My Bottle of White Wine

Back in March, I celebrated my birthday with week’s worth of events. My favorite was the actual weekend of my birthday.

On Friday, some friends took me out to a local hot spot called The Wine Seller. We listened to live music, drank a little, conversed a lot. One of my closest friends, Mary, is a fellow writer. She’s older than I am, a fellow empty-nester. I sometimes call her “Mom” and she sometimes introduces me as her adopted daughter.

She gave me this beautiful Frog Prince pin.

The Frog Prince Pin

The Frog Prince Pin

We have much more in common than just writing, which makes her an even more invaluable friend. Her son stopped by the Wine Seller to say hey, at which point I reveled in telling him all the food “Mom” has been cooking for me in his absence. “No offense, guy, but you’ve been replaced.” I say that with all love, of course. [Note to quasi-brother: I promise not to eat your dessert. Unless you let me. And I can still kick your bum on Trivia Crack. . . maybe.]

On Saturday, she opened her home to a group of my friends for a “movie party”. I brought The Princess Bride, Scrabble Cheez-Its, and ten people. We of course had a blast reciting along with the movie. You know how it goes. “As you wish. . . ” “My name is Inigo Montoya . . .” “Princess Buttercup. . . ” Yes. We’re a fun bunch.

I also bought a bottle of wine, but it went untouched. No problem, I thought. I’d just learned two days earlier that I was actually going to Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and decided I would keep the wine until my return.

Lucky Bamboo and a Bottle of Wine

Lucky Bamboo and a Bottle of Wine

See that great mini Mardi Gras mask? Mary gave me that, too. It’s a reminder to stay focused on writing NOLA. The bamboo, I bought. How could I not, it’s lined with frogs! That’s a reminder to bring life to my story. Let it grow, flow, expand.

These are all reminders to enjoy life, to be open to new avenues, to take the great adventures and the roads less traveled.

The bottle has sat on my counter for two months. Now that I’ve returned from Blue Ridge, I’m setting a new goal.

I’ve two agents interested in reading NOLA. One wants it when it’s finished, the other wants the first 25,000 words. Since I’ve written, and rewritten, and tightened, and edited, and rewritten, and oh by the way, rewritten, the first few chapters of NOLA, getting those first 25,000 words shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s what I’m saving this wine for. I should be able to pop it open by June 1.

Unless, of course, another deadline comes along. Like, waiting until the whole book is finished. Or entering another contest. Or landing an agent. Or getting published.

Time goes by fast, I’m told. I’m gonna celebrate the little victories, and save up for the big ones.

And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!

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My Two-Inch Peacock
2105: HOPE

My Two-Inch Peacock

I have a two-inch peacock and he’s only visible through my story window. I’m not crazy. I’m a writer.

This month, I’m reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. If you’re serious about being a writer, or just like a well-told narrative, this is that book. I’m nearly a quarter through, and loving every page, every paragraph, every sentence.

Now here’s something you may not know about me: I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing and media. I want it to always be right. I don’t want just the end result to be perfect, I want it all to be right. And that often gets in my way because I find myself editing as I go. Which sometimes makes for longer sit-downs at the computer than necessary.

I’ve been coached, often, on just moving forward. It’s not in my nature to run rampant over the keyboard and let typos, incomplete thoughts, and mismatched storylines flow like too much wine. Because then it reads as though I’ve had too much wine.

Writing with Wine

Writing with Wine

But the truth is, I’m starting to see the beauty in the #CrappyFirstDraft. There’s something freeing in just letting my fingers go at it without worrying about is this spelled right or did I get the vernacular correct?

Josie discovers New Orleans

Josie discovers New Orleans

So to my critique groups, my writing mentor, and Anne Lamott, I say

I hear you.

I’m moving forward. This week, I’m starting with Chapter Fifteen of NOLA as though all the changes in my head are already on paper. No more revisiting Chapter One. Just. Move. Forward.

It does help to have a plan. At last week’s Orange County Christian Writers Conference, my first session was with Sharon Elliott. It was a hands-on workshop titled ‘Breaking Your Book Into Manageable Bites’. And it was amazing. The very first step in creating a storyboard/outline is to know your topic.

The topic isn’t the same as the title or the outline. It’s strictly the topic. Until that moment, I’d not had a concise logline or description of my book. Sure, I know what it’s about. And if you give me half an hour I can tell you start to finish. But Sharon was asking us to write our topic on a three-by-three post-it note and I didn’t even have it in my head yet.

I grabbed my stickie stack and my pen and applied pressure. I prayed more quickly than I’ve prayed in quite a while. I didn’t want to be the only person in the room with a blank note. So I wrote the first descriptive word that came to my mind, and the rest followed.

NOLA topic

NOLA topic

Boom. There is was. And there I was, standing next to Beckie, beginning to cry. Five minutes into my first conference, and I’m in tears because my writing life has forever changed.

I’m a writer. And I have a topic.

Two more take-aways from Bird by Bird is how the book got its name, and how to not be overwhelmed. Write just this piece. Write just this much. She illustrates this concept as a one-inch photo frame on her desk. Her task, when she sits to write, is to write only what is visible through that one-inch frame. No more. No less.

Who cares about the world at large? Write about that one corner your character is in. Who cares about the voices calling the shots from outside the border? Write only what your character hears.

I love this. I love this like the day is long and sugar is sweet. It gives me freedom to fail. And that’s what we really all need, don’t we? The freedom to find out what doesn’t work, the freedom to change this when they need to be changed. The freedom to discover what we don’t like, and then the freedom to expand it.

Start small. Focus. Then shift. Then embellish. But start.

To remind myself of this, I created my own one-inch frame. Okay, it’s more like a two-by-three because the craft store didn’t have anything smaller. And it’s not empty, because I want to be reminded that right now, my focus is on finishing NOLA. So it’s not perfect. But isn’t that the point?

Supplies for the Two Inch Story

Supplies for the Two Inch Story

After picking out my supplies, I came home and assembled my own story window.

Two Inch Peacock

Two Inch Peacock

There were too many stickers and embellishments to choose from, even in the stock I bought. With the limited room allowed, I chose the peacock and fleur-de-lis. And there’s that lesson, again: you can’t do everything at once, and sometimes you can’t do everything at all. Just piece by piece. Bite by manageable bite. Bird by bird.

My reminder now sits on my side table. It’s a symbol of everything I need to be reminded of. And the best part? It’s small enough to fit in my suitcase so I can take it with me to Blue Ridge next week.

My goal is to have my own Crappy First Draft finished by the end of June and then start the editing because, as they say, that’s when the real writing happens.

And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote.

You may also enjoy reading:
Why I Write. Every Day.
Five Things Friday: Peacocks
Orange County Christian Writers Conference, 2015