People before property

              Denver from my front yard.             May 27, 2020.

Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Good afternoon, moon

Moon as seen from open space. Afternoon of March 31, 2020.

The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth.   ~ Jules Verne

You Are Here

Your mileage may vary, but today I find this perspective quite comforting:

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. ~ Carl Sagan

Rustler Gulch Trail. Crested Butte. July 26, 2018.

Vibrant Bunny

I like light, color, luminosity. I like things full of color and vibrant.
~ Oscar de la Renta

Bunny visit to front yard. July 28, 2017.

(Psst… I think Vibrant Bunny is a great name for a band. Feel free to use it.)

Making friends

Vinca. April 23, 2019.

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.  ~ Georgie O’Keefe

In these days of social distancing, it’s vital we make friends wherever and whenever possible.

Hello, Vinca Minor. My name is Tracy. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.

We the People

Arizona, July 1972 (National Archives)

From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.
~ Cesar Chavez

Simple kindness

Blue Mist Spirea. August 31, 2017.

We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.
~ Marcus Aurelius

Steve Holt!

I spent the day reading and critiquing a writing friend’s middle-grade manuscript, and just hit SEND.

There’s only one man on the planet who truly understands how pumped I am right now, and that man be Steve Holt!

 

My Insides Match My Outsides

For the past several days I’ve been working on the first 90 pages of my YA, zooming in on one particular relationship between two characters. I first went through the pages and highlighted every interaction between them in yellow. Then I went back to the beginning, highlighting in red the words I want to delete and using green highlights for the new words I added. It’s been a slow process but I feel as if finally, finally these characters are unfolding at the right pace and that I’m avoiding the dreaded Emotional Ping-Pong (something that was rampant in a YA I read over the weekend).

So imagine my delight when a few minutes ago I opened my computer to resume work on my project and I realized the screen mirrored the glorious colors outside.More fall leaves and computer screen 001

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Picture this: Tracy trapped inside her house, armed with nothing but a camera, as rain pours down outside.

Someone left the Kong out in the rain...

Someone left the Kong out in the rain…

Mourning Dove 005

Nothing like waterlogged nut-munch...

Nothing like waterlogged nut-munch…

Squirrel rainy day shots 030

Birds squirrels & rainy day shots 031     Birds squirrels & rainy day shots 032

Leaves in puddle 040So far all this rain in my neighborhood has only added up to really, really soggy ground, but just 20 miles away the city of Boulder is flooding. It would be best if the rain stopped falling. I’ve got no pull, but perhaps the weather goddesses will listen to Batman:

“I am vengeance. I am the night. I. AM. BATMAN!”Batman in rain 007I believe the rough translation is: KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE RAIN, YO!!!

Making Courage a Habit

A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.          ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Because I didn’t write much over the summer, it’s been difficult finding my groove again. That nasty little voice whispers in my ear, calling me delusional as I try to shake off the rust and gain some traction on my project.

I’ve had a few starts and stops, but for the past three days have written 1000 words per day. It’s starting to feel like a habit again although each day there’s a flutter in my chest as I prepare to sit down to work. “What if today I can’t do it?”

But as the wise Mr. Emerson pointed out, courage gets a bit easier each time you face down a particular fear. So right now I’m off to write my 1000 words for the day with the knowledge that I’ve done it before and can surely do it again.

Courage.Cowardly Lion receiving courage

Beauty All Around

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  ~ Khalil Gibran
Poppy 007
Poppy 009
Spider and Flowers 078
Spider and Flowers 074
I’m totally down with your sentiment, Khalil, except maybe the wind could lay off my poppies? You know, so they could hold onto their bloom for longer than a day?

Two Personal Reminders

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.                                                             ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

AND

To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.                                 ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

Assorted birds 033

 

Winter Reflections

“Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium.                                            There is no life without water.”                                                                                                               ~ biologist and Nobel laureate Albert von Szent

© Tracy Abell 2013

© Tracy Abell 2013

A Tip from John Irving

“A writer’s job is to imagine everything so personally 
that the fiction is as vivid as memories.”   ~ John Irving                        
                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                          

Missing Mr. Vonnegut

                 

"Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here.
There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-"God damn it, you’ve got to be kind."

                                                                                       
                                                      — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater)


                                                                                                                   image from morguefiles.com
                                    

                        

Need the Funny

 

I’m fast-approaching my freak-out limit what with
dead birds falling from the sky,
dead crabs washing up on shore,
Sarah Palin as 2012 presidential candidate,
spineless, tone deaf Obama and his new Wall-Street-insider-Chief-of-Staff,
etc.

It’s time for something funny.
How about a monologue from Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin’s
The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe . . . . . . . . . . .

This is Judith Beasley, a suburban housewife who used to sell Tupperware:

Judith Beasley char Lily Tomlin

About a month ago, I was shown some products designed to improve the sex lives of suburban housewives.
I got so excited, I just had to come on public access and tell you about it. To look at me, you’d never suspect
I was a semi-nonorgasmic woman. This means it was possible for me to have an orgasm—but highly unlikely.

To me the term “sexual freedom” meant freedom from having to have sex. And then along came Good Vibrations.
And was I surprised!
Now I am a regular Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

As a love subject, it surpasses my husband Harold by a country mile.
But please, this is no threat to the family unit; think of it as a kind of Hamburger Helper for the boudoir.

Can you afford one, you say? Can you afford not to have one, I say.
Why, the time it saves alone is worth the price.
I’d rank it up there with Minute Rice, Reddi-Wrap, and Pop-Tarts.

Ladies, it simply takes the guesswork out of making love.

“But doesn’t it kill the romance?” you say. And I say, “What doesn’t?”

So, what’ll it be? This deluxe kit? Or this purse-size model for the “woman on the go?”
Fits anywhere and comes with a silencer to avoid curious onlookers.

Ladies, it can be a real help to the busy married woman who has a thousand chores
and simply does not need the extra burden of trying to have an orgasm.

But what about the guilt, you say? Well, that thought did cross my mind.

But at one time I felt guilty using a cake mix instead of baking from scratch.

I learned to live with that. I can learn to live with this.

Thank you, Jane and Lily.

Revising. Again

         


Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman,
before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.
 ~ John Quincy Adams 

I had the great good fortune of receiving a free manuscript evaluation and critique 
from Sacha Whalen via the Blue Boards.

It was fast and comprehensive.

Sacha had much good to say about BIRD BRAIN,
but pointed out (among many other things), that
the opening chapters could be stronger.
She even gave me an excellent suggestion on how to do that,
a way to raise the stakes throughout the story.

So here I go again.
I’m mostly excited, but also a little bit scared.

Courage is saying, "Maybe what I’m doing isn’t working;
maybe I should try something else."
 ~  ANNA LAPPÉ

Conference Wrap-Up

          

I’m coming out of my RMC-SCBWI conference-induced fatigue,
and wanted to share some morsels 
before the passion and meaning behind the words grow too dim.

Bruce Coville gave our keynote speech on Saturday morning.
My favorite line:  "The blank page is hard, not because nothing’s
there, but because everything is there.  The whole world."

He ended his talk (titled The Art of the Heart: Writing True for the Child)
with this: "Let us not take joy, let us give it.  Let us give it courageously."

Just a short while later, I had my one-on-one critique with him.
He read the first 10 pages of BIRD BRAIN.  
Good news: he thinks the voice is strong.
Not-as-good news: I need to rework the opening pages to set them in a scene
rather than exposition.  I kind of knew that, but had a secret hope he’d love it as is!
(Major thanks again to  for helping me out of a slump so I could get those
pages ready for submission!)

One of the few sessions I was able to attend (due to responsibilities), was Social Media 101.
Drew Shope, of Thrive Social Media, is a 25-year-old social media guru who convinced me to start tweeting.
I’m having fun thus far but fear the Undisciplined Time Suck.
(I’m @TracyAbell)

I attended Elizabeth Law’s session on First Pages.
The overwhelming message of the day was Slow Down the Action.
(This is what was said regarding my first page from FRAMED, too.)
Of course, during another session, editor Kate Harrison and agent Elena Mechlin
both said they like a story that gets going immediately to pull them in.

(L-R Moderator Bobbi, Elizabeth Law, Elena Mechlin, Kate Harrison, Rotem Moscovich)

My favorite Elizabeth Law line of the weekend came in response to a question.
Q: If an editor or agent suggests revisions, is it appropriate to ask for clarification?
A:  No, work in the dark.  Spend a lot of time.  Hope you get it right.
(The answer is, Of course!)

I had a wonderful time and bonded with Bruce Coville.
When my critique time was up, I thanked him.
He said, "You betcha!" then said with considerable dismay, "I sound like Sarah Palin."
That’s all it took.  We were off and running (next writer hadn’t yet shown up).

It was a wonderful, exhausting weekend.
But next year, I hope to scale back on conference-day duties so I can fully enjoy.

(Local writers Stephanie Blake and Jeanne Kaufman yukking it up)

                

Friday Five: The Steven Wright Edition

              

STEVEN WRIGHT SAYS:

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

Cross country skiing is great if you live in a small country.

Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.

A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.

I intend to live forever. So far, so good.

 

Wishing everyone a weekend filled with much laughter and just enough absurdity to keep it interesting.
                

Taste: It’s All Subjective

              

I just read two YA novels by two well-known authors.
(Note: these authors are not on LiveJournal).
I’ve read and enjoyed other novels by these authors.

But I did not like either of these books.
At all.

The first was filled with repetitious interior dialogue,
as the narrator told the reader about his thoughts/feelings four different ways.
The second was based on an unbelievable premise that required a light touch
but instead was handled with a sledge hammer.
My jaw dropped when I read the final page because I couldn’t believe an editor let it go.
Then again, the entire book was written that way.

But you know what?
I did a quick online search, and discovered that all sorts of people enjoyed those books.
Books are a matter of taste,
and I need to remember that as I work to get my stories published.

Thomas Jefferson advised "In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." 

That’s probably good advice, Tom.
But while I won’t argue with people’s taste regarding these books,
I’m not jumping in to swim alongside popular opinion.

That’s a reader’s right.
A right shared by those editors reading my manuscripts.
                                

Ms. Brain, She Desperately Needs a Song

              

There are lots of contributing factors to my current State of Grumpy:

It’s incredibly windy right now
which means I can’t work in my garden
which means no exercise
since my hip is still messed up and I can’t do much of anything else
which also means I’m gaining weight.
And did I mention it’s Monday?
A really windy Monday?

But I also just realized I haven’t written much of anything in a week
as I’m still in CLOSE TO HOME limbo as I wait for readers’ responses.
I cannot work on BIRD BRAIN until I can give it my undivided attention
because I’ve started and stopped that project so many times I’m
afraid it’ll dwindle into nothing if I don’t give it the respect it’s due.

So there I was.
Crabby, crabby crabby.
Until I grabbed a book off my shelf, THE ELEVENTH DRAFT: Craft and the Writing Life from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop,
and opened it to Barry Hannah‘s piece, Mr. Brain, He Want a Song.
This is what I read:

". . . this is why I find working writers to be among the happiest folks in the world.  Among the unhappiest are those who are not working and have endless questions.  You do not want to get within a block of these people.  The Great Suck – big bottom lip, the sulk, the neurotic and despondent vortex.  But working writers are like unprosecuted felons."      

I’m off to my PT appointment but as soon as I’m home,
I’m going to write some flash fiction or a poem.
Something.
I cannot stand wallowing in The Great Suck.
However, I probably won’t go so far as to commit a felony
(unless you count writing really bad poetry as a crime).
             

On this Mother’s Day

            

     
The following was written in 1870, yet here we are in 2010,
still raising our voices against violence and war.
Here we are in 2010, with a president who publicly jokes about the use of predator drones.
Here we are in 2010, knowing in our hearts there is a better way.

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.