Category: | The Writing Life

Back On The Air

What is that old saying about God laughing while you make plans…?

I was so prepared for the arrival on baby number two, what with collecting guest posts from my writer/parent friends to help me keep up this blog while I was overwhelmed with all the new baby stuff. Then the unexpected happened.

A few hours after my boy was born he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and there he stayed for two weeks. I don’t know if you have any experience with the NICU, but let me just say, in case you don’t, that leaving your newborn in the hands of strangers (even wonderfully kind, highly trained strangers), is a special kind of heart break I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies.

Thankfully, Sebastian made a full recovery from all that ailed him, and came home to us on Christmas eve. It is absolutely wonderful to have him home, and for the first time this morning, I have the urge to write.

So stay tuned. Starting tomorrow I will share those guest posts I mentioned. First up – JJ Keith, writer of the blog JJust Kidding.

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Thoughts On Blogging From the Rents

Thank you to everyone who participated in my survey last week. It turns out that about 2/3 of you think a post should be between 100 and 500 words. Not too long, not too short. The other third voted for good long posts of over 500 words and I have to give a special thanks to JJ Keith (of the JJust Kidding blog) for her thoughts on the matter. It does seem that now and then you just need to delve in a little deeper to capture the nuance of certain ideas.

Which leads me to babies. What? Babies?

Yes. If you’ve been following along you know I’m due to give birth any day now, and since I’ve done this once before, I know things get a little hectic when you bring home the little screaming, pooping bundle of joy. I’m afraid of loosing track of the days and not keeping up the blog.

So starting fairly soon this blog will be host to a number of guest bloggers. I’ve reached out to some writer friends (who happen to be parents) and asked them to write a short post about being a writer/parent. I’ve left the definition of “short” open to interpretation, and am excited to hear what these folks have to say on the topic of juggling the bundle with this creative profession we call writing.

So stay tuned, I’ve got some pretty great writers on board so far – it should be an interesting discussion.

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The Social Media Dilemma

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my professional and personal lives overlap, especially in relation to my online activity. As a writer, who blogs about my own writing, there are bound to be personal details that come up (for instance, I’m due to give birth pretty soon – you can bet that will influence my posts to some degree), but for the most part I try to keep it professional.

For me, that means not writing about my family or friends (except insofar as they influence my life as a writer). The question is, how should I use sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote my writing, without telling the world every detail of my personal life? Twitter is pretty easy – I really only use that for work/writing related ideas, but Facebook is another story.

The solution I’ve come up with is to create an additional Facebook page for my “business” of writing. The new “April Dávila – Writer” page is very low on privacy – everything on it is intended for the public. Right after I created it, I increased the privacy settings on my personal “April Dávila” page so that only friends can see the embarrassing photos of me drunk in Vegas. This isn’t to say I won’t share photos on my new “professional” page, but this way I have a little more control over who sees what.

The hard part is that now I don’t want to use my personal page to promote things like my blog, or articles that are published, but only a handful of my friends have signed up for my professional page where I intend to post about my writing. How to I get my old friends to sign up for the new page? Does it even matter? Every time I think I have all this online self-promotion business worked out I realize I’m just a babe in the woods.

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Environmental Heritage as Inspiration

I was talking with my mom the other day about inspiration. She’s an artist (working in clay these days – check out her blog: Burning Clay) and she told me she took a long drive back to her home town recently to soak up some of her heritage for inspiration. She grew up on a farm in Elk Grove outside Sacramento, raised by her grandparents and a gaggle of abusive uncles. Seriously, they used to beat her up and tease her all day every day. The only peace she found was when she hopped on her horse and went out on her own, and that peace was what she went back to visit. To her, the heritage that matters is the place, not the people.

She told me she found the very path she used to ride, and that it looked exactly the same. While she talked I could almost smell the long wet grasses and dusty lots in the distance. We talked further about how it seems that place, as much as the people in a given place, is what really shapes us as individuals. And as artists, what more do we really have to offer but our individual shapes? 

Would I be the same writer if I grew up somewhere other than a small town in Northern California? How will growing up in LA mold the minds of my children? I shudder to think. I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer” right now, and I’m pretty sure the story would be pretty different if the author grew up in India. We are part of our landscapes, but more than that, they are a part of us. 

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Did I Say 100 Days Of Writing?

Today is the first of November and the internet is a buzz with talk of the annual NaNoWriMo challenge. If you haven’t heard, it’s a website that challenges writers to to spill out 50,000 words in one month. The basic rules are that it has to be a first draft and you have to just write, write, write.

I’ve always wanted to try it, but seeing as I’m closing in on the completed second draft of my first novel, I didn’t want to get distracted by a new story. So instead of NaNoWriMo, I opted to do the 100 days of writing challenge, presented by the Writing Spirit website. I committed to writing for at least one hour, on my novel, every day.

I lasted exactly 12 days.

It’s embarrassing to say I didn’t meet my goal. I have many good reasons (excuses), but the fact is I blew it.

Perhaps these kinds of challenges just work better when they are done with a group. Maybe that’s the secret to NaNoWriMo – in signing up you have a whole community of folks to endure with.

I will try this challenge again, as soon as my ego recovers from the failure of it all, but next time I will recruit at least three friends to do it with. Maybe we could meet every week to check in, or commit to page counts or something. Has anyone out there had more luck with this kind of challenge? If so, what’s your secret?

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Happy Anniversary to the Unfolding Tale

I feel like a forgetful spouse.

Last Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of my first post on the Unfolding Tale. Last year at this time I was a little skeptical about blogging, but it’s been a great year. I finished a first draft of my novel, completed my Month Without Monsanto project, graduated with honors from USC’s Master of Professional Writing program, found an agent, wrote my first non-fiction proposal and blogged about it all right here.

I used to think of blogging as journal writing for the public, but it has become more to me over the year. Blogging keeps me thinking about writing. Twice a week I have to think about the act and art of putting words down and find something (hopefully) interesting to say about it. It also keeps me writing. Yes, a few hundred words twice a week isn’t much, but it’s something. Lastly, it’s a fun record to have of my adventures in writing. In this way it is kind of like a journal – one devoted to my writing.

Thank you to my readers. I know a lot of you are writers too, and your thoughts and feedback have meant a lot to me over this first year.

May it be the first of many.

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Day 9 of 100 Days of Writing

Yesterday I sat down to do my writing and I felt downright resentful. I was so cranky that I had to marvel at myself. I love writing. I crave it. So why does actually sitting down to get started feel like pulling teeth sometimes?

Well, I don’t actually have the answer to that question, but I do know that if I don’t write those pages, no one will. Nine days in and my commitment to write every day for 100 days is feeling a lot more like a marathon than I had expected. Either I’m struggling with some tough story issues, or I’m really out of practice. Probably a little of both.

So let’s hear it for discipline, and inventive ways to hold yourself accountable. (If you’re new to the discussion check out the 100 Day Writing Challenge here).

Now back to work.

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Day 7 of 100 Days of Writing

I don’t know if it was the heat here yesterday (LA saw record highs, up to 113!), or what, but yesterday was one of those days where everything went awry.

First the internet went down (which is why I’m posting a day late), then the then the AC, and lastly, as I lay sprawled on the bed, too hot to do anything, the TV just stopped working. Oh, man…

Well, today is a new day. My amazing husband made quick work of all the household woes. Twenty minutes after he got home I was checking emails, while watching a 30 Rock rerun, and basking in the miracle that is air conditioning.

Today I’m back on track. I’m on day day 7 of my 100 days of writing challenge, and I’m struck by how much writing is all about baby steps. Each day I write for at least one hour, and it doesn’t seem like much, but when I look at my little score card I see hours of work that I wouldn’t have motivated to do otherwise.

Then I look at the work and see how far the project has come in a few short hours. I’ve officially broken through the section that was holding me up and am on to a new chapter. It feels really good.

Though I probably won’t make it to the end of this challenge – it was pointed out to me that my 100 days will be up on December 30th and my baby is due on the 15th – I know that every day I commit to sitting down and writing is a day I can feel good about.

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100 Days Of Writing

Now and then, we all need a kick in the pants.

Writers in particular sometimes need a way to get back into the practice of writing regularly. It’s like exercise – when you do it regularly you don’t think much about it, but when you stop for a while, getting back to the gym seems like an incredible challenge.

Well I strayed away from my novel for a while (to work on other projects), and I’m having trouble getting back to it, so I’ve decided to participate in the 100 Days of Writing challenge, presented by WritingSpirit.com.

The thing that caught my attention was her pitch to “finish 2010 strong.” Whaaaa? Finish 2010? 100 days? How did the end of the year sneak up like that?

As some of you know, I’m expecting a little baby boy on December 15th. After seeing the WritingSpirit web challenge I pulled up my calendar and realized that 100 days of writing would land me at December 8th. Perfect. I had been looking for a way to motivate myself to get some good writing in before I degenerate into a sleep deprived, diaper changing, nursing machine. So I printed out the handy 100 Days of Writing challenge chart and started yesterday.

Only 99 days to go. Anyone want to join me?

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Great Uncle Art

I recently read Liz Gilbert’s “Committed,” and just loved it. It’s full of insight, humor and honesty. Though I adored “Eat, Pray, Love,” it appealed much more to my girly sensibilities, while “Committed” is a book I think my husband would enjoy as much as I did.

Anyway, there’s a short section in the book that has me thinking. She talks about how people live on in the stories we tell about them. Take for instance, my Great Uncle Art, who I talk about with some regularity. He came to California in the dust bowl and became a migrant fruit picker. At six foot four, with a giant wing span, he excelled at this profession, traveling up and down the coast with the harvest, and visiting different girlfriends in every city. My memory of him (he died when I was fairly young) was of a gruff, hard-smoking, hard-drinking tower of a man, who loved to knit.

Every time I saw my Uncle Art he had some new little doll he had knitted for me. I was always fascinated by how his giant, rough hands ever managed to make something so delicate. After reading “Committed” I got to thinking about how, in a small way, Uncle Art lives on every time I tell someone about him, and the realization I had this morning was that he will live on in the same way even if I turn him into a fictional character.

The thing about fiction is that we read it assuming that it’s entirely made up, but every detail had to come from somewhere, and where else could it come from but the writer’s life? And so I come again to the idea that fiction and non-fiction are divided by such a blurry line. I think that is why we read fiction, for great stories that ultimately tell great truths.

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