Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections After Reading Spinning Forward



Spinning Forward, by Terri DuLong, is the story of Sydney Webster who finds herself, at the age of fifty-two, widowed and in a financial situation. Her story is absolutely inspiring: she turns her love of knitting into a business and moves forward with her life. Along the way she learns more about the inhabitants of her the little resort town that she's moved to and more about her past.

Throughout the story, we are presented with Sydney's challenges to get her business off the ground. She struggles with her own demons, wondering what she will do at this point in her life (she hadn't worked in over twenty years). Then there are the naysayers in town who don't think a yarn/ knitting shop will work. Worse yet is the reaction from own daughter. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone pursuing their dreams? Including (hopefully) the happy ending?

As a writer, I really learned about plot development while reading Spinning Forward. Terri DuLong does a great job of setting things in place and in motion for everything to be resolved appropriately by the end. I've picked this up by reading mystery and crime novels. It was easier to understand in a novel that A Place to Call Their Own resembles.

Whether you're a reader or writer, I'm sure you will enjoy Spinning Forward.

Have you read any inspiring fiction lately? I'd love to hear your comments!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reflections After Reading The First Rule



The First Rule is a great thriller from crime writer Robert Crais. His recurring character, Joe Pike, works to figure out the real story behind the murder of an old mercenary comrade. The murder scene appears to be a burglary gone bad, but based on their past, Joe knows different and works tirelessly to figure it out.

The Sun Sentinel described this book as "A high octane thriller as well as insightful look at loyalty , friendship, and unconditional love."

This makes me think about the importance of finding writing friends and building a community for support. I thought I had a good handle on that, and then I got on Twitter. My world has been opened up to thousands of answering writers like myself, all supporting one another. I just found a new Twitter friend who told me that she was working on her first novel as well. How excited I was to meet her on Twitter!

No matter what journey you're on, it's important to find a friend to share your journey. After all, most great journeys include ore than one person. Two that immediately come to mind are The Wizard of Oz and as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Friends can help us along the way, provide support and encouragement, and keep us going.

How do your writer friends help you? I'd love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here's to The Amazing Tricks That Technology Allows Us To Do!



Technology helps me to keep my routines and maintain some balance between work, writing, and some personal relaxation time. I have loved my iPhone since I've had it and now my iPad 2 just makes life even easier (this is my first blog post done completely from the iPad).

My favorite writing app is My Writing Spot. I use this great app to organize and sync all my writing documents. There is web access or smartphone access. You can color code the documents that work together. For example, I have all my chapters for a Place to Call Their Own in one color, all my blog posts are another. Anytime I have a brainstorm for a new idea, I pound it out and then it's saved there for future reference, under it's unique color.

Everything is synced in one place and it's saved on the server, not on a hard drive that could crash or a even an external drive that could get damaged (which I almost did this last week!). Anytime I have a few minutes and my iPhone, I've been able to work away at my latest blog post, current chapter, or pound out the latest idea for the next project.

In addition to keep up with your writing goals, having Facebook and Twitter is awesome as well. As a writer trying to develop a platform, being able to tweet and post status updates is both fun and productive. How else would I have known that I hit 1000 Twitter followers around 4 AM this morning?

Here's a link to My Writing Spot:

http://www.mywritingspot.com/

What is your favorite technology/app/web site that keeps you productive or on your road to reaching your goal? I'd love your comments!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don't Give Up Trying What you Really Want to Do...



Don’t give up trying what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong. – Ella Fitzgerald.

What an inspiring quote from a legend!  No matter what journey you’re on and no matter what you’re trying to accomplish, I fully believe these words.

Even in my own “real world” career as a manager in a call center, my journey to get a promotion to the next level has not met with it’s challenges.  I returned to a call center environment in 2007 after a 13 year absence.  I was working at a door to door sales job and 2006-2007 was one of the worst winters I ever experienced in Denver.  As the temperatures cooled in 2007 and the snow outlook didn’t look at better than 2006, I left that job and went looking for “indoor work.”  I returned to a BPO call center and after working ten years at the bank.  I easily found myself excelling at my supervisor duties and loving the environment once again.  Then we moved to Northwest Arkansas.  It took me three months to find another call center job.  After a year and a half we moved to the Kansas City area and I had to transfer from customer care to a retail job to make the transfer.  After realizing that I wasn’t cut out to work retail hours at 39 years of age, I found my current job at another BPO organization.

Just with anything else I’ve pursued, my opportunity to shine and show my real skills didn’t just fall into my lap.  I had to be patient and “pay” my dues at the new company.  Six months and one Holiday Season later, my opportunity arrived and I grabbed it for my taking.  I’ve nearly reached my goal of being a second level manager, managing other supervisors.  And I’m enjoying every minute of it!

And I’m on the same journey with my writing.  It’s been a long journey so far and I still have far to go.  My goal is to move forward 500 tiny steps a day (that's 250 words on the novel and a 250 blog pat per day), that takes me just thirty minutes.  You can apply the same principles to the goal or goals you’re trying to accomplish.  Good Luck!

Share with me the “tiny step” can you start today to fulfill the goal you’re going after, I’d love to hear your stories, too!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reflections after Reading The Girl Who Chased the Moon



If you're not a fan of magic or fantasy, you might enjoy The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is the story of Emily Benedict arriving in Mullaby, North Carolina to live with a grandfather she doesn't know.  As she adjusts to her new life, she learns about her mother's life and the secrets of the town that her mother left many years before.

I can definitely identify with Emily Benedict moving to a strange new place.  In the last three years we've moved to Bella Vista, AR, Joplin, MO, and now Kansas City, MO.

I made a mistake when I moved to Denver in 1994,  and that was not visiting some of the tourist attractions to get to know the city.  I lived near the Molly Brown House Museum for years and didn't get there until 2007 (and I moved in 2008).  I made a pact with myself to make sure that I got to know the sites in the places that I would move to in the future.

We visited many of the places around Bella Vista.  I got my inspiration to write A Place to Call Their Own after visiting the Pea Ridge National Military Park.  The picture of Thomas and I was taken there and is one of my favorites of us.

We also visited The George Washington Carver Birthplace near Diamond,MO and other historical sites in Bentonville, AR including the Wal-Mart Visitor's Center on the town square.  We fell in love with the resort town of Eureka Springs, AR and love all the fun that can be had in Branson, MO.

I am not necessarily a fan of fantasy or magic myself, but I did enjoy the story, I'm sure you will, too.

Check out Sarah Addison Allen's web site for book club discussion questions, recipes, and a guide to the full moons of the year:

http://www.sarahaddisonallen.com/index.html

When you visit new places do you like to check out local tourist attractions?  What are some of your favorite?  Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Easter Routines

Easter Weekend is about to commence in the Pace-Frech household.  At the beginning of writing this blog post, we'll be leaving shortly for Maundy Thursday church services.  My family is coming over on Saturday night for Easter Dinner.  My ninety-one year old grandmother is traveling down to Kansas City for the first time to join us this year.  And then there's Easter Services on Sunday.  This will be our first Easter Service at Central Presbyterian.

One might think after reading about our activities this weekend that Easter weekend has always been busy for us, but that's not the case.  These Easter traditions are relatively new for me, spearheaded by my partner.  Easter Weekend 2008, he met my parents for the first time.  Last year my mom came down and surprised us with a visit on Easter. 

My point in sharing my new Easter traditions is to remind myself that it's never too late for new routines.  I'm constantly revising and reworking my routines around writing and sleeping and working third shift.  A new twist came in personal lives, so once again, I'll be mixing things up.

Good habits once established are just as hard to break as bad habits. - Robert Puller

Here's a picture of us on our first Easter together.  Have great weekend, everybody!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Keep on Beginning and Failing



Keep on beginning and failing.  Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps but one you’ll be glad to remember - Anne Sullivan, tutor to Helen Keller

A wise manager told me one that successful people have more problems than others.  That’s what this quote speaks about, picking up the pieces and moving along towards your dreams and goals.

I've started writing again after a sizable break.  I really wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and didn't have the energy to do that.  After feeling very guilty about not progressing on A Place to Call Their Own, I read an article in the current Writer's Digest about writer's block.  It says you can't be at your creative best when your mind is muddle with the stresses of the day.  That makes me feel a bit better, it even included tips to get the creative juices flowing during those times.

I cannot muddle in the past.  I must only move forward and keep working on my goal of getting at least the first draft of A Place to Call Their Own completed.  I have new routines in place that seem to be working with my third shift schedule.  I also have a new list of supporters, anxiously awaiting my next blog post and encouraging my work on my novel.

Where are you on your current journey?  Are you just beginning or are you starting all over again?  I'd love your comments!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Review: Rainwater



Sandra Brown's Rainwater is a story set in 1934 Texas during the Great Depression.  Rainwater refers to David Rainwater who comes to stay at Ella Barron’s boardinghouse.  He is terminally ill and his doctor suggests he stay at the boardinghouse in his final days.  After his stay, he changes Ella’s life forever. 

I think the first thing that hooked me on this book is that it’s written as a memoir.  The novel is a retelling of the story by a character in the present.  It’s very intriguing to continue reading to figure out who is telling the story. 

I was also drawn to its setting in the 1930s.  I don’t know if it’s the current economic condition, but I am enthralled with the 1930s.  Of course, Boardwalk Empire and Mildred Pierce on HBO help fuel my desire to know more about life in the 1930s.     One of my works in progress is set during the 1930s, thought it will focus on Hollywood in the 1930s.

If you like historical stories, you’ll like Rainwater.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reflections After Reading Villa Mirabella



Villa Mirabella is the story of Jason Mirabella who finds himself back at home after living a “successful” life in California.  After things go wrong for him there, and he must escape home to gather his thoughts and move forward with his life.  Along the way he reconnects with his father and adult siblings and learns what is truly important in his life.

This novel is beautiful work about finding one’s purpose in the world and delivering to that purpose.  A quote directly from the novel spoke to me about my writing.  It’s so powerful, I put it permanently on my web site to remind me of it’s significance.

“…Real art is about showing a part of yourself, some thing from very deep inside you that maybe even you didn’t know was there.  And that means making yourself very vulnerable, and that can be really scary.  But if you do it right, you can create something truly beautiful.  Something that lasts.”

The character in the novel is talking about visual art, but what statement about art, including the art of writing, in general!  This quote helped me further refine my vision for my role as a writer in today’s world. 

Villa Mirabella was recommended as a summer time read for last year.  If you haven’t read it, put it on your warm weather reading list for this year.

Have you read anything lately that helped you understand more clearly your role in today’s world?  I’d love hear your comments!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Defining Boundaries



Setting boundaries with your writing goes along with developing and following routines.  There are times that you will need to put down the writing and focus on "life" activities.  This is something I've been struggling with myself the last couple of weeks.  In my quest to create routines and boundaries, I've spent a bit too much time on social media, and bit less time on working on my important works in progress.

There are two different types of boundaries that I think of when I talk about setting boundaries.  The first boundary is a physical boundary so that we can work on our craft.  For some of us, this is easier than others.  Some writers find that space in the home office; that space is sacrosanct to others in the home.  Some writers find solace and peace and productivity by heading to the local coffee shop, restaurant, or public library.  Whatever works for you, find a space that is conducive to your creativity and productivity.

The other boundary that needs to be defined for writers is the time boundaries for writing and time for the other things that are important in your life.  As a writer, I work on my writing projects (which includes this blog), read to develop my craft, read other fiction to learn about the craft, and spend some time on social media to develop a platform of followers. 

Most advice I read says that at a minimum, a writer should work on one page a day (250 words).  What I do is set my timer for 15 minutes and and get to work.  Usually, the fifteen minutes is up right as a I get into a groove and the creativity starts flowing.  Some days I can continue and work longer.  Most days I have to stop writing and move on to my next task.  Only when I feel blocked do am I challenged by writing for fifteen minutes a day.

Reading has never been a challenge to fit in.  I've always been an avid reader and enjoyed reading.  What has been a challenge for me is too much on social media and not enough time to the craft of my writing.  A new friend of mine (through Twitter) also blogged about the subject of stepping away from the social media.  This week my goal is to devote more time to working on my novel, to keep up the daily blog entries, and to find more balance in my personal life. 

Do you have a hard time setting boundaries and getting it all done?  I'd love to hear your comments.  Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

More Inspiration from Oprah



On Tuesday morning,  I watched the second part of the Oprah Presents Master Class, the second episode on Oprah herself.  Once again, I was left with some profound lessons.

The biggest lesson I walked away with is that the more we are different (those of us alive and kicking in the world today), the more we are the same.  I mentioned in my first blog post about Oprah that I would love to work for her.  After watching Sunday night’s episode of Master Class I understand why. 

Fundamentally, Oprah and I follow the same principles of success.  We just call them different things.  Oprah Winfrey and I couldn’t be more different than any other person I know!  I can’t even detail all the differences here, there are so many.  Take a look at the comparison of the Oprah's lessons she's shared on Master Class and the principles that I blog about:

Create a Vision:  Oprah's Lessons:  Know Yourself, You are worthy, We are Here for a Purpose, Don’t Pretend to be What You are Not, We are More Than we Appear to be, You Become What you Believe*

Set Goals:  Oprah's Lessons:  Grow to Greatness*, You are the Master of Your Fate, Surrender*

Develop and Follow Routines:  Oprah's Lessons:   Prepare for Opportunity, Grow to Greatness*

Define Boundaries:  Oprah's Lessons:  What to Teach, What to Learn; Stay True to Your Calling*

Find a Buddy:  Oprah's Lessons: You are not Alone*

(*These were the principles introduced in the Oprah Part II Episode of Master Class.  The others were introduced in the Oprah Part I episode and talked about in my “Inspired by Oprah” blog on April 3.)

If you look at this list, most of Oprah's lessons are concentrated on figuring out your personal vision, mission, and purpose in your life.  The other lessons help to support that big picture Vision.  I seem to write most about that first step in my process as well.  It's so important to understand what your special mission in life is and then follow through with that vision/mission.

You don't have to be a writer or up and coming journalist to follow these principles.  Whatever mission you're currently pursuing, these principles can be your "means" to achieve the "end" you're looking for in life.

Do you have a guiding set of principles that you've followed that have helped you achieve some dreams in your life?  Who has inspired you in your life journey?  I'd love your comments!
 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You Can't Use Up Creativity



You can't use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.
Maya Angelou

Yesterday was Maya Angelou's birthday.  When I read this quote, I knew that she was speaking directly to me.  This is much like the Abundance principle taught by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or Rhonda Byrne in The Secret.  If you use your creativity, you gain more.  This is a hard lesson I’ve learned in the last two weeks.

I’ve said before in this forum that I used to worry about running out of interesting things to blog about.  However, I knew I needed to figure out how to make this become a daily routine to help my writing career blossom.  So I took a leap of faith a couple of weeks ago and just started blogging on a daily basis.

I have to share, I feel pretty proud of myself.   I’ve made a blog entry every day for the last two weeks, sans a couple of weekend days (My weekend days, which are Fridays and Saturdays to most of you).  And, I know that I’m supposed to post something every day, and that successful writers don’t take days off.  I also understand the importance of blogging every day and how that helps my fiction writing.  I’m getting there.  This week I am two posts ahead of schedule which should help with this issue.  I have also started reaching out to some colleagues and asking for guest blogs.  Now that I have a small following on Twitter and the blog itself, I know that there are supporters out there looking forward to my daily post. 

One thing that has helped me create an entry is reviewing/reflecting on the recent books I’ve read myself.  That has brought easy, immediate topics.  I have about a year’s worth of good reading to talk about.  Another easy topic has been the television programs I’ve been watching, that are worth blogging about.  Right now, the most noteworthy is Oprah and her episodes she did herself on Master Class.

Previously, I thought that non-fiction writers had an easier job of coming up with daily blog topics.  Now I know that fiction writers can come up with them just as well.  So, if you’re an aspiring writer like me, trying to build a platform, just start blogging.  Blog about whatever comes to mind:  the latest book you’ve read, TV show you’ve watched, or event that you attended.  As plain and simple as it may be, there are supporters out there who are interested in what you have to say.  Go for it!

If you’re new to blogging/writing, do you feel the same way?  If you’ve been at this a while, would you agree?  I’d love your comment either way!  Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Inspired by Lori Frech



On Saturday, my sister-in-law, Lori Frech, ran her first 5K race.  The picture above is Lori right before she crossed the finish line.  I went to show my support in the early Spring morning.  I was so proud of her for setting this goal and achieving it. 

Lori announced a few months ago, via Facebook, that she would be running her first 5k race.  Each week she shared with us her achievements and her struggles in her quest to meet this goal.  Even this last week before the race she shared that the week had not gone as planned.  Yet, she persevered and Saturday she finished the race strong, barely needing to catch her breath at the end.  Way to go, Lori!

I want to reiterate Lori's success, because we can all learn from her journey.  First of all, she shared her goal with all of the important people in her life.  By sharing her goal and making it public, this helped her push forward and accomplish her goal.  Next, she shared her progress with all of us, both the good and the bad.  From weather issues, minor injuries, and just plain not wanting to workout, she shared it all with us.  Even with well meaning comments suggesting she take it easy, she persevered with her training and finished the race yesterday.

We can all learn from Lori.  Share your goals, share your progress, and never give up.  Congratulations, Lori...you truly are an inspiration.

Do you have anyone in your life that inspires you to go after your goals?  Your comments are welcome.  Have a great week, everybody.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Inspired by Oprah



I have to admit, I've jumped on the Oprah bandwagon.  Ever since the Oprah Winfrey Network started airing in January, I've been a fan and everything that Oprah stands for.  The whole premise for the network is Oprah's mantra:  Living your best life.

My favorite show was Your OWN Show:  Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star.  It was Oprah's search for the next talk show host on her new network.  In the end, both finalists were awarded with their own show of their creative design.  Another favorite show of mine has been Season 25:  Oprah Behind the Scenes.  This backstage glimpse of Oprah and her team of talented producers really shows the viewer what it is like to produce her daily show.  I really understand Oprah's leadership style and that of her staff.  I would work for her in a heartbeat!   And last Sunday when it returned with new episodes, I got retweeted during the #OprahLiveTweet event. 

But I've never heard Oprah open up and share her vulnerability like she did on her episode of Oprah Presents Master Class.  Master Class is a spattering of successful people, their life stories, and, in their own words, what success means to them.  I watched the episodes on Simon Cowell, Lorne Michaels, Condaleeza Rice, and Oprah herself.

I was aware of the hardships that Oprah endured throughout her formative years, but prior to this I had never heard her talk about them.  She shares her life story and the lessons she's learned along the way.  In short, the lessons she shared include:

  • Know yourself
  • You are worthy
  • What to teach, what to learn
  • You are the master of your fate
  • Prepare for opportunity
  • Don't pretend to be what you are not
  • We are more than we appear to be

As an aspiring writer, all of this speaks to me.  No matter what goal or ambition you're pursuing right now, I hope it speaks to you as well.

What are your thoughts on Oprah's lessons, Oprah over the years, or the new Oprah Winfrey Network?  Your comments are welcome, have a great day!