Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cultural challenge coming up!

Sugar's radical goal is to be the cutest pug ever!
 *Before I start, I'd like to point you to a guest post I did recently for the Whidbey Writer's Refuge. I spent a great few days there in January working on my novel and highly recommend it.* 

Lately I've been very inspired by Chris Guillebeau's website and writing. I love his ideas and practical tips for "radical goal setting." (And thanks to my writer/teacher pal Waverly Fitzgerald for telling me about him! She is pretty inspiring herself.)

Chris G. is always talking about "challenges" that he sets for himself and invites his readers to do the same. He hammers on the importance of very concrete goals, and results you can measure. (All very familiar to me from working on Microsoft but I really believe in this approach, even if it doesn't work for everything).

One vague yet perennial goal of mine is is take advantage of all the cultural goodness that surrounds me in Seattle. I live in the heart of the city, yet it's amazing how easy it is to just stay home and fall asleep in front of Netflix. (Yes, I know, BreakupBabe would be appalled at what I've become).

The cultural challenge starts on the totally random date of February 22 
Earlier this year, I set myself a goal of going to one cultural event a month. But then I decided why not challenge myself a little? Thus the cultural challenge was born! Starting Feb 22, over the next month, I will go to one cultural event a week.


OK, I know it's not that much. But it's waayy more than I've done in the recent past.

The reason I'm starting this challenge on Feb 22, is because that's the date of my first event of the challenge: underwater photographer David Doubilet giving a presentation at Benaroya Hall. 

The cheap stuff comes later 
This event is a bit pricey. (I got a bit of sticker shock when I started exploring cultural events). So the next few events will have to be on the free or cheap side. I'm thinking that the next up could be a performance at The Pocket Theater. This place is near my house in Greenwood and looks cool.

Oh, and then definitely I'll have to take advantage of first Thursday on March 1, when various museums in Seattle have good deals.

Oh, but wait, I'll be teaching my upcoming class at Hugo House! Well, something always seems to come up on first Thursday. Luckily there are a million bazillion other things to do so I'll figure something out.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A love letter to my left knee

Me and left knee right before fateful tree collision
Dear Left Knee, we've had many great adventures together.

We made it to the top of Mount Rainier and the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We hiked the Wonderland Trail. We completed a triathlon and a couple half marathons. We biked across the state of Washington. We ran away from a bull on Maui. We climbed a 250-foot tall Douglas Fir.

 The list goes on.

But all that fun has come with a price. You’ve always been touchy. Even back in 9th grade, when I first started running cross-country you would easily get sore. Later when I tried to train for a marathon, you balked. No likey run more than 8 miles!

Still, you were a good sport with most everything else. You hiked, you climbed, you skied, you biked, you walked the dog. And you didn’t really complain seriously. Until 2011. When I skied into a tree.

OK, I know, that was dumb! And totally unnecessary because I was already down the hard part of the hill and had just gotten cocky!

 But you recovered even from that, or at least you seemed to. And everything was just fine until I decided to revisit my childhood dream of horseback riding. (Because of course hiking and backpacking and swimming and skiing and biking and Yoga and working full time and writing a novel and learning Spanish and taking guitar lessons just aren’t enough activities for me).

 And one day, early in my lessons, I jumped off just a little too hard. I landed funny. And you pretty much gave up the ghost then even though it took a few more months and an MRI for me to realize it.

Left Knee, do you remember how when I was 13, we used to do horse vaulting at camp? How my “signature” trick was to run alongside the horse, mount it at a trot, dismount, then mount again, all while the horse was trotting?

We were young then. But now we’re not. And you need help after all the good times you’ve given me. That’s why soon you’ll be getting a new ACL (or anterior cruciate ligament). It won’t actually be NEW so much as it’s actually a gift from my left hamstring. (Hey Left Hammie, shout out to you!)

 This isn’t going to be much fun, Left Knee. It’s gonna hurt and we’re gonna be seriously hampered in our hedonistic pursuit of outdoor adventure for a few months. But they say it’s for the best. That we’ll be almost like new afterward, and can have many more years of activities together.

So, Left Knee, I guess this is both warning to you about what’s to come and also a love letter. I want you to know how much I appreciate all you’ve done for me over my life. I’m truly sorry that I haven’t expressed it before, but better late than never, right? Xo Rebecca

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Warning: Do not read Lorrie Moore upon returning from Hawaii!

 Bleh! Who wants to come home from Hawaii? To a Seattle winter? Technically it's still fall for a couple more weeks, but who can tell the difference when your two hours of daylight are obscured by leaden clouds?


Note to self: Upon returning from future visits to Hawaii, wait until winter gloominess has settled back in before picking up a book of Lorrie Moore short stories again.

Yes, she is brilliant and hilarious but depressing, OH. MY. GOD.

Take this paragraph from her haunting story "Referential:"

"Living did not mean one joy piled upon another. It was merely the hope for less pain, hope played like a playing card upon another hope, a wish for kindnesses and mercies to emerge like kings and queens in an unexpected change of the game. One could hold the cards oneself or not: they would land the same regardless. Tenderness did not enter except in a damaged way and by luck."

Thank you Ms. Moore for jolting me back to this mortal coil!

I would like to add that when you're on OAHU, life IS one joy piled upon another. Ahem. As the pictures in this blog post so demonstrate.

Friday, November 28, 2014

First ever fan-fiction writer for Little Lord Fauntleroy! That's me.


It's that time of year when I gear up to teach my favorite class at Richard Hugo House and dream of warm locales.
Ahh Oahu, I dream of you
 Starting February 24, I'll be teaching Roughing It: Write a Draft of Your Book in Just Six Weeks. You can read a bit about it here on the Hugo House website; meanwhile registration for their winter classes starts on Dec 9 so GET READY! This class fills fast.

Bye bye tiny condo
So much other stuff has been happening too, whoa. I MOVED for, one thing. Dave and I packed up our little 650-square-foot condo in Queen Anne (which took way more boxes and much longer than I ever imagined possible) and moved northward. To Greenwood. To a home with three whole bedrooms and 2.5 baths.

I never dreamed I'd live in a place where one could run the dishwasher AND go to sleep at the same time but it's finally happened!

Not only that, our little condo sold in a matter of hours. So thanks to my fab friend and real estate agent Terry Kildal, who helped me buy that condo ten years ago, and who helped us find our new home.

Novel-in-progress nears climax
Also, I'm finally reaching the end of the middle-grade novel that I'm writing. This has been a LONG process. Way too long! But I haven't given up even though I've felt like it many times and there are many reasons to (millions of better writers out there, small chance of every getting published, or ever making money, blah blah). 

This means I'm now writing the climax, which is both exciting and scary - just like the climax itself should be. It's the moment when everything has to come together, and be action-packed, and explosive, yet believable. 

Whether or not this thing ever gets published, I can honestly say it's been a joy to write. (Not every single minute, of course, but overall). When I sit down to write it, I escape to an alternate world where the mundane crap in life doesn't bother me. That hour in the morning when I write is usually the best time of my day.

Two tips for writers
After wandering in the wilderness for so long, the mere fact that I've got this momentum feels so good. And so I just want to reiterate to you writers out there, two things:

1)DO NOT GIVE UP. NO MATTER WHAT. It's been 8 years since I published BreakupBabe, and since then I've struggled and struggled to get traction on something. Then it finally happened. Only because I didn't give up. And if I can't sell this book, I will probably wallow  for a while. But then but I will pick myself up and start over again, because I can't not write.

2)FIND A COMMUNITY OF OTHER WRITERS. A writing group, a coach, a class. Whatever. It's too hard and lonely to do by yourself. You need feedback and encouragement. And most writers need some kind of structure too. That community, however small, can provide it for you. 

Parting note 
I've  realized I am probably the only writer (at least in this century) who has written what is essentially fan fiction about Little Lord Fauntleroy. And that's all I'll say about the plot of my current novel for now.

Happy holiday! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Aspiring writer tells boss to eff off, lives happily ever after (sort of)

I've been working on the same novel for about four years now. The first three years were touch and go. I wrote two very crappy drafts. A writing instructor told me that I needed to change protagonists. Ugh. This same writing teacher also told me not to give up.

So I didn't.

And finally, in the last year, I gained traction. I started to make progress. And then, halleleujah, I was actually writing fiction again. Every day. Actually getting somewhere.

Wandering in the desert of half-baked ideas
It was such a relief after the last seven years spent wandering in the desert of half-baked ideas. I never stopped writing fiction during that time but I also started and lost faith in a multitude of projects. Despaired of ever finishing anything ever again. Wrote thousands (millions?) of words that will never see the light of day.

Now at least I know I'm going somewhere. I don't actually know where but I'm in a groove that I haven't had since the good old writing BreakupBabe: A Novel days.

Boredom and burnout sets in 
Only it's just a long f*cking haul writing a novel. I'm getting a little bored and burned out at the moment. I'm tired of not writing OTHER things.

I love writing essays, for example. And I really want to write some essays while still writing my novel, even though it's challenging to juggle multiple projects while holding down a full time job.

In particular I want to enter this Real Simple essay contest. A $3000 prize and no entry fee. What's not to love? The theme is "Eureka moments."

The Eureka moment when I told my boss to f*ck off
So I've been thinking about Eureka moments. And I remembered one that I'd tried to write about before, in my unpublished memoir Temporary Insanity.

This moment occurred in about 1999, when a corporate boss of mine (who'd just taken over for a previous boss) asked me - in a "getting to know you" chat --  if I was the "kind of person who gave 150%" to their job, or "the kind of person who just did what needed to be done and then went home at night."

Now we all know what answer we're supposed to give here, right? At least if we want the kind of boss who would ask this question to like us.

But that moment dovetailed with the a moment in my life when I was realizing that I needed to be writing my own stuff outside work to be fulfilled. To be writing something big - like a novel or memoir. I was ready to the Writer that I'd dreamed of and worked toward since age 10. Ready to organize my life around that, and to make it the highest priority.

I didn't give a crap about my corporate job, even if it was sort of creative and involved writing. It paid the bills, that was it. The exciting stuff for me was what I wrote OUTSIDE work. And I realized, then, in that moment that I would NEVER be the kind of person to give "150%" to a day job like that.
The question was, was I gonna lie about it or not?

Well I didn't. I told the truth. And my boss hated me after that and work was pretty hellish and I eventually left. (Everyone got laid off not long after, including many, I'm sure, who'd claimed to give 150%!)

But it meant something for me to say that. It liberated me. And ever since, I can honestly say I've been living the life of a Writer, with all its disappointments and satisfactions.

And that includes needing a corporate job to survive!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The view from Casa Chepitos

Hola from San Miguel de Allende Mexico! I have the good fortune to be staying with writer Judith Gille at "Casa Chepitos," the beautiful home that stars in her touching and entertaining memoir, The View from Casa Chepitos. (Read it, if you haven't already!)

At this time of year, when Seattle is so cold and grey, with everyone dressed in black, it's such a treat to arrive in a colorful town like San Miguel de Allende. Orange trucks, yellow walls, hot pink bougainvillea - it's all a sight for winter-tired eyes.

A lovely courtyard at Casa Chepitos
Casa Chepitos itself is a riot of color, and full of Mexican crafts in wood, ceramic, and metal. The guest room is a bright red with a huge windows that looks out on the town and its many church domes.

You can hear the church bells ringing throughout the day from the giant rooftop terrace, along with roosters crowing, children playing, Mexican music, and lots of birds. (I have a feeling Seattle is going to seem very quiet when I get home.)

I've already taken a ton of pictures, most of them terrible, but a few that actually capture the vibrant color that's all around. I'll be here for two more weeks studying Spanish and relaxing (but also working, because I use up my vacation faster than I accrue it).

In other news, I'll be teaching my popular class, Roughing It: Write a Draft of Your Book in Just Six Weeks, starting March 20th at Richard Hugo House. Find out more at the Hugo House website!
Grasshoppers anyone? A Oaxacan specialty.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blogging class prompts blog teacher to actually blog (and post random hiking pictures)

Yellow Aster Butte
I had the distinct feeling that since I'm teaching a blog class TODAY for Seattle Public Library, I should probably update my own blog. Ahem.

(By the way, the photos here are  just some totally random hiking photos to make this post look pretty).

What to report? I'm finally making good progress on the children's novel I started three (or was it four?) year ago. It feels so good to be living in the fictional world again! The last time I was really in the groove with a novel was then I was writing BreakupBabe, and well all know how long ago THAT was.

Granite Mountain
Not that I haven't tried. I've written sh*tty first drafts of at least three novels since then, followed by sh*tty second drafts that I eventually gave up on because I could get no traction.

Then in 2010 I had a teacher named Joni Sensel.  She told me NOT TO GIVE UP on the book I was writing. Not because she thought it was so great or anything. But because I was suffering a syndrome common to many writers where I would abandon an old idea in favor of a shiny new one once I started to struggle with the old idea to much.

Chinook Pass
Because there is always struggle. It's just that sometimes you don' struggle quite as much, and you get lucky - as I did with BreakupBabe, which mostly wrote itself thanks to that miracle known as a book contract (and because, even though it was a novel, it was mostly about ME).

I knew that Joni was right, and that if I didn't just buckle down and finish something I might forever be drifting between ideas. So, three years later, having not given up, here I am FINALLY making progress on this thing and feeling good about it.

It might never get published, of course. But, while that is an important thing for a writer, it's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that I'm writing. I'm making progress. And I'm enjoying it. So I feel like I have a purpose in life again .

Meanwhile I also wrote a fun articles on tree climbing (scary!) and backpacking (not so scary unless you encounter a bear or get lost!) both of which feature lots of my pictures including vintage 70s photos of my family wearing external frame packs and clothes that would never be allowed on a mountain today, such as jeans and cotton.