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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TA not T and A in Writing Stories

I've always wondered if my training as a psychotherapist had impacted the way I see characters. I know I have an easier time writing in first person than I do in third person. I tend to get a bit clinical in third person. Whereas in the first person, I am practicing walking in the person's shoes, something that is encouraged if you want to sit with people in pain and try to get a sense of where they are. You have to be careful with that because it isn't the best idea to curl up on the floor and cry with your client but I think you know what I mean. Turns out, the answer to that writing question is a definite yes.

I've mentioned the book I have been reading on how to write short stories. Writing the Short Story A Hands-On Program by Jack M. Bickham who writes for Writer's Digest. In the last chapter I read he talks about Transactional Analysis (TA). It is rather like the id, ego, and superego I discussed a few days ago but different in that it deals with the conscious state.

To briefly summarize, TA postulates that we all have three different modes of operating from. They are the Adult State, the Parent State, and the Child State. How we (or our characters) act depends on what state they are in. BTW, this is a great thing to do in marital therapy because a lot of couples get stuck in one person always being in the Parent and the other in the Child which grows wearisome for both if they don't recognize it. When I try to tell my husband to get off the computer he has been on there too long. I have left the adult state with him and moved to the parental one. Surprisingly, he resents this :) which can lead to an argument depending on which state he is in.

The author suggests if you have a boring scene between two characters, they are probably both in the Adult state, so change the states one or both of them are operating from. The child state is usually guaranteed to generate some conflict as that is the "I want," me, me, me state.

The author also points out that TA teaches about life scripts. This is that you decide very early on what kind of person we are going to be and how are life is going to go and then we make sure our life fits that script even if it leads us to some dire situations. So, maybe I am using that Master's Degree after all. If nothing else, it gave me a nice superior moment when I read the chapter since I already knew the information.

Several people have said they have been having trouble posting on here. If you have been trying to post but have been having trouble, let me know so we can figure it out. I would love to hear your comments. I am on fb and my email is Looking forward to hearing from you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hello, my name is Nancy and I am a plant killer

This is not Murder One by any means but all plants that I own will eventually die. It is a rule. In fact, I think it fortunate my pets and children let me know when they need water and food or they, too, might be in for an early demise. Some of the plants in my home have not yet expire, they are, as Miracle Max in the Princess Bride would say, only mostly dead. I do wonder why I keep bringing these leafy victims into my home. Is there a sadistic side to me that is only expressed in this way?

Peace lillies seem to last the longest as they droop their leaves when they need water but I have no long term hope for them.  I have kept one from each of my parents funerals in the land of the living, if at times gasping for water. Speaking of land of the living, I can recommend a good zombie novel, Feed by Mira Grant. It was a Hugo nominee. Not too shabby for a zombie tale. I wonder if there is any market for zombie plants? I think I may have some here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Short and Sassy

I'm shifting through ideas for the next short story I want to write. There are two front runners. The first involves a government plot, memory sharing/storage, and a bit o' romance. The other involves for sure a guy named Spider (not sure why but he keeps coming to mind so I guess I will include him), mythological beasts, and eclipses. Neither story is mapped out and both are fuzzy on details so I have to decide where I want to put my energy.

When I first began finishing stories (notice I didn't say writing them as I have done that since I could first scribble out lines on paper and "read" them to others), my goal was to be a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. Now, it is five or so years later and I am not even submitting any more to them. While I can't guarantee I will every see that winner email, I can guarantee that I won't if I don't start writing and submitting some sci-fi or fantasy. One of my favorite lines in the movie Facing the Giants is when the dad says to his son, "You can't be any more not on the football team than you are right now." I figure I can't be any more not winning that contest than I am right now so I am going to recommit some energy to it.

According to the book I've been reading, you have to analyze the competition. He suggests taking stock of what are the averages in whatever publication you are shooting for. For instance, average length, point of view, setting, etc. I've also subscribed to a daily dose of sci-fi that comes right to my inbox from Daily Science Fiction. It's free! I also figure the best way to get back to the sci-fi is to read it. So far, I haven't found much that is consistent in every story, or even most, from the anthologies but I haven't read them all either.  If either story idea tweaks anyone's interest and they want to vote, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Blood to the other guy

Last night, at jiu jitsu, we learned how to deal with someone throwing a haymaker punch. You duck under their arm while protecting your head with your arm and catch them around the middle. Then, clench to the back so they can't get away. Of course, anyone who knows anything about fighting wouldn't be throwing a haymaker since the motion is telegraphed from quite a distance. Our next move involved going from the guard (or position 1 as I learned last night) and letting the person get up, pushing them away and then keeping them away with your feet on their hips. Then, switching with a quick twist if they tried to throw your foot off.

I found I am not nearly as coordinated as I thought since I kept missing the hip when my partner threw off my foot. Although, when done correctly it looked like a pretty cool move. While practicing, one of my partners said, "you're bleeding." Since I had not done anything to draw blood, it surprised me to see the bright red on my lower shin. I don't know if it makes you look tough or wimpy to have blood on the bottom of your pants. One of my partners had it around the neck area from when he was in my guard.

We finally came to the conclusion that one of my partners nails had scraped me, one of my male partners since I was the only woman in the class. I was so relieved it wasn't the other way around. Because if it had been, I am certain one of those guys would have at least thought about blaming the injury on my femininity.  Now, at least, if I do something stupid in the future I'm not the first one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

id or ego

Sigmund Freud once postulated that our psyches are composed of three primary drives. The id, which is the childlike, 'I want it now.' The ego, which is basically the grown up that says, 'No, you can't have it now. You have to work for it. And the superego which makes sure everything that is done is both aboveboard and moral. Having grown up in the south, in a Baptist home/church, my superego is overdeveloped. So even though I may occasionally lapse, I am mentally punished greatly for it.

Last night, my id danced around with ideas as I drove to Knoxville for writer's group. Most people's eyes glaze over after an hour or two of writing talk but not other writers. We can talk about it for hours. In addition, Lou, our hostess, always has fabulous noshes and wine. I thought I had my id pretty well under control after I arrived as I very responsibly said no to a second glass of wine since I was driving back to Chattanooga in a few hours.

Even foregoing the wine, the food was wonderful. She had smoked cheeses, crackers, wasabi peanuts, and carmelized pretzels for appetizers. the entree consisted of  a pumpkin-sausage pasta dish that had a hint of the flavors and blended well with the wine. The writing talk flowed and I reveled in it.

We talked current projects (although as I am writing this my superego reminded me I forgot to ask one of the writers what he was writing on, hope he wasn't too offended, sorry David). Anyway we touched on outlining, blogging, story rights, self-publishing, story lengths, submissions, technique, story types, plot lines, and even did a writing exercise.

Then eleven came (I'd been there since 6:30), my ego gave me a swift nudge and reminded me that what ever time I left, it would be an hour and a half before I got home. About fifteen minutes after that, I began to make noises about leaving but then kept remembering other things I wanted to ask. Or, I wanted to hear what the others were saying. So, in the end, I arrived home around one in the morning. My kids get up at 6:30 so I do too. I am worthless today and missed jiu jitsu class this morning.  I think the id is where most of the writing ideas come from so I wonder, what are the appropriate conditions to let it come out and play?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

gonna do it

I made my decision this week. I am planning to pursue my black belt. I was signing up for the pancreatic cancer 5k and thought about how much that stupid cancer has taken from me. It occured to me then that I don't have to let the black belt be one more thing that my moving took from me. I don't know that this is a good decision given that my behind will probably get handed to me in pieces in the sparring and the breaking but once it is done I will know that I didn't let this get taken from me too.

BTW, this is unrelated to Jeff being barricaded in his office. He did finally see the humor in that. However, he has now stated that I have declared a practical joke war. Since he loves that sort of thing and I do not, this is not a prospect I am looking forward to. Here's hoping this goes the way of many of the things I ask him, by that I mean he forgets it entirely unless I bring it up again.

I am looking forward to attending my writer's group on Tuesday night in Knoxville. Too bad I have to teach improv earlier that day or I would head up early to get some practice in. I have been doing the steps of the short story book and am making progress. I am at the protion of hte book where we are working on different types of stories.  There are three kinds-conflict, decision, and a type of mileu thing. I know I don't do the third type but it looks like the majority of my stories have been decision type so I have got to write some conflict ones. We will see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I've baricadded him in but it may only be a matter of time

Sometimes it's great to have a husband that works at home. Other times, not so awesome. For instance, in the middle of one of his work crises, I asked if he had changed out the catbox. He sighed the sigh of the long suffering and then said, "Not now, Nancy,"  or it's not a good time or something like that. I, never one to just keep my mouth shut replied, "It's never a good time," which is my defense is true because who ever wants to be reminded about cleaning out the catbox. In  his defense, it probably wasn't the best moment. It might have ended there except he went back in his office and closed the door. An act he usually reserves for when the kiddos are home. It was a clear message and as far as I was concerned- a challenge.

Since I didn't have a door to close I took several bins and piled them outside of his door. I have a plethora of things like that because I am horribly unorganized always thinking if I can buy the right organizational tool (bins, shelves, so on) things will be better. So, that was about 30 min ago and he either has not discovered the barricade or is choosing to ignore it.

I'm thinking when I see him again I will say, "Thank goodness you're safe. I just barricaded an ogre upstairs."

If he has regained his sense of humor, than he will think it's funny. If not, I have just heaped the proverbial coals onto the fires of matrimonial discord. It seems like that thought might make me go and move them but it doesn't. Truthfully, I just want to see what happens. If I never post again you will know things went horribly wrong.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Winging it

Improv class went great since we didn't all get swept away in flood waters. Not too much in terms of funny today, more skill building and getting comfortable being silly on stage. The best part was the group maniacal laughter in the game "Yes, Let's."

All the area schools were either delayed or cancelled today due to the nine and a half inches of rain we received. Last week, my grass literally crunched when I walked across it. Today, I am certain it would slosh. The first day it was fun to go out and play around a bit in the rain. I am over it now. When I put the kids in the car to go to school today, I gave them the survival rundown.

"Okay, if we get hit by a flash flood we may have to climb out the windows because you never stay in the car."

My nine year old replied, "That would be stupid to stay in the car, Mom." So clearly, I must have given this talk before and instead of just being able to let that lie, I had to go back and correct her by saying, "People who stay in the cars probably aren't stupid, just scared and confused." I will blame the first statement on her father because he isn't here to defend himself. In case he does read this tomorrow, "hi, honey, just kidding."

Anyhow, the note cards are going slowly and we still aren't even into creating the storyline yet. It certainly is a different process than the free form wing-it style I usually write by. Speaking of wings, today I had an experience that will make its way into one of my stories someday as a harbinger of doom. Outside my kitchen window, hangs my bird feeder. I noticed a lot of feathers around in the bushes and some red on the feeder. When I went to investigate, I found a mostly decapitated bird head stuck in the feeder barely attached to a bloody spine. Yick! (which would be Yuck and Ick, that was initially a typo but then I decided I liked the word). Some hawk or owl must have thought he found a buffet tonight.

My second Improv class with a different group of kids is tomorrow. It's hard to believe I'm getting paid ( not much but a teeny bit) to run around and act crazy. That is almost as cool as getting paid for a story but this time I wasn't even tempted not to cash the checks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

a little progress

I'm reading a book now about how to create a short story. Now, I have created many short stories in my time but like many writers, I always wonder if there is a better way to do it. The author of this book claims to have a "map." I am only partway through but what I know at this point is that I have done more introspection with this process than I have done in my writing previously. That, and there are a whole bunch of notecards that are being used.

I went through about 40 the first day. It isn't the same notecard system that Tom Bird uses but I will be interested to see where it takes me. The author also claims that by the end of the book you will have at least one short story written. He does not claim it will be submittable as he clearly states something along the lines of you will have a story written at the best level you are able to write it. Which I guess means if I am at the sucks level than that is about all I'm going to get. Either way it is good practice and has me focusing on something. It is certainly a different process than I have used before since The IDEA is always what hits me first. My last two assignments were to write at the top of 20 different notecards attributes I admire in people and then do the same for things I do not like. Tonight, my job is to fill in on each card a way to show that attribute and not just tell it. We haven't even begun to talk plot.

Tomorrow, I am set to teach my first improv class. I am excited and nervous. You never know what kind of actors are going to show up, especially in the 1st through 5th grade range. I have big plans for them though and I think they will have a blast. Now, I am off to write more notecards.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Short bursts of inspiration

I find I am not inspired for nearly long enough to get anything done. My energy waxes on and off faster than Ralph Macho's hands. However, a good friend did read a short memoir I'd written and gave me this comment, "Beautiful, a wonderful tribute to your parents." While I did my best to appear modest and demure, inside a happyfest began with free drinks to all. The ego was the first to belly up to the bar, what a lush. This is the piece I submitted for publication. But as is often the case, there is no deadline by which I will hear whether this is accepted by them or not. I find those moments of elation that fill my motivational balloon don't sustain in the midst of all the needle wielding editors. So I guess I am going to have to fall back on hard work. The author Ann Patchett suggests setting aside one hour a day to spend on the craft or whatever it is you love and keeping a log to see if you do it. That is in keeping with the book Outliers which postulates to be successful at anything requires a certain number of hours put into practice. This was the good kick in the pants I got today. 

The not so good one involved my fashion choices and my son. I admit I often eschew conventional sleepwear in favor of a soft cotton t-shirt. But I don't think that occurs so often that when I headed out the door wearing a t-shirt (that yes I might have slept in a few times) and a pair of shorts that my six-year old needed to say, "Mom, I don't know if they will let you in wearing pajamas." While I did not go in and change, I did think on that a bit. And now I wonder, is it that I usually dress up more to go out or that I need to start wearing real pajamas? Ah, the microscope we live under when children are around. Not sure I'd exactly call it refreshing. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Winds of Change

You may have noticed a new name at the top of this blog. If not, please direct your eyes to the top of the page and spend a moment taking it in. Are you back? Now we can go on to the explanation. While the previous title certainly described the life I lived while creating this blog, the Cancer and Alzheimer's portion are no longer present. Don't get me wrong, they left their marks, indelible wounds on my psyche and soul but I sincerely hope and pray those two offenders do not make it back into the cycle of this life (you are welcome to add this to your prayer list too).

Kicks in the pants (KITPs), on the other hand, are part of everyone's life. I plan to tell you about the kicks I get and I'd welcome some comments about the kicks you are getting too. Since it is my blog, I'll start. In juggling motherhood, wifehood, teaching, and writing, some balls get dropped. I have two children. The elder has learned to remind me, often in an annoying fashion, to sign her up for the activities she wishes to participate in. The younger has a sweet, trusting spirit that believes he only needs to ask his mother for something and she will come through every time. Well, this summer, my son's only request was to play baseball. I saw the sign-up sign and put it in my mental agenda. Turns out I read the sign wrong and missed the deadline.

This was a two-fold offense because not only had I let him down but it was so totally my error and I hate being wrong. When I told him, hoping it would be one of those moments that he would shrug off, my son cried to the point of running to his room and burying his head. Then I called him out and while apologizing my behind off cried as well. It wasn't intended to be manipulative but I have to admit to feeling some relief when my observable misery softened his a bit. This one has a nice ending for him since a friend of mine found another league (30 min away) that he can still play in. I figure the drive is my nice KITPs natural consequence. So any kicks coming your way?