Chapter 6: Dear God

pray before lunch

One of my online dates was with a tall, attractive Asian man. We met for a cup of coffee and hit it off. He was adopted from Korea into a caucasian American family. His parents did work with orphanages all over the world, and were coincidentally starting to work in Mozambique. We talked for more than an hour about the east African country, where I had an on-going health project and a vested interest in an orphanage. I loved Mozambique and few people in my life knew where the country was, much less understood my passion.

He told me he was a conservative Christian and I nodded. Being an “all-loving liberal Christian,” I figured we’d be fine. Fast forward to the next date when he invited me to his house for dinner. It was in a beautiful custom neighborhood in a suburb of Phoenix — the kind where there are fake waterfalls so nice at the entry, you wonder foolishly if there is any chance they could be the real deal. I was nervous to go to his house, but there were several friends who knew where I was.

Upon arriving, he gave me the tour. The house was huge and he’d just moved in. There was floral wallpaper from the previous owner on many walls and a seriously ugly pattern happening in the kitchen. We sat down for a basic meal and as I was lifting the fork to my mouth, he bowed his head. My fork clattered to my plate, making us both jump, and I squeezed my eyes shut.

The next five minutes were to be spent in deep, thoughtful, mind-blowingly uncomfortable prayer. Of course I remained silent. Inside I was screaming, “GET OUT OF HERE!”

This is an appropriate place to bring up timing. I’m a firm believer successful relationships are 30% physical, 25% intellectual, and I can’t do the math on the rest. Just kidding. You’ve got to have spark and timing too. Timing is a critical component to a good relationship. And this man walked into my life when I was not ready for anything serious. I was young, traveling the world for work, and looking for someone to maybe play on my ultimate frisbee team. I was not looking for the suburbs and quiet, meditative prayer before every plate of tacos.

When I emailed a girlfriend the next day, the response was as to be expected.

Her:  “So, you don’t like him because he prays? What am I missing? YOU PRAY.”

Me:  “Yes, but. It was weird.”

Her: “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think that is weird. But you are the only one I know who still goes to church. If you think that’s weird, we are all doomed.”

Me: “Well…”

Her: “Isn’t this the guy whose parents are starting an orphanage in Mozambique?

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “Still nothing?”

Me:  “And there was the wallpaper.”

Her: “Really. Wallpaper? Kell. I don’t know how to say this to you nicely. Maybe you shouldn’t date for a bit. Maybe you aren’t ready?”

Me: “IF YOU HAD SEEN THIS WALLPAPER YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND. WHY DOES NO ONE UNDERSTAND ME?

Her: “No, you are right. You are obviously in a healthy place. Carry on.”

And so it went for a few years. There were a lot of dates where I was justing waiting for the shoe to drop — the blatant flaw in the guy’s life. (I have patient friends, and also, I’m an idiot. If only I had invested all that online dating money instead…)

I would run into the tall Asian Christian at a happy hour a few months later and it would be as uncomfortable as you’d imagine. That is, if you imagined me running back to the table and whisper screaming at a friend to “Hold my hand and hold my hand now! Just BE MY FAKE BOYFRIEND FOR FIVE MINUTES.”

Yep. Totally a healthy place.

Amen.

~K

 

 

Chapter 5: Jackass

Nothing says Sea World like the random donkey

 

I think it is easier to laugh at myself, and find the humor in any situation, having dated for 15 years. I like retelling the horror stories and pointing fingers at the dumb men I’ve gone out with. My friends have their own lists of my foibles.

But this is a brief chapter about how I’ve been dumb. I could write a novel on the topic, as I am certainly my own worse critic. Let’s keep this brief.

  1. I once broke up with a man via email. It was years ago, and I was a total chicken shit. I regret not having the guts to look him in the eye to say goodbye. I do not regret breaking up with him, but I was not kind in how it ended.
  2. I once dated a man who I knew was in love with me; I was rebounding from major heartache. I hurt him, and while I had the guts to break up with him in person, the timing and the ache I caused remains my biggest life regret.

Now, have I ever told you about the time a boy I worked with in high school grabbed my butt, but instead got a handful of maxi pad? He looked at me with scared eyes and said, “It moved.” It was horrifying. What made matters worse was that I had a big, stupid high school crush on him, and was wearing my restaurant uniform, complete with smelling like fried tortilla chips. We always, always smelled like fried food working that job. So there we stood, him having immediately recoiled and me covering my mouth knowing precisely what happened.

“It moved,” remains code among my high school girlfriends for being in the most awkward, uncomfortable, agonizing social situation imaginable.

See? Isn’t this side of the story more fun?

Back to the goofballs.

 

 

Chapter 4: The 24 Hour Wow

The Cottage

My first big girl job was working for a trade publishing company in downtown Phoenix. I wrote a ton of copy on a ton of topics that no one, not even “industry insiders” ever read. But they paid me to write and I had health insurance. My mother was thrilled I hadn’t found a job on a cruise ship, which was my plan after returning from the Peace Corps.

Living in my parents’ guest room (my childhood bedroom now converted into a sewing room), and driving the family mini van, I worked for that publishing company for more than three years. There were all kinds of cliché life lessons learned; there were also life-long friendships gained from a workplace that was unnecessarily intense, vulgar and sexualized.

(Ask me some time about the woman who had a breast augmentation and came into work afterward wearing a tube top because “they looked so good!” Or the woman who was notorious for flaunting her drug problem in the restroom.)

The best part of this job was the travel. Our childhood travels were repeat, and beloved, trips to the southern California coast. We went to New Mexico and Colorado once, but otherwise, there were thousands of miles on that Toyota Previa between Phoenix and San Diego.

The publishing gig had conferences nationally that needed an underpaid and overly trusted early 20-something to attend. I became skilled at the art of the trade show booth set up, schmooze and tear down (basically setting up different items, such as promotional products and advertising campaigns such as a trade show banner and more, then having to take it down a couple of hours after.) This is how I saw Boston, Seattle and Washington D.C. for the first time.

It was at a conference in Seattle where I met AJ. He was working for a medical device manufacturer in southern California. Our booths weren’t far apart. My boss eventually noticed that the lean, blond, surfer guy kept circling. She joked he was trying to speak to me. I was oblivious, and my feet hurt.

There are two memories from standing at a trade show booth for 8 hours at a time: I am great at pointless small talk, and my feet always, always hurt in dress shoes.

Eventually AJ came in for the kill, and started a conversation that would continue via email for months. He was a surfer and mountain climber and really nice guy. He lived in a small apartment in southern California and worked in medical device sales to fuel his otherwise down-to-earth adventures. He spoke Spanish and we regularly sent emails in a second language, hoping the other would actually understand the emotion the sender was attempting to convey.

Eventually, he asked if I would come to LA to spend a weekend. It seemed like a bold first date, and while I had moved out of my parents’ guest room into a house shared with a handful of girlfriends, my father was not going to be happy about an overnight in southern California with a dude no one knew.

(Or a dude everyone knew.)

The bargaining continued for a few weeks until it was decided I would come for a day-long date. The (pre 9-11) Southwest flight left from Phoenix at 6 am and returned at 10 pm. It was late summer, and we planned on going to the beach. This is how I ended up in LA for a 12-hour date with only a bikini packed in my purse.

The night before, I slept over at a girlfriend’s house with another friend. Kristi and Meghann asked a thousand questions I couldn’t answer about AJ. I think they were both intrigued and a little scared I was going to spend the day with someone in another state who no one knew.

I did have a cell phone, but keep in mind it was an early 2001 Nokia freebie with no texting or Internet. My mother was looking for a good photo for the impending milk carton. Mini, who had a toddler at home and was painting the walls of her first adult house, said bluntly, “Please don’t get stabbed.”

It was Kristi and Meg who coined this date the “24-hour Wow,” even though it was roughly half. (“12 hour Meh” doesn’t sound as catchy.)

It was a fun day. We went to one of those fancy beachside brunch places, ate plates of $18 toast and eggs, and worked through our nerves. Soon enough, I was hiding behind a huge boulder on the beach, slipping on that bikini and we were in the surf for several hours. There were fish burritos and a long walk that followed. In a blink, I was back on the flight with sand in my hair and on my toes and a smile across my face. I was ridiculously proud of myself for taking such a leap at love, even though it wasn’t.

The emails continued for months after, but with less frequency. I think we both knew the distance wasn’t going to work. I was eying graduate school and he had family ties to southern California. He was handsome, smart and interested – but the spark wasn’t there.

I saw him a few years later at yet another trade show. We’d both signed up for the conference 10K and ended up running next to each other for a few miles. It was friendly; I’m certain we both walked away happy with our decisions.

Meghann would prove to be the matchmaker of my life.

But that, friends, is a story yet to be told.

 

Chapter 3: eHarmony

margarita before

I tried eHarmony. In truth, by time I’d met Jason, I’d dated men from Match, OK Cupid and eHarmony. I drew the line at Tinder, which was silly considering several of my friends are now dating nice, normal people they met on the notorious hook up site. Some of them also had success on a BBW Dating Site so I should have tried that site too.

eHarmony was a weird, off-putting experience that provided two strange stories worth sharing. Most men I met were as advertised: marriage focused. Unfortunately, this rang true on the first date when we barely knew each others’ names; the idea of anything more than a second date was terrifying. One brought printed photos of his nephews and asked how many children I wanted. Another suggested I wouldn’t need a career after marriage. Several recounted the numerous ways their ex-wives were awful.

This is where Captain Obvious would say, “You did not have great online dating selection skills.”

The problem with these eHarmony dudes was this: they were great online. Most were exceptionally smart, had good jobs and yet could not make eye contact. They were patient enough to complete the lengthy questionnaire required for participation in this site, but not enough to wait for a second (or 100th) date to ask if I would be keeping my maiden name.

The first fail was simple, and scary. We met twice — once for dinner and once for lunch. He was attractive, charming and in graduate school. Our dates happened to be in early February. When I went to the restroom on our second date, he found my wallet, wrote down my address, and used it to hand-deliver a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day the following week.

I came home to a bunch of flowers on my doorstep with a note from a man who I’d never invited to my home.

And that was the end of that.

This experience made me write down a few rules for online dating:

  1. No alcohol. As must as I wanted a glass of wine on those exceptionally awkward first few dates, I couldn’t let my guard down. I did not know these men, or if what they’d shared online was true.
  2. No specific contact information would be provided unless necessary. They did not need my address or workplace unless we were well down the dating path. (Come to find out, my response to love letters mailed to the office is being repulsed. Embarrass me professionally and you’re fired.)
  3. If he spends any time discussing previous relationships with violent language, make up a reason to leave. Also, if he is rude to the service staff, it is only a matter of time until that’s you.
  4. Let someone know where you are going and a bit about who you are meeting. My friends Mini and Adam received countless texts that read something like, “Pita Jungle, Bob, Match, blond, 7 pm, 1st date. Wish me luck!”
  5. Don’t ever leave your purse at the table.

The second guy made it to a fourth date. He was handsome, polite and while shy — seemed to have great social skills. Oh, how little I knew. We met for lunch and again for dinner. I was really enjoying getting to know him. Finally, I offered to cook him dinner and he came over for Mexican food and margaritas. I’d soon regret that tequila. As I cleaned up the dishes, he went to his car for something he brought me. The gift was actually a sex questionnaire (sextionnaire?) — and a lengthy one at that. Unemotional, as though he were and anthropologist interviewing a member of some newly discovered Amazonian tribe, he patiently and methodically started down his list that included inviting devices and other individuals into a bedroom he would never, ever see.

It is a little more difficult to escape a date when he is sitting on your couch. It took a bit of effort, but I got him out of my house, locked the doors and thanked God. This nut job would contact me months after finding my blog — convinced I was sending him secret messages through my posts.

The knitting posts had nothing to do with how much “I wanted to be tied up,” you weirdo. Sometimes a baby sweater is just a baby sweater.

 

 

 

Chapter 2: The Smitten Nerd

best coffee in Flag

When I was 17, I wanted to be the prom queen. Instead, I was the girl who beat the football player in a spirit week Twinkies eating contest.

I haven’t eaten one since, nor gained more feminine grace. I’m not an ogre, but I have literally tripped over my own feet, more than once.

In college, a press release came across my desk at the newspaper for a statewide scholarship contest that was actually a beauty pageant. The Miss Fiesta Bowl pageant required essays, interviews and some sort of talent. My essay, to everyone’s surprise, was selected for the interview process. (I was going to college on pennies and fumes; there was no room for feminist discourse on the competition until I was unjustly overlooked for a (far) prettier, more accomplished and better spoken candidate. And then! Well, beauty pageants are sexist drivel!)

The best part of this experience was finding my childhood best friend that night for dinner. I’d driven down from Flagstaff, as she had driven up from Tucson. After a movie and catching up on her parents’ couch, I said, “Can I tell you a secret?”

Her eyes grew wide. Was there anything better than a shared secret between friends who hadn’t caught up in a few months?

She nodded.

“I came to Phoenix this weekend to be interviewed for the Miss Fiesta Bowl pageant.” I said it so softly, and embarrassed, she leaned in with even wider eyes.

Without missing a beat, in the same tone she whispered back. “Me too.”

We both howled with laughter and then compared notes of the Scandinavian supermodels in the interview pool who without a doubt had us beat.

We both secretly wanted to be the prettiest girl in town, with the dumb crown on her head and the scholarship money in her pocket. We were none on these things yet unsurprisingly, still love to remind each other of this story when egos get a bit too big.

Rebecca, as long as I can remember, had a steady stream of boyfriends. There were always boys interested in her. Boys at church. Boys at high school. And definitely boys in college. She had her pick of the pack for school dances and had a certain way about her to know how to manage all the attention. She was one of those girls in high school with the basket of dried roses. She’d been given so many roses, she need a BASKET to hold them in.

Sometimes she even had the nerve to turn them down!

I avoided this kind of attention at all costs. I would have much rather walked across a mosquito-rich football field wearing a bikini than have any sort of emotional conversation with a boy in high school. Or college.

(Come to think of it, walking across that football field in a bikini may have started a conversation or two.)

Where Rebecca had practice in speaking “boy,” I had an obnoxious younger brother who loved to miss the toilet, leave his stinky clothing across our shared bathroom and eat all the food as quickly as possible. I wanted the boyfriends Rebecca had because the dances involved pretty dresses and getting flowers and feeling special. But I didn’t want to have anything to do with boys more than I had to. (Cody can still be pretty gross, and at 33 revels in making his patient girlfriend squeal with his antics.)

So, it was further confusing when I got to college and met a boy who wasn’t these things. He was tall and athletic and pretty much always smelled good. His apartment was clean. He was a great cook, made me laugh and was artistic. He had a nice mom who would come to visit and would take me shopping. He had big gorgeous eyes and enjoyed my company.

That was it. I was hooked.

I’d spend the next two years at the school newspaper, working beside him, smitten. Looking back on it, I am so embarrassed by just how smitten. He had to have known, but we never, ever talked about it.

By day, I was being my normal over-achieving completely obnoxious self in the classroom, acing whatever came my way through sheer determination. By night, I was failing at basic human communication. I had no nerve. The idea of not having him in my life as a friend sounded like a horrible (and probable) alternative.

Instead, he had girlfriends who I’d examine like a biology project. What made them different? Special? Desirable? (For starters, most were able to understand their feelings and speak to them. Also, they all pretty much had great hair.)

When he met his last college girlfriend, I got it. She was gorgeous. And nice. And smart. But most importantly — I saw the spark. There was magic between the two of them that I’d certainly never felt and couldn’t easily be explained. They just worked. (They still do today, two children later.)

Biology. Chemistry. Social Science. If there is one thing I hated more than anything, it was failure. 

 

 

I’m Not Good at This: Chapter 1

How to heart cupcakes

I am horrible at love. I mean, really, really bad at relationships, dating and appropriate levels of emotion. No, this isn’t the predictable post about a woman who had a bad childhood or an abusive father.

My parents are lovely people, still happily married. They were high school sweethearts and have been married approximately forever. If who they are ever worked against me, it was only in that they couldn’t relate to their loud, vociferous single daughter who was regularly nursing a broken heart, and tweeting about it with abandon.

To confuse matters more for dear Rex and Karel, sometimes I was crying and histrionic over the heart I managed to break.

Let’s skip to the happy ending before getting down to the nitty gritty: as of today, November 1, 2015, I am a very, very happily in love woman. It has all worked out better than expected, and certainly better than deserved. Jason came into my life by fate, chance, or prayer – as my mother’s church in Texas would tell you. Jason, by contrast, would say we met the old fashioned way: in a bar, under false pretense.

(His exact words: “We met lying, in a bar.” But that doesn’t sound right, does it?)

Let’s get back to the train wreck that is my decision making in love: a public apology.

To John H., who in high school asked me to homecoming by throwing a kickboard at my head during swim practice – I am sorry. I’m sorry that I actually liked you and was so delighted you asked me in such an odd way. I know you were trying to ask sweetly, but because I was nervous (omen!), I wouldn’t stop swimming laps. In frustration, you did what any high school boy would do: you found the nearest thing and chucked it at my head to get my attention. Once the foam smacked me in the noggin, there was no ignoring your sweet face at the end of my lane – holding a single red rose.

John H., I’m sorry I wasn’t more mature. I didn’t know how to talk to boys and while I hastily agreed to go with you to homecoming, what you didn’t know was that the dance happened on my 16th birthday. I awoke that morning to a car! (Let’s get real: it was a 1977 AMC Hornet worth approximately $0. But it was mine. And I was way more excited to go home and drive that car than I was to make small talk with you at Chili’s.) Also, I had taken the SATs that morning and was fairly certain I’d bombed because that morning I HAD BEEN GIVEN A CAR. Who gives their kid a car the day of the SATs? Not Rex and Karel. Let’s just say at 36, I’m still spoiled by my grandparents.

Thanks Len and Sheila!

Anyway, back to poor John. Oh, John. This was sincerely one of those times that it wasn’t you. It was entirely me and not knowing what to do. Kissing you sounded great but the mechanics were foreign and sincerely did not know what to do. When I stopped talking at dinner and we barely danced, it was not you. I did not know what to say or to do. I did not know how to date. You were the first of, oh, let’s say 1000 dates. And John, take this to heart: it is only by luck that date 1001 went well. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jason.

You made me nervous. You were an adorable boy who showed up in your giant Bronco smelling of way too much aftershave. This in itself was confusing because I am pretty sure you didn’t shave. It only went downhill from here.

 

I’d guess today you are married with 3 adorable children and a golden retriever and occasionally get to the local gym to swim a few laps. I’d also guess you never think of me when you see kickboards, and you too improved your romance skills before proposing.

To John H., all the best.

 

Getting Out of My Own Way

Still working on that fall pillow

An update on those novels:

Under the Same Moon keeps selling, which is fantastic. It is no longer available at local retailers, which is why I am listing the book giant Amazon. I have a master plan on how to have it available locally (and at Powell’s and the Tattered Cover) soon: finish the second book, go on a tiny self-funded book tour and bring copies of UTSM for sale too.

That should work, right?

Basket Baby is in the process of being edited. As in, I have 400 pages of copy with detailed comment and am trying to work on a chapter or two a week. At this rate, I should have it done by my 100th birthday. A new writing friend asked me the other day what my routine is and I was embarrassed to say that I’ve completely fallen off the writing wagon. I exercise daily. I try to do something creative daily — whether it is knitting, sewing or cooking a new recipe. But I have not made time for writing.

There are plenty of excuses; instead, let’s discuss the new plan to get BB done, and be able to return to novel 3, The Golden Rule. TGR is a fun story that I’ve been workshopping for the last few months. I’m eager to continue writing it. I’m (obviously) not looking forward to make more edits to BB. It is hard to go back again and again and again to the same story and try to make it something better when something bright and shiny has your eye.

But! If I have one regret in publishing to date, it is that UTSM wasn’t ready, but I pushed forward anyway. It has a few typos and areas that just need work. I got sick of that story by the time publishing became and option and I rushed. I don’t want to repeat this error.

As such, I’m telling you — blog world! Internets! Friends real and those I only know by email! I am going dig in and make a commitment to 4 chapters a week of BB until the editing is done and I can send it back to the publisher for further review.

Hold me to it, friends. I need your encouragement.

Cheers,

K

Summer Reading and Writing

Seattle 2015

 

I’ve been lax in writing about what I’ve been reading lately. There have been some great books I’d like to discuss:

1. Ahab’s Wife. Let me just get this off my chest right now: I’ve never read Moby Dick. I KNOW. I have ordered a copy and plan on reading it later this summer. In the meantime, I got swept away in the book, Ahab’s Wife — a creative look at what the captain of the Pequod’s wife experienced both when he was briefly in harbor, and mostly far away hunting his nemesis — Moby. It is a long, beautiful story that weaves in real life characters who would have been near Nantucket during the same time. It is not an easy read, and it took me more than three months. I would read 50 pages and then put it down for a week, digesting it like a heavy meal. I was also savoring it, though. Naslund caught and kept my attention for three months — there is something to be said for that.  3.5 bananas, absoloodle. 

2. Etta and Otto and Russell and James. This book was like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. I picked it up and didn’t want to put it down, it was so delightfully entertaining. It’s what I call a “stop light book.” I would drive with the book across my lap, catching another paragraph when at a red light during my commute. A delightful and fun read about a Canadian senior who decides she wants to see the sea before she dies. She leaves her house on foot and walks the thousands of miles to the ocean. Otto and Russell’s stories come to light as they miss her. James — well, I’ll let you read it to see who James is. The story is told creatively in flashbacks to childhood, paired with the aging and perhaps demented memories of current day. I loved this story. 4 bananas, absoloodle. 

3. The Orchardist. I also heard of this book from NPR’s favorite librarian — Nancy Pearl. Both this novel and Etta were on her summer reading picks. I found them when we were visiting Bainbridge Island earlier this summer and am so glad I listened to that segment. The Orchardist is a tricky read — with very little dialogue. However, I am not sure I’ve read better character development, other than that of Harry Potter. Two pregnant young women wander into an orchardist’s field while he is tending to his apricots and apples. He decides to help them, which sets their lives on a perilous and twisting path. This is also a great story, and a debut novel by a 31-year-old writing phenom: Amanda Coplin.  3.5 bananas, absoloodle. 

I’m currently reading Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder; Patchett can do little wrong in my book. I hold her close to Kingsolver and Garcia Marquez in my heart. Her book Truth and Beauty remains one of my favorites of all time, and who didn’t cry while reading Bel Canto? This woman knows how to tell a story. Next up: All the Light We Cannot See.

Seattle 2015

On the writing front, I’m happy to have found a new writing group. I’ve been newly encouraged to get back to the third novel, a murder mystery set in Colorado. I’m reading books differently these days. From the font to the story arc, I’m enjoying reading to see how others craft their art. I’d like to write a mystery as gripping as Gone Girl and as enchanting as Ahab’s Wife. 

Shoot for the stars, they say!

Happy reading, friends.

Stones We All Carry

Missoula, MT

A friend called the other day to share a story about her teenage daughter and a group of mean girls. They were calling names, isolating, and otherwise being unkind — the trifecta of a teenage bully clique. I have yet to live a time of life more frustrating than those early teenage years. Everything seems like an injustice, you want nothing more than to be accepted (and popular), and your maddening hormones are in control.

I have a new theory for why we behave the way we do: each time we are treated unjustly or unkindly, a pebble forms in our gut. Those pebbles may turn into boulders if the injustice is appropriately sized — molestation, abuse, neglect. Or, the stones of many less significant unkindnesses may gather together — avalanching collectively later when another small jab cannot be added to the pile.

I had an interaction with a neighbor a few months back that left me upset. Nelson and I were outside on the patio, and the gate was cracked. He was resting at my feet when he heard other dogs in the courtyard. Before I could grab him, he quickly escaped and tried to join the dogs — which were on a leash and barely being controlled by a woman whose face was purple with rage. Within the next few minutes, I was upbraided for being a bad dog owner. She had a lot to say, and I stood there with my cheeks burning, muttering a few ugly things back her way. I returned Nelson to the patio, secured the lock and went to her doorstep to try to explain.

I said clearly, “You are my neighbor. I don’t want things to be like this. Please accept my apology. I’m sorry my dog was off leash.”

She responded less favorably.

For the next two months, I made a point of waving at her like a maniac and making sure she knew I wanted to say hello. She never responded and walked with her head down any time our paths crossed. I smirked, my pettiness bubbling to the surface.

Tempe, etc 016

A few weeks later, police detectives filled the parking lot and banged at her door. Neighbors, myself included, peeked through windows to see what commotion was happening in our otherwise quiet community. A few hours later, she had a rented moving van and was hauling as much of her stuff away as possible, leaving a trail of trash behind her. The orange sticker went up on her window soon after: EVICTED.

I never saw her or the dogs again. The home remained vacant until I moved a few weeks ago.

Another neighbor mentioned the woman had long suffered to care for her adult daughter and grandchildren. Her daughter was ill and was in and out of mental health treatment. The kids came and went on occasion, but the daughter and her kids were removed from the home by police at some point too.

The stones of pain and disappointment in this woman’s stomach always rumble. Her grief and her unhappiness is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I am not giving a pass to people who are unkind — those who flip you off in traffic, for example — but do think they are carrying around more sadness than I am.

There will always be difficult, angry and sad people — but the way we respond to them shows our emotional depth. We treat people the way we’ve been treated, until something inside us recognizes we have to do better. We have to treat others the way we want to be treated.

The answer to those pebbles, stones and boulders are justice, love and kindness.

~k

 

 

 

Writer School: Structuring a Novel

Gardening in August

 

I’ve had plenty of people ask, “How did you write a book?” The curiosity varies from:

  1. How did you actually sit down and do this, vs., say, laundry. Work. Other normal priorities that often keep us from hobby time. To:
  2. How did you take an idea and wrap 300 pages around it.

The writing books will tell you authors are either character or plot driven. Both of my novels are plot driven – meaning I knew what I wanted to happen, in lieu of one person I wanted to write a story about.  (Also: my hobby time is far greater than many of my peers because my family time/responsibility is minimal. I hope this changes, but in the meantime — I’m writing like mad.)

Are you plot or character driven? You don’t have to pick one. Most authors will strengthen their muscles in one category or the other, but a great writer knows how to do both.

The basics of writing any story are identical to the instruction we received in primary school about writing an essay. Essential elements include: an intro, the meat and potatoes, a summary. That’s it. If you are writing a short story, a blog post, a novella or a series of novels – the format remains the same.

Doing this for a 300-page project can certainly be daunting. Take it one step at a time. We shall eat this elephant in bites.

Gardening in August

How you go about completing that format is where a writer’s personality shines. I often know what I want to happen at the beginning and how I want the story to end. I spend a good bit of time plotting out how to get from A to B. There are many ways to organize this information. You can take 15 sheets of blank white paper and label them by chapter. Hang them on a wall and carefully write out a few things you’d like to see happen in each chapter. By number 15, you should be wrapping up.

I use Scrivner. I create chapter folders. I start with notes. I also keep a cheap spiral notebook for each project. There is something great about keeping a working journal for each story. (This justifies my love of notebooks and school supplies.) I tab chapters and as ideas come to me, scribble them in the write spot until I can go back and work them into the project.

Your story may have more than 15 chapters, but you get the idea. This is how I work. I create the plot draft first and then go back and sprinkle in my details.

Then, I focus on character development. Who do I want to do these things? What do they look like? What do they love, hate, desire?

Next week, we’ll talk about the minor and major story arc and how these should be rolling through those 15 chapters at different paces.

So, are you character or plot driven? Have you ever plotted out a large writing project? What are your tricks of the trade?

 

~K

PS: This week I stuck my foot it in. I asked a friend to design book covers for this new novel. I didn’t communicate well with her and ended up really hurting her feelings as a result. It is questionable if our friendship will survive. If you are working on a novel, you’ll likely ask friends and family for help at some point. Treat them with extra care. It is fairly amazing they care about YOUR work at all. Right?