Taking the red pill

I’ve recently come back from a 16-day walk with my son that started at the New Hampshire/Canadian border and ended at the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border.

It was 16 days of spotty cell coverage and non-existent internet service. In short it was a time of being, for the most part unplugged (dark.)

The only news we recieved was when we got to our hotel each night and turned on CNN thirsty for the outrageous things a presidential candidate had said that day.

We had no GPS and had to rely on maps to tell us where to go.

I had no connection to tell me if rain was in the forecast or what the UV factor was for that day.

My son and I had to rely on ourselves for conversation and entertainment. Such a rarity – such a gift.

And I loved it.

Loved it so much, that I want to go back. Truly. I want to have a tiny house in northern New Hampshire and only be on the net when I absolutely need to. (I know, how very Little House in the Big Woods is that?) I want to write uninterrupted.

Our walk taught me that I spend far too much time cruising around on the internet in the pursuit of etnertainment. Sure, as a writer, I have to sit in front of a monitor, but do I really need to check the news sites to see if there’s been an update on a situation? Do I need to click on that which is so cleverly disguised as click-bate (you got me again!)

Our walk made me realize how much of my life is wasted on the internet and how little of it is spent outside enjoying the real world. It’s the new Matrix dilemma – plug into the fake world or go join the true one.

I choose the red pill.

This experience has left me determined to limit my internet interactions. I’m going to try to use the internet deliberately and with thought. I’m going to take back control.

I have seen the light and I’m going dark.

I’m now taking my computer to places where I have no internet connection so that I can write with unbridled and uninterrupted abandon – while sipping a cup of tea and watching clever little birds dip in and out of the bird bath over there on that verdant green lawn.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Force Quit

Martin, Bernie & Norman

These three men have been friends for over 80 years. My dad’s the youngest (in the middle); he turns 90 next month.

While I’m hiking The Long Trail, I’m reposting old favorites. This one originally published on June 23, 2015.

Sometimes, when you have too many programs open on your desktop, the computer freezes, and the only remedy is to perform a Force Quit and shut the machine down. Well, last weekend, I learned that this works for writers, as well. My gift to my dad this last Father’s Day was to drive him from Vermont to New Jersey, so he could attend a friend’s ninetieth birthday. Even though it was a quick trip – if you can call ten hours in the car quick – it necessitated an overnight.

I brought enough work for a week - at least.

I brought enough work for a week – at least.

I packed my computer, research materials for one project, and writing assignments for another. I also brought along a novel for pleasure reading, and the issue of The New Yorker that just arrived in the mail. Realistically, I figured the least I could do was catch up on Revise With Confidence: Self-editing for the Serious Writer, the free on-line course I’m taking with Joan Dempsey.

With an old friend. We talked hard and laughed harder. Great visit.

With an old friend. We talked hard and laughed harder. Great visit.

While Dad and his friends partied, I met an old friend for dinner. We talked hard and laughed harder for a three-hour visit. Then Dad and I checked in to our swank hotel. It was late; I was tired; we had to make an early start the next day. I figured I could at least log on to the self-editing course, so I fired up my computer and ran into a ten-dollar firewall the hotel wanted for twenty-four hours of wifi. I was outraged. As far as I’m concerned, connectivity in a hotel is as important as hot water and a bed. And this was no chain-by-the-side-of-the-road affair, but an historic hotel smack in the middle of downtown with a price tag to match. In fact, if they’d buried the internet fee in the price of the room, I would have paid it. I just didn’t want to be nickeled and dimed.   I looked at my bag. There was plenty I could do without the internet, though I frozen computercouldn’t decide which project to tackle. In fact, I was stuck with my brain wheeling around without traction, just like the swirling rainbow when my computer gets stuck.hotelbed I looked from the desk to the bed, remembered I had a mini bottle of cognac in my toiletries bag and a novel to read. I showered and crawled between the starched sheets. In the end, I’m grateful for the ten-dollar internet fee. It was just what I needed to initiate a Force Quit. Instead of working, I slept like the proverbial log. I even slept in, till a little past six. But when I awoke, I felt rested and ready for the drive back. But first, I sat down at the desk with paper and pen, and I drafted this blog. nip

Even though Deborah Lee Luskin is currently attempting a through-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail, you can still receive An Essay Every Wednesday emailed directly to your inbox by subscribing on her website, www.deborahleeluskin.com  It’s easy, it’s entertaining, it’s educational, and it’s free.

First Monday in September – a U.S. Holiday

LaborDayHere’s the annual look at why the first Monday in September is a holiday in the U.S.

**As posted on http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day.  (Published by A+E Networks, 2010)**

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it. Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

If you’re in the U.S., do you have today off from work? 

I’m working half the day and helping my folks with yard and house work the other half.

Dear Writer, How Are You? Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

Dear Writer,

How are you?

Wait. Don’t answer. Take a breath. Pause. Bite back the rote response that jumped to the tip of your tongue before I’d even finished asking the question.

My default answer when someone asks how I am is, “Busy, busy but good.” I cringe each time I let those words slip from my lips. They say nothing, while managing to sound simultaneously pompous and pathetic. Busy, but good … I might as well say, “I’m breathing.”

So, how are you? I mean, really?

Wait. Don’t answer. Let the question settle. Think about what it really means.

Most of the time, “How are you?” is white noise. It’s an anticipated greeting that exists in a kind of conversational blind spot. Most of the time, it doesn’t really mean anything to the person asking. It’s just something to say – an automatic response meant to bridge the gap between making eye contact and actually communicating. And, a lot of the time, a response is not expected (or necessarily wanted).

But, what does the question mean to you when you’re asked? What does it trigger for you, perhaps below the level of conscious thought? Do you actually think about “how” you are? In what context – your health, your work, your financial security, your social standing? Does the inquiry send your mind reeling into the dangerous territory of comparison … how am I compared to what? To whom? Do you feel like the question is a test, a judgment, an expression of pity, an opening for voyeurism, or a challenge to a game of one-upmanship?

I suppose it all depends on who’s asking; but, putting that piece of the equation aside, how do you reframe the question in your own mind once it’s been asked?

So, how are you? How are you feeling about your writing?

Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want the easy answer. I don’t want the glib one-liner or the clichéd statement about the writing life, both of which are designed to change the topic of conversation or at least move the focus off of you. I don’t want to put you on the hot seat, but I want to know how you’re really feeling … if you even know. Most of the time, I’m not sure how I feel about my writing. My emotional and logical thoughts on the subject are a moving target – sliding back and forth across a broad spectrum of feelings: content, frustrated, hopeful, resigned, confused, conflicted, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, tired, energized, excited, afraid.

I understand why glib one-liners and clichéd statements are such popular answers in casual conversation. How could any one of us hope to capture all the depth and nuance of our feelings about writing in an off-the-cuff response?

But, just because we aren’t expected to provide a full and honest answer in the course of casual conversation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to think about question.

How are you feeling about your writing?

It’s important to know, because how you feel about your writing affects every aspect of your writing – how you approach your practice, how consistently and frequently you write, and what you’re willing to try. How you feel about your writing dictates how brave you will be and how much joy you will experience. It frames your life as a writer, establishing your hopes, dreams, and expectations. Understanding how you feel about your writing can help you uncover hidden obstacles that are holding you back.

So, take a minute. Take a day. Think about how you are and how you feel about your writing. Don’t settle for easy answers. Dig deeper. Ask again. This isn’t polite conversation or white noise. This is important. This is real. You need to know this. And, once you do, you’ll have a whole new perspective on your writing life.

_jamie sig

 

 


 My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

··• )o( •··

Sundry Links and Articles:

Anna Wess GrannyThis doesn’t have much to do with writing specifically, but I thoroughly enjoyed Wise Whispers from the Granny Witches by Anna Wess.

An excerpt:

Oh, and these here are some deep roots, old gals, deeper than any rabbit hole on the mountain. We are the far-reaching branches and flowering nettles that stemmed from Granny, you know. We’re a regular Granny bramble, briers and all. We’re Granny’s girls, every stoic one of us. And I reckon plain beats pretty to death, just as she said it would. But plain can be as beautiful as can be, and there’s a world of difference between beautiful and pretty. We girls know this. Beauty doesn’t up and leave town when youth, like the fragile flower it is, has bloomed for its last season. Beauty is permanent. And it is not beholden to anything or anybody.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin more me

Here’s to taking a minute, uncovering how we really feel, and more ourselves than we’ve ever been.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Friday Fun – Favorite Thing About Back-to-School

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite thing about the back-to-school season?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Ahhh … it’s that time of year again – pristine notebooks, sharpened pencils, crisp folders, and a new learning adventure opening up like the stiff and shiny cover of a brand new textbook.

Of course, the kids don’t use many text books these days. Most of my daughter’s seventh-grade curriculum will be online. And much of her homework and classwork will also be digital. But, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t make a trip to the office store to indulge in some new supplies (including a few treats that weren’t on the official class list).

But, apart from my writer’s joy at having an excuse to acquire new pens and notebooks, my favorite part of the back-to-school season is how it always feels to me like a kind of unofficial New Year. While this summer feels to me like the summer-that-wasn’t, and  I won’t be catching any R&R any time soon, September still feels a little like a fresh start. As my daughter and I fall back into a regular routine and the weather starts to shift into an autumn gear, I always feel like I’ve got a chance at rebalancing my world. And that always feels good.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My favorite part of back-to-school-season is that it’s September and that feels more like the start of a new year than Jan 1. When in school, I used to love going back to school, I loved learning – still do! And what’s not to like about new clothes! And all the new notebooks and pencils and pens! It was all so fun and exciting for me. I’ll spend this month reviewing my business goals and setting myself up for a successful 2017.

Reading Jamie’s reply — wow, really? Everything is digital? I loved making book covers out of paper shopping bags and being able to doodle all over them. And reading pages of books. I’m even still old school in that I prefer reading paper pages versus digital. Do kids even need pens or pencils any more?

 

Our Summer Vacation: Agents

OUR WRITING ROADMAPDuring the course of this summer I’ve been blogging about the process of writing a book. I suspect this topic, agents, will be a multi-post series. Today, let’s talk about how a writer meets/engages  an agent.

First of all, why would an author want to meet an agent? Do we still need them in this new publishing world order?

Agents are conduits to the publishing world. They develop relationships with different houses, and different editors. Some publishers will only take agented work. That is particularly true of the larger houses. Agents negotiate deals for their clients, and help their clients build a career. There are work arounds for having an agent, but my best advice is to do a ton of research on the topic before you make a decision. I am very happy that I have had an agent on my own journey.

Your manuscript is ready to go, and you are looking for an agent. How do you find one?

Do research online and using guides. Don’t pick ten names out of a hat–be strategic. Does the agent you are considering represent the type of work you do? Do they have a stable of clients who write what you write?

Read acknowledgements in the books you read, especially in the genre you write. People often thank their agents. Keep a list.

Before you send a query letter, read their submission policy carefully. If they aren’t taking clients, honor that. If they request ABC, don’t send them XYZ. Tailor each email/letter to that agent. Remember, you are seeking a professional relationship, so treat it professionally.

If you have an opportunity to meet an agent (pitch to them at a conference, for example) take it. Getting to know people as people is an invaluable step that often gets skipped over. My agent and I met long before he was my agent. A friend had me sit next to him at a conference so we could chat. You are going into business with this person, so get to know them.

Be respectful. An agent may turn you down for a number of reasons. They may love your book, but feel like they can’t sell it. In a business where relationships matter, don’t burn bridges.

Getting an agent is only one step on the road to publication. Your work should be ready to go before you line up an agent–if all goes well, they are going to look for a full manuscript. That said, start working on building lists, and relationships, now.

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As Julianne Holmes, Julie writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. Clock and Dagger was released on August 2.

Life Is Like…

I’m transitioning to my new living space today — it’s been a long time coming and I look forward to no longer living half packed and half stored! It will be great to set up my new home and office space.

In the meantime, I saw a “Life is like…” quote recently and thought it would be fun to share our favorites – existing ones or originals that we made up ourselves.

From Forrest Gump: “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”-Forrest

And there’s this one about tea and friends:

LifeIsLikeACupOfTea

“Life is like a camera, just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.” – Unknown

How about one I made up: “Life is like a rollercoaster ride, so many unexpected twists and turns, yet a definite beginning and end.”

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

What’s your favorite / most memorable / made up “Life is like…” quote? Please share!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.