Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rocky takes a breather

I decided to be brave--I re-read my fourth draft. It's my best draft yet.
And still, it needs so much work (I was going to say sucks, but I'm thinking positively here).
The beginning is actually pretty good. The ending is not so bad. But the middle--ah, the middle is another story. No, really, it's another story. And that's the problem.
I drift off into some other world, along with my characters. Whole chapters go by where my characters do nothing but think. Characters get dropped or picked up out of nowhere. Still.
Sometimes I wish I had another weakness. Because if you're not so good at plot, that means you have to restructure entire novels when they fall apart. If you stink at say, description or grammar, it doesn't (usually) affect the whole novel very much.
But being good at character has its perks, though. My friend Kelley once said that you can fix almost anything else in a novel as long as you have good characters. And I think she's right. But in my case, I fix it, and fix it, and fix it, and fix it...
I know now, better than ever, what I need to do to fix things. There will still be some tearing apart. But right now, Rocky's worn out from all his fighting, and he just wants to towel off for a while. And, being the nice author I am, I think I'm going to let him.
But don't worry. Rocky's a fighter. He won't stay down for long.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

From my website...

I'm still working on the website (an LDS-based family-friendly workplace resource), and it's taking forever. Right now, I'm aiming for a launch date of April. I plan to have the writing part finished in January or February, but there's still lots of work to do after I finish all the writing and linking. A short list: find a board of directors (any volunteers?), get a logo, get tax-exempt status, write press releases, set up a newsletter, set up donation capability, make a budget, get personal stories from people, get input from others, recruit people in other states...did I miss anything?
Anyway, here's an excerpt from the "culture wars" section. Be warned, it's got an LDS slant to it, just in case you don't go for that sort of thing. I don't want it to be obnoxiously preachy, though, so if I cross the line there, please do tell. Here goes:

"LDS women face many dilemmas as they make decisions about work and family. Religious beliefs aside, there are already plenty of conflicting messages from society about how women should behave and what women should do. Most mothers are well acquainted with the guilt that seems to come wrapped up with the baby blankets.

Everyone seems to have an opinion--from television role models to parenting experts to politicians. Since reality doesn't match what they see or what they hear, women develop their own ideal, depending less on media or parental models and more on themselves. But with little experience from their parents and contradicting expectations from society, women have no practical way to check whether or not they're "measuring up". They just do the best they can and hope they get it right.

Within the LDS Church, things can be confusing, too. Many LDS women grew up hearing about the importance of motherhood and the value of mothers being home. Many of them had dreams of marriage and children and home life, and waited to find someone who could help make it possible. Others had dreams beyond family life, such as education and career ambitions. But when life threw a few surprises their way, many women didn't know how to reconcile their situations with what they had been taught. Some didn't marry. Others didn't have children, and some became divorced. Some women's husbands lost their jobs unexpectedly and others just simply couldn't afford the mortgage and groceries on one income. Some expected to lose themselves in the joy of raising their children and were surprised at how much they missed being sharing their talents and abilities with the world. And some women stayed home and loved it.

There are nearly as many situations as there are women, and that's what makes these decisions difficult. And when it seems like everyone has an idea about what women should do, it quickly becomes apparent that no single person can possibly meet all these expectations.

Before a woman is a mother or a wife, before she faces her loads of laundry or punches in for the day, before she fills any role or responsibility that she either chooses or is given, she is first and foremost a daughter of God. She is a person with unique gifts, whose value lies in who she is, and not merely what she can do for others. As she finds solutions and asks for guidance, she can find the best uses for her talents within her particular situation, whether that's in the workplace, the home, the community, the Church, or some combination of these. It's easier to face criticism (whether it comes from others or from within) when she knows that her direction comes from above."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Twice in one month

I know, I know. You've all been staring at your computer screens with your tongues hanging out, waiting for the next post, because that's what kind of loyal fans you are. Your faith in me is about to be rewarded. I'm posting twice in one month.

Lately I've taken some time off from the crazy writing frenzy (though I did attend the most excellent SCBWI editor day this month) both to work on my website and work on my brain. The work on my website is going well. That's partly because I don't bang it against the wall the same way I do my head. Websites just don't respond to ouch therapy.

For those of you not in the know (uh--probably almost everybody), I'm building a site about work-family issues. I'm envisioning a non-profit that takes action to make workplaces more family friendly, and eventually (when the kids get a little older) I'll branch out into consulting. That's right. I bet all you Dilbert fans are proud.

'Cause guess what, world? The workplace is not family-friendly! Shocking, I know. Although there are many, many issues I could discuss, I plan to focus on just five or six at first. Here's what families need: flexible work, sick leave, child care, elder care, parental leave, and most of all, a way to discuss these issues, both inside and outside of work.

Scary thought: Eighty percent of low-wage workers don't have any paid sick leave. So, if they can't afford to take a day off work, many of them come to work anyway. Guess who the low-wage workers are? Food service, child care, and health care workers. Would you like a flu-infected worker to sneeze on your food, your kid, or Grandma? Not good. And if a worker's kid gets sick, too? The kid will be sneezing all over your kid at school. So, needless to say, I'm a big believer in paid sick leave.

Also, since you were wondering about the brain work I mentioned earlier, I'm recovering nicely from my frontal lobotomy, so thanks for asking. And I'm recovering from my self-help books, too. They're teaching me to think happy thoughts. Well, OK, there's more to it than that. But I think they might be on to something. Scalpel not included.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Life Lately

Other than the usual household chaos, here's what I've been up to lately:
1. Long-lost family members visited. This year, I've seen both my sisters face-to-face. It's been FIVE years. It sure won't be until the next visit, though.
2. Went to a Women in Business conference at BYU. I ate some very yummy food, wore grown-up clothes, and tried to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up. Also saw my friend Diana--it's been a lot longer than five years.
3. Wrote and sent off a Boys' Life article. It was my first feature for them. Wahoo!
4. Finished my fourth draft. Yeah, baby! I know it still needs work (and about 10K less words), but this time, I'm more confident about how to do that. I haven't decided if I'm going to send poor beaten-down Rocky out to the world or finish fixing him myself first. In either case, he's worn out and needs to rest for a few weeks.
5. Figured some stuff out.

I decided I'm going to start a non-profit website to help businesses become more family-friendly. It will mainly be a resource. I hope at some point to become a work/life consultant, but not yet. I want to focus first on getting people together to talk about these issues, and raise awareness. Like, for example, did you know that sick leave is not a legal right in most places in the US (including Utah)? So what does a mom with a sick kid do?

I'll blog more about it as it gets going. Right now, I'm building the site and I'm getting excited because what this girl wants, more than anything, is to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All right, all right, I'll blog already!

If you're wondering what happened to my blog lately, wonder no more.
I've been in crisis mode.
It hasn't been pretty.
I think it can all be summed up in these words from an interview in the book Opting Out by Pamela Stone: "I've had enough of being at home, but yet I need to be at home."
The worst of the crisis has passed, which was when I was in my staring-at-nothing phase. All I could do for those few days was sit on the front step, stare into space, and read feminist books.
Then I got into my angry-at-everyone phase. This was where I flew into a rage at anyone who suggested that women had a "role" to do. I may or may not have thrown a certain new blue-covered book for women across the room--I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. Yes, I was mad that I had believed for years that women were supposed to take care of houses and kids once they started having babies, because it wasn't as rosy as I had imagined. But really, I was more mad at myself for not having prepared myself for a career better when I had the chance, and for sitting around feeling sorry for myself instead of making changes.
Now I'm morphing into the now-what phase (though I occasionally still want to take people's heads off when they start talking about the art of homemaking). I've flirted off and on with this phase for years, anyway, you know, checking the classifieds for job listings, counting down the years until M. is in school all day....But now, I'm trying a little harder. I'm querying magazines more aggressively, writing a couple pages in my novel per day, and contacting people I think might be able to help me get to the next step (the work/life field).
But it doesn't feel like I'm doing much. It feels like more of the same. I know it takes time when you're looking for a new direction, but things don't feel much different than they did before since I'm doing the same kinds of things. I know I'm not ready for full-time work yet, but opportunities don't exactly drop from the sky.
So if you know of an opportunity fairy who'd love to drop some freelance work/life-related writing work my way, send her right here. And while you're at it, tell her to bring along that money fairy buddy of hers, too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My world shrinks

In this case, shrink does not refer to my needing professional help, though if things continue the way they have been, that just might change.

When we were in Las Vegas recently, we lost M. She was right behind us, then suddenly, she wasn't. It took us a while to find her. We were just getting to our hotel room. We hadn't been there long enough to figure out where everything was. We put the boys in the room, told them to stay put, and took off running up and down the halls. We checked the pools, we checked the stairwell. We couldn't hear her or see her anywhere. I ran back to our room and called security and they helped us look. After I don't know how many minutes, a guy in uniform said, "Ma'am, they found her. She's with your husband."

Lots of weird things go through your head at a moment like that. I figured we'd probably find her, because, after all, non-family child abductions are pretty rare, and it wasn't very likely a two-year-old could find her own way out to the street from where we were. But still, if I was wrong, and we had to leave without her...well, I couldn't imagine, so I imagined finding her instead.
When a crisis hits, all the things I worry about don't seem so important.

Then, last week, most of us (the healthy fairy was smiling down on Mark) got a nasty stomach virus. Recovering from this sickness meant a lot of lying around in bed and a lot of laundry. But poor little K didn't seem to recover on his own. He'd bring up everything we fed him, even water. This went on for nearly two full days before I decided we should take him in. I wasn't well enough to cart him around, so Mark got the honor of taking him to the doctor. They found out he was dehydrated and considered checking him into the hospital before they decided that maybe they could treat him there. So after much driving around to get tests and prescriptions, Mark and K. got home at 1:30 am.

You'd think I would have learned the uselessness of worrying by now, but no. It's so easy to imagine worst-case scenarios when it's late at night, you're tired, and there's nobody else there to pretend to be fine for. And so again, my little world became pint-sized, and the messy house, my hundreds of little projects, and the children's bedtimes didn't matter so much.

But if you're imagining these experiences changed me and put my life in perspective, you have awfully high expectations of me. All it took was a few episodes of Hoarders and pretty soon I was a house-cleaning maniac again. I wouldn't want to have my priorities straight or anything. If you watch enough TV, you can get cured from just about any moral improvement.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I totally hate decisions.

Well, not really.


Let me think about it for a while.

I love way too many things, and I'm starting to think it might be a good idea to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I'm so scattered it feels like I'm running around in circles.

Most of my projects have been on hold since the birthday/baptism/vacation/family crises started. I was a little insane as I tried to prepare for all these activities: making phone calls, baking, preparing pizza crusts, buying presents, sending out invitations, checking details, packing, etc. And, miraculously enough, I survived them all.

L's birthday party was fun, we came back from Las Vegas in one piece (though we nearly lost our poor girl at the hotel), he actually did get baptized, and my family members caught their plane home.

Then M. got sick Sunday night. And since my kids absorbed their lessons on sharing a little too well, I got sick, K. got sick, and L. got sick. I'm still recovering.

But guess what? In the meantime I got an Etsy order! Wouldn't want to let a little sickness stop me! I started sewing some sheets, even though I could barely stand up, because I felt sorry for the lady who is due to deliver twins within days and needs a special size for her babies. I'm like the post office. Sleet, hail, doesn't matter, you can depend on me.

So all this sickness and sewing has kept me from my typical activities. Remember that novel in its fourth draft I've been working on? Haven't looked at it for about a month. My amazing business idea of helping workplaces become more family-friendly? Um, it's still a great idea. Flute? Well, luckily for me, there's no orchestra or flute choir rehearsals for another couple weeks.

The thing is, I might be successful at any one of these endeavors if I could pick one and go with it. In the words of the immortal Crush, "Focus, dude!"

But I hate to give anything up. If I choose one, I'll have to scale way back on the others. I can't imagine being without writing. Or giving up on my business idea. No music in my life? I don't think so. Not sew? Well, where's the fun in that? But I also know, as long as I cling to all of my activities, I'll be too scattered to do well at any of them.

So I guess I just haven't learned to establish priorities and make decisions. But I'm going to have to choose sooner or later.