Thursday, October 31, 2013

Here Goes Nothing...

For most children (and some adults) October 31st is greatly anticipated because of Halloween:  the opportunity to dress up and play pretend while gorging on lots of free candy.  For a few literary folks, however, October 31st is significant because it is the Eve of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) when passionate (crazy?) authors commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  I, along with nearly 200,000 other writers have committed to this lofty goal.

Do I expect to have a well-crafted publishable novel by the end of the month?  Hardly.  I expect to have a mess… but I also expect that somewhere in that mess is a nugget of story that can be mined, shaped, and crafted into a decent narrative, if I am willing to do the work of several revisions.

The goal of this sprint writing, for me anyway, is not to have a polished novel, but rather to stop procrastinating and just get the story down.  I have been mulling and researching and developing this idea for nearly four years and the time is right.  In fact, it is my secret desire to just put nose to grindstone, start writing tomorrow and hit the 50,000 word goal by November 22…. but I won't say that too loud so as not to set myself up for failure.

The advantage to writing at this breakneck speed is that there is no time to stop and review --- I just need to plow ahead and keep writing, no matter what.  There is no time to allow the inner critic to voice his negative commentary, nor to let the editor stop and agonize over the proper word choice or correct punctuation.  I will be required to remain in that unfamiliar "right brain" territory - the land of the creative, and not retreat into my comfortable "left brain" territory - the land of detailed analysis.  There will be plenty of time for that after December.

Do I fear failure?  Well, I suppose it depends on what you consider failure.  Do I fear that I won't complete the goal?  Yes.  I have actually attempted NaNoWriMo three other times, but only successfully completed the challenge the first year (and even then, I never finished the story, just the word count).  But I know that whatever I write this month will be more than I would have written if I didn't try… and that is not failure - that is progress.

So… here goes nothing.. and I am very excited!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dare I try again?

From the title of this blog, Emerging from the Cocoon, you can probably surmise that I am on a quest to discover myself at this stage of life.  The children are grown and live productive independent lives, the torch has been passed and I am now the matriarch of the family, and the hectic career days are giving way to a more relaxed and peaceful life.  All of this is good stuff … but it takes a bit of readjustment to learn my place in this "life after fifty" world.

For years I allowed the responsibility of life to dominate my days and consequently the creative pursuits  disappeared on the back burner.  For those who read this blogs on a regular basis, however, you know that I am trying to reconnect with those passions, which tend to take the form of paper crafts (such as greeting cards), writing (a true compulsion), and photography.  Unfortunately I have talked more about photography than actually practiced it, which is not in keeping with my ultimate dream of marrying pictures with writing to document travel adventures.  Practice makes perfect.  And if I want this dream to be anything more than a vapor in the wind, I need to do the work now in order to achieve the results later.

It is for this reason that I am ready to once again attempt a 365 project.  I have tried (unsuccessfully) two previous times, but I think I have learned some valuable lessons to help me triumph this go around. After all, third time's the charm, right?  Here is what I plan to do differently:

  1. Be intentional.  Of course, this is good advice about life in general, but especially true of this project.  In the past I would wait to be "inspired" to take a picture and more often than not, I would find myself scrambling for a photo right before going to bed.  Since that time, however, I have found several sites that offer monthly photo challenges that should provide me with some creative suggestions when I am stumped (such sites include Katrina Kennedy and Fat Mum Slim).  I plan to use Sundays to review my calendar for possible photo opportunities, as well as scan these challenge lists in order to create a weekly line-up of possible photographs.  This should provide a good starting point - one that is not too rigid to allow for last minute changes, but one that hopefully will help me to create and then maintain the daily photo habit.
  2. Make the Time.  I am a routinized person… I enjoy a schedule and am fairly disciplined to stick to it.  The problem in the past was I never included this daily activity on my to-do list.  And… as is wont to happen, I rarely bothered to remember.  We make time for the things we deem important… and the question becomes, how important is photography to me?  I need to be honest with myself here, but if it is as important as I want it to be… then I need to make time to practice the craft.  Period.
  3. Don't Compare.  Oh boy… this is a BIG one for me.  I am constantly comparing myself to others and the result is always personal dissatisfaction and a desire to give up.  I need to recognize that we are all in different places on this photography journey, and we all have different goals.  I have no desire to become a professional - I only desire to improve.  I can look at others' pictures and learn from their talent, but I cannot compare my work to theirs.  I must learn to embrace their talent while at the same time accepting my own.
  4. Give Yourself a Break…. but don't let yourself off the hook.  Life happens - and while the goal to take a picture a day is an admirable one, there will be days when it is just not going to happen. For a perfectionist like myself, this can easily derail me because I "failed" the task.  But the truth of the matter is… I did not fail. Tomorrow is another day.  However… I cannot confuse the inevitable conflicts with personal mood swings.  There will certainly be times where I am able to participate but I simply do not "feel" like it.  I must be willing to do it anyway; practice the craft no matter what.
 I know many participants have started a blog specifically devoted to this 365 Project.  I will not.  This photographic journey is a part of my "emerging" process and I want to incorporate it here.  My plan is to post a week's worth of pictures each Friday (Photo Friday).  Some photos may inspire commentary, others may have only a title.  Some photos may be SOOTC ("straight out of the camera") … others may have extensive Lightroom edits, as I am discovering that I enjoy creative post-processing.  In other words, I will make this project my own and enjoy every minute of it.

Thank you, Courtney and Jil for inspiring me to focus on photography once again.  I'm going to have a blast!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Everything Pumpkin

I had intended to wait and post this recipe in the next segment of Weekend Cooking, but I was so excited by its success that I simply couldn't wait that long.

I do enjoy pumpkins.  I enjoy the annual visit to the patch, I enjoy watching Charlie Brown and Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin's arrival, and I enjoy the festive decorations using these lovely gourds.  Along with many others, I greatly anticipate the first offering of Pumpkin Spice Lattes in coffee shops across the land.  And I have used pumpkin in a variety of recipes:  the quintessential pumpkin pie, frosted pumpkin cookies, and even turkey pumpkin chili.  This morning however, I tried something new… but it will definitely become a staple this time of year:  Pumpkin Oatmeal.

I probably pinned this recipe over a month ago, and I had great intentions of trying it immediately. But you know, life happens and the pin was forgotten.  However there is nothing like a challenge and a deadline to motivate me to action.  Since Trish's Pin It and Do It challenge ends this Thursday (and I have two more pins to complete), I decided that now is the time to try this unique breakfast item.

I have never cooked oatmeal in a crockpot, but I am now a convert!  I loved waking up to a warm, filling breakfast without having to mess and fuss first thing in the morning.  And the creamy texture was the perfect consistency.  The recipe first appeared on the website, Peanut Butter and Peppers, and it is most assuredly a winner!  I encourage any pumpkin devotee to add this to your fall recipe collection.

Pumpkin Oatmeal in a Crockpot

Ingredients

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I used a rounded measurement)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (again, I used a rounded measurement)
  • 1 teaspoon stevia, or to taste (I omitted)
  • 1 pinch salt
Directions
  1. In a bowl that will fit inside your crockpot (this inner bowl makes clean-up a breeze and eliminates a crust forming on the top of the oatmeal)…. add all of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  2. Place bowl in the crockpot and then fill the crockpot with enough water  to come up half-way on the inner bowl.  Set crockpot on low for 6-8 hours
When ready to serve, I added a bit of brown sugar in the bottom of the bowl, ladled in the oatmeal, sprinkled a few walnuts on top and then drizzled with a bit of maple syrup.  The result was a rich, decadent and filling dish that will keep hunger at bay all morning.

There are plenty of leftovers that I anticipate will make a quick microwave warm-up for easy breakfasts the rest of the week. Mmmmm…. quite satisfying….


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Salon: October 27, 2013


From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Doesn't that sound heavenly --- that in our hectic lives we carve out a chunk of time to devote to reading and all things literary?  While I plan to use this space for that purpose, I am also going to use this entry as a way to summarize the past seven days and preview the upcoming week.



Today's Weather:  Seasonal temperatures and sunny - although I must admit I loved the below-freezing mornings this week.  I am ready for the constant chill in the air!

What's on the menu:  Made a colorful and flavorful Chicken Monterey soup yesterday and will probably use the rest of the leftover chicken for a quick and easy stir fry.

Highlights of the week:  Lots of writing news this week, which I will share below.  Other highlights included:

  • Library adventure with Brynn - it has become a bi-monthly routine now, Brynn and I going to Cracker Barrel for a pancake breakfast, then a trip to the craft store to look at Christmas decorations (not sure what we will do come January...) and then to the library where I find appropriate books to check out while she plays in the children's area.  We meet Mama for lunch and then say farewell til next time.  We both have such fun - and I am blessed to have this opportunity to bond with my dear granddaughter.
  • Barnes and Noble rendez-vous - we used to do this quite often, but it has been months since my dear friend and I have met here to browse the books, chat in the cafe area, and write in our journals.  We spend the entire afternoon nursing our hot drinks, surrounded by all things literary. I found the most beautiful leather journal with a Venetian gondola scene that I immediately put at the top of my Christmas wish list.  

Teaching Overview:  We are working our way through the Prologue of Canterbury Tales in Brit Lit.  Last week I told the class that they would have to recite the first 18 lines in Middle English by October 31st, and you should have seen their shocked faces.  But after only one week of practice they are reciting like pros -- it is so fun to watch them overcome doubts!  Each year I teach the first three pilgrims of the prologue, analyzing the text to discover the morality, social status, and key lines for each individual, and then the students are responsible for teaching the rest of the pilgrims to the class.  We are about half way through the list and they are starting to understand Chaucer's use of irony.

I spent class time in ACT Prep trying to prepare them for the written portion of the test.  It has become quite obvious to me that I adore teaching writing!  What I intended for one day's worth of lessons turned into two (and could have spilled over into three).  I loathe grading the writing (trying to put an objective grade on something so subjective)... but I adore teaching it.

English Comp students were assigned certain grammar topics to teach the class.  I think that students learn concepts better if they are required to teach... and sometimes they introduce a concept that students can understand better than if I were to do it myself.  It takes a bit longer but in the end I do believe it is worth it.

Currently Reading:  Well, I have read quite a bit, but perhaps not exactly what you might expect.  In thinking of an audience for my NaNo narrative, I have discovered an interest in writing for the Middle Grade.  Unfortunately I have limited experience reading literature geared to this market.  So I checked out several books from the library that might help me find the appropriate voice for my story.  Most of the books I previewed were biography picture books (I was also doing research for another story idea... a series perhaps), but I also discovered, Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole, which I think will be a great resource.

Writing Progress:  As I mentioned above, it was a great writing week!  Not great in terms of word count, but in terms of clarity for my NaNo story and connection with other writers.

  • Attended HWKT meeting (Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens) - which was quite a big step out of my comfort zone.  Many of those in attendance are published authors with incredible talent. But they were warm and welcoming and I left knowing that this is a group that will challenge me and push me to improve my craft.  While they meet weekly, I will probably attend twice a month for now.  It will be a while before I have a manuscript to share, but I can learn so much just by listening to them workshop one another.
  • Discovered "my" audience - I think I have struggled with a conflict for my NaNo story because I had not defined my audience.  Some days I think I will write a dark, seedy conflict involving the sinister patrons and the pimped-out ballerinas; other days I think my authentic voice is less controversial.  Ultimately I discovered that a perfect match for my talents and desires is to write for the Middle Grade market (5th-8th grade).... and while this initially surprised me, I soon realized that I have extensive knowledge of this target group.  My first teaching experience was 6th grade and I taught 5th-8th grade English classes for several years before focusing solely on the upperclass courses.  These pre-adolescents are able to read and understand complex literary themes without demanding the graphic sex and violence scenes that appeal to the YA market.  I am more than excited!
  • Discovered "my" premise - Once the audience was identified I knew I needed to work on the premise of this story, that is, why do I want to tell the story - what do I want readers to glean from these characters?  I have fleshed out two key themes so far.  The working title is First Impressionism and I want to delve into the idea of quickly judging others before truly knowing them.  In addition, I hope to explore the need for self-expression in order to feel understood.  This requires acceptance of others and their need for expression as well.  
  • Developed another story idea - for a possible series.  It was as though once I accepted my Middle Grade audience, my mind awakened to new ideas. For many writers this is not an issue, as they have far more ideas than time to write them.  But for me... this is a huge breakthrough.  My creative brain has lain dormant for decades and I feared that this NaNo idea was the only one I would ever have.  But the brain is like any muscle, and now that I have started to exercise that right side, it is growing stronger day by day.  I did a bit of research and could not find a similar series, so perhaps I have discovered a niche that I am anxious to pursue (after November 30th, that is).
Artist's Date:  While not intentional, I could say that the Writers' group meeting was a date with my author-self.  I did not leave inspired with new story ideas, but I did leave with a stronger sense of self-confidence, which translates into a successful date to me.

Craftiness:  Alas, no crafts this week (again)... although I was rather creative in the kitchen making a variety of one-pot comfort foods, including a hearty steak soup.

Photography:  Not this week, although I anticipate taking many photos on Thursday as I document Brynn's Halloween celebration.

What's on the Horizon:  The schedule for the first part of the week is relaxed and low-key, which will allow me to continue with the narrative outline and character sketches for First Impressionism .... and then of course Friday is November 1st, the start of NaNoWriMo, at which time I plan to spend the day writing with the hopes of sprinting ahead early with my word count.

I wish you all a festive and safe Halloween ... and a happy start to November.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Steak Soup

The cooler fall temperatures have awakened a craving for one-pot comfort foods.  In the past two weeks I have made chili, chicken pot pie soup, and steak soup.  Last night I pre-cooked some chicken for the upcoming week; I plan to make a chicken/tomato stew and perhaps chicken tortilla soup.  I am sure this domestic mood will soon pass, but I have sure enjoyed the meals (and leftovers) these past few days.

I had all intentions of posting the recipe for chicken pot pie soup last week, but alas I could not coordinate my photography with my hunger and we finished the soup before I had a chance to take a picture.  I am quite sure I will make this personal favorite again soon, and this time I will have the camera ready.

I did learn my lesson, however, and managed to click a few images while preparing the steak soup.  I received this recipe years ago from a good friend and since that time I have tweaked a little here and there to suit my personal tastes.  As with most soup recipes, it is good served right away, but even better the next day.  The flavors blend together and intensify, making it the perfect antidote to a cold dreary day.  Eating a bowl in front of the fire, dogs by my side, watching the World Series.... well, there is nothing better.

Steak Soup

First, brown 1 pound ground meat, drain the grease, and set aside.

Next, in a large pot saute ....

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
Once the vegetables are cooked to your liking (I prefer them a bit crunchy) add...
  • 1/2 cup flour to thoroughly coat the vegetables to help thicken the soup.
Next, add the following and simmer about 4 hours ...
  • 32 ounces chicken stock
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 lb. cooked ground meat
  • 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons A-1 steak sauce (the original recipe called for BV, but that is sometimes difficult to find and I like the robust flavor of the A-1)
The soup is good as is, but being an Italian household we feel the flavor is enhanced by sprinkling the top with some grated parmesan cheese and serving crusty Italian bread on the side to help sop up the juice.  Deliziosa!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Salon: October 20, 2013


From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Doesn't that sound heavenly --- that in our hectic lives we carve out a chunk of time to devote to reading and all things literary?  While I plan to use this space for that purpose, I am also going to use this entry as a way to summarize the past seven days and preview the upcoming week.

OH BOY... I had great plans to write a few posts this week, but obviously I fell short of the mark.  It was a busy week filled with extra meetings, unique outings, and serious thoughts to ponder.  I hope to do better on the blogging front next week.

Today's Weather:  Sunny and high near 70.  This will be the warmest day of the week, however, as the forecast calls for a hard frost on Tuesday and temperatures that struggle to reach 60 all week.  I'm not complaining, mind you, I am ready for the first fire in the fireplace!

What's on the menu:  After a fabulous dinner at Cooper's Hawk Winery on Friday (I am hoping to post a review this week), I think today's menu will be simple fare suitable for watching the Chief's football game:  Steak Soup (perhaps the recipe will be my Weekend Cooking post on Saturday...)

Highlights of the week:  Several highlights this week, which made for a rather hectic but exciting week:

  • Thursday night critique group:  I was brave enough to attend my first writers' critique group and I survived!  They did not bite or scare me, and in fact, I was strongly encouraged and supported in my writing endeavors.  More details below...
  • Cooper's Hawk Winery:  This was actually choice B for our Friday night dinner, but we were thrilled at the change of plans.  The waiter was delightful and knowledgeable, the happy hour was an exceptional value, and the food and wine were exceptional.  This will become our new favorite place to dine.
  • Impressionist Exhibit - opening reception at the Nelson-Atkins museum.  A first time experience that was both entertaining and educational.  More details below....

Teaching Overview:  The first of two rather low-key weeks of teaching (and I am grateful).  Brit lit finished reading Sir Gawain and is starting the Prologue of the Canterbury Tales.  Students are required to learn the first 18 lines in Middle English, which they heard for the first time on Thursday.  Of course right now they think their English teacher has lost her mind... but by October 31st they will all be able to recite it with ease and impress their parents.

English Comp is working on the rough drafts of their narrative essay at home while we review grammar concepts in class.

Currently Reading:  Well, after such great reading last week (I finished three books:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - The Painted Girls - and Dancing for Degas), I took a nose dive this week.  I had great plans to re-read Claude and Camille as research for my NaNo project, and I have several books on writing that I would like to review before November's great event.  Oh well, there is always this week...

Writing Progress:  Ok... lots of writing focus this week, but unfortunately no writing.  I know this is not good (writers write --- they don't just think about writing) and I vow to rectify that problem this week, BUT... I gained clarity on a few issues in life that I think will help me focus on writing.  Nevertheless, here is the writing news worthy to report:

  • Thursday night critique group:  This is a small off-shoot of HACWN.  At this particular monthly get-together there were three other writers in attendance besides myself (I am told this number fluctuates greatly month to month).  All three of them brought something to share.  One published writer brought a page from the third book in her trilogy; another published author brought an online article that she is writing to help writers learn how to use social media to market their work; and the third brought the first chapter of his debut novel that he hopes to sell to a publisher at the upcoming conference in November.  All of them are accomplished writers who I believe can help me improve my craft... and they offer valuable criticism in a kind, encouraging manner.  
  • Another Networking Opportunity:  after the success Thursday night I wondered if perhaps there was another writing group in town that I might want to visit... to compare and contrast, if you will.  My google search led me to HWKT (Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens).  Since my NaNo story is for the YA audience, I decided that I would email them for more information.  Two people quickly responded with such warmth and encouragement that for the first time in my life I wondered if perhaps writing children's books is my calling.  At this point I am such a newbie to the craft that I am willing to investigate any idea until I reach a dead end.  There is no fee to join and they meet every Wednesday morning. I happen to be free this week and plan to attend.
  • New Ideas for Future Projects:  due to the above epiphany....I was consumed with researching this market (early readers, middle grade and YA) and developing some potential story ideas.  While I have never considered writing for this audience, I have always had a desire for young people to enjoy reading.  I read to my children from the time they were a month old, and I tried to instill a love for the written story throughout their school years.  It is perhaps not out of the ordinary that I would write for this group as well, to inspire them to discover the joy of escaping into literature that will last a lifetime.  I haven't been this giddy with excitement in quite some time.

Artist's Date:  Well, an artist double-date.  My husband was offered two tickets to the preview of the Impressionist exhibit and we gladly accepted.  The festivities began at 7:00pm and the entire lobby had been redecorated for the event.  There were actors in period costumes mingling among the crowd and a live band provided appropriate Parisian music. Several projectors had been set up along the hallway leading to the gallery, which showed film clips from that era.  There was a contagious excitement in the air.

The exhibit itself is quite large and features Impressionists' paintings as well as photographs that depict the country's landscape at this dynamic time in France's history.  There was too much to see in one night and the crowd was rather thick, but it was fun to be among the first to see this collection.  I anticipate several more visits - probably during the week when it is less crowded - to not only admire the talent and beauty of these masterpieces, but also to use the collection as research for my NaNo writing.

Craftiness:  No crafts this week... but I did have the opportunity to accompany my granddaughter on a visit to Michaels, which was definitely a highlight of the week.  She adored the animated Christmas houses and felt compelled to arrange all the holiday decorations on the shelf so that they were in exact alignment (she does have some perfectionist tendencies of her grandmother...).  I see many craft adventures this holiday season with this little pumpkin.

Photography:  Sadly, I made no time for photography this week.  The leaves are starting to change though and if I don't make time this week, I fear I will miss my opportunity to capture the colorful landscape.

What's on the Horizon:  I am hoping this week is not as busy with time commitments so that I can focus on planning for the NaNoWriMo event by creating detailed character sketches.  I am looking forward to some solitude in the nook.

I hope this week finds you in a festive fall spirit and you can find some time to relax with a good book and perhaps a nice cup of tea.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Salon: October 14, 2013


From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Doesn't that sound heavenly --- that in our hectic lives we carve out a chunk of time to devote to reading and all things literary?  While I plan to use this space for that purpose, I am also going to use this entry as a way to summarize the past seven days and preview the upcoming week.


Today's Weather:  I do believe fall is here to stay:  Sunny with a high of 71 today - rain comes tomorrow bringing even cooler temperatures.  I LOVE it!

What's on the menu:  In celebration of cooler temps and a winning Chief's team... I have the season's first pot of chili on the stove ready to tailgate in the comfort of our family room.

Highlights of the week:  There were three highlights this week that are worthy of note...

  • Des Moines Used Book Sale - held in the 4-H building of the Iowa State Fairgrounds, this is the largest book sale I have ever attended.  We paid the $10 fee to shop a day early, and I am glad we did.  This kept the crowds manageable, which was necessary for me as I am not sure I could handle the overwhelming selection otherwise.  Both Geoff and I found several bargains, he focused on books about lawncare and home remodeling, while I focused on books about writing, travel and children's classics for Brynn.  The sale is held twice a year and we will definitely return at the end of March for the spring version.
  • Dewey's Read-athon - originally I thought we would be in Des Moines, so I did not intend to participate this year, but since we came home a day early, I decided to join in the fun.  I read about five hours yesterday, focusing on historical fictional stories that will help me with my NaNoWriMo piece next month.  I completed The Painted Girls and have less than one hundred pages to read in Dancing for Degas.  I was reminded of another novel set in this time period, Claude and Camille that I have reserved at the library to review this week.
  • Reconnected with a fellow writer - I took a risk and contacted a fellow writer I met this summer in the travel writing class I took at the University of Iowa.  She lives in Des Moines and had expressed an interest in my fictional story idea.  I emailed her about our plans to attend the Book Sale and she was thrilled to meet with me and discuss writing possibilities.  We had a marvelous visit and we brainstormed some good ideas.  I am hopeful that this will be a relationship we can continue for quite some time.

Teaching Overview:  It was a good week.  Brit Lit students performed well on the Beowulf final exam and English Comp students completed college scholarship essays.  I am looking forward to a light week this week with NO grading ... and that is a good thing because I have too many personal interests to keep me busy.

Currently Reading:  I finally completed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (yay!!) and wrote a brief review.  I started the second book the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but as indicated above, I have also started reading some historical fiction in preparation for NaNoWriMo.  I am just thrilled that I am finally making the time for novel reading... I didn't realize how much I missed it.

Writing Progress:  While I did not write as much as I had hoped, I did create a detailed character worksheet after reading this blog post about the importance of falling in love with your fictional characters.  I have probably completed about half of the worksheet for my protagonist and hope to do the same for the antagonist and two other significant characters.   I feel like this is the first time in my life I am finally playing pretend - imagining and allowing myself to be carried away into a fictional world.  While it is at times painstakingly difficult, I must admit that it is kinda fun.

Artist's Date:  And again, I must confess that I did not do this.  I am beginning to realize that I need to make some adjustments in my schedule that allow me to spend more time doing activities that are important to me, and less time doing activities that are within my comfort zone.  More on this another time....

Craftiness:  No crafts ... although I did read fiction which is at least something out of the ordinary for me.  I think I need to review my Pinterest boards and find another greeting card to create to complete the Pin It and Do It challenge.

Photography:  No time for photography either.  I had great hopes of taking pictures on our outing to Des Moines, but alas, we spent too much time indoors looking at books and not enough time exploring the city.  I am hoping that the cooler temperatures this week will encourage me to get out in my own neighborhood and shoot the autumnal changes.

What's on the Horizon:  This will be a rather busy week for me.  Parent/Teacher Conferences will take up a portion of my day on Wednesday; I hope to attend a writing critique group on Thursday evening to see if we are a good fit for one another; and there is a new Impressionism exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum that I would like to preview.

Busy... but all good stuff.



Saturday, October 12, 2013

Read-athon Update: Dancing for Degas


As I mentioned in my start-up post, I had no intention of reading for 24 hours straight, but my goal was to read throughout the day and try to rekindle a love of reading fiction.  So far, the event has been a success.

Since my last update, I have read another 229 pages in about 2.5 hours.  I am re-reading Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner, a book that I reviewed here.  However, I wanted to re-read the book in light of the upcoming NaNoWriMo event.  The protagonist, Alexandrie, is striving to become a star dancer in the Paris Ballet.  She is noticed by Edward Degas and he hires her as a model.  His pastel paintings of her are so successful that they begin to spend more time together, which she hopes will lead to a romantic relationship and then marriage.

As in the other book I read, The Painted Girls, these ballerinas often come from poor homes whose families are relying on their wages to help make ends meet.  Since ballerinas are paid so little, these girls supplement their income by becoming mistresses of the wealthy patrons.  It is indeed a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde society where the ballerinas are viewed as angelic royalty while on stage, but reveal a dark, immoral character post-performance.

I hope to finish the book before going to bed this evening, although I am not sure that I will write a summary read-athon post.  It has been a glorious day of reading however, and reconnecting with fiction, and rekindling a love for an old passion.  Thank you, Dewey, and all those who have made this event possible.  I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate, and I look forward to spring, 2014.


Read-athon Update: The Painted Girls


I have completed my first book in the read-athon!!  Of course it helped that I  started the book about three weeks ago and read about a third of it prior to this morning.... but I still read about 210 pages in about 2.5 hours.


The book I read was The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan.  I selected the book because it is historical fiction that takes place in the same time period as my upcoming NaNoWriMo piece.  I was hoping to glean additional insight into the time period as well as the characters to help me flesh out my own story.

Original Wax Statue
National Gallery in DC
The book focuses on the Van Goethem sisters, Antoinette, Marie, and Charlotte: Marie being the model for the well-known Degas sculpture, Little Dancer at age fourteen.  The book is written in the alternate voices of the older sister Antoinette and the middle sister Marie.  While all three girls were a part of the Paris Ballet, Antoinette was eventually asked to leave, which left her with few career options:  a life of laundress, like her alcoholic mother, or a life of prostitution.  She experiments with both and at one point is imprisoned for stealing money from one of her "clients"

Marie remains in the ballet corps for a longer period of time, finding a patron willing to supplement her meager earnings for modeling favors.  Marie has talent and a future in the ballet, but in this fictional narrative she makes an emotional decision that causes her undo stress.  Eventually she is also fired from the corps because she is absent from too many rehearsals.

The younger sister Charlotte is the one with the most promise and she does eventually go on to succeed as a prima ballerina and then instructor with the ballet.

I enjoyed the book from a historical perspective.  The author gave me insight into the everyday life of the lower class.  I enjoyed how she weaved two non-fiction stories into one that created romance, suspense, and conflict.  She did a nice job of developing two different narrative voices:  Antoinette is not as well-educated and a bit more bold and hardened by life; Marie is smarter, wiser and more compassionate.

The book is true to the time period, I believe, and because these ballerinas came from the seedy side of town, there are a few graphic scenes that would make this book geared to adults rather than teens, in my humble estimation.

All in all, I would rate the book 3 out of 5 stars and am quite appreciative of the writing talent and detailed research that the author provides her readers.


Read-athon: Hour 1

I was very late in signing up for this bi-annual event.... literally the 11th hour, but last minute plans had me return to town a day early and I figured "why not?!"

I will not read for 24 hours, I know that going in, but I if I can read for about 4-6 hours today that is about five more hours than I have read in a single day in months.  I am hoping that this is what will finally jumpstart me into a reading routine again.

The opening meme asks us to answer a few questions:

1.  What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I hail from the "Heartland of America" -- a suburb of Kansas City.

2.  Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I do not have a photograph of my stack, but it contains several books in a variety of genres.  There are two fictional stories that I would like to read in preparation for NaNoWriMo, The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, and Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner.  I would also love to make some headway in the 2nd Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets.

I just returned from a HUGE used book sale (which I will write about in the Sunday Salon tomorrow) and I bought several books on writing that I will probably peruse, and a number of books on poetry that I hope will help me overcome my fear of the genre.

3.  Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Well, since I didn't decide to join until late last night, I have no special snacks in the house.  That is fine though... I have some pita chips and hummus, which is a favorite go-to snack for me, and this evening I will relax with a glass of chardonnay.

4.  Tell us a little something about yourself:
I am a semi-retired teacher at a small private school.  I have cut my schedule WAY back this year (I only teach Brit Lit and English Comp on Tuesdays and Thursday) in the hopes that I will increase my devotion to writing.  I love to travel and I am interested in photography with the hopes of pairing pictures with words to create compelling essays of my travel experiences.

5.  If you participated in a past read-athon, what is one thing you will do differently today?
I have participated in past read-athons, but the last time was probably in 2010.  I really do not have a strategy, except that I am not going to sweat the details.  I will read today, and that is the point.  I am not going to focus on number of pages read, number of hours read, number of posts written... that will detract me from the pure pleasure of uninterrupted reading... something that I desperately need and want to do.

Ok - so one hour into the read-athon and I have yet to read.  So I am going to pour myself a cup of coffee, head to the nook, and escape into a book.

I wish all of you participating in this event, wonderful reading time... and those who are not, a fantastic fall Saturday.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


While it took me three times longer to read this first book in the Harry Potter series (my goal was to read it in about a week), it was not for lack of interest but rather due to life interruptions.  However, I am thrilled to report that I not only finished the book, but I adored it ... and look forward to diving into The Chamber of Secrets later this week.

At this point I feel as though I am the last person on the planet to have read the book (for the first time), and so I struggle with writing a review that is not found in numerous other places on the web: Amazon has more than 7,800 reviews and  Goodreads boasts over 36,000 reviews and 2+ million ratings (!!)  How can I compete with that?  But perhaps I can share a slightly different perspective - from the way I read the book and the reasons I enjoyed it.

Fantasy Fiction is a stretch for me.  I am a very pragmatic, rational, black-and-white person.  The idea of make-believe creatures or magic wands and spells causes my head to spin.  I have a very difficult time suspending belief when I live in a very real world.  I am not sure that I will ever consider this genre my favorite, but by reading Rowling's books (and perhaps progressing to the more complex Lord of the Rings series), I hope to at least gain an appreciation for this style of literature.  It is not, however, the primary reason why I enjoyed this book.

The themes found in Harry Potter are universal truths that I will always clamor to read:  good vs evil; love conquers hate; loyalty and friendship help make this world a better place.  Rowling infuses just enough humor to bring these truths to light without beating us over the head.  I look forward to seeing how she develops these over the course of the seven book series, as well as what other themes she introduces as time goes on.

But while I enjoy a good theme-driven novel, that is not the primary reason why I enjoyed this reading experience.  The plot was good - the message was clear - but it was the character development that made me fall in love with book.  And in relating to these characters, I learned more about writing a novel than I would ever learn in a college-credit course.

As I mentioned in my Sunday Salon post ... I recently read a piece of writing advice that made me stop in my tracks and take notice.  Pardon me as I repeat this epiphany:
Are the characters interesting enough to you, with sufficient mysteries and depth to them, that you’ll want to spend month upon month thinking about and talking to them? Are they real enough? Is there something they’ll need to learn/do that will give your main character(s) a growth-arc over the length of a novel?
I adore a character-driven novel, but for some reason it never occurred to me to spend time with my characters before I write the story - discover their likes and dislikes - uncover their back story and how they got to this point in life - develop their strengths but pay attention to their weaknesses.  I guess I just thought that kind of depth came automatically.  Since Sunday I have devised a six-page character questionnaire that I hope will help me get to know my main characters in such a way that I don't mind spending months with them.

But honestly, that is exactly what drew me into the Sorcerer's Stone.  Rowling develops her various characters with such depth and detail that I feel as though I intimately know each and every one.  She begins with the Dursleys --- Vernon and Petunia and Dudley-- oh, the power of a name!  Can't you just see their lips puckered and the scowl on their faces?  These are sour pusses whom I love to hate.  And while there is such injustice in the way they treat Harry .... Rowling gives it just enough humor that I am not overcome with sadness before the story begins (contrast that with Dickens... whom I can't seem to get past the cruel school experience of David Copperfield to finish the first quarter of the novel).

The author manages to alleviate all fears of a giant by creating a kind, compassionate soul in the character of Hagrid.  His dialect might be difficult for some children, but if you read it aloud it makes such perfect sense.  He is sad to say good-bye to Harry at the Dursleys; he loves playing the mommy role to Norbert, the dragon, and he can't bare the thought that he might have been responsible for Harry's hospitalization at the end of the novel.  We all should have such caring guardians as Hagrid.

I feel as though the teachers are just beginning to take shape; right now they seem in outline form.  Dumbledore appears to be the archetypical wise, old man - who has a caring heart and is the epitome of good in a world that can easily turn to evil.  Snape is the wild card:  we are wary of his allegiance to Slytherin house (snakes slither and we all know the evil nature of serpents)... and yet he protected Harry from Quirrell's spell.  I do not like him, but I am curious about him.  And then there is Professor McGonagall.  For several years now I have had students compare me to this fictional character and I was never quite sure whether to take this as a compliment or an insult.  For now, I will say it is a compliment.  She is strict, that is for sure.  But she is just - and she cares about her students.

But it is the dynamic trio that truly brings this novel from a reading pastime to a life experience.  Harry, Ron and Hermione are so different, so detailed, so true to life that I know I would recognize them instantly if I should have the fortune to see them walking down the street.  I adore Harry's humility and reluctance to accept the fact that he is a hero to many.  His allegiance to truth and justice is admirable and his willingness to sacrifice self for the good of all is admirable.  He is the underdog and that makes him all the more lovable.

Ron is the baby of the family (or at least the baby boy) and he is struggling to find his place in this world.  Can't we all relate to that?  He has an older brother doing academic work in Romania - another who is the prefect at the school - and there are the twins who provide comic relief - but where does Ron fit in?  He is not the brightest nor the funniest nor the most athletic, but he is loyal to the hero and he knows how to win at chess and that is enough to win him into our hearts.

Hermione, however, is my favorite.  I love this girl - but could it be that she is too much like me?  She is studious and always wants to do the right thing.  She can't imagine breaking rules for any reason and she has a heart for the underdog, especially Neville.  I absolutely adore the banter that Rowling creates between Hermione and Ron and I already see this friendship developing into something more over time.

I am absolutely amazed how J.K. Rowling has captivated my attention with these characters in such a short period of time, and I am anxious to see how she develops their relationships - as well as my interest - through the next six books in the series.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Salon: First Sunday in October


From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Doesn't that sound heavenly --- that in our hectic lives we carve out a chunk of time to devote to reading and all things literary?  While I plan to use this space for that purpose, I am also going to use this entry as a way to summarize the past seven days and preview the upcoming week.


Today's Weather:  It finally feels like fall after a week of temperature in the 80s!  Yesterday I think the high barely reached 60 degrees and today is supposed to be the same.  I am ready to trade-in my t-shirts for turtlenecks and my iced tea for a pumpkin latte.

What's on the menu:  We had a delicious family dinner at an Italian restaurant in Lawrence, KS - Paisano's.  The portions were large and since I am unaccustomed to eating such rich food like the Baked Pollo Florentine I ordered, there are plenty of leftovers for today.

Highlights of the week:  It was a BUSY week for me as I had something planned every single day.  For a reserved introvert, that is a recipe for stress, which is why today I will spend time by myself in the nook.  However, the activities were fun and worthwhile.
  • Writers' Group:  As I reported on my Writing Wednesday post, for several months now I have felt the need to find a writers' group of like-minded people with whom I feel comfortable.... and I did:  the Heartland of America Christian Writers' Network.  The monthly meeting was scheduled for Thursday and I forced myself out of my comfort zone to attend.  It was a fabulous experience and I look forward to attending on a regular basis.  They even offer an annual writing conference not ten minutes from my home that I am seriously considering.
  • Penguin Run:  My youngest encouraged me to participate in this event several weeks ago.  I have voiced an interest in daily walking routines, and I adore penguins, so the opportunity to help sponsor the Kanas City Zoo seemed like the perfect foray into 5K events.  However, since injuring my knee early in the summer, I have not followed through on this goal:  my last daily walk was sometime in mid-August.  My original intent was to attend in a cheerleader role, taking pictures of Mandy crossing the finish line.  However, I succumbed to her peer pressure and decided to participate as well.  The walk was 4 miles, not 3.1, and the terrain had many more hills than I am accustomed to.  The good news is that I finished - and I wasn't the last one to cross the line (I think my time was approximately 55 minutes...); the bad news is that I should have trained this past week:  my hips are so sore I can barely walk today.  Oh well, it was for a great cause and I proved to myself that I can compete.  Perhaps this was the push I needed to get back into a healthy exercise schedule.
  • Pumpkin Patch:  Since 1995 we have taken the family to Shaake's Pumpkin Patch.  It is a relatively small family farm that offers free hayrides, a free hay bale maze, and lots of quality pumpkins.  It is indeed a family event, for all that are in town, and so my youngest and her boyfriend, my granddaughter and her parents, as well as Geoff and I continued with the tradition. The weather was perfect, the crowds weren't too bad, and a good time was had by all.  Brynn was old enough to understand the concept of selecting a pumpkin, and so she was excited to walk through the "punky patch" and find her "baby punkin"  The girls searched high and low for their perfect pumpkins and indeed succeeded.  Apparently tradition dictates that we can't select a pumpkin that is off the vine.... funny how I did not remember that little fact...
Teaching Overview:  I adore teaching writing - I think because I learn as much about the craft from my high school students as (hopefully) I teach them.  I love helping them revise a good paper and making it a compelling essay.  I love reading the finished products and viewing how class suggestions have contributed to the final success.  I absolutely LOATHE grading them.  I feel such pressure and responsibility putting a quantitive grade on a qualitative endeavor.  I try to be objective but writing is, by its very nature, a subjective art form.

Such was my week.  The classes were enjoyable - the grading was intense.  But this week I have a reprieve... a Beowulf final exam is the only assessment on the calendar and that is a relief.  We then enter the Middle Ages in Brit Lit and continue with the College Scholarship essays in English Comp.

Currently Reading:  Ugh.... I must report yet again that I did not complete Harry Potter.  My daughter says I should blame her:  she is not completing her end of the bargain and therefore not keeping me accountable.  But that's not true.  I have just focused on other things this week and allowed my personal reading to drop off the radar.  However, since I can barely move today due to the Penguin Run... I may actually complete this first volume in the series.

Writing Progress:  Well, again... no progress on any of the projects (as I reported on Wednesday), but I have made some writing decisions that I do believe will impact my writing activity for the better.

  • HACWN not only has monthly meetings, but they also offer a variety of small critique groups.  I plan to attend one close my home next Thursday.  I do not have anything to share yet, but I am hopeful that it will be a place where I will feel comfortable sharing, knowing that I will receive valuable feedback that will help me to grow as a writer.
  • NaNoWriMo begins November 1st.  I was on the fence about joining this year; I would like to focus on the ebook idea which will not be 50,000 words nor a work of fiction.  But after attending the writing meeting this week and receiving positive feedback on my fictional story idea ... I have decided that I will take the plunge.  I think having two completely different writing projects may be good in the long run:  if I hit a wall in one, I can take a break and work on the other. 
  • Kaye Dacus wrote a blog post about selecting which story idea to use for NaNoWriMo, and she said something that truly captured my attention:  Are the characters interesting enough to you, with sufficient mysteries and depth to them, that you’ll want to spend month upon month thinking about and talking to them? Are they real enough? Is there something they’ll need to learn/do that will give your main character(s) a growth-arc over the length of a novel?  While I have a story idea, I must confess that I have not spent much time developing my protagonist - I have spent most of my time researching the time period.  I think I need to take the time this week to truly flesh out Phoebe Cox ... and create a backstory that allows me to truly fall in love with her - a character that I care about - a character with whom I want to spend 30 days in intimate contact.  The following week I would like to do the same for the antagonist, creating a backstory for a man that leads a double life:  respectable businessman in the high echelon of society, while at the same time being the seedy, dirty-old-man who lurks backstage at the ballet.

Artist's Date:  Well, I had an artist date planned, but I had to make a choice:  honor the date and attend the Sketchbook Project's mobile library at UMKC ... or ... attend the HACWN monthly writer's meeting.  I chose the latter.  This week my husband and I are headed to Des Moines to attend the Heart of America used book sale, which does not necessarily qualify as an individual artist's date, but nothing inspires me more than being surrounded by books.  I am looking forward to this adventure.

Craftiness:  I was a bit crafty this week, due in great part to Trish's Pin It and Do It challenge.  I have committed to complete 4-7 projects by the end of the month, and I don't like to procrastinate.  As reported on my blog Monday, I created a set of birthday/all occasion cards ... and I experimented with a recipe for Pumpkin Pie ice cream a few days later.  Not sure I will be too crafty in the upcoming week, as I have much to do in the writing arena.

Photography:  The trip to the pumpkin patch was the perfect opportunity to practice my photography skills.  The skies were clear, there was a chill in the air, and the colorful gourds in the fields provided the perfect backdrop for family photos.  I took about 315 pictures, deleted 185, and found about 24 that were worthy of editing and sharing on my Flickr photostream.  This one was my favorite:  her expression is so grown-up, her body is so small, and her attachment to the baby pumpkin is evident.

What's on the Horizon:  A low-key school week (little grading and no outside meetings -- hooray!); a focus on writing where I am actually writing; and a fun outing with the hubby to a used book sale.  I am hoping the fall weather is here to stay and I look forward to photographing the colorful change of the season.



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

I have two terrific bloggers to thank for this post:  Candace, who sponsors the Weekend Cooking meme, and Trish who is hosting the October Pin It and Do It challenge.  I am actually writing this in advance of the weekend - a first in many years - and I feel terrific!

It is officially fall, so says the calendar, but weather in the midwest is confusing.  There are mornings when we are greeted with chilly temperatures in the 40s, but then the afternoon highs reach the low 80s.  It is definitely not time to change over the closets to sweaters and turtlenecks, and unfortunately, we shouldn't change our diets to hearty soups and stews.  If anything we need to learn to adapt and just go with the flow.

But I love fall!  I love the rich jewel-tone colors, I love the cozy sweaters and colorful scarves, and I look forward to simmering pots of chili and pumpkin desserts.  I had my heart set on the first pumpkin pie of the season ... but the weather dictated something lighter.  So I wondered.... what about pumpkin pie ice cream?

I did a quick Pinterest search, which yielded several different recipes.  I settled on this one, however, because it seemed the easiest with pure ingredients.  However, as is my typical method... I decided to adapt the recipe from the start.  In fact, I have a feeling I created my own recipe here. but I will give inspirational credit where it is due.

The original Pinterest recipe called for five simple ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

But I knew I wanted a pumpkin pie flavor - and the lack of spices in this recipe made me a little nervous.  And while I am trying to cut down on refined sugar, I knew that 1/2 cup would not be enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

I have a CuisineArt ice cream maker, which came with its own booklet that has a number of tasty recipes.  The one I tend to make most often is Simple Vanilla:

  • 1-1/2 cup whole milk (I use 2 cups 2% milk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream  (I use 2.5 cups half and half)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons vanilla

I decided to combine these two recipes, the one from Pinterest and my adaptation from the manufacturer, and then added 2 Tablespoons -  Pumpkin Pie spice.  Surprisingly, it actually tastes like a creamy version of pumpkin pie!  My version definitely has an "ice milk" texture, which I normally don't mind in order to avoid the fat and cholesterol, but it froze a bit too hard for my taste.  I definitely plan to make this again later this fall, probably using 2-1/2 cups whole milk and 2 cups of heavy cream.

Hmmm.... I just had a thought... I wonder what it would taste like as an a la mode topping for apple pie?  I think I may need to find a pinterest pie recipe this week :)


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Writing Wednesday: NaNoWriMo 2013....

As I reported on Sunday, I have not done much writing lately ... but I have thought a lot about writing, does that count?  That is a rhetorical question because I know the answer is "NO"  Writers write.  Period.  And no excuse will fill that void.

But I do have two bits of writing news to share ... and writing news that I hope will propel me forward in developing a regular writing routine.

For quite some time I have thought that I need to be a part of a writing group.  While I am typically quite reserved and shy away from any kind of personal sharing, I know that in order to grow as a writer I must be willing to put myself out there... be vulnerable... and learn to accept constructive criticism.

I have conducted Google searches at least twice over the past several months, but without success.  On Sunday I tried again... and I thought I used the same search terminology... but somehow I stumbled upon HACWN --- Heartland of America Christian Writers' Network.  I reviewed the site and discovered that they meet on the first Thursday of the month at a location about ten minutes away from my house!  Coincidence?  I'm not sure...

I emailed two of the directors to see if this might be a good fit for me and both of them responded with supportive, encouraging comments.  So, I plan to attend the monthly meeting tomorrow (that is, if I can overcome my fear of walking into a room where I know no one...) and I might even be brave enough to participate in one of the many monthly critique groups.  I will be sure to report back next week to let you know how it goes.

The other writing news is that it is less than one month until November 1st which as many of you know is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The premise of this annual event is that fictional writers from all over the world gather together online and write 50,000 words in 30 days.  I participated for the first time in 2010 and I actually completed the goal, although I never finished the project.  I skipped 2011 and tried again in 2012 but unfortunately life took over and I only managed to write 8,500 words in the first week before I gave up.

For some reason this novel idea that I have had since 2011 refuses to leave my brain.  In fact, I have almost become obsessed with the concept.  I know the protagonist and antagonist; I have the introduction and the conclusion; I even have the structure in place that will allow me to "educate" as well as (hopefully) entertain.  What I am missing is a compelling conflict.  However... I think the time has come for me to get the story out of my head and onto paper.  Perhaps in writing the scenes... the conflict will present itself.  Perhaps not.  But I think this is the year to go forward with all I got.

I will use the month of October to continue to research the historical aspects of the novel (although a large part of that is complete and properly stored in Scrivener) as well as work on the ebook idea that I will not abandon, Finding Joy in the Moment:  Spiritual Lesson through Photography.  I am ready to be serious.  I am ready to take this next step.  And I am excited.