September Madness

March is not a time for madness. (Can you tell I'm not a basketball fan?) March is a sedate month when compared to my September.

September is the beginning of school, the end of summer (meaning lots to harvest and do around the house). September is the time when the house needs to be winterized and when many family birthdays hit all at once. September reminds me that not too far off in the distant future the holidays are approaching, and all the time off from planning over the summer months quickly becomes a memory as new lists, calendars and menus are captured in ink on paper in September, the herald of the autumnal equinox.

March, known for its basketball tournament madness, pales in comparison to my September. March is shoulder season, with spring not quite committed, skies not quite brightened, and no major holidays or birthdays to light up our world until the fourth of July. I am still hibernating in March, so I tend to think of March as sleepy and September as sheer madness.

Just got back from a trip to New York state. The leaves were *just* starting to change in the Catskills. Tomorrow I'm heading out again, for a trip to Portland, OR. Much to post about from the last trip, and I expect to post a bit more after I get back from this weekend's jaunt. I have beaucoup photographie to post, but it will all have to wait until I can return to my trusty laptop's lair next week. I feel accomplished that I was able to just get my laundry (mostly) done.

In the meantime, check out what's happening at SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com; after all, I haven't met a person who didn't have a problem with sleep (or didn't know a person who had a problem with sleep). While there, skim through a whole host of entries there on all kinds of sleep health tips, news and advice. Subjects include napping, narcolepsy, resetting kids' bedtimes in the fall, blue light blocking shields for your electronics, caring for your CPAP equipment, anxiety--the enemy of sleep, RLS awareness, broken body clocks, dealing with children who are too scared to sleep, and much more! You might find something new and interesting there!


Crossposts: SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com || Your one-stop sleep health information clearinghouse

Here's a link to the latest posts at my new sleep health website. 

If you or a loved one you know has concerns or problems with sleep, please stop by and see how SleepyHeadCENTRAL can help!

This is why you should open your mail from publishers right away...

I got the letter from Weber: The Contemporary West two weeks ago. It has sat on my desk all this time, while I launched a new website, did the major busywork that sending a kid off to freshman year at college halfway across the country entails, prepared my home for the send-off party while also pre-writing nearly 20 blog entries to auto-post at the new website over the next 3 weeks while I am out of town in New York, then in Portland.

When I get paper mail from publications, I automatically think it is a request to subscribe. Now, please note, I didn't toss the letter. It has been in the inbox all this time because I will always consider requests to subscribe. It just wasn't at the top of my priorities these last couple of weeks.

Here's a hint if this is your practice as well... if the letter is hand-addressed to you, and not stamped for presort? OPEN IT.

I got an email from the ever-patient Kristin at Weber yesterday asking me if I had received a letter from them recently. The email subject was "Weber Award."

Of course, I was at work at the sleep lab when I read this email, which means it was close to midnight last night and I could not hope to be home from work until at least 730 today.

When I finally got home at 7am (lucky me, I was out early, with only one patient who was easy to check out this morning... not all of them are!), I tore into the envelope and discovered I had won a literary prize.

"The Dr. O. Marvin Lewis Award of $500 is presented annually in the fall edition of Weber to the author of a work of essay/personal narrative selected as the 'best' published in Weber during the previous year."

Perhaps as thrilling for me to discover was the fact that the prize namesake is a retired medical practitioner who is also a literary writer and arts advocate. A man after my own, newly updated career heart! Even if my essay is not medical in nature, my life today most certainly is, and so I leave you with the thought that the universe speaks to us in myriad lovely ways, if only we should listen (and open our mail promptly!).

Check out my essay here. And thank you, Weber, for validating this choice of mine: to leave behind the charmed literary bubble for a life in the working world while continuing my path as a writer. This will fuel my efforts for a long, long time!


What I've been working on...

Yes, I've been absent (mostly) from this blog, but it's because I'm doing this instead...

All design and content by yours truly. Please stop by and consider following me on this new journey!


The Writing Process Blog Tour Stop for August 13: WELCOME TO MY WRITING LIFE!

Lucky me, my lovely writer pal Donna Miscolta invited me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour this summer! 
Donna is the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced. Her fiction has appeared in literary journals, and her story collection Natalie Wood’s Fake Puerto Rican Accent was selected by Peter Ho Davies as a finalist for the 2010 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. She has received over a dozen grants and fellowships and has been awarded artist residencies at Anderson Center for the Interdisciplinary Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. See her website and blog at www.donnamiscolta.com.

Better yet... 
Read Donna's post from last week.
So you might be asking yourself... 
What is a blog tour?
It's a kind of rolling "tag your it" approach to blogging which links like-minded people by interest. In this case, it's all about writers. I participated in a magical realist blog tour (also known as a blog hop) last week as well. Creative "makers," of jewelry, home arts, gardening, and media reviewers, foodies and the like all participate in blog tours or blog hops pretty regularly as a social media tactic but also to just celebrate what they do as broadly as they can. Blog tours are a chief way that authors can generate buzz for their new books. Luckily for me, this blog tour doesn't require that you have your own book to hawk. 
The main point of a blog tour for readers is to connect with these writers and their special interests. If you're not a writer, but a reader, you will likely enjoy many of these blog posts because there is a popular fascination about the writing life not only among writers but also among readers. That's what makes this particular blog tour really appealing... it helps unite both sides of the literary contract--the writer with the reader.
Here are my answers below. Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoy yourself! Please read the work of my tagged writer pals listed below as well. You can't go wrong, as I only associate with the most interesting people in the world. ;)



"My six-word memoir:

'Tell me I can't... I will.'"

--Tamara Kaye Sellman


1) What are you working on?
TKS: Always, there are irons in the fire.
I'm managing two websites right now related to my profession in sleep health technology and education, so there's a lot of content writing and blogging going on there all the time. I'm also the secretary of the Washington State Sleep Society, so I am generating a lot of promotional content for their upcoming conference. 
In the arena of long fiction, not a lot has happened in a few years. I think about my books all the time--I have written six novels, but they remain in various drafts. One is a YA novel, one is my most current project (first in a paranormal series, so I have the additional task of laying down foundation for the next books as well as revisions to tackle on this first book), and the four others are stand-alone novels. Going back to school and launching a career change that began in 2012 has meant putting these books on hold, but I still love what I've started and hope to get back to them when life settles.
Short fiction: Hmmmm. I just wrote a few flashies at Centrum and need to spit polish them. Probably can't get to that until the fall. But I sure have a blast when I work in this form. I must say, I think, besides blogging, it's my favorite form.

I have, however, finished and submitted a personal essay to an anthology requesting work on a specific theme, and I feel pretty good about that piece. That one came to me at Centrum as well. I want to do more work in personal essays and the segmented essay form, which my friend and instructor Sayantani Dasgupta turned me on to at that conference. 
Ideas to tackle in the category of food writing constantly emerge for me. I am taking notes and imagining projects for now.
Poetry is NOT on the table right now. I find it is the easiest form to write but it ends up eating up the tiny amount of writing time I have and my heart, frankly, is in prose. 
In my personal life, there's a lot of transition and family milestones happening these days. One daughter was graduated from high school last June and is heading to NY state for college in 10 days. The other is 16 and ambitious, so she'll be keeping me on my toes these next two years (and I do so with pleasure!). I am Sandwich Generation, so that means I am tending (as much as I am able) to the healthcare and logistical needs of both my parents and my mother in law. None of this ever occurs at a time or place of convenience in my life. In addition, my own healthcare issues (I have a chronic, incurable health condition) comprise a daily draw on my time and energy and my needs here often override all the best laid plans of my writing life.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
TKS: I love experimentation: with form, idea, language. I am perhaps more open to work that breaks rules, pushes boundaries, and plays with structure. I have little tolerance for popular fiction so I'm sure my writing reflects that as well. 
I have been told my writing is multilayered and insightful. I find literary magical realism, surrealism or fabulism sneaking into stories when I'm not looking. They are surprise demons of delight. I will never deny them their presence. 
I think my background in journalism informs my creative writing as well. Sometimes truth truly is stranger than fiction! Seriously, though, I think it is important as a writer and as a craftsperson to refine one's skills in all genres. That doesn't mean you will be great at everything you write (I can write a teleplay but it's not going to ever be picked up, for instance), it just means you are willing to stretch your skills as a writer. I don't think a writer can truly be called a writer unless they try on all the different ways they can write. That, in and of itself, can take a lifetime. 
Also, there's something about going back to the working world (specifically, allied healthcare and health education) that's been very refreshing for me and I can see it in my own work now. I'm now employed in a position not deeply entrenched in the literary (where I spent 15 years prior). I find I am far more interested in writing work that is emotionally and politically and personally relevant to "nonwriter" readers. Does that make sense? I want to write for the Everyperson; I want to write stories that move them to act or think in a brand-new way. They are usually a different crowd from my literary friends (although occasionally I run into people who belong to both parts of that Venn diagram).
I have since lost interest in so-called "literary" writing which seems to exist in a vacuum, which doesn't seem to touch ordinary people. I want more than for my own friends and family to read what I write and strive to, instead, reach readers halfway across the state--heck, halfway around the world!--with artful, universal stories that give people landmarks of meaning. 
I also write because I am compelled to and not because of any commercial desire to "succeed" as a published writer. This means I grant myself permission to write whatever I like, along with the responsibility toward achieving both the level of craft and quality control that this direction requires. Writing what you want is harder because it has to be stellar if it's going to break with expectation and still be published, produced or otherwise shared. 

I don't easily or willingly slide into common genres when it comes to my creative writing, but that's just fine with me. I still manage to publish most things I put out there in the wilderness. Of course, this means my work will be different from many others because it's not so easily defined by a category or a market.
3) Why do you write what you do?
TKS: My six-word memoir: "Tell me I can't... I will."
I write to tell the truth. I write to share the stories of those without voices. I write what I write because I am a feminist. I write because I can't help it. I write to push back. I write to expose. I write because the world pisses me off. I write because the world forgets how beautiful it is. I write because story--whether I'm writing it or encountering it from someone else--matters to my soul's survival.
It's who I am, it's what I do. I started writing complete sentences at age 4 and decided at that very early age that I would be a writer my entire life. I'm 50 next year. The mission continues.
4) How does your writing process work?
TKS: It depends where I am in my own lifespan. When my children were young, I wrote when they slept. Then I wrote when they were at camp, then at school. Now they are older, but I am working outside the home, so now I write whenever life allows me some moments. 

I don't believe in the bullshit "you can't call yourself a writer if you don't write everyday" tenet. I am constantly filling my well. I read voraciously across genres and media. I am constantly taking notes and capturing ideas in an old school notebook-and-pen system that allows me to go back and revisit ideas when time presents itself. I have stopped enduring the guilt of giving up writing time for time with my family and friends or time spent caring for myself. The rule of writing everyday must have been established by some overstuffed, ascotted white male writer with a pipe in his mouth, sitting in a leather-and-mahogany-trimmed studio overlooking the tops of houses in some fancy city where someone else is paying for everything. I have a family to raise and bills to pay and chronic health problems that demand the kind of flexibility that one cannot have by being a "full-time professional writer." 

Maybe someday I will have loads and loads of time to kill and will be able to sit and write for hours on end, everyday, but for now, that option is ridiculous to even consider. In the meantime, I am still writing when I can, publishing most of everything I've ever written, and best of all, living the writing life on my own terms, drawn from a creative well freshly filled daily by life experience. 


Here are the three writers I have tagged for next week.
 Please visit their blogs and read how they get 'er done. We all can learn from each other as writers. If you're not a writer, you will still delight in reading how writers' minds work... I know I never tire of hearing the process stories of my writing companions!
MEGAN LEE BEALS is an old sea witch who writes fairy tales and horror stories and has little clue of how to differentiate between them.  Her latest work can be found in The Future Embodied anthology, and look for her new fable which explains how all the pearls in the sea came to be swallowed by oysters in Luna Station Quarterly in September. http://beehills.me

TRISH BITTMAN is a writer, blogger, Social Media Guru as well as a wife and mom to three girls. She's a lover of martinis, dessert and 4-letter words and moved to Bainbridge Island after discovering it on the Internet. It turned out to be all she hoped for and more. http://www.3kidsandabreakdown.com/
NATASHA KOCHICHERIL MONI, a first-generation American of Dutch and East Indian origin, is a writer and a naturopathic medical student. Born in the North and raised in the South, she finds home in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Web and Best of the Net, has been awarded a Puffin Foundation grant, and has been acknowledged as finalist/semi-finalist in Crab Orchard Review, Black Lawrence Press, Dana Awards, and the Kundiman Vincent Chin Memorial Prize 
competitions. Her first full-length book, The Cardiologist's Daughter, will be released from Two Sylvias Press in Fall 2014. http://www.natashamoni.com/blog