Inspiration Monday

Inspiration Habits

Whew! It’s been so long since I posted Inspiration Monday. 21 days! I didn’t realize it had been that long, and I feel pretty bummed about it. Sort of. See, I have a bad habit of going big and then fading out. I don’t like doing that, but I think I might have bitten off a little too much to chew with this blog for now and my other work. I still have some big ideas but I don’t have the time to execute them. So I’m working on getting myself that necessary time, and also cutting back a little on posting so that I have room to breathe.

I’m also in the middle of living a crazy personal life, which is so much fun and so much growth as a human who happens to be married to another human. Man, marriages make a lot of work don’t they? Mine is great, and we are happily, stupidly in love after 4.5 years of marriage and nearly 7 years together. Yet, as with all of life comes growth and sometimes that growth is painful but important. I’ve been doing a lot of that these past couple of weeks and so this blog hasn’t been on my mind as much. I feel like I’ve been embodying the quote above and although I’ve neglected some of my work it’s been such a welcome break from the everyday life I’d been living that I appreciate it. Sometimes you need to escape from the everyday. Don’t let life pass you by while you’re waiting for something to happen. That is a lesson I’ve spent 32 years coming to understand because I am a consummate waiter. I wait for the future and I wait for when my life will resemble what I imagine and then I go and get disappointed when it’s not working. I like making plans and goals that I work towards but I don’t want to get so focused on the future that I forget about right now. I’m trying to break that habit (slowly but surely!) by being more of a doer. And right now it’s hard but fun to change my path.

Inspiration Monday: Laura Benanti

You know Oprah’s motto, “Live Your Best Life Now”? I have a feeling this lady is doing just that.

L B

Laura Benanti is a Tony award winning Broadway star also seen on TV shows that I love, like Nashville, the short lived Go On and currently Supergirl. She’s also hilarious on Twitter and in real life. But why is she my inspiration for this week?

Because she looks like she is comfortable in her own (admittedly gorgeous) skin, and comfortable being her goofy, witty and endearing self. She’s such a professional but she seems like she’s having a blast doing it. Because she has come forward talking about the issue of going through a miscarriage and wanting to talk about it.  And because she is open, and expressive and energetic. Last week I was feeling pretty tired and trying to get my word count for the day but I needed a midday pick-me-up. So I watched her performing with The Skivvies and was instantly revived and ready to get back to work. She’s got such an enthusiastic spirit that I admire. As I get older and feel more comfortable with myself, someone who has talked about feeling younger and being herself as she gets older, she is my newest role model for living my best life.

Now go watch her videos!

 

Today in history

NYT 2:3

Today, in 1917, America broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, who had announced unrestricted submarine warfare. This was the beginning of America’s entrance into the Great War, also known today as WWI.

I recently finished listening to a book I’ve re-read frequently since I was about 11, Rilla of Ingleside, which is all about Anne of Green Gables’ daughter as she experiences the war while being stuck at home, knowing very little of what’s going on, and trying to remain brave and heroic. The book hasn’t aged perfectly. It was written several years after the war, and is quite patriotic and very idealistic about the war, but I try to remember that during the war itself, these sentiments would have been true and dearly held. But, I was surprised by some of the very modern and very true ideas in the story that I would not have noticed as a child. I still love it, and it still makes me cry and breaks my heart. It does what good fiction ought to do– help place us there, make us empathize and make sense of what we are experiencing.

Having grown up since I first read this book, and studied WWI extensively, both in college and on my own, I know just how terrible and meaningless this war was. All war is terrible, but for me, this one was even more tragic because the modern warfare we know today was basically unfamiliar to the young men facing the enemy from mere yards away across no-man’s-land. Machine guns, barbed wire, airplanes, chemical warfare– all of these were new experiences for the armies and they ripped apart the old world, leaving an entire generation to die or figure out how to live again. This war changed the course of human events in ways we are still feeling today. It influenced civil rights movements, the music, poetry and art of the era, language, it changed the political and social climate and set the stage for another terrible war.

Please take a minute to think about that. 99 years ago today, our country took steps that would lead into a war that would impact us even now.

Inspiration Monday

Dewston 1

The Dewstow Gardens and Grottos in Wales are deceptively beautiful. Built in 1895, the surface looked like any normal estate garden as you can see in the photo below.

grounds-of-dewstow-gardens

But just below lay a secret world, full of water falls and fountains and lushly green ferns. It was a fairy land. An unexpected world for discovery and daydreams.

Dewstow-Gardens-Carousel

During WWII these underground gardens and grottos were covered by tons of dirt and weren’t rediscovered and renovated until 2000.

Can you imagine how amazing it would be to have discovered this fanciful masterpiece under the garden you were fixing up? I’ve always loved discovering the past that lays just under the surface of our world. I think it’s one of the reasons I write historical fiction– because I’m always wondering what people’s lives were like as they stood in the same spot I am standing and look out over the same vistas I am seeing.

Ever since I was a child, living in a house built in 1910, I’ve been fascinated with digging down to discover the worlds below. And I’ve been fascinated with the possibility of fairies living secretly, just under the flower petal, or beneath a mossy hill. This garden, for me, would be the most magical thing my childhood self could come across. Even now, I’m wondering how to work it into a story, or my next trip.

Weekly Progress Wednesday

Henry David Thoreau quote

This quote is one of my all time favorites. I recite it to myself sometimes, when I need a little inspiration. It is my unofficial motto for this year, a year in which I am taking risks and working hard to create the life I’ve imagined for myself.

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 3,928 (from 34,116)

I told you that I’d be majorly overhauling my WIP to make a stronger conflict, and better tension, and so I’ve almost entirely started over. Some scenes made the cut, but were whittled away and changed to the point that their own mother (me, I guess) wouldn’t even recognize them if she hadn’t seen their first form. The basic action of the plot remains the same, but how the characters meet, get the plot going, and even how they act have been changed. It’s interesting to see how much better this second version is already, although getting my daily word count yesterday was a struggle. I had to go take a nap in between sessions.

Platform Progress

My platforms have been growing slowly, but hopefully this organic growth is also beneficial. I’m trying to focus on content that is strong and useful so that people both trust and like what I have to say. It’s been hard this week to stay as focused as I was last week on using social media and the tools I have. So I’ll probably need to re-evaluate and take approaches that work for me and my current busy schedule.

I’m also buying a new phone today. Mine is dying the slow death of a drowned iPhone 4s. Its battery is failing, and it’s probably time to upgrade anyway. Maybe a new phone, with new capabilities will give me new things to try out and share. At the very least, it will be pretty, and I do love pretty things.

Life Progress

I’m feeling pretty productive today, even though there are some deadlines that I’ve let creep too close for comfort. I’m about to take care of those tasks when I sign off here, so maybe I’ll be feeling even better in a few minutes. Yesterday was a mostly lazy day, but I got nearly all my work done, so that makes me feel like I didn’t entirely drop the ball to chill with my husband. I’ve also been trying to work out in the mornings because it makes me feel more powerful and beautiful. I did 15 minutes of yoga this morning, and a short kettle bell work out yesterday and Monday. On Sunday I went to yoga in a bar with a good friend, and could feel the burn for the past two days, but I noticed an improvement in myself from the week before. I do love getting back to a yoga practice!

On a day like today I do feel like I am headed in the direction of the life I never quite imagined, but am happily discovering I love. I hope you are too.

 

Inspiration Monday: Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

MLK Jr quote

This is one of my favorite quotes from an imminently quotable man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s Martin Luther King Day here in the United States, which, if you know anything about our current situation, is irony at its most depressing. I don’t want to get into it in an Inspiration post (#BlackLivesMatter), but I do want to talk about why I love this quote.

It comes from his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” which was given in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, and it is frighteningly prophetic.  He had just been attacked and nearly killed in New York City, and so he is talking about how, like Moses, he has seen the promised land, but might not get there with everyone else. He is encouraging his listeners to keep up their efforts and to keep the movement alive, even though he’s also telling them he will probably die. And even as he talks about the struggles they have gone through, and will go through, and the mace, and dogs and violence against them, he holds fast to his principles, saying “it’s nonviolence or nonexistence”.

This is a powerful speech. Not only because it outlines the economic boycotts they will impose, or its prophetic qualities, or even his rhetorical skill. It’s powerful because of the inspiration and encouragement he gives. And that is why I love this quote so much, because of the truth behind it, and the context in which he says it:

“The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding–something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee–the cry is always the same– ‘We want to be free.'”

Even today, over 40 years later, we still face so much confusion and trouble. And we must keep marching forward, arm in arm, focused on that statement, and that goal: “We want to be free.” It’s a beautiful quote, and it means so much to me as I watch the efforts of groups like “Black Lives Matter” and more trying to use their voices and continue this struggle forward.

But I also love this quote for the encouragement it gives to all struggles. I say it to myself when I am stuck and frightened, or worrying too much and can’t see the answer. I remind myself that only when it is dark can we see the light that leads us forward. When it is dark we can see the light shining from the people ahead of us, or the ones who love us so fiercely that they light up with it. And we can see the light of all the good things that we do have in our lives.

We can see the beauty of the stars, and that is a gift too. I begin thinking about the people who watched the stars all those years ago and how far we have come. We have used science to shoot ourselves up into that darkness and learn about the stars and planets that shine down on us. That is proof of progress right there. These are the thoughts I have when I’m trying to remind myself that it’s just one more step, just keep going one more step.

I hope you are encouraged in your struggle today. I hope you take heart from Dr. King, and look at the stars when it is dark. I hope you think for a while about how far we’ve come, and I hope you take a step further today, both in your work, and also in your efforts to make this country one that Dr. King can be proud of.

If you would like to watch the full speech you can do that here.

 

Weekly Progress Wednesday

Progress -Tracee Ellis Ross

Regency WIP

 Current word count: 6,904

I went back and worked on the plot for this story, fleshing out a good deal more than I’d originally had, or even intended. It’s much more solid and interesting now, with stronger conflict locks. It also involves revising at least one scene, which I worked on this week. Most of my work regarding this story over the week has been re-reading, and re-acquainting myself with the characters and their personalities. It’s been about doing more discovery and making sure I like the characters and can imagine them doing what I’m plotting.

Filles Du Roi WIP

Current word count: 34,116

I stopped actively working on this story during September I believe, not sure I could handle how unwieldy the story had gotten. But I kept thinking about it, and specifically, my hero, who in fantasy casting looks like this. Why, yes, that is a pensive-looking Chris Hemsworth. Hard to get that picture out of your mind, isn’t it? Now you see my dilemma. The man had things to say, even if he is a quiet sort. So, I went back and started re-reading yesterday. And I liked what I had. It might still move in fits and starts, and not ever be exactly what I imagine, but I’m having fun doing it, which is really important to me. Even if it never sees the light of day in the form of a publication, I think it’s good to have a passion project that you can turn to and just have fun with.

Platform Progress 

I’ve signed up for Instagram and Facebook this week, as well as added to my Pinterest boards. I’ve done a good deal of writing and establishing some practices for this blog and for social media, but I’m not quite ready to talk about them yet. I have some plans to move forward with an expanded blog, and am talking with a friend about starting a podcast that would be both fun and help produce content that might get readers and listeners. My goal for next week is to start integrating all of these platforms and build stronger connections with people I admire.

Life in General 

I’m having fun on Instagram, but need to remember that the real work isn’t there. It’s in the doing of the thing. I need to focus my energy and attention to cultivating my writing, not my followers. It’s hard to remember sometimes because of the dopamine rushes that hit when someone “likes” your post. But even as I set these up, and start navigating them, they are not the end. Creating work and getting better at my writing is the end.

In other news, I’m going to a writer’s workshop in about a month, so after that I’ll make some decisions about what to do with the first novel, the one that got a pass. I might revise and send it out again, or hold onto it for a while, or even try WattPad. Suggestions? Thoughts?

Also, do I have a prolonged sinus cold that will infect my husband with a kiss? Or is it allergies that are not contagious? Inquiring minds want to know! If only you had the answers, I would be forever grateful.

Inspiration Monday

 

If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives -- Lemony Snicket

Today I got an email from an agent I’d queried over the summer. Although she had some positive things to say about aspects of my writing, she passed on the novel. I think her reasons for doing so, and the criticisms she gave are completely accurate, and it gives me some great things to work on in my current project.

While I’m disappointed, I’m not devastated. I think this is for two reasons:

  1. I worked hard on the novel but at one point I let it go out into the world to see what it could see. I didn’t turn it into a precious object so that when others gave me feedback or rejected it, it wasn’t so much a part of me that it was rejecting a baby. I do love parts of it very much, and it’s special to me, but I’m not so blind that I can’t see where it needs work.
  2. It was my first novel and I’m hard at work on others that might be so much better. I let this one out so early, perhaps before it or I were ready. But if I waited, I’d be waiting for ever to see if I would get better. Just like Lemony Snicket says, I’d be waiting my whole life. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to see what I and my novel were made of right now. And now I know. It was made of some very good stuff, and some stuff that needs work.

She did say she’d like to see my future work, so there’s always that! In the meantime I need to write. And I need to start compiling a new list of agents.

What were your first failures like? What got you through them and were are you now? I’d like to know!

Fascinating Person of the Week: Alice Paul

Alice Paul toasts the passage of the 19th Amendment (with grape juice)

As you might have seen on Google’s home page today, it’s Alice Paul’s birthday! Who is Alice Paul you may ask?

According to the Alice Paul Institute, she was a feminist and suffragist who worked for the passage of the 19th Amendment. But she didn’t stop there!

After the amendment was passed on August 26, 1920, she continued her work by focusing on the Equal Rights Amendment. This was finally passed in 1972 after decades of being introduced every session in Congress. In the 1940s it was dubbed the “Alice Paul Amendment”. She died on July 9, 1977 after years of working to ensure women had the vote and the rights they deserved in this country, and world wide.

Here’s the thing: so often in our history classes, we hear about one or two important women over and over that we miss all the others that were also working hard and speaking out about the need for equal rights for women. Until yesterday I’d never heard of Alice Paul, and that’s sad. I call myself a feminist and a history fan and yet, there is so much I don’t know about women’s history. Unless we collectively work to share this knowledge with our daughters, friends and students we will lose them. And that is a tragedy because these women are powerful examples of what can be done and changed when we speak up. They spoke up for what they believed in and they even starved for it. They went to prison and they fought against a system that at every turn refused them a voice. If they can do it then, just imagine what we can do now. But we need to know what came before us before we can imagine what we can accomplish. And that’s why this week’s fascinating person is this strong-willed, fierce advocate for women’s rights, Alice Paul.

Helping Preserve Women’s Rights History

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In 1848 the first women’s convention on equal rights was held in Seneca Falls, NY. There, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha Coffin Wright and Lucretia Mott led the gathered women in the creation of a document modeled after the Declaration of Independence, which held that men and women were created equal.

Their Declaration of Sentiments, as the document was called, was then signed by the women and the 30 men who attended (including Frederick Douglass). This kicked off the women’s rights movement in our country and paved the way for women’s suffrage, and other vitally important changes to ensure women’s rights. But, in addition to actual improvements, it also called for things like equal pay, which is still an issue we struggle with 167 years later. Their last sentiment especially hit home. It is as follows:

He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Women still face these issues. The fight is not over. And the need for recognizing women who began this movement is not over. The White House, and the Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, have been working with the National Archives to find the original Declaration of Sentiments. After Frederick Douglass took the document to Rochester, NY to publish it in his newspaper, The Northern Star, the document has gone missing. They are hoping to find the original Declaration, or any evidence that can explain what has happened to it. In addition to this important piece of history, they are seeking other artifacts important to the women’s rights movement in this country. You can read more about it on the White House’s blog. And you can help spread the word! Get the message out so that we can find and preserve a part of history that is often ignored or unknown. Use #FindtheSentiments to spread the word!