlund who has been generous and contributed her photography and poetic explorations of culture and the natural world; and Molly Remer who kindly reviewed a new text by writer Ellen LaConte for us.” ~Katherine Batten (MacDowell)

My poetry and photography can be found in the journal on these pages:

Cover:  “Uffington Horse,” photo.

Title Page:  “Uffington Horse,” process notes.

p.4:  “Seal Pup,” photo.

p.33:  “Attachment,” photo.

p.34:   “A Natural Setting,” poem, biography.

p.62:   “Tall Tale,” poem.

p.78:   “The Next Layer,” poem.

p.96:   “Lounging,” photo.

p.99:   “Unbroken,” poem.

p.102:  “My Town,” poem.

p.103:   “Resting,” photo.

If you haven’t read Issue 1, Vol 1 of “Restoration Earth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Nature & Civilization” be sure to grab your copy at http://www.oceanseminarycollege.org/RestorationEarth_1_1_2011.pdf

Restoration Earth is available as a hard copy here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/restoration-earth-1%281%29-2011/18719482