"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, August 18, 2017

If you don't invest in yourself, who will?

I am in the midst of writing two books (possibly three), marketing my latest mystery, agent-shopping for the one book I've completed, and preparing to teach three workshops at September's Southern California Writers Conference. 

As you can tell, my mind is in a complete whirl and the more I try to focus my attention on one thing I could get done, I feel compelled to click on that article about the Best Examples of Payback on some clickbait site.

This is why, instead of completing the form for the latest contest for my book, I clicked on "Why You Should Do Your Yoga Teacher Training at a Yoga Retreat." 

I'm not interested in yoga teacher training. I don't know why I clicked on it, other than work-avoidance. But I do know I'm glad I did. 

I know all the technical reasons to attend the Southern California Writers Conference. There are writing skills to be gained, business savvy to be learned, agents to be approached. 

But the yoga article gave me four new and excellent reasons to attend the SCWC, beyond the physical, to address why you go to any kind of "retreat" for yourself. 


1. You'll connect with like-minded people.


I know you have your writer's group. Or maybe you're an introvert. Maybe you deal with anxiety issues. 

When you attend SCWC, you can't help but meet people and you don't have to be a party animal. One of the nice things about the workshops is that the rooms are all set with tables. You sit around the tables, pull out your notebook (or laptop), and someone is bound to sit across from you and say, "Hi." 

Just say hi back to them, maybe give them a bit of a smile, and continue to write. You are among like-minded people, often people who are introverts with anxiety issues. They understand. 

And if you want to talk about your latest writing, or what you like to read, or what you dream of, we understand that, too. We speak your language.


2. You'll get to fully absorb and immerse yourself into yoga writing.


Think of it--three whole days to do nothing but think, speak, dream of writing. Maybe even three whole days to write. Picture a jacuzzi filled with words. Dip your body in and let them swirl about you. Bathing suits optional.


3. Change old thought patterns and habits.


I hadn't really thought about this one, but it's true. When you are present in the moment, it's easier to recognize when you veer off-road. When you're given permission to focus on your writing, you can see what you do to sabotage yourself (like clicking on random articles).


4. Come back with new, daily rituals.


Well, yes. You've recognized where you're going wrong, and after three days, you will be energized to go out and do it write right. 


*  *  *  *  *


Join us this September in Irvine, or next February in San Diego. 

Immerse yourself. 


Feed your passion. 


Invest in you. 

Here's the link:

http://writersconference.com/la/

September 22-24, 2017. Friday until Sunday. Do it.

I will be teaching three workshops. I hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Episode 612: Gayle whines

Lordy, I feel bad for being selfish.

I think everyone is, but I still feel the weight of my sin when I realize I'm thinking about me-me-me nonstop. But I'm having a rough week.

On the horse front, I'm shopping for a new show horse. I've had to retire my love, my baby, my Snoopy, due to the fact that he can't be shown or even ridden without the kind of medical intervention that is sometimes called illegal doping. Which I would never do, for the simple reason that numbing a horse's pain can leave him open to further injury. So Snoopy is in a retirement ranch in Temecula, where he is sharing a paddock with two bachelors and is quite happy about not working anymore.

I visit him once a week.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out a horse. She is everything I want, and does everything I want, EXCEPT...she won't lope to the right for me. As soon as I ask her, her back humps, she throws her head in the air, and we either long-trot, or "boing," which is a short-strided, quick-legged gait, only suitable to Pepe Le Pew when he's in love.





I know this horse has been shown by a darling young woman who suffered a brain injury when she was young and now wears the sturdiest of helmets to ride. No one would put her on an unsafe horse.

So if she could get the mare to lope, why couldn't I?

To compound my problems, there's the little matter of my manuscript. Between April 20 and May 29, I sent out 50 queries. I've gotten 30 responses. 28 were "No." One request for a full is still waiting for a response. One agent seems interested, except that he's only ever emailed me, and we can't seem to make time to talk (he travels to Germany a lot).

I told myself I'd give this querying business until October. I know this is the way it all works. I know of all the manuscripts that were passed on, yet survived to become bestsellers (hello, Harry Potter). I know this. And yet...

As the doctor told me, I'm older. Even if I get the agent now, they have to get the publisher, and they have a year or so to do that. Even if they get the publisher, my books may not get on their production schedule for two years. That's three years, folks. Do you know how old I'll be?

Maybe not quite hella old, but older.

So I'm in this horrible, downward spiral of, "If SHE can lope this horse, why can't I? If THEY can get an agent, why can't I?"

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME? WHEN IS IT MY EFFING TURN, UNIVERSE?

Tomorrow I shall meditate and do my yoga and go about my day, meeting my appointments, and I shall feel better, I'm sure. Because somewhere along this line I shall take up the reins of my own life and do SOMETHING.

Thanks. I feel better.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The livin' may be easy, but the writin' is not

A quick post here to say that I'll be gone for a week, where I hope to get some writing done in between hiking and hanging out with friends (and taking care of our two maniacal canines). BTW, if you're planning to rob me while I'm gone: 1) the house will not be vacant; 2) our neighbors are very nosy, and 3) there's nothing of value to take (I'm a writer who owns horses--you do the math).

In the meantime, here's a summer song (love that Ella).



And another.



One more (what IS it with the mutton chops?)




Okay, ONE more.




In the meantime, keep cool and keep reading!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bear with me, I've got some sorting out to do

It's 4th of July weekend, so I suppose this post should be all flag-waving and barbecue goodness. In my own way, it is. I want to talk about last week's ALA Annual Conference.

ALA is American Libraries Association, and their annual conference is huge, and by huge I mean I heard participant numbers of 19,000 (I suppose that includes vendors and workshop leaders). This year's conference in Chicago crackled with the energy of thousands of librarians, all fired up to defend the First Amendment and be part of the village that lifts up their patrons.

Now, before I continue with that, let me digress for a moment. Many, many years ago, I attended a seminar on leadership for women (I still have the cassette tapes). In one exercise, the leader asked us, what is the first thing you notice about a person when they enter a room?

We all got stuck on gender. Surely the first thing you notice is whether someone is male or female. (Please be aware here that she was talking about noticing, not judging. Kind of like when you notice a red dress in the shop window. You file it away in your brain as benign data.)

Actually, she said, researchers found that the first thing we notice is race. She was using this to illustrate how women, people of color, and women of color have to establish their credentials quickly, because strangers have already "catalogued" them in terms of race/gender bins.

I've never been afraid of other races, but I began to notice what I noticed about strangers. When someone walked into the room, I began to think, "Okay, *black/asian/whatever* person, different physical traits than mine, that's interesting, file it and move on."

Okay? Let's go back to ALA...

At this year's conference, I encountered a brand new world. There were people at the conference who did not conform to gender norms. While I'm okay with this, I found myself staring a little too long while my brain did the following:

Are they male or female? I need the data to put in the correct bin. No, I don't. They are human. That's the only bin I need. Oh dear, I've been staring. Stop looking at them. Well, don't look away like you've just been caught spying! Be cool, for Pete's sake. 

So, my dear friends who are gender-fluid, please-oh-please accept my apologies while I acclimate my brain to its new data bins. I'm combining everything into "Plant", "Animal", "Human", and "Miscellaneous." It may take me a while to sort it all out. If I stare, just smile and say hi. I can always use more friends.

In the meantime, here's Earth Wind And Fire. Because you are a shining star, no matter who you are.





Have a safe and sane and happy 4th of July.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember them well

I know that today is Memorial Day and we honor those men and women who died in service to our country. In November, we will honor the veterans, who served and were lucky enough to come home.

I don't use the word lucky lightly. In each service person's deployment, I believe there is some randomly special combination of circumstances that keep this one alive, and that one not. War is a uniquely random series of events. Napoleon lost at Waterloo because the fields were too muddy. The British lost the Battle of New Orleans due to a lack of ladders. 

Yes, I've simplified the reasons, but in truth, better weather and proper equipment might have resulted in different outcomes. Random.

This is a picture of my uncle, Dale Bennett, and his dad, Harry, my great grandfather. Uncle Dale was my grandmother Myrtle's older brother. He was stationed in the Philippines during WWII.

Harry Bennett (left), Dale Bennett (right)


He was lucky. He came home.

I always knew him as a self-important, larger-than-life character. He managed a cemetery, compliments of the Republican Party who was in power in our hometown at the time. There was a huge brouhaha when my grandmother married my grandfather, whose family members were all Democrat, including cousin Adlai Stevenson. 

Uncle Dale was gruff, direct, coarse-spoken. He had at least one wife, possibly more. I'm sorry to say, I've lost that part of the family history. All I have now is this photo of him and his dad, and some of the letters he wrote home to my grandmother.

The letters show him a little differently. Yes, he was still gruff and direct. But he was self aware. In one letter, he's asking Sis (my grandmother) what she did for his girlfriend Inez, because Inez can't stop talking about how wonderful his Sis is. 

"I'm glad she likes you for any body that don't like you or any of the Family has got trouble with me," he writes. "As for myself I guess I can't get along with anyone, not even the damn J*ps." (sorry for the slur--it was as written.)

The other thing I learned is that he loved to write poetry. I always assumed it was just my grandmother who liked to write poems and make up stories, etc. Turns out, it ran deeper in my family than that.

Here's a poem Uncle Dale sent her. Technically, my uncle was a veteran, but he has long since passed. I think I can honor him today. 



(That Postponed Letter)

I ought to write a letter,
But I can't get in the groove;
If I could write some certain things
You'd see my pencil move.

I'd like to tell what town I'm in,
And just what things I do,
But must be content to wait until
These wartime days are through.

I ought to write a letter
And repeat the things you know,
The things they would not censor out
Like how I love you so.

--Cpl. Dale H. Bennett

I look at these letters and can't help thinking of all the men and women writing letters that turn out to be their last communication with loved ones. I think of the families reading their words while a different letter is on its way, one that says there will be no more. 

I pray for their safety, and will always respect their memory.

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.