Planting Trees in Correspondence

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Correspondence is one of my favorite forms of writing. It’s inspiring. It bleeds over into the way I ‘hear myself writing’ when I get into fiction.

I recently corresponded with a friend, in which she described the delight of a day of horseback riding. It prompted my own inner storyteller, and the following tree planting theme emerged. It’s a memory I cherished but hadn’t thought about in many years.

Me: When I first moved to Washington State from New Jersey, I stayed for a month on a hundred acre piece of land on Mount Hull in the Okanogan. I did many things while I was there, including apple-thinning and picking on vast irrigated farms. One thing I did and loved, when I was young and my back could take it, was planting MANY trees there, after a federal incentive so people could take employment in the wilderness area which had a mostly barter economy at that time. It was done because many mature trees had been clear-cut some time before (such a sad thing to see and walk in). If one was to encounter a clear cut wound in the wild, the best way to approach it would be with a baby tree in one’s hand. It made me think of Johnny Appleseed, though I don’t know much about how far west he got in his travels.

(I’ve since found out the following – courtesy of Wikipedia: John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.” Interesting. Not all the way to Washington State, but apples are the crossover.)

… and after my friend’s response, my reply:

Me: I love your letter. Thanks for what you said about the trees. It’s a sweet reminder of one time of beauty and service… and I like the opportunity to remember it. Looking back again, I realize that it was only one time in my life when I did such a thing. When I lived in Cumberland on a few acres, we planted over 100 trees, and I used to dream about them at night. I’d be coming back over a hundred years later to visit them, amazed at how tall the cedar and redwoods had grown, how colorful the sugar maple was in fall, how graceful the cypress, how grand the weeping willow up high over the river. It was hard work, but at the end of the day, all that was left was happiness.

A Year of ‘Spare’ Change

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A year of ch-ch-ch-changes  for us (thank you, Mr. Bowie).

Last year at this time this blog was only a twinkle in our left eyes. We would soon be on a family vacation where we decided to take time every other day to write side by side on our own ‘blog posts,’ for the future when we’d start one.

We had different concepts, and perhaps that comes through. Maybe not.

The book was in the beginning stages with an initial idea. We had no sense of the journey’s magnitude ahead or what it would be like to collaborate on a project this large.

We worked on a few little things together, such as a relative’s dating site profile (it worked!), a resume or two, and a few short stories by that time.

We didn’t know at the time of writing these smaller pieces that it would actually turn into, ‘Let’s write a book together.’

Now we’re here, one year later. So much has changed, but we can see that it has been on a consistent upward trajectory.

Where we’re at now – We have started this very blog. Our book is written and in its final drafting. Our cover is finished, and we are elated with it. We are researching the best way(s) to go about publishing it. We did have a period where we thought we knew, but further research revealed a lack of integrity from their partner company, so we’re back at the drawing board. We plan to create a rubric to evaluate different publishers. Any advice or experience anyone has to share is greatly appreciated.

Thank you for being with us. We appreciate your company.

 

 

Sprint n’Splat

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How have you been?

As for us, here’s this month in collaboration:

These questions go through both of our minds, and we discuss them every time:

Does my sister condemn me?

Does she pass judgement or accuse me of slacking?

No, she never does. We’d like to get to the place where we can accept this as truth, rather than adding stress to our lives worrying what the other will think.

And to be honest, worrying over what each one of us thinks… of ourselves.

At its best, collaboration provides the way for us to keep up our dedication amid setbacks.

Having a partner oftentimes raises energy. Even when one is decidedly NOT up for anything, small tasks can be done by the other. We have to be okay with that.

We have the best intentions every day.

We had a good run for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June, revising our second draft, left, right, and center.

THEN, we tripped…. health-wise: our usual unwelcome, annoying, and intermittent experience turns around and bites us again.

No matter how many times we’ve been through the two steps forward/one step back thing, every time we have a good run, we forget that interruption could be lurking round the next bend… in this case, Chapter 28.

Patience, love, and compassion win the day in these situations, even if we can’t see it right away. What is most important after all?

As with location for putting up a successful business, communication is essential for collaboration.

How do you get through your rough patches? What are the tools you find most helpful when you doubt yourself?

We’d love to hear from you.

Productivity and Persistence

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There’s an old song that goes something like,

“The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see

To see what he could see,
To see what he could see

The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see

Was all that he could see,
Was all that he could see,
The other side of the mountain,
Was all that he could see!

To the tune of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’  Written By: Unknown, Copyright Unknown

 

I was surprised that these were the lyrics as I remembered ones that were slightly but semantically different. Many websites are in agreement, however what I remember after ‘To see what he could see,’ was “He saw another mountain, He saw another mountain… “

It’s like the game of ‘Telephone,’ I suppose. Passing along lyrics over the years is like that. I find the whole of language shifting over time in particular ways very revealing. Concepts, rigor and openness of thought, and how we change as human beings are meaningfully buried in the history of languages.

Back to the song the way I remember it. If a bear climbs an entire mountain with much exertion only to see another mountain that needs climbing, where do motivation, rest, and reinvigoration come in?

The bear and his series of mountains is analogous to story structure and the way that everyday life proceeds. Living from challenge to challenge must carry within itself an ebb and flow… at least some of the time.

We neither want to exhaust nor under-stimulate our readers… or truth be told, ourselves.

Persistence is crucial to production, whether it’s climbing or writing. Our brains build complication into clever distractions, to get us doing anything besides following through, step by step, all the way to the end. I wonder why? Does it make my brain ‘look bad’ if I ‘complete’ a multi-faceted, long-term task, like writing a novel?

Fear and sadness.

Supposedly they are two of the primary emotions. As blue and yellow come together to make secondary green (… and even tertiary colors), so do fear and sadness come together to make anger and other offspring.

There are blocks to our climbing the next mountain.

-Perhaps some rest is needed – in the beautiful sunny valley, maybe?

-Maybe someone or some group gave us the fear that we could never do it, and we believed that.

That second part is under our control, so it deserves further attention.

Why would we be so ready to dismiss our own ability to do what many others have done before us? Are we not also humans?

“If you don’t expect something great to happen, you won’t be disappointed,” says the Stoic in me.

However, for the first time since I’ve been writing, there’s a quality of Persistence in me. I’m not giving in so easily. It’s, ‘Rest up,’ sure, but when that’s done, it’s, ‘Back to the drawing board.’

Just as we believe in our eventually NOT doing something, we are also capable of believing we have what it takes to follow through. We can teach ourselves this. We can grow our ability, even our preponderance toward it. We can do this. We are born storytellers once the gunk is wiped away. We are also born story readers, so supply and demand could possibly co-exist happily if we learn how to reach out.

 

 

BBB and FUN-ding

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Busy, Busy, Busy…..

We have our BBB – book, blog, business (thanks, Andrea – for deciphering your acronym sightings everywhere), which is keeping us BBBusy!

We finally stumbled upon the good old ‘To Do List’ to help us get the most out of our shared screen software and in-person work sessions. Otherwise we could talk forever and get nothing done. Thank you, Mayans, for being the first to come up with the concept of ZERO, zip, nada nothing.

Maybe I should back up a bit.

The BOOK came like a whirlwind. It was a definite YES, and there was nothing to do but write it. It was not just a story, powerful as they are, of course, but part of a strongly-held mission of empowerment. It’s evolving into so much more than we ever thought.

The BUSINESS came into being because minimal self-employment was not going to provide what we needed quickly enough to fund our writing and our time.

We need money, honey, but it has to be something we believe in and find useful.

We also open up the question to you of what other writers do to fund their creativity. We are always interested to hear what people are doing, and it could prove useful to us and other readers.

The BLOG, or the third B as we like to call it, came into being to support our book and engage our audience. We hope it will become interactive… a place to share ideas as we continue to delve into themes of empowerment, writing, disability, siblings, and working together. We believe that giving our readers a chance to weigh in on aspects of the Book and Business as well as this blog might be the best way to go. Participation is a powerful tool.

So, what’s all this about a Mission of Empowerment? Why, What, Where, When, and How?

Some of these questions we touched on above, but we’ll try them all.

What: Described up above in minimal terms, it started as a mission to empower girls and young women, changing from a children’s book early on to a Young Adult novel, especially as our villain entered the scene. He helped answer THAT question. Everywhere we looked we saw girls and young women who were feeling insecure, being mistreated in school, at home, and certainly in the media, laws, and courts. We grew up our protagonist quickly. She didn’t have any arguments, thank goodness.

Why: We guess we just answered some of those questions in the What. Forgive us if we’re not strict about these W categories. Why? We were girls. We are women, and we see both every day. Sometimes we hear them being yelled at through apartment walls or windows, in stores and restaurants, and it breaks our hearts. It’s not just girls or women any more either. We look all around and find messages of human and nature/animal belittlement and disenfranchisement. It brings us back to certain times in our lives that we feel lucky to have exited, yet ones that still live on and challenge us from within.

When: We guess this all started early last spring of 2014… so really not that long ago. Andrea worked and lived a high-stress, high-voltage, extremely demanding job while raising a child as a single parent. While being very grateful for support from family and friends, the job broke her. She was toast. Burnt toast. There was a long period of pain and fatigue where the idea of doing anything was impossible. It still comes and goes, but from the moment she began writing the book there started a huge transformation in enthusiasm. She felt like living again. Leslie felt the echoes, some in the present, of going through what she saw in her younger sister and wanted to help any way she could. A partnership was born.

What we would get out of it continues to surpass the richness and creativity of our expectations.

Where: Here and now. Anywhere there’s a laptop or two if we’re lucky… here in New Jersey, truly the Garden State… We’re not just an exit on the Parkway.

How: Well, this is one of the questions this blog is designed to answer. We’ll do it in our own unique way as there are many valuable writing blogs out there already. We want to give you our experiences as best we can so you have resources, case studies, and our encouragement …just as we always encourage each other. It’s a process. We can tell you that, yet you most likely know. Still, we remind ourselves of things we feel we know but want to integrate on a deeper level. That is ongoing and truly a thrill ride. It’s filled with ups and downs and all-arounds, but that excitement and despair is the stuff of Story and Legend… and that’s the whole point.

Also, if anyone has an interest in being a guest for a Q & A here on this blog – please write us a comment on this post or write to us at 2penthrupain@gmail.com . Thank you.

 ~*~*~

 

Tangent Girl, Writing and Parenting Simultaneously

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After reading the post about bridges and arcs, I realized I had just experienced that very thing without knowing what it was called. In my simplistic, sweet potato fashion I had been instinctively doing what the previous post was all about without the proper terminology.

The other day I noticed that I was writing many action scenes all over the place in the book. I wrote the beginning, and then I stopped. The ending was next, and then parts in the middle. We would write short stories and were left with a bunch of scenes related to each other but not connected. There was a need to integrate them, allowing them to flow.

I was going to write more of the book, but realized I hadn’t taken my son out in quite a while. I could tell from our last few conversations that we were needing some good bonding time. We did our favorite thing together: movie night. I always let him pick the movies, but sometimes I’ll suggest the movie I think he wants to see that I want to see as well. Then I get, “I’m going with Daddy to see that.” That stinks because his father always claims the best ones.

Every now and then, I take him anyway, whether his dad likes it or not. Luckily he usually doesn’t mind. I think it’s more of a friendly game we parents play. Friday movie night is our special time whether it’s at home or in the theater. It’s important that my son and I get to see some good movies together because of all we experience from sharing a great story.

Yesterday was no exception. We saw a great one together. One that had three surprisingly sad scenes in it. I didn’t think that movie would have sad scenes, but it did.

After it was over, I told him that I cried in three spots. He said he almost lost it in the first scene., but kept it together.  I forgot to let him know, it’s okay to cry. I need to have that discussion again. I’ve told him in the past, but it’s been a while now.

I believe he thinks since he is a boy, he isn’t supposed to cry. I don’t want to be that type of parent that would make him feel badly for it. I believe it’s important to express your feelings, otherwise they rule you in the end. I’m slowly learning, and trying to live a different way of life.

Hopefully, I can save him from a ton of hard work in his later years trying to undo all of the crap that gets done to us in this society. That is what I wish for him: to be happy and confident in himself.

When I ask if he loves himself, he says “Yes, I’m awesome.” So far so good.

Hopefully, his stint in middle school will not change that confidence.

Off on a tangent. Back to the task at hand.

Now where was I… Oh yeah, talking about writing the book piecemeal.

I was completely overwhelmed and felt paralyzed. I realized I needed to bite the bullet and get to the task of integration. Thanks to Scrivener, I had the tools to move chapters and scenes around easily. In case you haven’t heard of this software, it is pretty flexible – with manuscript, cork-board (like index cards), and outline views. If you’re interested in knowing more about this software for writers, click here:  Scrivener.

I write a scene or chapter in Word, using my intuition to create the juiciest part at that moment, and then I transfer it into Scrivener, which works well with my style of writing. I tend to write whatever comes up for me, then weave it all together later. I’m a pantser, and this allows me to continue to write that way. Leslie would tell you that Scrivener works well for plotters too, but of course she just did.

My intention was to sit in front of the computer all day, no matter how long it took. My goal was to make a dent toward integrating parts into chapters, working on the flow from the beginning.

Fast forward into the evening: success. I got a lot accomplished. Sure there is a ton more to do but I am happy with the progress.

I like Saturdays because they are pretty much straight through from morning to night without having to do anything else but work on the book. Unless I have plans of course.

So, thank you for my productive day. I am truly a happy gal.

Now that a lot of the book is done and organized, we’ve finally switched to writing in sequential chapter order. The book is finally  progressing. seeing it come together is one of the best feelings, and I like it.