Friday, March 17, 2017

Clearing away the clutter

Wow, is it dusty in here or is it just me? I seriously can't remember the last time I was here. I think when I did come in, I'd turn on the light, take one look, feel overwhelmed and run out. And yes I'm speaking of the blog as well as my office.

Piles of paperwork that needed to be filed, bags of junk mail that need be shredded, clothes that needed to go to goodwill, unfinished projects, and basically just a lot of stuff. Stuff that had spilled from this room into every other room in my house. There's all kinds of studies that say clutter can lead to stress and I started to believe it, because I was experiencing it first hand. I couldn't get to my beautiful writing desk, because that's where bills and every other piece of paperwork would come to die. 

My closet was overflowing with too many clothes and shoes. I couldn't even see the floor of the closet because my shoes took over every inch of space. I kept telling myself I'd do something about all of it.... soon, but I never did. 

There was a constant shred pile on the corner of the dining room table, waiting for one of us to make a trek to the office. A plastic bag used to catch recyclables hung on the door to the basement, again, waiting for someone to take them to the bin in the garage.

One day I decided to work on my laptop at the dining room table, but, when I wasn't looking, the paperwork, had migrated to this room as well (probably because there was no more room on the desk). Along with it came magazines, catalogs, hats, gloves, bags, etc. And it wasn't just the dining room table. The breakfast bar and the kitchen island started to disappear too. 

I get the heebie jeebies when I see the show hoarders. Looking at my house - I started to get the heebie jeebies. Coming home every night, I would have to steel myself for the mess awaiting me. I'd take one look and any energy I had would immediately drain out of me. I couldn't believe how much the clutter and mess was affecting my life. I literally couldn't concentrate and things were beginning to suffer. Number one was my writing, which had become relegated to writing group one night a week and maybe a Saturday where I would run off to a coffee shop to force myself to sit and focus. Something had to give.

So I started searching for organization ideas obsessively on Pinterest. In the middle of all the posts one central them kept popping up - minimalism. Instead of just organizing your things, the idea is to learn to live with less. Downsizing, decluttering, capsule wardrobes - all catch phrases related to the minimalist lifestyle. I'm not ready to move into a tiny house, or get rid of all my books yet, but the whole concept sounded so very appealing.. I won't give a lesson on it here as I'm still far from the ideal minimalist. Search Pinterest if you're interested - seriously. 

Here's a quick list of some things I did accomplish/change in the past couple of months.
  • Donated 10 large trash bags of clothing
  • Donated 2 bags of shoes
  • Donated 1 huge trash bag of towels to the local SPCA 
  • Consolidated 2 trunks of bedding into 4 good sets that are stored inside of a pillow case for each one and kept in the linen closet (WHY was I keeping twin sheets when I haven't had a twin bed since college?)
  • Started a box in the basement where I randomly add books (some mind you), knickknacks, old picture frames, and kitchen paraphernalia (how many knives can one person use??) At the end of the summer it will go to our churches garage sale
  • Moved my remaining shoes off the floor and onto a closet shelf where they now sit in a beautiful row
  • Bought a super inexpensive cubbyhole  bookcase that is now stored on the bottom of my closet on it's side. I purchased $1 cloth bins that I put in them to store the remainder of my clothes. Everything fits perfectly and I have to tell you, I'm getting the itch to ditch some more of the clothes after winter is over.
  • Consolidated the contents of mine and hubby's old, beat up dressers so that we could downsize into a newer, much nicer dresser that we can share.
Once I started hubby was motivated to get in on the action. He cleaned out 2 junk drawers, a cabinet and 3 bags of clothes as well.

BUT some of the biggest changes were the simplest and most ridiculous. Ridiculous because it's hard to believe something so tiny could make such a big difference. 

  • We made a small spot in the closet by the back door. It holds a bucket and a bag for the recyclables. It's out of sight and when it's full we take it to the garage.
  • I installed a hook inside the closet of the backdoor to hang a bag for anything that needs to be shredded. Since this is where we open the mail it make perfect sense to have it right there. Junk mail immediately goes in the bag instead of on the kitchen table, island, my desk, kitchen chairs...you get the point.
  • I employed hubby's carpentry talents to make a 3 tiered mail bin (yes I found the plans on Pinterest.) One slot is for coupons, ads and magazines, one is for letters, bills, anything that needs to be looked at, and the last one is for outgoing mail. He added some hooks to the bottom of it for keys, hat, umbrella, and garage door opener. 

Again, the simplest idea and yet it has made a world of difference in keeping the counters and most importantly, my desk, clutter free. The heebie jeebies started to take a hike and I started to write again. 

But after a few weeks I felt like I needed to do some mental decluttering as well....

I'll let you know how things are going in a few days :)

~ Adrienne




Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dear Readers......

As someone who hopes to one day have a book nestled on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, the library, or even the book section of Amazon, I feel the need to give a shout out and some love to the people who make those places possible.

READERS

God bless readers. You pick up a square object with sheets of paper, a little ink, and you climb into the little (or big) world that the author created. You root for the protagonist and boo the antagonist. You cry, cheer, and sometimes are just genuinely pissed at the ending. You will argue with other readers and professional reviewers who just don't get what the writer was trying to say. You're thrilled when you hear the book is being made into a movie, and frustrated beyond belief when you find out the person cast for the lead character looks nothing like what you pictured in your head. Readers are detailed, analytical, critical, and brutally honest. Most of all, they are the person we most want to impress. They are the ones we are working for. It is their love we're trying to earn, so to speak.

The reason for all of this is that I got some love this month. Two of the people who so generously offered to read/critique my book for me, delivered their feedback. I've said it before and I will say it again. Letting someone else read your writing is downright scary. I would liken it to giving someone the ability to read your mind. Why would anyone do such a thing right? And yet writer's do it - ALL THE TIME. 

That being said, the feedback outweighs the paralyzing terror.
I'm kidding. It's not that bad......(Yes it is.)

The point is they both gave feedback that was analytical, detailed, and completely honest, while at the same time being very kind. They told me what they loved, what made them laugh and what broke their heart. They also showed me what needed work, what didn't ring true, and most importantly, suggestions for how to make it better. They both are writers as well, but their investment in wanting to help me make it better, is what makes them a reader. 

So to all my the readers out there - Thank you....
I'll keep working until I get it right :)

~Adrienne 


Friday, December 18, 2015

Miss me?

I shudder to see the last dated entry on this blog......I didn't just drift out of the picture. I dropped off the cliff. I'm not sure what exactly did me in. There isn't one specific thing I can point to; more  a combination of too many balls in the air and one of them had to drop.

So I dropped this, and for that I am extremely sorry.

When we last we spoke (well I spoke and hopefully you read), I was writing furiously plodding along, in an attempt to actually write a complete first draft of my book. The problem? I seemed to be doing many more things related to writing (including this blog), than actually WRITING THE BOOK! 

Seriously, what was the point of a writing blog, if I was doing more writing here than anywhere else? So I guess I went cold turkey? I needed to get my act together and finish the book. Even if went no where else than to my hard drive, at least I had done it. So that's what I did.......

I WROTE A BOOK! 

Yes, after many stops and starts, baby steps, pecking away at the keys for hours, and sometimes just a few minutes, it is finally done. Well, at least the first completed draft....ugh.

I did edit for another couple of months, until it came to the point that I could no longer see the things that needed to be corrected. You stare at the same words over and over and it all becomes a blur. I know it needs more, or maybe less. It needs editing, analyzing, and probably some big time changes. So I finally sent it out to some people with writing backgrounds and whose opinion I trust. So now I wait (patiently), for their feedback, and work to thicken my skin. I'm hoping the good of the story will outweigh the bad, but I'm also very aware of how insanely difficult the whole process is. So I'm doing my best to keep my expectations realistic. But for now, I am allowing myself a minute (ok maybe 5), to just be proud of myself for completing it.

I have a group of writing friends who inspire and motivate me to keep pushing. I know they are part of the reason I was able to finally finish the book. Three of them have books out or coming out (insert sound of clapping), so this just inspires me even more to keep pushing. Check them out....

Dee Romito - The BFF Bucket List

Kate Karyus Quinn - Down With The Shine

Alyssa Palombo - The Violinist of Venice


So that's that - the self imposed exile is over. Hopefully it won't be long before you're hearing from me again. 

~ Adrienne

Sunday, March 9, 2014

No More Tomorrows.....

You approached us first, asking if the chair next to us was available. It was only much later that I found out you considered yourself somewhat of an introvert, someone who could never walk up to a group at a party. 

     "But you approached us at the conference," I teased.
     "There were only two of you," you had replied. "If there had been more I never would have stopped."

I thank God now that there were only 2 of us at that table.

We only met face to face for that one weekend, but in the few years that followed it was as if we'd known each other forever. The world of writing was the obvious connection, but I learned so much more about you over time. You were devoted to your boys and you were a champion of your friends. You had a kindness that came through so clearly. I remember sharing some work with you and you were so lovely in your critique, helping me to see what needed correcting, while at the same time completely embracing my words. You always took time to comment on my blog and encourage me to keep writing. Your legendary sense of humor came through in your 30 second stories and your open letters to the world. Most recently I loved your story of finding feathers as a sign from one who has passed on. Did you sense something? You had an overwhelming love of all art and you shared that with all of us. I learned how much you adored animals when you wrote of your girl Ivy and I teared up when you shared her passing. Your addition of Sophie brought a new love and joy to your heart that came through in every picture of her. Your status updates always made me laugh, or think and reflect. I loved seeing them pop up in my news feed, knowing all was right in your world. Last Sunday we exchanged tweets during the Oscars and it was like you were sitting next to me on the couch laughing away. That was Sunday...

Wednesday you were gone. 

We still can't believe that it's true - can't fathom that one so young with so much life ahead of her could disappear in the blink of an eye. You had messaged recently, asking if we would be attending the conference again this year. I told you it wouldn't work out, but that we missed you. I know in my head I was thinking there would always be next year. How easily we all believe there will always be another tomorrow. 

My heart goes out to your family and friends - I pray that they find comfort in your memory and eventually peace. I pray that we all find it. For anyone reading this, please say a prayer tonight that we all have many tomorrow's, and please pray for my friend and her family.


We'll miss you Jotter Girl....we'll be looking for our feathers.

Adrienne

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Putting Yourself Out There....

Yes it's me....yes, I've been MIA. Mostly for good reasons - as in I haven't been writing here as I've been doing more writing elsewhere. When I look back I realize that was my whole reason for beginning this blog in the first place. So it is a good thing that I've been absent, but I still feel guilty and like I need to apologize. So I'm sorry :)

So, back to that writing thing. I took a big step (for me) and joined a critique group a few months back. I took the first couple of chapters of my story and sent them off to small handful of strangers for a round robin group edit. They in turn sent me their work and we passed them off to each other and at the end we received our work back with four sets of edits, notes, and feedback. 

To say I stressed out during that time would be an understatement....a HUGE understatement. Now don't get me wrong. I never once feared they would be cruel in their critique. I like to believe writers are a kind group, who are out to bolster other writers, not knock them to the ground. But all the same, I was taking something that was near and dear to me, something I had invested a huge amount of time and emotion into, and handing it off to perfect strangers. I was putting myself out there in the most exposed way possible. I'm pretty shy by nature, so talking to someone about what I'm writing gets me tongue tied. Actually showing someone what I've written takes that fear to a whole new level. What if they didn't get what I was trying to convey? What if they didn't get the funny parts, the sad parts, and everything in between? Even worse - what if they just had no interest in reading it at all? All of these were real possibilities. I'm not going to kid myself. I know just how difficult this writing thing can be and the likelihood of ever actually being published. (It's a wonder anyone puts themselves through this.) But I also know that in order to learn and grow as a writer I need to show my work to other people. I have to open it up to scrutiny, and yes, criticism from others. 

I'm happy to report that all the breath holding these last few months was not necessary. Their feedback was incredibly generous. They got the humor, they teared up at certain parts, and they were (I hope) genuinely interested in the story. One of the best compliments came when someone said it made them hug their husband and child a little tighter that night. Now, they also pointed out my issues with punctuation. I'm pretty sure I was absent during the lesson on comma and semi colon use. They also found the holes where a piece of information was left out. When you read something over and over and you know the story so well in your head, you tend to overlook when certain things are missing. They pointed out times where the humor was too soon, the drama needed to be ramped up, and when a piece of dialogue didn't ring true for a character. The cool thing about that is that in only a couple of chapters they already knew who my characters were. They understood their personality and they immediately picked up on something that seemed out of character for them. The other cool thing was that they disagreed with each other at times. One pointed out not loving slang in dialogue, while another said they felt it was true to they way people speak in real life. Sometimes it's just a matter of personal preference and has nothing to do with whether you can write. Overall their feedback was constructive, and reaffirming. The other cool thing? I got to read four other pieces of work and experience their creativity process too. These could be the first drafts of really amazing books and I got to be one of the first to read them. 

See, putting yourself out there can turn out to be a really good thing. 
Have you tried it lately?


~Adrienne



Monday, September 2, 2013

What Would Your Story Sound Like?

Music and I have a very serious relationship; as in I seriously couldn't live without it. The radio goes on in the morning first thing while I'm getting ready for the day. I may not be a morning person, and carrying on a conversation doesn't work for at least the first hour, but music can be the ultimate kick starter.

The music continues on the car ride into work. Not having the radio on would never, ever occur to me. The idea of a broken car radio might just induce a mental meltdown on par with a two year old's tantrum. Thankfully it's never happened.

At work I alternate between the radio, (when the stations will cooperate and come in), Cd's, and my iPod. The iPod is my favorite option; shuffle mixes things up for me, or I can choose exactly what I want to hear. You know the days I want to go from Metallica to the Les Miserable soundtrack. Or the days I feel that one song is speaking to me; to what I'm feeling right at that very moment. Like the day last week when stress could have been my middle name. The only song that kept my last nerve from being shredded was Jimmy Buffet's Boat Drinks, in particular the line, "I've got to fly to Saint Somewhere. I'm close to bodily harm." See how helpful music can be?

I noticed a long time ago that whenever I'm watching a movie trailer, or a promo for a television show, my reaction to it is highly dependent on the music they use in the background. I literally started watching Roswell because of their use of Dido's Here With Me. Grey's Anatomy put The Fray and Snow Patrol on the map. Certain songs give you such a visceral reaction to a scene. It can literally make or break it. Would Lloyd Dobler holding the radio over his head been as memorable with any song other than In Your Eyes?

I realize that you can't have music playing in a book, but it doesn't mean that it can't influence the words, help me to create the scene that I want to set for the reader. I read an interview by the Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's in which she said she listened to the music of Muse (ironic no?), while writing her best selling novel. I listened to their music after reading Twilight and I could see the connection; literally hear the influence. I started thinking, dreaming, what songs would play when my book is turned into a movie? So, I created a play list, my own personal book soundtrack. Want a sneak peek?

The Day Before the Day - Dido

I Will Love You - Fisher

Happy Phantom - Tori Amos

Feels Like Rain - John Hiatt

Irvine - Kelly Clarkson

In This Room - Leslie Tucker

10.000 Miles - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men

The Difficult Kind - Sheryl Crow

Let it Be Me - Ray LaMontagne

Beloved Wife - Natalie Merchant

I Will Wait - Mumford & Sons


So, any guesses on what I'm writing about? 
How about my other writer's out there? What would make your book soundtrack?




~ Adrienne

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sharing the love.....

As a writer and a book lunatic enthusiast, today was what one would call a really good day. Today is the final day of our church's annual lawn fete, where one of the long standing attractions is something called Attic Treasures. It's basically a giant garage sale, and in the middle of that garage sale are hundreds of books. On top of that the cost is, $.50 for a soft cover and $1.00 for hardcovers, but the best part actually happens today. For $2 you buy a paper grocery bag and whatever books you can fit into it are yours......cue the angels singing. 

I make it a point to go each day and spend at least an hour or more going through every box. I have many goals during these searches; finding that book I've always wanted to read, adding to an author collection, and in some cases just a random book I picked up that turned out to be a great surprise. Below is a picture of this year's loot. 22 books and I believe the cost was about $6. Last year's sale netted me a couple of Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen books, and I was able to add to that this year. Under the Tuscan Sun is something I've wanted to read ever since seeing the movie. A Thousand Splendid Suns is the sequel to the Kite Runner, so I'm sure that will be another extremely emotional read. Alice Hoffman is another author I collect, Neil Gaiman is someone I've been hearing a lot about lately, and The Fountain Head is one of those extreme books that I challenge myself to read now and then. Dave Eggers wrote one of my favorite books, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, so I jumped at this copy of What is the What

While I was there today I ran into some family members, also in search of a good story. One wistfully commented that they would love to have more time to read. I don't think any of us have the luxury of reading as much as we want. As I put it, I'm storing them up for the future. I will get to them all....someday. Again, I'm not kidding when I say that someday I'll need a bigger house for all these books. What can I say...I LOVE BOOKS. I get giddy just discussing books with someone. All weekend I caught myself pushing books I had read, and own, at random strangers. 

"This was a good book, but a hard story," I said pointing out Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World to a woman standing near me. She smiled politely, as I walked off to point out another book to someone else. 

Even today as I walked with my family, I was literally throwing books into their bag that I felt they should read. 

"Have you read this," I asked pointing out a copy of White Oleander by Janet Fitch.
"I did see the movie," my cousin said. "Book was so much better," I replied and pushed it toward her.

"Have you ever read this?" I asked her mom, holding up a copy of Judith Guest's, Ordinary People.
"It sounds familiar," she said and I pretty much tossed that into her bag.

"Oh my gosh, this is such a great book," I gushed, grabbing a beat up copy of Pat Conroy's Beach Music. I don't even think I gave them a choice before it went into their bag too. Incidentally, I had a conversation about this same book a couple of weeks ago with a fellow book addict enthusiast, who I met randomly at my hair salon. We had both read it years ago and we were still in awe over his ability to describe the streets of Venice down  to the smallest detail, and don't get me started on his descriptions of southern life. Seriously, go get a copy. 

So....now it's time for me to go rearrange some bookshelves and find a home for my new friends. This is the fun part too, as I'll come across a book I bought at last year's sale, but still haven't gotten to read yet and I'll get excited about it all over again. Or I'll come across one I read years ago and loved, but haven't (shudders at the idea) gotten rid of. 

Oh, and if you happen to see me at a future book sale, you may want to head the other way, unless you plan on buying A LOT OF BOOKS.

Adrienne

PS Are you like me? Do you tell random strangers about books? Which ones??