Thursday, December 22, 2011

tomorrow i can say...

from here!
When I was a little girl, and Christmas was like candy-bliss-crack-pops that fell from the sky (you know how it was), this day was also iconic. Every year, on December 22, I would proudly announce to all within earshot (and sometimes, just to myself--over and over again), "Tomorrow I can say, 'Tomorrow's Christmas Eve!'" I'm not sure if this tradition soothed me or added to the unbearable, pee-my-pants excitement, but it happened every year. Even well into high school and college, I was bereft if a December 22 passed without my acknowledgement of it being the day before the day before the day before Christmas.

I was a weird kid.

Sadly, after more than a quarter of century of life, I am no longer jittering in any corners over impending holidays. And, if I am, it's for completely different reasons.

In general, I fear I am becoming a disillusioned old grump. Not just about Christmas. I kind of hate movies all of a sudden, for example. Not that there aren't films I adore and always go back to, but the industry just makes me sick. There is significantly less magic in Hollywood to me, now. I look at images of that sign and all I see is money, money, money, power, power, beauty, fame.

But I can't help it... I still watch.

Christmas is a little bit like that. Somewhere along the way, the magic got warped. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely still there. Whenever I think of A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The original Grinch cartoon, or, you know, the birth of Christ and the good news of "God and sinners reconciled," I feel it. I'm there.

Then, I chance to walk inside a Walmart (another necessary evil, ugh), and see this sign:

and now I am physically ill.

I don't even have a problem with Santa Claus. Not really. Not if the point is believing in things you can't see, or embracing generosity, or actively participating in a world-wide fantasy for one night of the year (I still like to set out cookies and milk, knowing full well that my dad is the one who will partake-- I love the act of welcoming the fairy tale. Also, of feeding my dad cookies in the middle of the night). Elf is another Christmas staple I love, as well as The Year Without Santa Claus, and it's because of that, the belief. The magic. The wide-eyed-ness of childhood.

And then there are the flops. If you guys have been reading for a while, you know that my husband and I love Phineas and Ferb. More than any twenty-six-year-old, childless couple should. Because I mean, seriously. It's the best kid's show on TV.

But their Christmas episode? Holy cash cow. So depressing. If you haven't seen it, the basic premise is that, by accident, all of Danville shows up as "naughty" on Santa's list.

You remember in The Grinch, when all the Whos came together and sang, even after the old green meanie took away their things, and his heart grew three sizes? Well. In Phineas and Ferb, the opposite happens. They get on the radio and sing to Santa about how they all "thought they were good."

Sigh. I expected more, you know?

Okay, so, now that everyone's like, "Why is she talking about Christmas specials after bemoaning both Hollywood and the holiday?" I'll add that this won't be the most concise, point-driven post, or anything. I have five minutes before I need to be across the street at the theatre for our second-to-last performance, and I want to put this up before my blog goes another day untouched.

On a positive note, one of my favorite things to do, while I can, is to not do any shopping until the week before Christmas, with no definite plan of what to get. And tomorrow is that day! A weird Christmas tradition? Yes. But not quite as bad as, "Tomorrow I can say, 'Tomorrow's Christmas Eve!'"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

and then i quit the internet for some days.

A of all:
I won!
Which is totally old news, since it's been hanging out over there on the progress ticker for weeks now.
*takes down progress ticker*
Anyway, yay! And a slight bit of "good riddance," too.

I say "good riddance" because, well, my brain got fried. I proved, once and for all, that I can write 50k words of a sh**ty first draft in 30 days. Good for me. I don't think it was a complete waste of creative energy. I made a few good, strong discoveries and shaped a couple of exciting and compelling characters (a couple. meaning, like, TWO, of the 50-or-so that came into being. yeesh). But, ultimately? I blanked on how to write with intent.

Two weeks ago, I went back to my *real* WiP, and here's what I thought:
"Crap. This one has to make sense."

Thanks, NaNoBrain.

And then, in true Julie-fashion, I gave myself a little too much space. I haven't written anything, and I mean ANYTHING (note the almost-three-week blogger absence), since November 28. In my defense, I *have* been doing other things. The play, for one! Happy sigh. My current literary dry spell is nothing compared to my recently assuaged, theatrical dry spell (two and a half years = longest I've been not-on-stage since I was 12, for reals). So, at least I have that.

And then I quit the internet for some days.

And then my mother-in-law showed me this:
found somewhere in here!
Books. Christmas lights. Tea lamp.

And, for some reason, things changed. Yes. I can still do this.
I can write and act at the same time. I can be BOTH.
Duh. I even mentioned writing in my actor's bio.*

Why am I always the last one to figure this sort of thing out?

*No, seriously. I did. And now EVERYONE who comes to the play will know. The secret's finally out... (eek.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

greetings from manhattan {2.5 weeks later}.

Do not let anyone ever tell you that I do not love New York. They would be lying.

Oh, my husband. You are hereby allowed to run the New York City marathon every single year, if you like. Better yet, why don't we just move there?


*sigh* I tried.

After years away, it was bliss to be in NYC again. Re-acclimating myself to the subway system was a bit comical, but other than that, I slipped right back into the groove and panic of Manhattan. Uh, sort of.

It helped that we were only there for 3.2 days. Anything more and I would have REALLY made a fool of myself. But!

1. I wore a green pea coat and walked with confidence.
2. I was asked for directions.

Ego sufficiently boosted. Until next time.

Highlights include:

WAR HORSE. Oh my gosh. Please sit in the second row on the aisle at a show like this at least once in your life. Eerily lifelike horse puppets. Over my head. Actors. Three feet away {maybe less?}. And then, you know, it was amazing and stuff.

Tears on my face the whole time. Because! a} What a beautiful story, and b} Oh my lands, one of the most impressive things I've ever seen on stage {if not THE most}. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to wait at the stage door {*sob*}, because we had to hurry across town to get to this place:

DIRT CANDY. Vegetarian episode of Iron Chef America + challenger from a veg restaurant in NY = we are going there. And we did. We met Amanda Cohen and told her we saw her on TV, and she giggled {love!}. Not surprisingly, the food was outofthisworld.

The next day, there was a marathon. Husband survived with flying colors, and then this went down:

Blogger party at Madison Square Park!

Bess and Elisabeth, hunkering down over this weird short girl in between them.
 {That is a tiny to-go espresso cup in my hand. It was, in the way of Ramona Quimby, DELISHUS.}

Of course, now I want to go back. I always want to go back. We did a lot of other fun things, like stumble upon a neat little restaurant/bakery called Kitchenette, and explore the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park. So cool.

And we saw Ground Zero, which is a whole different animal now than it was four years ago. Note to anyone about to visit New York: you have to get your pass to see the 9/11 stuff before you show up and try to stand in line. Oops. {Honestly, I wasn't all that let down. I look forward [in a weird way] to telling my future children about it, but until then? I'm not too keen on reliving the nightmare. This is a new and strange development for me. Maybe related to traumas I've experienced since? Who knows. Moving on.}

In short, I miss it. I miss the buzz and fury and life of New York. I don't know why. I don't really LOVE cities. I mean, I've enjoyed visiting Chicago and Boston and DC the last handful of years, but I don't dream about them when I leave. I don't want to spread out my arms and spin in circles when I get there. I do love DC {I could live there, easy}, but even that doesn't compare to the oomph and yes and home I feel for New York. Is it the theatre thing? The writing thing? The bigness and importance and quintessentially-American thing? The memories of going there with my mom? Perhaps it's a little of all of that. I can't wait to go back (in April! YAY!). Now if I can just convince my husband that Central Park counts as "outdoors"...

In the meantime, I'll watch War Horse videos on youtube and stalk New Yorkers on twitter and talk to my friends who live there. A vicarious experience is better than none at all.


{For real, you guys. I don't even want to see the movie. 
I just want to hold the stage production in my heart, forever.}

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 at 11:11 am.

When I was in high school, my best friend and I habitually kept watch over the time, for the sole purpose of celebrating at 11:11. Preferably twice a day.

Part of it was all the ones. And part of it was in anticipation of her 11/11 birthday.

Happy birthday, Dani. 

Happy wedding day, Jess!

And a very happy Once-in-a-Lifetime Day to everyone else. 
A good time to do something memorable.

Me, I'm going to go meet up with some 'Nooga Wrimos and try to catch up.

I owe you:

*One blog post about my trip to New York.
(so wish I had a War Horse post to put up for Armistice/Veterans Day, but... writing... ugh.)

*One blog post about a NaNo myth that I have either unraveled... or confirmed.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

nano update: day three.

Guess what I'm not doing right now? It's not about not knowing what to write. That tends to come on its own. It's the distractions, the overpowering urge to collect cartoon money from make-believe zoo animals on my phone. Have I mentioned that I no longer take ADD meds? Truth.

Okay. Time to get back on my feet. Did you see the fabulous NaNoWriMo buttons that Sommer Leigh made? Here are three that I snagged:

Of course I went for the one with Shakespeare on it.

And, since this is fun from time to time, want to hear my current musical inspiration? It's Chopin, and I love it. The person who uploaded this video wrote "sad song" as the description, but I've always felt it was more of a subdued-happy song. Oh, music, you and your subjectivity.

Okay, so, here it is: Chopin's "Tristesse." It plays a major part in my NaNo story, which, contrary to what the images on the video may lead you to believe, has absolutely nothing to do with angels.

Alrighty, back to the grindstone I go.

Oh, and uh, by the way. We're going to NYC tomorrow! Husband's running the marathon, we're going to see Warhorse {hee! puppets!}, eat at at least one restaurant we've seen on TV, and hang out with fairbetty, herself. All the more reason to write a crap ton this afternoon.

I can do it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


A of all, thank you and a hug to Kris for this award:

I do love tea, and all cups involved! To whom will I pass it on, you ask? Scroll down to find out! {or, you know, read the rest of the post first.}

Speaking of winning, remember when we had that contest-y blogfest thing? And remember how I said there would be winners? I was not, in fact, lying! Incredible.

So, without further ado, even though there were several honorable mentions {like Jeigh's first, uh, query experience, Lee's play about veggies in a fridge {Mr. Cabbage was type-cast! Bahaha!}, Jillian's dino/shake picture and Tristyn's "Chubby Dinos in Love", Jess's impressive pop-up book, Tara's potentially disastrous but so, so clever Sign in Please... heck, I could give them all honorable mentions, really}, I hereby award first prize {i.e. first pick of prizes) to... Gracie! Because, oh my gosh, that story about the recycling bin was brilliant. Heck, they all were. Go read, if you haven't already. The last line of the story about Bear and Girl made me L to the O L.

So, Gracie, please email me at julie {dot} maughon {at} gmail {dot} com with your mailing address and prize choice {a copy of Daughter, discount-book-store goody bag, or first chapter critique}, and we'll get this thing started!

Drawing winners!
In second place, as per the random generator {also known as my husband announcing a number after I "drumroll"}, is Kathy McKendry! Yay!!!
And in third, Rhianne!

Congrats, ladies! If you could email me as well, 'twould be fantastic. I'll email you back as your turn to pick comes along. Huzzah!*

*I went to an 18th century fair last weekend. It was awesome. Unfortunately {or perhaps quite fortunately?}, I'm having trouble ceasing with the lingo. Hhhhhuzzah.

And now, as a special treat, I'd like to pass this One Lovely Blogger Award on to all Thirteen Lovely Bloggers who entered the 'fest. In case you forgot yourselves:

C. Lee McKenzie
Jeigh Meredith
Jenna Cooper
Jess McKendry
Kathy McKendry
Ruth Josse
tara tyler
Tristyn E.

Love{ly} to you all! {And seriously, every entry was amazing.}

*turns off internet* *goes back to NaNo* *eats ice cream*
{45,546 to go!}

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

two years down, 48900 words to go.

Hello all, and a happy November to you! I'll spare you the "oh my pants, this year has flown by" musings, because I know that a) You likely feel the same way and don't need reminding, and b) The years will only get faster and faster-feeling, so why bother worrying about it now?

Anywho, this a special day. Two years ago, this happened:

And that was fun.

In other news, NaNo has begun! Look at me, blogging instead of writing. I DID, however, stay up to start writing at midnight, so I have about 1100 words under my belt. Totally justifies blogging, right?

*exhale* It's going to be long month (and I am pumped).

Friday, October 28, 2011

angst-baking, nano, and youtube {oh my}.

So, I did that whole "sick" thing this past week. Great fun. I did not sleep AT ALL last Friday night, which I'm sure didn't help. I never got tired enough to even try. Bizarre. As you may know, I've had a lot on my mind. You know how stuff is, and how it always comes in threes {or, in my current case, fives}. At four in the morning last Saturday, after I stopped trying to sleep, something happened for the first time since college... or perhaps ever.

I angst-baked.

Flourless peanut butter cookies. Yurm. Want the recipe?

Mine did not look like this.

1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of white sugar
1 egg

Mix it all together, spoon out your dollops, hashtag those puppies with your fork, and bake for 8 minutes. At least, that's what the website said to do. Methinks I should have left mine in for about 10. They ended up tasting like hot dough in cookie shapes. Granted, I have never had a successful solo cooking experience in my life {not counting spaghetti, microwave meals, or frozen pizzas}. So, for me? They were awesome.

Speaking of insanity {weren't we?}, I have decided that I absolutely must participate in NaNoWriMo, regardless of these things:

1. I will be in New York the first weekend of the month, and at camp the third.
2. I have no basis for the story, other than two characters and a vague idea.
3. I will have rehearsals to go to almost every night {oh yeah, I got into a play}.
4. My best friend has a brain tumor.*
5. I have a perfectly good WiP that does not deserve to be abandoned any further.
6. This thing freaking starts in four days.
7. Coffee is expensive.

*Remember the health issue I mentioned a few weeks ago? This is that. I've been not-saying-anything for a while, and it's been eating at me. If you don't want to read about Katie's grade II astrocytoma, I apologize in advance for the inevitability of my posting about it. I know I'll feel A LOT better if I can be open with you all.

On the flipside, here are the reasons *why*:

1. I have confidence that I'll be able to make up for lost words, before and after these trips.
2. I'm sure I have more of a basis than I realize, and I love what I do have.
3. Rehearsals don't start until 7:30.
4. Katie wants me to got for it.
5. My perfectly good WiP has been giving me the evil eye.
6. I'm {mostly) a pantser... why should I worry? I'll wing it, after all.
7. Tea is less expensive, and we have plenty of it.

As stupid as this endeavor sounds, in light of everything else that's going on, I can't help but be excited. Oh, the sweet release of going into another world. I sure could use more of that.

In keeping with the incoherent nature of this post, here's a music video. I've loved this song for years, but never saw the video {the wonderful, delightful video} until this week. I forget about things like YouTube. What a weirdo I am {and thanks, Katie, for finally getting me to watch it}.

Love to all! Tune in next time {or, the next few times} for lists of things I love, an award or two, and a dissertation on why I am OH MY GOSH still awake at this hour.*

*Probably not one to get your hopes up about.

Friday, October 21, 2011

solid advice for a bad day.

Chin up, friends.

We all get down.

We all feel low about ourselves from time to time.

And on such a day, there really is no better medicine
than watching clips of Arrested Development on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

third campaign challenge: delicate tastes.

 *First of all, want to be a part of a fun contest? I'm celebrating 100 followers by hosting a little blogfest (open through Oct. 28) where we all dish about the hilarious things we wrote as children. There will be prizes!

Time to get our third challenge on! The guidelines:
Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:
  • that it’s morning, 
  • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
  • that the MC (main character) is bored
  • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
  • that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise."   (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).

Are you ready for this? I know this wasn't a requirement, but it came out to 300 words exactly.
Here we go.


On June seventh, I woke up to my father slamming his hand print onto the foggy windshield. “Get up, Cameron!” he bellowed through the glass. “She’s here!” He darted from campsite to sand, and the squelch of his boots disappeared.

“Mughh. Fantastic.” That man and his turtle-watching.

“What did he say, Vijay?” I opened my eyes a slit. Phoolati smiled at me, her wooden spoon aloft.

“Oh, ugh!” I yanked a blanket up around my nose and mouth, but the fumes dripped down my throat, burned my eyes. There was no way I could go back to sleep.

“Open a window or get out,” my stepmother chirruped. “Your dad wanted wastopaneer, so that’s what we’re having.”

“In the bus?! It’s not even light.” I untangled myself and stumbled through our synbatec apartment, hand over mouth. The top of my head brushed a path through the painted eggshells Phoolati had hung from the ceiling.

“You used to love wastopaneer, Vijay,” she said. “It’s a tacise blend of our cultures.” She rubbed her finger over a suspended eggshell.

I grabbed my sweatshirt and unlatched the door. “It’s Cameron, and that was before you changed the recipe.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d started calling it “waste-of-paneer” behind her back. Not that it ever got a laugh.

After kicking against the roots and pebbles of our campsite, my bare feet relished the cool scrape of pre-dawn sand. I found my dad where the tide had washed out, hunched over a nest. May as well help. The light from his headlamp twitched and I noticed something red.

“Dad?” I choked down some wastopaneer-flavored bile. “What are you doing?”

“What’s wrong, Vijay?” he asked, holding up an egg and a flipper. “Don’t you like the new recipe?”


If you likey, and you don't think I've completely gone off the deep end (sea turtles are my favorite animal, promise. I don't know what got into me), please go votey! I'm number 66 this time. Thanks! 

**edited to add**
No actual sea turtles were harmed in the writing of this story. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

real quick, prizes!

... and by "tomorrow," of course, I meant "in the middle of the night on Friday." I know it's easy to confuse the two.

Hokay! Here we go.


In no particular order, the prizes for this fun and delightful contest/blogfest, in which you should all participate are:

1. A copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor {you KNOW you want it.}

2. A $10 grab bag of wonderment from The Book Gallery in Chattanooga. This place is AMAZING. I spent 90 minutes there a week or so ago, and would not have left if my phone hadn't beeped to remind me of the time. They don't have everything, but what they do have is super cheap, especially this month {crazy, 30-day book sale, what?} The winner of this prize will have to email me ASAP with some info on his or her favorite types of books, so I'll know what to look for as I fill up that bag. It is going to be nuts.

3. A first chapter critique. By me! Because I'm interested to see what you guys are writing, and I want to give back! {and I need the practice.}

Alrighty. How about another clarification? The random drawing, and how the first-second-third placings will go:

First place! Will go to my favorite entry. This winner will have first pick of the three prizes.

Second and third place! Will go to the first two names I draw from the hat, so to speak. Second place gets second pick, and third place, well, third place gets whatever awesome prize the other two crazy winners didn't choose, for whatever reason.

The entries!
Post about your early work = one entry.
Spread the news on Twitter = one entry.
Spread the news on Facebook = one entry {make sure you tell me if you're spreading the news!}
Include a picture of a dinosaur or wolf = one entry.
So that's four entries possible. What's not to love? {Oh, and uh, I'm keeping it fair. No one gets to win all the prizes. Haha.}

And there you have it, friends! PLEASE do that whole "spreading the news" thing, especially since I forgot to submit this to the Campaigner Notice Board for this week. Oops.

Happy reminiscing!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

to keep us happy.

First things first, let’s talk about this button that Tara Tyler made for the contest:

Is that love or is that love?

Second things second, let’s talk about how I’m going to extend the contest. At this rate, everyone’s a winner! {That’s not a bad thing, but still…}

And for our third thing, let me apologize for falling off the face of the planet in the last two weeks. At first, it was because of the whole “I was a grown up and posted every day for a while. I will reward myself by not posting at all!” Tsk tsk. And then on Wednesday, my life took an unexpected turn. Let’s leave it at a health issue of a dear (nay, best) friend. I spent the whole weekend with her family at the hospital, and now, even though she’s home in Chattanooga (rejoice!), there may be a long haul ahead of us.

I want to keep blogging, I do. Promise. I can’t promise quality, though {be grateful that I didn’t post anything this weekend. It would have been… unattractive}.

But wait, what about the contest? What about the campaign? Good. Questions. The timing, needless to say, is not ideal, but timings are never ideal. The contest will go on {!}, thanks to my special helper and favorite Jeigh in the world, Jeigh Meredith. On days that I can’t blog, she’ll pop in and help with the contest, and hopefully tell a few jokes.

And, no, I haven’t forgotten the prizes. Tomorrow? We’ll solidify the prizes {and some of the rules} tomorrow. YOU WILL WANT TO WIN.


And, on an unrelated note, here’s something that makes me happy.

It pays to have friends who are marrying illustrators, it really does. Here’s a huge thank you and high five to Chris, fiance of Jess at Concrete Pieces of Soul, for making this sketch, out of the kindness of his heart.

Introducing, my main character, Bell. He looks like a person and everything!

Dear Bell,
Sorry for the recent abandonment. I have a good reason. Who am I kidding, you’re probably grateful. I wouldn’t be happy with me, either. Enjoy the respite while you have it.

If you’re so inclined, check out Chris’s website. He’s got loads of talent. Loads, I say.

Thanks, Chris. And thanks, Jess. And a big thanks to Jeigh for her willingness to help me out.
Let’s keep those contest entries coming! You have until the 28th now. Make me proud!
P.s. The things I’ve seen so far are nothing short of awesome. Thanks so much to everyone who’s participated!

{Oh, and, you know, if you are inclined to pray, please remember my friend Katie. Thanks.}

Friday, September 30, 2011

oh, the early work: a contest/blogfest!

Back in February, I put myself out there and started making blog friends. I wanted to throw a party, but felt kind of dumb doing so.

In April, I had my first blogaversary, or however you spell that made-up word. I didn't say anything, because, well, who would notice? I wasn't very prolific, which embarrassed me. A bunch of blogs I read had garnered huge followings before the end of six months. I kept my mouth shut, when I should have danced in the streets. Go me!

In May, I finished my first draft of my first novel, which I did announce, but never really celebrated here. I wanted to, though! It was the best feeling in the world.

In August, I joined the Campaign, which was a huge step, also deserving of a party that had yet to come {insert obligatory "please vote for my flash fiction piece, if you feel inclined and have not done so already! #141, yeah yeah!"}.

And then, this week, I finally made it to 100 followers, and I realized,

Yep. The time has come.
Time for presents.

source, yo.
The truth is, as I've blabbed about a million times before, this blogging journey has truly blessed me. If you would like to hear me gush further, read this post about skunks and crit partners.

So, hey. Let's not just have presents, let's have a contest!

During Christine Tyler's Sparkfest, an idea struck me. I would be really, intensely interested to hear about the "early work" of my fellow writers, and I'd love to share my own.

I'll just tell you know.
My first story ever was about two sad dinosaurs who fell in love and weren't sad anymore.
aw, and now they're happy! yay!
It was awesome. I was six.

In middle school, I filled up a notebook--in stylish burgundy ink--with a story about a girl whose best friends were the wolves behind her house. Sound familiar? It was TERRIBLE. And terribly amusing. Not surprisingly, I giggled through the whole first half of this book.

you can't fight the wolf shirt.
{but it wouldn't hurt to think twice before wearing it to church.}
Are you as excited as I am to hear what crazy/hilarious/embarrassing/possibly disturbing things your fellow bloggers thought up as children? I should hope so, or no one's going to have fun with this. Ha.

A few requirements, to get us started. Please follow me, if you haven't done so already. I want to make sure you'll see the announcement if you win! Let me know in the comments if you tweet/FB/blog about this contest, and I'll give you an extra entry {for each platform} for the random drawing. I don't have a nifty jpeg for this contest/blogfest, so if you include an image of a wolf or a dinosaur, or both, I'll give you another extra entry.

There will be three winners.

Update: more info on the prizes (a copy of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, for example) can be found in this post.

Enter your link on the list below-- after you've written your post {please pretty please}-- between now and October 14th 28th. Winners will be announced the next day! {Or maybe the day after that, depending on the level of sanity around here.} The line at the bottom says to comment after you've left a link, but feel free to do so beforehand. I'm not that picky.

Thanks, everyone! See you in the funny pages.

Oh, P.S, this is open internationally. Postage, schmostage.

{Thanks to everyone who participated!}

Thursday, September 29, 2011

introducing: thumbs up from skunk!

A of all, if you feel so inclined, take a gander at my challenge piece for the Campaign! And if you're feeling likey, even better! I'm #141, and I could sure use your lovely votes.

So, remember when J and Kathleen and Amanda and Rachel Bean all gave me awards {THANK YOU!}, and I never passed them on? Well. It's because J and I had something special up our collective sleeve.

Here's the thing. Writing is hard. Admitting that you write is hard. I could not do this alone, and it is amazing to look back and see my own growth--both as a writer and a human being-- since I started collecting pocket writer buddies, also known as crit partners. They have uplifted and influenced me in ways I did not even know I needed.

It isn't just the crit partners, though. It's this whole blogging community. Going to visit a friend I made on the internet solidified it for me-- this is the bomb. No one says that anymore, but you know what I mean. At least I didn't say "the bomb dot com."

Recently, I've talking a lot with another blog friend, whom you know as J, and she and I realized something.

We had to make our own blog award.

Because, you know what? We all feel like stinky, stinky skunks some days. I, for example, was putrid with my own fear just a couple weeks ago. I was certain that I was foolish in letting myself believe I could write. But Jeigh and J {ha}, as well as a few frequent commenters {who likely didn't realize their influence}, picked me up from my own mire and set me back down on my feet. Or, rather, my fingertips... at the keyboard.

And so, instead of passing on another round of versatility, irresistible sweetness, and liebster love {thank you thank you thank you to all the folks who recognized me--you are fantastic}, J and I would like to bring you this:

Because you make us feel {and smell} a lot better

Let's talk about J. Her incredibly talented fiance made the award for us. {If you're interested, you can enter a chance to win a sketch of your MC over at Concrete Pieces of Soul. J and C are cool like that.} She has been a great friend to me in the short time I've known her, and her encouragement helped me find the confidence to send out a chapter for critique, post my Campaign Challenge piece... take your pick. You are fabulous, J. I look forward to the day you announce your name on the internets, so I won't have to keep backspacing when I talk about you. Haha.

Since the Random-Things-About-Yourself trope is getting a little tired, J and I decided to make this award different. Of course, still thank and link back to the person who gave it to you. Thumbs Up from Skunk is about confidence, believing in yourself, so we think it'd be great for you to list one Thing About Yourself That Pleases You, one thing you LOVE. It could be anything, from your writing, to a good meal you had, a conversation with a witty cut-up... something good. To get the ball rolling, J and I are passing the award onto five people a piece, but you can give it to as many or as few as you like. You can even hold onto it, if you'd rather, until a particularly uplifting something occurs, and then pass it on accordingly. Or, as J says in her post, "until someone comes along and changes your universe." I love that.

My Pleasing Thing is:

This week, I sent a scene to three discerning sets of eyes, and got a lot of great feedback. It was the first time I'd really done such a thing since college. One friend {an about-to-be-published friend} said, "...the writing is solid. You should be super proud. That's going to be in a cover in no time."

hello, stock photo.
It was one of those moments that made me want to say, "You flatter me, but..."
... but on the inside? Heart racing, breath quickening... was it really that... promising?

No one else may agree with her opinion, but I was the best-smelling skunk on the block for the rest of that day... not to mention every day since.

And here is who I'm passing this on to {don't forget to notify your recipients}!

Jeigh. Rhymes with J {see above}. I did not know what having a writer friend truly meant until I met you. Not only do we make each other laugh, but we've met each others' crises. You've taught me how to crit, how to write cute boys {they eat a lot}, and how to read three books in one day. I was just a little slow on the uptake with the last one. We are *so* on the same page, and words just fall short of describing it. I am thrilled to have you in my life. Brain twin. :B

Elisabeth {or fairbetty, as they call you around here}. Remember when we were together in Gatlinburg last summer, not knowing that the other one blogged and wrote? Funny how that happens. Now you are someone I know I can turn to, a real-life friend {albeit far away} who also *gets* me on the writer level. You are a solid rock, always encouraging, always smiling. And it's nice to not be the only vegetarian around here.

Amber. What an awesome cheerleader you are! I can always count on you to remind me that I *can* do this, I *can* set a schedule for myself and be organized, I *can* open up and let myself learn. You ask the best questions, and my brain just loves it.

Ruth Josse and Sarah Pearson.You ladies are consistently encouraging and uplifting in your comments. I am so honored and happy to see you on here after almost every post, sending all kinds of good feelings my way. You take what it means to be a follower seriously, and I admire that. I also need to pick your brains and take notes on how you do it.

And that's how you do the Thumbs Up from Skunk {which totally needs an accompanying dance move}. This is for you, friends. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

grandfather imago.

“Jessa,” my little brother says, “you oscitate like a cat.”

“Bradley,” I bite back, “you use words like

I am, admittedly, getting pretty tired of my homework. And the vocabulary kick.

He grins and pushes up the living room window. “I shall affix a lacuna,” he announces. I roll my eyes. Bradley, as of last week, is a kid’s game show champion, and can longer bring himself to talk like the rest of us.

“What is he doing out there?” The unexpected, normal words pull me out of my impending math nap. I put down my book and join Bradley at the window. Past our own mirrored faces, we see our estranged grandfather, squirting lighter fluid on the neighbor’s house.

Bradly leaves me and bolts out the door. I run after him.
“Gramps!” he cries. The old man looks up at us and drops the plastic bottle.

“Bradley...” he looks confused. “Did you win?”

Bradley glances at me, and then nods. “Yeah, I won.”

A miasma, a noxious wall of realizations, hits me as I watch Gramps. The hero.

“You want to know perfect synchronicity, boy?” the old man slurs. He’s drunk.

But deft, as he lights the match.


And there you have it, my friends. Something I wrote!

 As many of you have likely guessed, this was for the 2nd Campaigner Challenge. I had to use imago in the title, and include miasma, lacuna, oscitate, and synchronicity. For an extra challenge, I could (and did) incorporate a mirror, and make it 200 words exactly. Whew.

This was hard! Now I want to finish the story, expand it into something that breathes a little better. We'll see.

The winners of this challenge will be based on popularity (eek), so, if you likey, please go votey!
I am number... 141, it looks like. 

My fingers are crossed!

in which i confess my fears.

I have recently {i.e. within the past hour} made a huge discovery...

I am whiney-pants scared of blogging, anymore.

What is this phenomenon? I'd say it has something to with:

If I blog, I won't write. If I don't write, why am I blogging about it?
I never post anything useful.
I can't share actual book opinions, in case the author sees it.
{Remember when I said that Fallen was not my cup of tea? Truth: I thought it was terrible.}
So-and-so said I was funny, so now everyone wants *the funny*, but what if it was a FLUKE?
Ack, I can't say Oh my pants, anymore, because now it might offend somebody.
{Hm, which I just put in huge bold letters above this list.}
The Campaigners expect something from me, but I suck at delivering.
Crap, I shouldn't say suck, either.
Crap, I can't even say crap!

You see how it escalates. WELL. I apologize for all the offending I imagine I do, even though I {maybe} don't. I'm hoping this week breaks me of my fear, because I have at least three posts up my sleeve before going on a backpacking trip this weekend.


Just had to throw out a little honesty. I feel better.

le source.

Friday, September 23, 2011

an amazing thing happened this week...

My computer died.

I spent about twelve hours thinking that I'd lost everything, and so, when I discovered that I actually hadn't, it lit quite the fire under my lazy bum. I have spent the last four days WRITING. Can you believe it? Putting fingers-to-keyboard and proving myself, for once? I set a goal for this weekend and everything. Astounding.

I apologize for the scant appearance in Campaign-land. I am really excited about the second challenge, even though I have no earthly clue what I'm going to come up with for it. We shall see. Until then, here are some other things:

1. Tune in next week for a 100 Followers giveaway/contest/blogfest. It will be fun, promise.

2. I did not fully realize that adding the :: :: to rosewood pencil box would change its alphabetization. Oops. As soon as I assemble a legit banner, I should be rejoining the R's. {Hello, R's! Sorry I left you for the punctuation marks.}

3. I will also be jumbling through a pile of awards to pass on. There may be a surprise in there, as well. Not sure yet.

4. Last weekend, we found a copy of Bongo Kongo at my in-laws' house. It will be played tonight.

Okay, friends. That self-imposed deadline won't wait.

See you soon!

{So much for posting on Mondays and Thursdays.}

Friday, September 16, 2011

the champion drooler makes friends in real life.

Notice anything different? Fair warning, my friends: I may like consistency elsewhere, but on the blog, j'aime le change... ment. My previous hold of five months was a record. {On the Xanga page I had in college, I changed the look more often than I posted.} And so, if this blog starts to look different every time you visit, my apologies. For now, though... you like?

Mmm, new things. I am a champion drooler* over new things. And I don't mean material things, necessarily, lest you harrumph at my covetousness. This is not a post about my covetousness {that one will involve shoes and iPhone apps and books}. This is a post about the rosy cusp of possibility, where the best outcomes still seem the most likely. Ahh.

We are back from our 15 days of America-hopping madness, and it's got me feeling... new. Like, there was my life before going to Yellowstone/meeting Jeigh freaking Meredith in person {and sleeping on her comfy couch for a weekend}, and now there's my life AFTER.

Here, have some Tang {Orange! Great for Breakfast! Possibly Flammable!} whilst I list {am I the only person who likes Tang? With lists? And whilsts?}:

1. It is, perhaps, not as creepy as I once thought to make writer friends on the internet. Fancy that. Of course, you're all like, "Derr, isn't that what the Campaign is FOR?" Yes. But I was once hesitant.

2. Something changes when you meet a blog buddy/crit partner/story cheerleader in person. You notice things you could never pick up from emails or phone chats, like the color of her hair {kind of reddish! did you know?}, or her piano skill level {much higher than expected}, or the fact that she actually is a mom, with real live children and stuff. Amazing, I know.

Towely is watching you.
3. Also wonderful is that, when meeting with a writer friend, you can leave the saucy minx of book-shame at home. It's not the same as telling a new, unaccustomed friend that you're writing a fantasyish novel-or-something for young people, or maybe grown-ups, if they like to read stuff for young people, stop looking at me like that. Jeigh already knows. Our friendship was catalyzed by the fact that we are BOTH writing fantasyish novels-or-something for young people, etc. It's liberating to not fear the knee-jerk, sideways glance, you know? {Is that just me?}

4. Sleep is for later-times. Five AM is for giggling.

5. If you've been following Jeigh for a while {what's that? You're not a Jeigh-follower? Well, you'd better get on that {she totally knows a short-cut}. I'll be here when you get back}, you've probably seen something about her freakish reading speed. It is {...going to be?}, as one Barney Stinson might say:

Truth. WELL. I got to experience the legend first hand, and let me say... what, 350 pages, Jeigh? Yeah. In five hours. I have a lot to learn from this woman.

6. In other news! Remember this picture from our adventures in Gatlinburg?

Yeah? Yeah? Any last guesses? No? Well, here--from 6:40 to 6:57--is what it immediately made me think of:

And that's two Phineas and Ferb clips in a month. At least this one was in English.

Alas, this post is not as much about the rosy cusp of possibility as I'd planned, unless you count that I am so excited to be back in my own home after half a month, it makes me want to be *productive.* I might even exercise.

This has potential to be STELLAR.
Or, perhaps... legendary.

{Y'all watch How I Met Your Mother and Phineas and Ferb, right? A perfectly logical combination.}

7. Huh. Y'all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

a funny thing happened on the way to wyoming.

Namely, we got stuck in Tennessee for an extra two days. Ha! And so, to celebrate our communication error with the airline, we decided to live it up in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for  a little while.

Confession:  I do not 100% hate the tourist trap that is Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It's nothing compared to the actual park, of course, but it's sort of, I don't know... fun. In moderation. And so, this time, my husband and I did all the hokey stuff we'd never let ourselves do before. And by "all," I mean four, because the options went beyond our budget, and I lost the Old Timey Photo debate.

First of all, we splurged a little to stay at The Inn at Christmas Place, in Pigeon Forge. Holly Jolly!

It's the creepy, high-upon-a-shelf-dwelling,
 Santa-fairy breakfast elf, complete with "crap, is he following me?" eyes!
He's been ogling that omelette station for YEARS.
The giant glockenspiel!
We had such a blast watching this thing chime the hour.
(If you look closely, you can see the little Santa coming out
of the door where the cuckoo bird would usually be.)
I can't lie, I quite enjoyed my time at the Christmas Place. The included breakfast was delicious. All the decorations made me giggle and want to run around in circles in my pjs and sing carols and talk about music boxes (interestingly, a fair description of my usual impulses).

And now, for the other things we finally did:  Oh my gosh, it's everything Ripley's! The Aquarium! Believe it or Not! Guinness World Records (which, by the way, could really use an update)!

Gigantic turtle bones YAY!
You can barely see it in this, but apparently sharks really do
swim near the surface, their dorsal fins cutting a wake.
Maybe you *can* believe what you see in movies!
Big picture for a BIG sea turtle. Likely the biggest I've ever seen.
Maw. Sea turtles. You're the best.  :)
The Aquarium was lots of fun, and I only got moderately creeped out. Fish give me the willies. I don't know what it is. I mean, I'm fascinated by them, but sometimes they give me nightmares. Especially the giant ones. *shudder*

Moving on.
Ah, James McCarthy. The hometown hero I never knew I had.
I feel like I've read a book about this guy.
Fifty points and a cyber hug for the first person who
can guess what this immediately made me think of.
We learned a LOT about Robert Pershing Wadlow, the tallest man in recorded history. There were three displays devoted to him in two museums.

Well, my friends, I'm cutting it pretty close tonight, after saying that I would post on Mondays and Thursdays. But, hey, I'm on vacation, right?

Oh, and yes, we did eventually make it to Wyoming. 

Note: Due to this trip, I'm not going to be able to participate in the first Campaigner Challenge, but I wish you all the happiest of writings, and I look forward to perusing all the entries. :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the funky liebster.

1. I am in a funk. I can't explain it. Don't know what it is.

2. My husband and I are going on a two-and-a-half week trip to Wyoming and Idaho, starting tomorrow.

3. Maybe the funk is stress.

4. How does one blog and write while visiting grandparents and friends and seeing the inside of Yellowstone for the first time? We shall find out.

5. My new friend J, at Concrete Pieces of Soul gave me an award! It looks like this:

And, yes, I had to look up the meaning of "Liebster." Answer: friend or love, in German. Embarrassed? Yes. My heritage is so ashamed. (And the heart is right there on the image!)

The hard part, of course, is passing this on to five liebsters who have less than 200 followers (them's the rules, y'all). I do intend to do this! However, I need to spend some more time getting to know my new Campaign buddies (Hi, Campaign buddies!), first.

6. My husband found my one-cup coffee maker from college during the move. I am a happy bear.

7. Monday! Thursday! I hereby dub thee my New Official Blogging Days. Not including you, This Thursday. You are far too close, and most of you will be spent on a plane.

That being said, hold me to it! I will hopefully have material to put up while adventuring. Regardless, I'll see you when I get back!

Friday, August 26, 2011

spark #3: learning to let it happen.

It's the last day! Let's get our Spark on! (hurry, quick before midnight--blaaagh!)

My freshman year in college, I had this English professor. His first name was Byron, and he was obsessed with Lord Byron (I remember wondering which had come first). He liked to assign research papers; I was not a fan. I enjoyed the writing, sure. But the researching? The figuring it all out and putting it back together again? All the while freaking out over whether or not I was plagiarizing? Ungh. So not my thing. (This is probably something I don't have in common with other writers, and that's okay, right?)

Anywho, after giving back papers one day, Lord Byron took me aside.
"Have you declared a major?" he asked.
I told him I was a theatre kid.
"Well, do you have a minor?"
I did, I told him.
"Well, I think you would do really well in English. You write a strong paragraph. The way the paragraphs fit together doesn't always make sense..."
I laughed. I knew it was true. I told him thanks and I would think about it.

It took me a long time to realize how cool this was. The next semester, when my minor fell through, I didn't have to look far for a new one. It seems sort of duh, Julie, especially after blogging about my sparks all week, but it really hadn't occurred to me that I was ALLOWED to write. To study writing, even! That was the last major step for me: just letting it happen.

This is the interior cover.
My hardback has big
embossed lettering on the side
that says, "hold me," so
sometimes I just call this book
"Hold Me."

By the end of my college career, I was burnt out on everything. It happens, you know. One day, at a local bookshop in Louisville, I found this weird little gem:      

I learned a lot from Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things... I learned that short stories are truly awesome, and that's there's actually a corner in publishing for quirky--who knew?

But the most important thing I gained from this odd book was my introduction to Kelly Link. Her contribution, "Monster" (also found in her book, Pretty Monsters), is one of my favorite things EVER. It's deliciously bizarre and brave and funny, not to mention horrifying. And it was written in a way that made perfect sense to me. With every word, I saw that I could write in whatever voice came to me--something I had not done in class, out of fear.

Overcome with joy, I emailed my creative writing professor about the contest in the back of the book. Good gracious, I was a little motorboat about it. I'll never forget his response: "See, now this is the kind of voice I want to hear from you." I finally understood what that meant!

I never did enter that contest, though. Truth be told, it would still be several years before I'd start writing seriously. However! It was the summer after I read Noisy Outlaws that I first got The Idea. Major spark points.

All right. One last thing. You want to know the spark that finally got me to put fingers to keyboard?

Reading writers' blogs. When I discovered this, it was like a whole new education opened up for me. I didn't know one thing or the other about publishing, which was my own fault for not being more dedicated to my classes in college (plays take a lot of time and I was LAZY). I let myself think it was over for a long time. I told myself I could just write for me and it wouldn't ever have to be perfect (lies!). But then, slowly, I realized, I can do this. I can do this without going back to school! And I won't be alone, and I won't be judged, and I won't feel guilty for trying.

So, this is for the friends who told me I should blog (and followed me from the very beginning), the friends I've made--and continue to make--on the blog (yeah, I'm talking to you. :B), and the writers, published and unpublished, who've taught me more than I ever realized I would need to learn.

Thank you thank you thank you.

Sparks to all!
( See? I'm still a worried mess when it comes to plagiarizing.)