Jesus Crucified–A Guest Post

Today, I’m guesting for my lovely and talented journalist friend, Emily. She has been focusing on the Stations of the Cross, and we shall focus on Jesus Crucified.

 

Jesus Crucified photo-14

 

I.

the Word–

the Word who was made Flesh

splayed open

to the humid heat of bodies mingling at the foot of the cross,

to the tears of Mother Mary

to the murmur of sinful syllables

spoken for the Word’s death.

 

II.

the Word—

the Word who spoke

the tree seed into existence

its roots cut open mother earth’s womb

as limbs reached up, branches contained life and death,

did You, the Word, the Word made flesh

watch as Your cross grew?

To read this, head over to Emily’s blog by clicking here.

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7 Things NOT to Say to a Writer

Everyone should have one friend who is a writer. writer pens

In case, you don’t have one, you may consider me your friend via the interwebs because I hate people being left out. But really, everyone needs an in real life writer-friend if for nothing else, you may be immortalized in her work.

Maybe, you are a part of the lucky few who do have real live writers for friends, and you might want to keep them as friends. Because there is nothing worse than a pissed off writer working on a zombie novel–hint, hint, your character isn’t going to make it.

Of course, I digress. 

As a writer, I have a vested interest in bridging the growing chasm between writers and non-writers, simply because non-writers have a tendency to say or ask certain things that make writers crazy.

Here are 7 things NOT to say to a writer:

  1. “I don’t really like to read much.” Well, to borrow the cliche–this puts your relationship with said writer behind the 8 ball made out of C4. I’m not sure what compels sweet, caring people to tell me, a writer, that they don’t like to read. Of course, it is always AFTER I tell them I’m a writer. Even if reading isn’t your thing(I don’t understand why not, but okay), don’t tell me. A safe way to fix this faux pas is to ask me about my writing. I always like people to ask me about my writing.
  2. “When’s your book getting published?” A fair question, but let me be clear–publishing is NOT the end goal of writing. Just like being thinner or prettier or richer won’t make you happier, being published doesn’t make a writer any happier either. Writing is the end and reward.
  3. “Hasn’t somebody already written that?” The answer is probably. In fact, we could go even say that most of the truly “original” ideas for novels, short stories, plays, etc. already exist. The whole point of writing isn’t to say something new, but to say it in a new and creative way. How many riffs of Romeo and Juliet exist? A lot. Also, that idea wasn’t even “original” with Shakespeare either.
  4. “Aren’t there enough books already?” Enough? Are there enough scarves or quilts or crafts that involve mason jars? Yet, we don’t ask people who sew or craft or scrapbook if there is ENOUGH of whatever they make. So, rule of thumb: don’t ask a writer if there are enough books out there already. Just don’t do it.
  5. “What if you run out of ideas?” This is loosely translated in any writer’s mind into: WHAT IF YOU FAIL! We writers always have that worry, the horrible specter of writer’s block hovering in the shadows, so reminding us of it doesn’t really help. For most of us, we sit our bottoms in our chairs and hit those keyboard keys until something starts clicking. Then, thank God that revision exists.
  6. “Oh, well, everyone needs a hobby.” Let me be clear–writing is not a hobby. For me, writing is my life, my obsession, what keeps  me both sane and tipping toward the chasm of insanity. A hobby suggests that I can just leave it when it isn’t fun any more or I find something better. This is not writing. Even when I’m not writing, I’m listening to how people talk, waiting for inspiration–a phrase, an image– anything, composing plot lines in my head. Writing is my life.
  7. “What if no one reads your stuff?” Of all the other 6 things not to say to a writer, this one hurts the most. All writers want someone to read their work. In fact, this writer would love nothing more than if you would subscribe to my blog and read my stuff. We worry that what we write won’t resonate with anyone besides ourselves, and what makes this hurt the most is that a friend is asking this question. If a writer shares her work with you, take a minute to read it.

What else would you add to this list? Share in the comments section.

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What I’m Into: January 2014

 

 

January was a big month.

For me, it wasn’t just a month to kick off 2014, but a rapid paced, do all the things, read all things while everything is fresh and new and I have energy kind of a month. One Word

I began January with a new semester, new students, and teaching online for the first time. And because I’m an all in kind of person, I’m teaching four college online courses. What I’m noticing is how much I really do enjoy teaching in my pajamas, searching for cool interactive tools to teach literature, but I also miss the classroom, its hodge-podge of students brought together, the in person community of learners.

Of course, it never hurts to be able to read Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Alice Munro for work and GET paid to do so. Although, I could have left William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” off the reading list because that story creeps me out. Every. Time. I. Read. It.

But January did bring some exciting news…

My short story, Three Tapes,  was published in Quaint Magazine! You can read it here.

For any writer, being published is one of the best feelings ever. Someone else loved your work and wants it. Of course, money sweetens the deal too. And it also helps that I adore the premise behind Quaint Magazine, a publication that focuses on female identifying writers.  You should read the first issue because it is amazing.  cupcake driveway

In book related nerdness:

I read four books in January. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like a whole, but I also teach literature courses which mean plenty of my reading time is taken up by research and literary criticism.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Any time a novel breaks the rules like telling who murdered whom in the first chapter, then I’m on board. The middle of this very long book felt a bit too sluggish for me, but I really did like the overall plot lines.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple: Quirky, very quirky. Not entirely sure how I feel about the unusual presentation of the story, but I found myself thinking about long after I finished reading it.
  • Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach: I love food memoirs. I love food memoirs with recipes. I love reading food memoirs with recipes that aren’t overly hard and I might be able to cook.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth:  My closet genre of choice, my real love will always be Young Adult Dystopian novels. Please, please don’t judge. I loved the premise of the book, and its kick ass female protagonist, but it lost me somewhat when she needed a cute, brooding guy.

If you want more of my thoughts on books I’m reading or have read or want to read, you may follow me on GoodReads.

In TV watching land,

I should point out that I don’t watch a lot of television. We gave up cable a long time ago for Netflix and Amazon Prime, and I don’t miss the bazillion channels with nothing on. But I do have a few favorites:

  • The Big Bang Theory: This month’s episode with James Earl Jones was the funniest ever. It may even eclipse the episode when Sheldon becomes the crazy cat lady.
  • Game of Thrones: I’m late to the party, but damn…my favorite characters are dying left and right and I have only made it through season 1.
  • The Taste (both US and UK versions): While I don’t do reality TV, I love watching Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, and Chef Ludo bicker over food. This go around, I’m siding with Team Ludo because Team Nigella was all crazy, Bourdain’s team isn’t as exciting as it was last year, and Marcus’s team could be feisty too.

In blog land,

I have been relatively quiet on the blog, but this year, I am going to be making a effort to be more consistent with my content. I did write about my OneWord365 and how it is really hard to live out. I took pictures of my dogs when it snowed because we don’t get a lot of snow in the South and we enjoy it to the fullest.

So, what did January 2014 have for you? Share in the comments section below. Then go check out all of the other submission for Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into Link-up.

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Southern Snow Day

By now, you probably have heard that it snowed…in the South.

Having lived my entire life south of the Mason Dixon, I feel the need to make something clear–SNOW IS A BIG DEAL!

We don’t see a lot of the white frozen stuff. In fact, we have had entire winters in which there was snow at all. So when the almighty weatherman calls for snow, we run out to get our eggs, bread, and milk because we don’t want to be unprepared. Or we might just have a hankering for french toast.

But I digress. Since we get so little snow, I took the opportunity to romp around, to take pictures of my dogs, to enjoy the powdery white stuff until my toes felt numb and my hands were too cold to press the camera buttons. So about 20 minutes have real outside time, then it was all roaring fire, big stacks, and puppy piles for me.

Today’s blog post doesn’t have any literary significance just showing off I spent my snow day or how I took lots of pictures of my dogs which will convince my readers that I am that crazy dog lady.

 

Cupcake chase Ophelia

Ahh, observe the natural taunting of Springer Spaniel siblings–Cupcake and Ophelia. Can you not see the love? The tenderness? Cupcake’s crazy eyes as Ophelia runs away.

Cupcake cold

You can almost hear dear Cupcake saying: “But MOMMY, I’m cold! I promise I will sit on your lap and be your heating blanket if we go inside now.” Yeah, he broke that promise later when he flopped on to the couch and started snoring.

Ophelia runs

 

But Ophelia trots ever so lightly on the snow. Its icy crust tickling her toes as she runs toward me. Of course, she wants her belly rubbed because that is the only thing that I am good for…and putting kibble in her bowl. Priorities.

Cupcake and Ophelia run

 

“Look Mama, we’re flying!”

cupcake driveway

Never knew my dog could fly, did you?

cupcake happy

But at the end of the day, everyone is happy, tail wagging, and glad that the snow will be gone tomorrow.

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When to Let Go

Pull up a chair friends, it’s confession time. Pour a big mug of coffee or tea or whatever happens to be your comforting  beverage of choice. Comfy? Good…

Confession: I’m a perfectionist. One Word

There, I said it. My name is Sarah and I’m a perfectionist.

Now, you would think that being a writer and college English instructor that being a perfectionist would be helpful. Doesn’t every Freshman Comp instructor need to be able to spot a misplaced comma from a mile away? Maybe. Doesn’t a good writer hover over her words to revise, revise, revise because that’s what good writers do? Sure. On the surface, being a perfectionist is really helpful. I get things done right, the first time. No wasting energy re-doing stuff.

The problem with perfectionism isn’t the good things that I can do, but all the great things that it keeps me from doing.

Right now, I’m fighting my perfectionism. I stop, I read, I revise, I question myself. Stuck in this cycle of non-writing because I’m too damn scared to write what I want to say. Maybe, you are one of the lucky few who can just write and not over-think everything., hit publish on your blog post, and walk away. I wish I could be like you. Then, my mind replays who might read this post, what if said person is super mean and nasty and leaves horrible comments or just wants to cyberstalk my blog because said person has nothing better to do than be a cyberbully. Whew, glad I’m not brave enough to hit publish on anything super personal.

Too many times, I confuse bravery with guilt and fear.

This is when perfectionism steals away my creative powers. I stop writing cause it will never be good enough, perfect enough, for goodness sakes, not perfect. But I’m a perfectionist, a habitual over-thinker, make myself feel guilty for doing something that I really love and makes me alive because I haven’t done all the laundry/dishes/mopped the floors/ironed the clothes.

And that’s just what my mind did this morning. 

It brings up all the imperfections, my failings as a writer and creative, and puts it on repeat. All the time. I haven’t been able to turn off the “you’re not perfect and let me show you why” playlist. It’s hard. Right now, I want to delete this whole post because it isn’t focused just a stream of consciousness hot mess. I don’t have a plan for a good call to action, a nice sum up, or even how I beat perfectionism and you can too ending. I can tell you what I do know:

Really, perfectionism is just fear in nice dress.

For me, living out my One Word, Brave, has showed me how I have been living in fear. Fear of what others think of me, of my writing, of whatever the proverbial they feels judgy about…

Maybe, overcoming fear is more about choosing what is good for me in this moment. Like writing a blog post on perfectionism as my laundry needs to be folded and dishes washed and knowing ALL of it will still be there when I’m done writing.

Maybe, I need to learn simply this:

When to let go…

So the dishes are still there, but I’m writing. The laundry will still be there, but I’m creating. The guilt and fear of the imperfect are there, but maybe, I can convince to help out with the dishes and laundry. Or just learn to ignore until after I have chosen what’s best for me.

 

 

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On Being Brave: My 2014 One Word

We’re fourteen days into 2014. rose bud

So, this post is a bit late, a poor omen to how the rest of 2014 will be, I hope not. For the past three years or so that I have been blogging, I have chosen a word, a One Word to guide my choices for the year.(Kinda like Frodo and the One Ring but without the creepy Black Riders following me around).

Last year, I chose the word–IGNITE. For parts of 2013, my word represented my choices: I remembered why I loved teaching, why I loved writing. Looking back over 2013, I see how my one word helped me back better choices like submitting my poetry and fiction for publication and attending a writer’s retreat in Michigan. I published a couple of stories, began writing a novel that I still love, overcame my fear of flying (I have a strong hatred for O’Hare), and adopted a kitten (really the kitten has nothing to do with my One Word just throwing it out there in case you wanted to know).

Even with a strong One Word showing for 2013, I didn’t plan on choosing another word for 2014. Until one chose me.

The word niggled at my brain. It found its way into my new favorite song with the title as my word. Now, my 2014 theme song. This word wouldn’t let me go. Despite wanting to focus goals and checking off boxes next to things that I accomplished, this word, this one word kept hounding until I accepted:

My One Word for 2014

Brave

Brave looks like submitting more writing, consistently putting myself out there for both acceptance and rejection.

Brave looks like being bold with my words, saying what I need and want.

Brave looks like fierce honesty coupled with compassion.

Brave looks like blogging consistently, being more open both online and in person.

Brave looks like embracing imperfection and accepting that I can’t be perfect.

So, here’s to a BRAVE 2014.

Maybe, going to Mordor with Frodo would have been a safer idea.

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Birthday in 32 Parts

OneWord2013_Ignite

I.

TODAY, I’m celebrating the big 32, or if you prefer 2-3 reversed.

II.

This is also the month in which my friend, Sarah Bessey releases her book  Jesus Feminist. Her words are pure healing for those of us who have been set adrift by the evangelical, fundamentalist movement of the 1980′s and 1990′s. She traces how women have been both excluded and the need for inclusion in the church. While the beginning part of the book does unfolding slowly and methodically(necessary since she is putting forth foundational truths for the later chapters), Sarah Bessey moves quickly into her natural cadence of Warrior Poetess and hand-raising Pentecostal.

(Full disclosure: I received an ACR from NetGalley. The review and thoughts are entirely my own)

III.

This past year has been full of healing. My 31st birthday wounded me, but I’m slowly recovering.

IV.

Cake.

V.

Something finally snapped inside my head, and we got a kitten.

VI.

My new kitten, Lily, will never “haz cheezeburger.” She spells correctly and uses proper writing mechanics at all times.

VII.

I really should be writing for NaNoWriMo, but I’m not.

VIII.

I need all of the coffee in the world…forever…

IX.

I have developed a thing for wine bars, good cheese, and cured meats.

X.

I have no dignity about bragging about my new obsession on Instagram  or Facebook.

XI.

Did I mention CAKE????

XII.

After years away from teaching, I’m back teaching. I love it!

XIII.

There are many papers to grade, many, many papers.

XIV.

The kitten tried to eat a student’s paper. She could taste the quality of the writing and went back to licking herself.

XV.

After years away from church, I finally feel able to sit in the service and Sunday School without a minor panic attack.

XVI.

Trying to remember how to do Roman Numerals is hard.

XVII.

My writing group is the best ever. Who else would put up with all bazillion rewrites of my stories? Also, there is beer and wine, so that might be why.

XVIII.

I HAD SOME SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED!!!!!!!!!!

XIX.

I have had lots of rejections too.

XX.

But I kept on writing.

XXI.

Because I don’t know how to evict all of these crazy characters from my head.

XXII.

I can neither confirm or deny that I may have hugged my new Keurig coffeemaker.

XXIII.

Trying to focus on being healthier…but it’s my birthday and CAKE!

XXIV.

I should be using my words to advance my word count, but I’m blogging because in reality I really like blogging.

XXV.

I have to remind myself that blogging was part of my forays back into writing for fun and fiction and poetry and being creative.

XXVI.

The music by HEY OCEAN! is amazing and lovely. Also, I could listen to Vampire Weekend all day on repeat.

XXVII.

But I lose all hipster street cred when I admit I have an unabashed love for country music.

XXVIII.

Deal with it.

XXIX.

Also, I am married to best husband in the entire world, and of course, I am his very best also.

XXX.

Why yes, my 30′s were far better than my 20′s.

XXXI.

My library has swollen to epic levels and I must needs read!

XXXII.

Here’s to another year, a better year than the last.

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When the Morning Comes Too Soon

I usually love mornings. 

Fall mornings. Air crisp with decay. So cold you have to snuggle deeper into the blankets, wear the fuzzy socks. I smell the coffee and listen as the birds sing their last songs before flying farther South. As the only resident morning person, I like the alone, the quiet, the relaxing into my day.

Not this morning. To Autumn

After yesterday’s flurry of grading and writing and planning and doing all the things my little self could–I’ve hit that proverbial cliché wall. I feel the exhaustion running deep in my veins. I feel so tired that I could bite into it like an apple. As I look over my to-do list, I’ve crossed off one thing.Just  one thing. Hell, the list only has 5 things to do. How hard is that? I keep telling myself  while listening to that inner drill sergeant shaming me, guilting me for not being further along.

Perhaps, I’m a bit of a work-a-holic.

For this college English instructor, I’ve been on Fall Break. I had promised myself that I would catch up on all the grading, all the household chores, all the things I’ve pushed to the end of my to do list.  This long weekend, I’ve scrubbed and graded and planned out my library and packed up my books to paint the room for it. I’ve worked and worked, and of course, I wonder why I’m so freakin tired.

Slowly, I have realized that when I truly commit to anything that I hyper-focus and overwork myself. I drain every last store of energy into lesson plans or home improvement projects or writing projects. Until there is nothing left and I can’t run on fumes forever. I feel hollowed out and stretched too thin, and I know I need to disengage and recharge. But the guilt is sometimes worse than the exhaustion.

But I’m at a loss for how to relax and refuel when my mind keeps telling me that any kind of recreation is for WHEN ALL THE WORK IS DONE!

Really, it’s not. I know that I’m a better person when I have written, when I have sipped a bit of wine on the porch and watched the golden hour melt into twilight, when I have read a novel that I’m too embarrassed to admit to reading because it isn’t high brow or literary enough, when I sit down and watch TV that feeds my muse.

Maybe, you’ve got this thing all figured out, how to live balanced and centered. But I don’t. Tomorrow, I will run passionately wild and collapse from exhaustion, but today, I’m ignoring the to do list.

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When the Words Meander By: My Writing Life

I had one amazing night with my muse.

I could feel her presence leaking in from the walls, guiding the clicking of laptop keys, words stringing together into thoughts and sentences. On and on and on. I sipped my wine and tried to keep up with her dictation. Sometimes, I almost heard her whisper: “Write, write, write…turn left here, go straight then double back, and stop”  as if she were just a GPS giving directions. IMG_0434

When I punched out the last period, I felt drained, all spent into the work on the page. The muse packed up her voice, her presence, and shuffled off into the night. But I’m still here in front of the keyboard proud of the story that came so effortlessly that I had forgotten to heat up dinner or move toward the couch for reruns of The Big Bang Theory.  To be quite honest, I knew that it wouldn’t need much editing or revision. I think all writers have that “I just know it’s good” moment and “whatever you do, don’t mess it up.”

But not all of my writing comes this easily.

Three days a week, I teach freshmen college students how to write. Most of them will never pursue careers in the writing life or write another research essay after my class. But the academic system dictates that freshman composition is their rite of passage, so they sit in class attempting to learn to write.

I tell them that writing is hard work, that they will agonize over the blinking cursor not moving because they hit the inevitable writer’s block and can’t go anywhere. They don’t believe me.  I tell them that writing isn’t a formula. There’s no right way to write or get started. They don’t believe me. I tell them that writing takes practice and revision and never fully achieving perfection because something can always be written better. They don’t believe me. But I’ve seen a vision of the muse and her siren song. I have known the  magic when she visits, and together, we write out stories. It is beautiful. The magic does exist, and I promise my students that one day they too can find it in their writing.

Our magic doesn’t happen until we do the work.

I’ve spent hours with my ass in my desk chair. I’ve pounded out labored metaphors and mediocre similes. I’ve worked and worked. I’ve showed up to write when I didn’t want to, didn’t feel like it, thought everything I’ve ever written was complete and utter shit. I’ve threatened to delete everything, but I kept going, kept typing, kept writing. I don’t have a secret formula for making the magic happen. On this blog post, I’ve started and stopped, mostly to refill the coffee mug, paused and got back to work. The words didn’t flow magically. I’m okay with the words coming slowly, meandering by.

The muse will come back, and she will find me here working.

 

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Guest Post: Poetry and Pause

Today, I’m guest posting for one very talented reporter, blogger, and friend. Emily Miller and I met at the Renew and Refine Writer’s Retreat back in May. She has been featuring spiritual practices these past few weeks, and I am adding my voice with the spiritual practice of poetry. 

Dew scattered like seeds
Clinging to the silver-slicked grass
Bending low as the Sun dances
Over the trees…

Morning comes too soon. The alarms blares; the dogs whine to be let out; the coffee brews too slowly. Everything crackles with life and immediacy and the pull and tug of its busyness. My mind races through every detail of the coming day just before sunup when the world is still calm and dark and expectant. IMG_0134

“Write this blog post, go to the gym you just joined, finish up those lesson plans, revise your fiction piece…”

To read the rest please head over to Emily’s blog!

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