Monday, May 26, 2008

What a Vacation!

This last week, I have been on what I call a working vacation- time off from my day job to do work at home. My goals were to get lots of writing done, clean my filing cabinet, redecorate on a budget, have new windows put in and do the mundane things I don’t have time to do. On Friday, I planned on going up to Don’s and coming home on Monday. I promised myself that I would run early in the mornings as I usually do before work, followed by a half hour or so of browsing the internet while I ate breakfast and, finally, getting in at least two hours of writing each day.

I am more than tickled to report that my vacation went pretty much as planned, with a few setbacks. Sometime on Sunday night, my computer decided to become upset; every time I pressed the keys, the blue screen of death appeared followed by a quick restart where I didn’t have time to read the error message. I attempted system restore, updating Windows, and all kinds of other little things. I finally ended up buying a $15.00 external keyboard, which was the perfect solution. That is, until I forgot I had the external keyboard and started using my laptop keys again- and the computer hasn’t crashed since! My logic- computers have their personalities too!

This week, I met my writing goals. On most days, I wrote at least two hours. On Wednesday, while my windows were being installed, I got in four hours of writing. Since I live in a spacious 925 square foot condominium, I was able to work at my laptop in my office while the old windows were removed and installed at the front of the house. When they made it back to the office, I moved to the kitchen table. This system of staying out of their way while doing my own thing resulted in two things- chapter six and seven are revised/rewritten and I now have new double-paned windows that eliminate most of the outside noise and all of the old draft and keeps the inside evenly heated to my specifications.

The greatest gift I received this week came while I was cleaning out my file cabinets. First, I decided to rid myself of multiple copies of the same story, all of which came from when I took writing workshops about 15 years ago. Some of the copies had intelligent critiques, others contained nothing more than random doodles or words/phrases that made no sense. I shredded until I had the most current copy of each story, including those that went through major revisions. I am not a clutter-bug, except when it comes to my writing, where my ego is more at play. It helped put my own creative side into balance by throwing away that which was not doing me any good.

My other gift was finding a large folder containing rejection slips dating from 1991 through 1998. As any writer knows, rejection is a normal part of submitting your work whether you are published or not. As I read the rejections, I noticed that many were personalized letters and contained handwritten encouragement on form letters. Some were as simple as these:

*So sorry, not right for us.
*Thank you, I regret this is not for me. Good luck!
*Thanks for your submission, but we are not accepting fiction at this time. Best of luck!

Then, there were the personalized letters written directly to me, not form letters with my name inserted at the top. I love Cats wrote me this on April 29, 1992: “Thank you for sending me your story and I really enjoyed the piece and writing. However, I recently accepted a story on the same topic so I will have to pass on yours…”

There were other personalized letters telling me to check back in a few months, and another giving me advice on seeking a literary agent as opposed to submitting on my own, another rejecting my proposal but advising to consult with Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace for a more comprehensive list of places to submit, and yet another rejection where the editor enjoyed reading my proposal but ran out of funding and would not be able to accept any work at this time.

Even the dark cloud of rejection can contain a silver lining (cliché, I know, but who cares?).

I quit submitting my writing for a good eight years after receiving the rejections slips. I don’t think it was the rejections themselves, but more life taking over- going back to school and getting my paralegal certification and then completing my B.A. degree in liberal studies. Both of those contained a lot of writing and submitting to no one else but the professors.

Early last year, I decided to start writing more, as well as submitting. I completed the first draft of my novel, and I am now editing and rewriting. Within the last 14 months or so, I have submitted three short stories, two of which have been accepted for publication. One of the stories keeps getting rejected. My first rejection was because the magazine decided to fold, which is not a rejection of my work per se. The second magazine I sent it thought it was a good story but that it was not right for their publications, perhaps I should submit to crime magazines. The last rejection was from a well-known crime magazine. Time to get that story back into circulation again.

My weekend with Don was great. We went to a musical gathering on Friday night, visited Grandpa on Saturday, attended a parade on Sunday morning (he actually rode in the parade while playing his fiddle and guitar), went for a boat ride and lunch outing on Sunday afternoon, and then I came home this morning. It was wonderful spending the weekend with the one I love and many wonderful friends.

Tomorrow I go back to my day job. Since I like the people I work with, as well as the type of work I do, I am ready to step back into the working world again. Right now, I enjoy being in my warm home (outside it is windy and overcast) and hanging out with my cat, Buddy and Oliver.

I hope you have all had a safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Angels in My Path

Three mornings a week on my run, I stop to visit a sweet elderly Stallion named Festin. The last time I visited, my friend did not look well. Whereas he often met me at the chain link fence, this day he could not so. It appeared that his entire body was glued in place, and every tiny movement of his legs seemed too difficult. I picked up some hay and tried to feed him. I could tell he wanted to acknowledge my gesture in his usual way, but that he could not. I worried about him and hoped he would be okay.

When I went running later in the week, an acquaintance told me she had not seen Festin in the field for the last few days. “I think he’s gone,” she said. “I saw him limping last week as if he were in pain. He didn’t look good.” A few minutes later, when I reached Festin’s home, the field was empty. He was nowhere to be found. As I looked toward the wooden fence where he liked to hang out, or up by his water trough, I realized that I probably would never see him again.

Today, I read an article in our local newspaper that Festin had been put down due to a chronic leg condition that was beyond treatment. For the last two years, I have been blessed with the gift of a great friendship with this wonderful soul. Festin attracted a local audience with his spirit and friendly personality. I know several will be saddened by his loss, including his owners. I am really going to miss him.

To end my week, several angels stepped into my path. First, I received a check that was not due for ten days. I was surprised, but at the same time elated. Payday is not until May 15, and I wondered how I would make it through with the high price of gas and all. The money came just in time.

That Friday evening, I was on my way to Don’s for the weekend. On Range avenue, my car started shaking like crazy. I knew I had a flat tire. The only place I could pull into was the cul-de-sac next to where Festin used to live. I called the towing company to change my tire and called my boyfriend to let him know I would be late. As I waited for help, I imagined Festin running happy and free through the field. I truly believe that his great spirit was watching over me.

The towing company never did come, but a young lady stopped and said her boyfriend could change my tire. Once completed (and after I profusely thanked them for their kindness), they suggested I take the back roads to a local tire center. I made it there just as they were getting ready to close down. Instead of turning me away, the staff stayed overtime to put a new tire on my car and to make sure the rest of my tires were okay. While I waited the forty-five minutes, I worked on the editing process of my novel.

Until next time- be sure to keep your eyes open so you don’t miss any angels that come into your path.

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...