Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why I Write, part the 1st


And today's the day. My first blogfest. First, I want to thank everyone who has signed up to participate. I'm looking forward to reading what all of you have to say. There weren't any rules, so everyone should be just saying things like they are. I hope it was as meaningful for you as it is for me.

When I was in high school, I had a pretty awful view of myself. I grew up on the wrong side of town. Not that there is a "bad: ghetto" side of town in Cedar City, Utah, because there isn't really. I just grew up "in the valley." Where all the poorer people lived. I was also the oldest of 8 in a 1-salary family. Dad worked at the local university as staff. Not even a professor. I think the highest his salary ever got during my teen years was 35,000. And that just didn't stretch as far as we might have liked. I got two pairs of new shoes and maybe one or two new outfits in the fall before school started. Everything else was "new to me" but not new.

I looked at myself as the loner. I had one or two close friends, but I didn't really fit in with most groups. I was always super smart and kind of a know-it-all. I was also pretty nerdy. I could be really loud. I never needed the mic when I had a role in the school play. I was always the best friend and never the girlfriend. On top of all that, I was a goody two shoes. And that made me a downer sometimes when people wanted to have a little bit of "fun."

In retrospect, I was unfairly harsh to myself. Interesting how we sometimes see the worst in ourselves.
I wasn't nearly as obnoxious as I thought I was. Although, I was pretty fashion challenged. (Shopping at the DI and never having anything new didn't help that.) It wasn't that bad. I went vintage retro most of the time. And it was cool in college.

In all the people I've talked to, while the specifics of my experiences are different, the emotional content is the same. We've all had those moments of loneliness, fear, excitement, love. There's nothing better we can do with our lives than connect with people on that level. I want to explore those feelings and make them normal and safe. And that's why I write.

You can check out other people's reasons for writing by following the links below and one lucky participant is going to win a special surprise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lovin the language blogfest

Jolene Perry at Been Writing is hosting the Lovin' the Language Blogfest today. She has some great news hidden in her post, so you should check it out. You can still sign up on the linky list at her blog, but your time is limited, so after you have read my post, go! Fight! Win! Okay. Not fight so much, but you get the idea.


Pick any five lines or any five SHORT exerpts from one of your WIPs. If you're feeling shy, and don't want to share from your own work, share from something you LOVE.

I'm going to share a little bit from The Last Musician, which is the idea I started working on, but had to shelve for lack of time. By which I mean, I hadn't put in enough time to build the story. It's still growing in the back of my mind and will be the next project when I finish editing Sleep.

This snippet is from the very beginning of the story. The MC has met an old homeless guy in a rain storm and now is talking to his mom. It reminds me a lot of the conversations I had with my mom when I was irritated at the world.


He took a big bite out of the sandwich to placate her and left the rest sitting on the plate in front of him. “I ran into a homeless guy on the street just as it started to rain or I would have been home a little earlier.”

“Oh, I see. And how did that make you feel?” she asked, intently staring at him.

“Wet, Mom. I felt wet. I need to go change my clothes, okay?”


I love it because it feels so real to me. I was a bit of a sarcastic back-talker sometimes and the voice makes me feel something. I hope you enjoyed it!

And, friends, while you are here, sign up for my blogfest taking place on Wednesday. It's the "Why I Write" blogfest and you can get to it by clicking on this link or by clicking on the button in the sidebar. I'd love to have you join in!

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Learned Watching Dora the Explorer

So, I'm a mom. I have three kids. The two oldest are in that "watch things on repeat" stage. We go the rounds with several different shows. Dora the Explorer. Go, Diego, Go! Wonder Pets. Anything with computer animation. Several times in any given day. Usually, I try to tune it all out. After a while, it all bleeds together, any way. But, I recently paid attention in a way that I never had before. I looked at it like a writer. And here's what I found:

In every episode, *something* happens. Usually, it's a problem that needs a solution. For example, Boots the Monkey loses his favorite stuffed animal. Oh dear! The world as we know it is going to end if Boots can't get his stuffed animal back. (Okay. Not really. But, it is the inciting incident.)

In order to find Boots' stuffed animal, Dora and Boots go on a journey. They have three distinct places that they must go. At each location, there is a task to accomplish. There is almost always an appearance by Swiper the Fox, who tries to do something that will prevent Dora from getting where she needs to go with the things she needs to accomplish her goals. Sometimes, Dora stops Swiper. Sometimes she doesn't.

Each episode follows the same pattern. Incident. Three challenges. A few twists and new characters. Triumph at the end. And the writer in me saw something that hadn't occurred to me before. In my own writing, I can't just leave it simple. There needs to be something to pull the story forward. There has to be complications. You can't make it too easy on your character. It doesn't have to follow the Dora the Explorer pattern, but it does need to be more than just one big problem that gets solved at the end.

So, friends, have you learned things from an unexpected place? What do you think of the Dora principle?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Surprisingly fast

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers for my family. I haven't heard how my grandfather is doing yet, but I expect to any time.

My mom is spending a week with my sister who just had a baby. This means that my siblings who are still at home (and live just around the corner) are spending time at my house a lot. It's strange to entertain teenagers instead of toddlers.

My computer has been fixed. Dell Tech Support actually sent a guy to my house with the parts and he fixed it in a few minutes at my computer table. I had been anticipating sending things places and being without the thing for days and days, but no. A day and half later, it's up and running with no problems. Yay for warranties.

I have a post for tomorrow that I have been thinking about for a while, but I probably won't be around the internets much still. Have a great weekend, friends, and thanks again for all your love and support.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I wanted to have something awesome and writerly to say today, but it just isn't happening. There's a lot of crazy going on in my world and t has left me kind of out of it. A random sampling:

1. My little sister had her 3rd baby Monday night. Her 3rd boy. Everything went well.
2. My mom's dad went to the doctor because he was having neck pain. He has two collapsed disks in his neck and needed emergency surgery. He could still end up paralyzed. I have no idea how things are going right now.
3. My kids destroyed my computer. Literally. Like, the warranty expires in a month and I'm lucky to be getting a new DVD drive, keyboard, case, and power cord.
4. Because of computer issues, family issues, and every day life, I'll be offline for a few days. I'll try to get online to update you all and hope to have everything resolved by Monday. I'll be writing by hand for the next few days.

Thanks, friends. I appreciate you all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

And so it begins....

When I was a kid, summer seemed to stretch on and on, a forever day of sunshine and happiness. We played games until the sum went down, sometimes even after the stars came out. You know the kind. Steal the flag. Tag. Red rover. Kick the can. Ghost in the graveyard. Many more that have been forgotten or that we created to suit the day. We spent hours on the trampoline. Ran through sprinklers. Pulled weeds in the garden. (Okay. That last one isn't fun, but it was a big part of summer.) It seemed like school and fall were so distant that we would never see them again.

Now summer is full of different things. And the time seems to fly by. Will the peas grow before it gets too hot? Will the weeds get mowed down before they go to seed? Will the AC keep the house cool? Will we afford the electric bill if the AC keeps the house cool? Will I remember sunscreen for the kids before I shoo them out the door? Will they track dirt and mud through the house again because they play in the garden or on the patch where we are trying to grow a lawn? So many things to worry about that take up all the golden hours of the season.

My kids see things the way I used to. All shimmery and joyful and full of light. Today ends when the sun has gone to bed, but the next day will bring the same excitement and fun. Tomorrow, there will be hours spent throwing dirt up in the air and piling pebbles into little hills and running up and down the fence line as they chase the neighbor's dog. They will play with their "across the fence" friends--the little girls who never cross the fence into our yard, but pass toys back and forth. Their skin will be warm and glowing with sun kisses and they will fight bedtime because the sun hasn't said goodnight yet. And then, they will wake up and do it again.

Nothing writerly to say today, friends. Just a reminder that our time is precious and we can make of it whatever we choose.

Friday, June 17, 2011

On the run

I don't have time today. It's the family reunion this week and I'm in charge of it. That makes for crazy Kayeleen. So, no post as such.

I do want to put in a plug for my blogfest on June 29th. It's the "Why I Write" fest and you can click on the little button in the sidebar to sign up.

And that's it! Have a great weekend and happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Writing is Like...

I was tagged for this meme by Ashley and the point is to come up with a metaphor for what writing is like. Here's what I came up with.

For me, writing is a symphony. Not just music. Music is something like that thing on the radio with the same four chords that repeat over and over. There's probably a steady bass and sometimes, the lyrics are pretty good.

No. Not just music. A symphony. Have you ever been to a concert? Or watched one on PBS? Something like the London Philharmonic or Boston Pops. They play the New World Symphony by Dvorak and Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz and Symphony #9 by Beethoven. They are powerful and moving pieces. There's an ebb and flow. An emotional response. Something bigger than just the music.

Have you ever looked at a musical score? Not just the sheet music that a particular instrument plays from, but the score. The thing that the conductor leads the orchestra from. There's layers and layers and pages and pages.

image taken from
Each line is for a different instrument. There's the oboe, violin, piano, harp, cello, bass, drums, viola, clarinet, flute, timpani, the list goes on and on. And every one of those instruments has several measures on one page of the conductor's score. He can see everything that should be happening at any given moment in any section of the orchestra.

And here's where the metaphor comes in. In our writing, there is an ebb and flow. An emotional response. A connection to the words that is more than just the manuscript. There is a composer (us, the writer). He holds a score. And there are layers upon layers of instruments at his disposal. He might have one line that marks out dialogue. One for setting. One for pacing. One for description. One for simile and metaphor. One for all the other tools of the writing trade. That writer is the only one who has the full score. Only we can see how everything fits together. At what moment the cymbals crash and the action pushes on and the tension rises.

We could try to play just one instrument in our manuscript. We could build a book out of passive voice and metaphor. The reader would get pretty tired of the same thing over and over again. It's only when each element combines that the music of our writing becomes more than just words on the page. And hopefully, as we turn each page in our score filled with lines, the music that we play reaches the souls of the reader like listening to a symphony.

I'm supposed to tag three people to share their own metaphors of what writing is like. I choose:

Kristi Chestnutt at Random Daily Thoughts
Aurora Smith at Read My Book, Lose Ten Pounds
Jess at Falling Leaflets

So, friends, what is writing like for you?