Let’s Say the Break Is Over…

Maybe, let’s say the blogging break is over…

Two years are enough time to let the Internet forget you, and that’s okay. I’ve grown tired of the platform building, whatever click bait blogs became, so let’s just forget everything that I am told will grow an online presence. Let’s chat, pour a cup of coffee or three, and not worry about selling who we are.

Hi, I’m Sarah, in case you forgot. IMG_0267

In the past two years, I have been busy. Busy is always the excuse we give. But I started a new job. I’m back in the high school classroom full-time again. Same classroom for two years soon to be three. Teaching literature and writing and every so often some grammar, and I feel like my old knack for teaching has returned. I think teaching is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

In the past two years, I have traveled. There was the cruise to the Bahamas. The spring break trip to Ireland with my mother, aunt, and sister. Two work related trips to Napa (who would have thought that working for a mostly rural school district that I would get to go to Napa for professional development?) and one work trip to Nashville. Camping in Asheville and Boone. Birthdays at Carolina Beach.

In the past two years, I have written. The work is slow going, but I see the progress. The poetry has suffered since I am choosing to focus on my short story collection. I have no idea when it will be done or ready for publication or even the process to get it published. But I’m working on it. And that’s the most important thing.

So, I am here and writing on the blog again. How have the last two years been for you?

If I Tell You Where I’ve Been

If I tell you where I’ve been… OneWord2013_Ignite

I’ve been hiding behind piles of student essays pondering how one teaches writing. Some days, I have no idea why the words I string together like beads on a necklace create something beautiful; or why some days, I can’t write a coherent sentence to save my life(or use cliches for that matter). Yet, I taught my writing courses anyway.

This is the one strange quirk of being a teacher–I will never know how well or how much of a “difference” I made. Perhaps, none at all save the assignments which allowed said students to pass a required course. I hope for more than simply that, but I know the teacher who first walked into those classrooms is not the same one who walked out. I’m changed. I learned. I hope they did as well.

If I tell you where I’ve been…

I’ve been hiding behind my computer screen clicking-clacking keys into letters and ideas until they form stories and characters and plot lines. Rolling around behind my eyeballs, stories of Southern life and its quirky, beautiful people keep coming like bowling balls down the lane until I must write them down on lose those stories to another writer. Slowly, I’m forming my mish-mash stories into a collection that I will finish by the end of summer (someone hold me to this, okay?).

I’ve labored through drafts and classes and characters who won’t shut up until I finish their story, or sometimes, those characters sigh and step into the shadows for awhile. One of the odd quirks of writing fiction really, I can’t force my characters to speak or show me something knew when they want to nap or sip sweet tea on the front porch. So, I wait too. When they are ready, I put their lives on the page as they would have wished to known to this world.

If I tell you where I’ve been…

I’ve been reading and writing and cooking and living and remembering. This is where I’ve been for the past four months, and now, my words are here again. Thank you for your patience.

31 Days of Poetry{day 12} Support Your Poet

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry!

Tomorrow, I shall provide the links and topics from this week’s adventures, and Sunday will be a poem from one of my favorite poets. As always if you have any topics that you want to discuss, feel free to leave a comment.

 

When I began writing poetry exclusively here, I would receive lovely tweets or Facebook messages about how nice my poetry is, however, no comments on the blog itself. Strange, right? Well, maybe not. Poetry tends to intimidate most readers(why I don’t know), and so many of you have told me:

“I don’t know what to say.”

And I get that. When I read blog posts about death of a child or rape or abuse or poverty, I don’t know what to say that isn’t trite or worse an “I’m praying for you.” Sometimes, it is easy to skim over these and say nothing, and I have done this many times. But if you’re reading a blog frequently, you and I need to join in the conversation.

How to say something when you don’t know what to say:

  • Start with the obvious: “I really like this.” I have yet to meet any writer who doesn’t like a bit of encouragement. With this caveat, be genuine. If you don’t really like the piece, move on and come back another day.
  • Ask a question: perhaps, a line confuses you or you may be curious about what inspired this bit of poetry. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. While I won’t explicate what the poem means, I can tell you what inspired me to write it or where I was when the muse(before she died) kicked my butt.
  • Focus on the image/experience/emotion: does the poem remind you of something–write about that. does it bring a particular feeling–write about that.
What would you add? Or what prevents you from commenting on poetry blogs or blogs in general?

How You Found My Blog

Some days, I wonder if Google kidnaps common sense, holds it for ransom. 

Every so often, we bloggers check to see how people are finding our piece of internet real estate. We gasp at the horrifying realization that people do two things: search for crazy shit and find our blogs. Being the well-meaning bloggers that we are, we check to see how long the person stayed on our site, number of pages visited, whether or not a spammy comment was left as a calling card.

So in the name of being a good blogger, here are a few of searches that led to this blog(note: insightful commentary is free of charge).

  • Sarah Askins: Now, this one makes sense. It is my name. It is in my lovely blog header. But whoever searched for “sarah askins” didn’t stay long. Wrong Sarah, maybe? Perhaps, you’re searching for a long lost romantic fling. Sorry, I’m not available so look elsewhere. Maybe, you’re some weird cyberstalker, mooching off someone else’s money, sitting on a plastic covered couch, eating Doritos your pet monkey hand feeds you because you don’t like the cheese dust on your fingers. But I could be wrong. I dare you to correct this impression in the comments.
  • Redneck striptease: What’s the difference between a redneck striptease and a normal one? I guess you may get a longer show if the overalls come off, then the flannel button up shirt, next the long underwear. But I’m not a redneck. I just married one, and there will never be any rednecks dancing around in tight flannel shirts on this blog.
  • Black cat pictures making love: Really? You want to see cats getting their groove on…I’m hoping that you were severely intoxicated when you googled that mess. Besides, if you really wanted to see black cats listening to Marvin Gaye and getting funky, don’t you think it would be hard at night when decent creatures do said things to SEE the black cats. Please, common sense, people, common sense.
  • Fortune cookie writer what is good job: You’re not qualified. Consider flipping burgers as an alternate option.
  • I have to read 10 books in a week: Shouldn’t you have started before now? I could easily see you reading 10 children’s books, but 10 Victorian novels, 10 books on economics, 10 books on any adult level may be a challenge. Word of advice…Plan better next time!

For all of you lovely bloggers, share some of you favorite ways people found you blog in the comments.

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Fortune Cookie Writing Tips 2

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Images of Money

 

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you several writing tips based upon fortune cookies. Now, it’s your turn to come up with the best writing tip based on this fortune:

Adventure is worthwhile in itself.

What tidbit of writing wisdom, pithy tip, or hilarious anecdote can you offer today? Or let me know what your best writing tip is in the comments!

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Saturday Evening Post–April

 

Hello, Saturday. Such a pleasure if I weren’t suffering from allergies. But I shan’t let this bit of irksomeness weigh down my spirits.

Today, my blog friend, Elizabeth Esther, is hosting THE SATURDAY EVENING POST. We link up our favorite post from the previous month, and we get to make new blog friends, learn about various ideas, catch up on the good posts we missed.

For my selection, I chose my poem WRONG. It represents how I feel in the church as a woman and the new direction my blog has taken. Without further ado, why don’t you check out my submission, then head over and link up or read some of the other great writers?

 

And, if you want to really make my Saturday awesome, subscribe to this lovely blog(yes, I’m partial).

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Fortune Cookie Writing Tips

Brown paper sacks, over flowing plastic containers filled with pork fried rice and General Tso’s chicken. Standard fare for at home date night, movie watching, stuffing ourselves with food not really from China, and hoping the MSG doesn’t petrify our insides yet.  We open our fortune cookies, read them aloud. Yours read like a bad Dear Abby letter, but mine always relates to my crazy writing life.  Or perhaps, I only see, read, breathe this writing gig.  Or maybe, I have stumbled on some great Zen wisdom:

The best writing advice comes from fortune cookies.  

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Images of Money

Seriously, if we want to write better, perhaps, we should heed some of the wisdom baked with the oddly orange flavored, vanilla cracker cookies(on a side note: what is the flavor of a fortune cookie?). Today, I am giving you my TOP 5 things I learned about writing from my fortune cookies:

  1. You are not illiterate.  Neither is your audience. Right now, you’re reading. I hope you’re laughing too. As a writer, it is my job to treat my readers not as ignorant schoolchildren, but as literate, amazing, highly sophisticated, intellectual readers. It is so freeing. Try it.
  2. Only put off till tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. Pretty much my philosophy on housework, dieting, and exercise. If I die with dirty dishes in the sink but have a beautiful manuscript finished, I say I spent my life wisely. If I choose to catch up with another writer to encourage her, no amount of laundry and well scrubbed floors will take the place of this soul balm.
  3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Because they would make better zombie fodder in your manuscript than actually stewing over their horrid bitchiness. Unless you choose the life of a hermit, people will piss us off so badly that hate feels like the only option. Now, take note: vindictive writing isn’t always good writing. But it is cathartic. Let it heal and move on.
  4. What you will do matters. All you need is to do it. Begin, write the first sentence that will amaze you and only you. I think sometimes we forget that we are our first readers not our second cousin’s first uncle’s nephew’s daughter twice removed. One thing that helps me get started is gather notecards, post-it notes and write 1 thing. Just do something. Begin the journey with your characters or yourself.
  5. At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet. We will never produce our best work if we believe that everything we do is shit. For our best writing, we must be sweet, kind, loving to ourselves. Encourage another writer. Believe in the revision process can make your words better.
Now, what is your best writing advice? Extra points if it includes fortune cookies!
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The Queen of Quantity

Quality is always better than quantity, right?

As I writer, I believed it. Shouldn’t we always look for the best word, the most tantalizing sentence, the perfect description? Under this paradigm, I labored and toiled. Second guessed my muse, begged forgiveness of my muse(her name is Winifred Eugenia Blowfish. She is a horrid harpy who praises mediocre bullshit and entices me to sofa sitting, Downton Abbey watching utopia. Or perhaps, she is merely personified writer’s block. Never quite sure.).

In the search for quality, I wrote nothing. I waited for the right conditions to write–kids in bed, husband distracted with video games, dogs snoring and farting very far away from my desk. Then, I bought new pens and purple legal pads and neon green Post-It notes. No quality writing. In my mind, I created everything I need for some kick ass poetry and prose. But the blinking cursor counted each second like a scowling metronome .

But what if I were focused on the wrong thing? What if it isn’t quality, but quantity?

Somehow, I existed underneath the hegemonic rule of my quality driven muse. I needed a paradigm shifting, parallel writing universe where I could simply write and write and write eschewing grammar, syntax, and stuffy formalities. Perhaps, I suffered from the classic writer’s block lie–if it isn’t amazing the first time, it isn’t worth writing. I berated myself for not writing like a mother scolds her children for untidy rooms. The passion, the enjoyment seeped out, and in its place, I found nothing.

But when I would sit in writing class, I threw off my need to perfect. Relaxed and allowed the words to flow trippingly on the tongue or in this case, the pen (ahh, Hamlet, I do so love thee).  I didn’t self-edit. There wasn’t time. I focused not on quality, but getting those damn words out on paper. Giving life to those faded memories, blowing the dust off my imagination, I gave myself permission to fuck up as a writer.

So, I became  The Queen of Quantity.

For May, I am committing to writing in mass quantity. Lots of shitty first drafts cobbled together, but it will all be inked out upon paper. My writing goal is to fill one 70 page notebook before the end of this month. And all this month, I am going to blog about this quantity over quality journey. Perhaps, I shall let you see a few first drafts. Perhaps, not.

Question: What has been the most freeing moment for you as a writer, artist, or person?

 

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What’s This Blog’s Story?

Where the storytelling happens

We are all storytellers.

Whether we write, sing, click and capture the moment–we tell our stories. I’m writer. Words, my tools, and I share some stories here. Because this is my quiet piece of internet real estate, a small respite, sometimes, a sanctuary. This is my art, my gallery, always a work-in-progress.

Every good artist rethinks her work.

In May, I will have done this blogging thing for 2 years. Most of this time, I floundered and blogged as I felt. But slowly, I know this can’t continue. I need purpose…a reason to keep writing here. I hear rebranding bandied about by other bloggers, finding focus will help gain a following. But as I thought about my blog, I have no idea where my focus should be  or where to go from here.

So may I entreat your help?

In the comment section below, would you share 3 words that describe this blog(or 2 or 1, not particular)? What do I do well? What would you enjoy reading?

Thank you, friends.

So, what’s this blog’s story? Also, why not make this blogger smile and subscribe?

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My So-Called Glamorous Writing Life

I sit down at my L-shaped desk and fidget with the piles of school papers, Post-It notes, and books. Once my desk is tidy, my overwhelming email addiction demands that I check every single email account and answer every single email based upon importance. I probably need a 12 step program for email addiction, but it can go on my to do list right after my writing. The whole reason that I sat down at my desk is to write. But after an hour, I haven’t written one damn word. Except my to do list which says: “write a good paragraph.” Four words and no more.

But lately, my writing wallows at the end of a mile long list of crap. Despite putting it as number one, I choose to print out coupons(number seven on the list) or check Twitter and Facebook(not even on the list) or random internet searches(I’ll call this research). Next, I check my blog for comments, respond to comments(yes, this counts as writing. Or that’s what I tell myself), then I proceed to comment on my friends’ blogs. Certainly, they need someone to say nice things about their writing, right? Somehow, I meander to YouTube, and I’m sure I could have put off watching the Basset Hounds in slow motion until after writing. But they were so cute.

Five hours after I sat down to write, words meet ink and paper. To escape the noise and whining, I sit on the front porch with my legal pad and favorite blue pen. I bask in the warm sunshine and listen to the wheels whirring on 421. Finally, I wrestled myself free from the distractions—kids, the internet, social media, and myself(sort of). Holding my breath, I waited to see if I would be followed outside, but the doors never opened. I was safe. A few moments of quiet and writing time.

While I should have been thrilled, I berated myself for wasting five hours on stupid, mindless distractions. I imagined all of the words that could have been written each hour pushed towards a precipice. Once the hour passed, they tumbled down into vast nothingness. Never to have lived on paper. They haunt me, fuel my guilt, and strangle my creativity. My muse chokes upon the bile of these undead words.

Like so many unproductive days, I placed myself on trial for wasted writing time. I’m always guilty. Perhaps, I should feel some remorse and shame for all of the time misused. But then again, it’s just another excuse to avoid writing. Yet, I replay this cycle of distraction and guilt too often. Another moment to wallow in self-pity, another moment to poison my muse. Guilt and regret mingled together kill every ounce of creative energy.

But now, I see blue inked out words. Words breathing out their lives upon paper, and I feel a bit of the writer’s guilt melting away. With each new word, I forgive myself. Sentences take shape, and paragraphs lumber along. I keep writing and forming my thoughts, but mostly, I repent of the five hours wasted and work in the hours I have now. It’s the only thing I can do. Until tomorrow.

 Question: What things get in the way of your writing, art, etc? How do you overcome them?

Photo credit: Keith Williams via Flickr Creative Commons

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