What happened to July?!

Has anyone seen July? Was it here or did we just skip it? All I know is that the summer was just starting and now people are posting back-to-school pictures of their kids.

I just finished the last official meeting of the DFW Writers’ TEEN Workshop. It was an amazing eight weeks and I can’t wait to get the anthology off to the printer. The students were dedicated and it shows in their work. I even had one student who had to go to Malaysia before the program ended and she still hit every deadline. From Malaysia! Is anyone else feeling like you have been shown up by a 15 year-old? No, just me? Okay, carry on.

I also ran two mini-workshops for tweens at my local library. The first group was made up of serious students and the second group was made up of chihuahuas on crack. They were CRAZY, but so much fun! I was really pleased that before it was over, every student braved critique time with an original work. It is hard for me to put myself out there for critique and I am (theoretically) much more experienced and mature than a 10-year old.

Of course, the missing month was also filled with plenty of non-teaching writing time and non-writing related events. (I now have my first, and probably last, nephew. Hi, Asa, your favorite auntie loves you bunches!) 

This is the part where I am supposed to promise to do better, be a more consistent blogger, blah, blah…. I’m just going to skip that (like July!) because LIFE HAPPENS. Perhaps I will eventually get to the point where I blog like clockwork, but until then I will be the pleasant surprise when you least expect it, like that $5 bill left in your jacket pocket from February. (Yes, sometimes it is wrapped in a dirty tissue, but it is still $5, so try to be appreciative.)

Back to chasing the red dot….

red dot

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Too much?

I don’t think there is a such a thing as “too much reading” or “too much imagination.” I generally believe anyone who thinks either of those is lacking in whatever it is that allows a person to experience joy. I feel sorry for them.

However, today I had an experience that made me rethink my stance on “too much.”

On the way home I remembered one thing I had forgotten to pick up in the sixteen previous stops, so I swung into the crowded parking lot of the local big box, blue signed, behemoth variety store. I have entered this store hundreds, quite possibly even thousands, of times. Each and every time I walk up and two steps from the entrance the electric eye spies me and the doors whoosh open.

Not today. Today I walked right up to the doors and stopped. They eye didn’t spy me and the doors didn’t whoosh. In the split second that it took for technology to catch up and open the door I thought what any reasonable person would think in the same situation.

“Oh, my God. I wonder if I’m dead and don’t know it.”

What? That isn’t what you think when the automatic door fails to open? In my defense, these particular doors are as familiar as my own front entrance and have never fail to open — which is more than I can say for my own front entrance.

It whooshed. I entered. I went through a manned check-out and spoke to the attendant, just to be sure.

Too much? Just enough.

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Marvel-ous Agents of the Pen

After a year of talking about it, I am finally leading a tween writing group at my local library! I have a confession to make – I love working with tweens. They have conquered all the basic skills, they are beginning to have real higher level thinking, and they still (usually) adore their teachers. It is a magical time when you can see that your interactions are actually making a difference in the adults they will become. It is also a bit daunting, which is why I am thankful I only have to serve as a role model for two hours a week…..

In keeping with the summer reading theme of superheroes, we decided to call our group MAP: Marvel-ous Agents of the Pen. (I have already come up with my superhero code name – Flash Fiction. I can’t wait to see what names the kids create!) Our program is all about igniting creativity and becoming a better storyteller. It isn’t about a 5-paragraph essay, punctuation, or how to improve your grades.  I was afraid that the non-academic tone would turn off parents, but our two 4-week sessions are already fully booked! I hope that we are beginning to course-correct away from test scores being the end-all, be-all. It takes many different kinds of people to create a thriving society and we won’t get those if we  push everyone down the same path.

Viva la différence!

artwork by Clara D, age 13

artwork by Clara D, age 13

 

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Time Warp

Do you ever wake up and realize that a week (or more) has passed and you just don’t know what happened to it?

I must admit that happens far too often to me. It usually means that I have been working intently and just remembered that the outside world exists. (Sometimes it means I have been on a Netflix binge. Don’t judge.)

That is absolutely what has happened since my last post (working intently, not Netflix). I feel like I just got home from the OWFI conference yesterday, not two weeks ago. I’m not 100% what I did in the intervening time, but I am posting from my hotel room in Pittsburgh, PA, so it is safe to assume that travel was involved.

Before I get lost again, I want to remind everyone about the 2015 DFW Writers’ TEEN Workshop. This 8-week program is 100% free and more fun than should be allowed.  Please check out the link above and share it with your favorite teen writer.

DFWWW-Teen-T-shirt-2015-LYT (2)

 

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OWFI Buzz Session

Update 11 May 15

A BIG thank you to everyone who attended my session and an EXTRA BIG thank you to those who filled out the survey!

Congratulations to Storme M. – winner of the gift card!

 

Thank you for joining me in my Flash Fiction Buzz Session. I hope you felt like it was time well spent.

As promised, the general word list writing warm up and the adult word list to print.

I would appreciate it if you could take a minute to fill out my seven-question survey. Your honest feedback will help me refine the presentation for future audiences.  As my way of saying thank you, I will enter every respondent into a drawing for a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. The survey closes on Sunday, May 10th.

Don’t forget to check back on May 11th for the winner!

Oh- and don’t worry, I will NOT add you to an e-mail list or contact you unless you are the gift card winner. You’re in a SPAM FREE ZONE!

 

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Tell Your Story

This weekend my dad shared a book written by one of his Smokejumper buddies. He was very pleased to be featured in one of stories in the collection, and even more pleased that it was not an embarrassing story.

If you aren’t from the Pacific Northwest, you might be unfamiliar with the term Smokejumper.  Basically, they jump out of airplanes into blazing forest fires and beat out the flames with a shovel. Okay, they have a few more tricks in their bag, especially now that they can deploy planes with fire suppressant foam. Despite advances in firefighting, most forest fires are still fought on the ground. Once the fire is controlled or extinguished, the jumpers have to pack up their gear (chutes, shovels, axes, etc…) and “pack out” to the nearest road to wait for a truck to pick them up. If they are lucky, they are within a mile or so of the road and they don’t have to wait more than a day to be picked up. If they are not lucky, they may pack out several miles and have to wait a week for a truck to pick them up.

My dad has a great story about one fire that they fought across the border into Canada. When they finally packed out and tried to leave the country they had been on the fire for over a month and their clothes were literally disintegrating. Can you guess what happened? Well, they had entered the country illegally, so….well, I won’t tell you anymore. It might be in this book.

Oh, I almost forgot the point of this post – the book! This book is a simple compilation of stories collected over years of Smokejumping. Reading it is a bit like sitting around and listening to your favorite uncle tell you a story. Smokejumpers are underrepresented in media, so you are bound to learn something unless you happen to have a jumper in your family.

jumper

Personal stories are important. Make a point to tell yours – and, preferably, write it down! The world is changing so quickly, it is easier than ever for the everyday stories to get lost. Maybe you don’t think it is important that your mom made you keep a dime in your shoe so that you could always call her in an emergency — it is! A kid today doesn’t understand what it is like to live without a phone (and computer) in their pocket. A payphone is just something from a Maroon 5 song. And who the heck carries cash – especially coins? Those little things are what make you, you. So, tell your story today. It is more interesting than you think.

NB: As with all first responders, Smokejumpers charge into danger when others run away. Even as a very young child, I was keenly aware that sometimes when they were called out, not everyone came back. If you would like to express your thanks to those who protect our forests, please consider the Good Samaritan and scholarship programs set up by the National Smokejumper Association

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Write Club 2015

Five years ago, DL Hammons thought it might be fun to hold a little online fight club. Of course, writers only know one way to fight – with pens. (I guess that is actually two. In addition to words, we might stab you with the pen if things get heated in a struggle over the last Nutty Bar. Allegedly.)

There have been changes along the way, but one thing remains the same — Rule #1: You must talk about Write Club.

I am late to the party – submissions close on April 30th. That means I have 8 days to choose three 500 word pieces of writing to enter  in the fray. Yes, THREE! They can be any kind of writing. I think I will probably do an excerpt from a WIP, a stand-alone scene looking for a home and a piece of flash fiction.

write club

OH – in addition to gaining adoring fans everywhere the winner also gets free registration for the 2016 DFW Writer’s Workshop Conference. Pretty sweet, huh?

So, I’m taking off my shirt and shoes (see Rule #6) and climbing in the ring.

See you there!

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Mailtime!

This may have been me today.

One of my favorite things about conference season is getting new cards. This year I went with something very simple and opted to not highlight a particular manuscript. I’m happy with how they turned out and I can’t wait for pin trading to swap cards with new friends at OWFI.

cards

 

 

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Lewis and Clark and Mark

A few months ago I received a message from one of my favorite people, a former dancer at my previous place of employment. He’s one of my favorite people because he is just such a nice guy. How nice? He worked with me an entire summer as we chaperoned a group of teens and he still speaks to me. Oh, and it is the summer I Was Off My Meds (cue horror music). So…yep, he’s a nice guy.

Anyway, he mentioned that he was working on a writing project and wondered if we could get together and talk about it. I love helping people get hooked in to the local writing community and fueling their inspirational fires. It didn’t hurt that he has great adventures that translate to some pretty entertaining stories.  Sadly, between real life obligations, wicked weather and my encounter with disease vectors over spring break, it took almost four months from that first enquiry for us to sit down and talk about his project.

It was SO worth the wait! He has got some fantastic happenings lined up for his blog (and life). I was really impressed that he wants to work on his writing skills because he wants to be a better writer for himself. (And for his mother – he wants to make you proud, Mrs. Troxler!) My number one tip to him was to not lose his voice in the editing process. He is not writing for academia and it would be a shame if his stories ended up dusty tomes of proper grammar. As with all things, there is a balance.

Rather than launching an intense blog, social media and speaking schedule, he is building up to his vision. I believe that is much wiser than launching at 110% and then being forced to quickly pull back on some things. He is giving himself permission to make a mistake or two along the way, which is something we should all learn to do.

I am so excited about what he has in store, I am giving my three readers the inside scoop. Check out Lewis and Clark and Mark. Go back to the beginning and read about his original adventures, then sign up for the RSS feed and get ready to have your socks knocked off over the next six months. When everyone is talking about him in 2016, you can say, “Oh, I’ve been following Mark forever!” while you sip your craft beer in your vegan leather sandals. (NB: craft beer and vegan leather sandals are optional)

mark

In totally unrelated, but super cool, news – I also booked another speaking gig today! A paid speaking gig! My congenital inability to be quiet is starting to pay off.

Not a bad Monday at all.

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Happening Stuff

It has been awhile since I’ve managed to post anything, but I do have a stack of blog post notes.  You know what I’m talking about, right? Odd scraps of paper and the occasional Post-It note with cryptic reminders of what I want to say in my next blog post. One of the notes is longer than my typical entry, so why I didn’t just log in and post it is a mystery for the ages.

Actually, it is not that much of a mystery. I think I owe it to all three of my readers to take the time to create a readable post. So, instead of a half-assed (but inspired) post you get a slightly more thought out (but boring) post. Eh, it is what it is.

There has been quite a bit happening in the last month.

* I had the opportunity to audition for the Oklahoma City Listen to Your Mother show. Ultimately, I was not cast, but I had a great time and I will definitely submit to be included in future shows. Tickets are on sale now and I promise you will enjoy the show. If you are not close to OKC check out the other cities where LTYM is shaking and quaking.

* The scholarship committee of the OWFI Conference saw fit to grant me a full scholarship to the conference. Yippee! In case you have missed the 9,483 posts about it, my daughter is at ballet boarding school. If you are wondering how much money that takes – the short answer is “all of it.” This scholarship is a true blessing.

* DFW Writers’ Workshop has asked me to lead the teen program again this year. Last year was amazing and I am working hard to make it even better this year. First of all, we are expanding from six to eight weeks. Not every week will have a speaker – we are leaving some time for hands-on work on the anthology. It is pretty much going to be the best teen workshop anywhere, ever.

* My local public library has been kind enough to let me hang out and do fun stuff with the kids in the summer reading and spring break programs. After a recent stint they asked me to run a summer writing program for TWEENS and, of course, I said yes. (I’d like to note that I agreed before I realized those tiny disease vectors had given me strep throat. I shall be loading up on Emergen-C before and after each session this summer.) My favorite thing about these programs is that it is all about letting the creativity flow and getting your words on paper. There are no tests, no worries, just magic. (And we make generous use of Mad Libs, which is the most fun group activity ever.)

* I have taken on a client for submissions services. She jokingly refers to me as her “pre-agent-agent.” It is going well, so I am going to open up to accept a few more clients. I’m still working out the details because I want the service to be affordable and personalized, but I still have to handle my own submissions, too.  Writing is writing, submitting is business; if you are a talented writer with weak business skills it makes sense to outsource. Anyway, look for details in early summer.

* And, finally, OWFI has chosen me to lead a “Buzz Session” on Friday night! I hope you can join me in the Atrium for a discussion of Flash Fiction, namely what is it and why you should care. There will be other topics available if you want to rip my heart out and crush it under the heel of your boot.

There has been a lot of non-writing related stuff happening (and even a few more writing things I didn’t mention), so I feel like I am constantly in motion. Many people believe that staying home equates to doing nothing. They are so very wrong. Yes, there are some days that I pretend time doesn’t exist and I binge on Netflix and veggie chips, but most days are full of actual work (and I’m not talking about housework). I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

Be happy, my friends.

 

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