How Did This Blog Do? 2015 in Review

My intention has always been to use this site as more of a website, less of a blog.  However, in case anyone out there is trying to get started in blogging, feel free to read this post.  The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog, and here it is!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Sixty is the New Twenty

I finally finished reading Leviticus, every last word.  If I ever needed proof that I never want to be a technical writer, I’ve got it now.

I did discover something cool though – a new definition of what it means to be in the prime of life.

In chapter 27, it spends some time talking about how to buy people back, if you dedicated them to God or whatever, and decided that you need them, after all.  So there is this (long) (and boring) list of prices: how much to pay to get your three-year-old back, or your grandmother.  That doesn’t really bear thinking about, but what I loved is –

Actually, before I tell you, may I say that I got carded on Saturday, at Trader Joe’s?  Well done, TJs!  Keeping America safe!  Now, I know that this doesn’t mean the checker thought I didn’t look 21, but it might mean I didn’t look 30 – and that is great news!  That is my almost-favorite Christmas present!

It turns out, Leviticus, that (long) (and boring) book of Old Testament law agrees with my favorite Trader Joe’s employee!  Because guess when the age range that starts at 20 ends?  My husband guessed 25.  (I love it when he plays my game right.)

Nope, I got to say, rubbing my hands with glee.  Guess again.

The answer, folks, is…sixty.

Sixty!  That seems old even to me, and I am old enough to wear bifocals and be officially in perimenopause (which is just menopause for the under-50 set, I guess like how Underoos are “underwear” if you’re three, but less fun).

This is so encouraging to me because, honestly, I used to look at pictures of novelists on the backs of their books, and I would think, “Oh, look, she looks older than me.  That’s good.  I still have time.”  I would console myself with the thought that I could write when my kids graduated from high school, when I needed a new hobby other than praying for baggy clothes to become fashionable for teenage girls again.

Well, I am living the dream, because: A) God let me start writing NOW!  Without waiting for actual menopause to give my writing that special edge!  B) I look younger than I act!  And C) Even the Bible says I’m not middle-aged!

I love, love, love knowing that 42 is not too old to try something new, to chase this dream of writing, to gift myself and my family with the peace that comes with obeying a calling I’ve felt for years and years.  And years.

I’m barely old enough to be drinking legally, folks, and I already know what I want to do with my life.  I pray the same is true for you.

Two More Writing Hurdles Down, 5,453,481 to Go

This piece is massively long.  If you’re interested in reading about getting feedback from editors, well, stay patient; it’s coming in just a few lines.  If you’re interested in reading about Online Writing Groups, scroll down to “Good News #2”..  And if you’re not interested in either, then might I direct you hereI’m not the droid you’re looking for

Good News #1

In a recent submission to Rock and Sling, I wrote this in my cover letter:

One small word: as a new writer, I am not yet a good judge of whether or not a market is a good fit. If you are interested in seeing more of my work, would you please take the time to include a short word of feedback? I know this is asking a lot, and I appreciate you even considering it. Otherwise, I will assume that my writing will likely never work well for your publication, and I will stop clogging up your inbox. Either way, thank you for your time!

This piece was my fourth submission to them, and (as I mention here), I still haven’t quite been able to figure out what a publication is looking for.

Well, God bless Rock and Sling, because though this piece was rejected, their busy editor took the time to write me back:

We tend to accept pieces that explore questions of faith and human experience more indirectly and that don’t necessarily arrive at conclusions or offer solutions. We try to feature work that deepens questions of faith rather than answers questions….

This is so helpful, and I know it is not something I would have noticed before.  Duh, since I didn’t.  The great thing about this feedback is that it will help me with all markets, not just Rock and Sling, now that I know how look.   I will live and die grateful to this editor.

I will definitely continue to ask for feedback, respectfully, if (after several rejections) I can’t quite figure out where I’m going wrong.  If they decide to answer me, great.  If not, I’ll know not to waste my time or theirs with more submissions.

Good News #2

And another piece of great news: Writing groups, I love them!  Writing groups, I love them!  And my new group is imminent!  For all our four-year-old readers, that means Santa Claus is coming to town, baby!

I wrote about needing a writing group here, and only one actual, alive, local person was interested.  (Said person: you know who you are.  And I thank you for your support.)  Well, being in a writing group of two would be a bit like getting married to myself; I knew I needed something bigger, so I kept looking, and praying, and waiting.

Until: something brilliant happened to me!

I am in a group on Facebook for contributors to Mothers Always Write (MAW), and I finally bit the bullet and asked, “Does anyone want to be in an online writing group with me?”  It was a little scary, like being the new kid at school.  Can I be your friend?  Apparently, at 42, the fear of rejection still has a tiny seed in me.

But the response was wonderful – enough to start 2 or 3 groups!  So, I did a little research, and here are the guidelines I came up with for my first big-girl writing group (aka one I am in as an equal, not the teacher).  The highlighted items are open for debate – within my group.

Please feel free to steal this list and get your own group going!!!  If you do…let me know about it in the comments!  As you can tell I am so excited about this that I feel the need to speak in exclamation points!!!!  Sorry if I am using them all up, leaving none for you!!!


Dawn’s MAW Online Writing Group Guidelines

  • Purpose
    • To improve our writing through monthly critique and feedback sessions in a supportive atmosphere.
  • Tone
    • As readers of other members’ work, we seek to give feedback that is specific, constructive, genuine, honest, and productive, while remaining tactful, positive, and encouraging
    • As writers receiving feedback, we seek to listen and maintain an open mind, assuming positive intent from our peers, and retaining full control over our own writing. Other than asking clarifying questions, we will not respond to feedback.
  • Membership
    • MAW contributors only
    • 3-4 writers
    • Cross-genre, with all members actively writing in at least two of: personal essay, poetry, fiction
    • Limited to members who are actively writing
    • Membership is closed during any cycle; the first cycle is a trial and will last 3 months. At this point we will reassess all guidelines.
    • Members commit to completing each 3-month cycle
    • Members will post a one-paragraph introduction so we can all get to know each other a bit!
    • Members will also post 1-3 writing goals
    • All members agree to read http://www.thewritersloft.org/critique-groups-think-tanks/general-critique-guidelines/
  • Protocol
    • Different contributors will moderate each time
      • Moderator will intervene when feedback is hurtful, off-topic, or pushy
      • Moderator will remind writers when pieces are due, and again when the deadline for comments is near
    • Group members who consistently ignore the guidelines or create a negative environment will be asked to leave the group
  • Workflow:
    • Use Google docs to submit up to 10 pages (poetry, short story, essay, or section of a longer work) once a month
    • Read each submitted piece in its entirety
    • For each piece, offer 5-10 comments, both positive and constructive
    • Regardless of when you give your comments, look back at the piece once on the final day of the week, so that you can comment on others’ comments. There is, after all, a group synergy and wisdom.
    • All feedback due within 1 week after deadline
  • Celebrate successes!!! After all, one member’s publication or award reflects on and inspires us all!

 

Thank you to http://www.thewritersloft.org/critique-groups-think-tanks/general-critique-guidelines/ and http://www.nikkiwoodsmedia.com/9-tips-online-writing-group/ for doing most of the thinking for me.

 

Increasing My Gross Domestic Happiness

So, making sure to post something on this site every Monday is the closest thing I have to a “real” schedule.  And, this week, I blew it.

It’s at times like these that I have to remind myself that I am a mom first, a writer second.  That can be hard for me.

Anyway, this was the week of my husband having the flu, for five days and counting now.

This was also the week of the late Thanksgiving feast with friends from Iraq – marking their first taste of sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce; marking my first trip to a halal market.

This was therefore the week of cooking, and doing dishes, and cooking again, and doing more dishes, in an endless repeated cycle.

This was the week of our annual trip to the mountains to hike around, a bit at random, looking for the perfect tree, then cutting and dragging it back to the car; then sledding and hot chocolate in the snow with friends.

This was the week of geocaching in the rain and mud with my daughter and her friends at a birthday party.

This was therefore the week of wet boots and hats and gloves and snow pants and rain gear strewn all over the living room, in bags, in piles, on chairs, in front of the fire.

Finally, this was also the week where I volunteered at a career fair at my former workplace, Highline High School, where – despite the crazy mayhem of my recent life – teachers came up to me over and over again to say, “You look great!” and, “You look so relaxed!” and, “You have so much energy!”

I’m doing what I’ve been called to do for this year.  And my family’s Gross Domestic Happiness has skyrocketed because of it.