Keeping Promises

Two semesters ago I said I would try to write a blog once a month (or was it once a week?). Obviously, that didn’t happen. Currently, I am three fourths of the way though the third semester of my MFA program. Honestly, sometimes I miss my weekends, but when I decided to get my masters, I made myself a promise, and it’s one I intend to keep.

I think the difference between my pledge to keep this blog updated and my pledge to soak in as much writing knowledge and wisdom as possible while I’m pursuing my masters is intensity.

Even as I wrote that first promise, curled up in my room, avoiding strangers during my first residency, I was allowing exceptions. “I will try but…”

Strangely that wasn’t very effective.

Part of the problem was that keeping this blog up, which I never had before, was an unreasonable goal. I have three kids and am enrolled full-time in a masters program. It’s a lot. So, I don’t feel badly for not keeping my promise to write regular posts. I shouldn’t have promised it to begin with.

book-1760998_1920Here are my true promises: I will occasionally post on this site until my life slows down a little bit, which will probably be never (but, hey, a girl can dream). I will not feel badly when Facebook tells me the followers of my Author page haven’t heard from me in a while (as in months and months). BUT, I will be the best writer I can be by setting scheduled time aside to write, by always learning (and reading), and by giving myself reasonable goals even after I no longer have a mentor waiting for my writing packets.

A new friend I met at a writing conference recently said to me, “I used to feel guilty if the dishes or laundry weren’t done. Now, I feel guilty if I haven’t written. Women are good at making themselves feel guilty, might as well use it to our advantage.”

You may or may not be a writer, but everyone one should have goals. Pick the ones that are most important to you and make yourselves intense promises about them.

I have been abysmal about updating this page but I have never asked for an extension or turned in fewer pages than were required for my MFA.

I can’t give you any statistics that will prove this focus has allowed me to grow, but I can tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I have written pieces of which I am proud. And not in an ‘it’s an interesting idea and I think it has potential’ kind of way. For me, this is huge.

So, this is me saying, from now on I’m gong to work towards feeling guilty about useful things and making and keeping the right kind of promises. And I hope you’ll join me.

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Muddling Through Mud

I’ve been working on the same book idea for 4 years now. Some days I’m in love with it. Some days I’m hovering over the delete key. At some point, I’d like to be done. But the more I delve into it, the less likely that seems.

Every new person that reads my work points out, in varying degrees, problems. This is normal. Writing is about drafts, drafts, and more drafts. Intellectually I understand that. But it’s exhausting and disheartening to get crisp white papers back full of blood. Every time. No matter how many good things they say, it’s the bad ones I remember. It’s the bad ones I have to try to fix. And so many times, I have no idea how.

Day after day I pour my soul into my story. And lately, I feel like all I’m making is mud. farmto table (2)

This is not a post written to gain sympathy. I simply want to be honest. And this is where I am in my current MFA journey, one packet in and very discouraged. I’m tired, my heart hurts, and when my heart hurts, I write. Thus this self-indulgent, depressing post. 😉

I don’t have any real solutions to add. There’s not going to be a big hopeful but and the end of this. I will, however, offer a small one: even on my worst days, I can’t imagine stopping. Trying to stuff my dreams and my stories back in would be like trying to put a full Kleenex box back together after my two-year-old has ripped out all the tissues and scattered them all over the house.

So I guess I keep going. Maybe the mud will clear. Maybe the blood will dwindle. Maybe I’ll make it; maybe I won’t.

All I know, is there’s no way in hell I’m getting all those damn tissues back in that box.

 

Writing Prompt

I’ve been having a wonderful, overwhelming time so far at my MFA residency. Today, true to my word, at least for now, I wanted to share a little snippet of an event with you.

I attended a lecture from a graduating student about incorporating trauma into your writing. At the end she gave us a prompt and asked us to write about a difficult event from our past: what was important, what you remember, what you don’t.

We were short on time, we only had five minutes, but it was an interesting exercise. This is what I wrote:

What matters is this.

My grandma forgot who I was.

I was in 7th, maybe 8th grade.

We were watching TV, I don’t remember what.

My grandma was in a chair.

I was on the floor, pulling on the long carpet strands.

She called me a beautiful girl.

Asked who I was.

I couldn’t answer.

Someone did, my dad or my grandpa.

There was a nightmare.

She thew snakes.

My grandma forgot who I was.

My mother promised me she wouldn’t.

Mom’s Going Back to School

Approximately two hours ago I (ok my husband) loaded up the car with probably more stuff than I needed. It was pouring rain as I pulled down the driveway. A spider man helmet got stuck underneath the car and I had to get out, turning my curled hair into a frizzy mess, while my husband pushed the car backwards to free it. My two oldest sons raced me to the corner. I let them win, then I waved goodbye.

And now I’m here, at the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. My luggage is unpacked. (ish- stop judging) My residency package is picked up. All that is left is to wait for the first meeting, and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into and if I’m going to make it out.IMG_20180713_151458

I was talking to one of my aunts a couple days ago. She commented that motherhood hasn’t changed who I am. At first, I didn’t agree. There are oceans, mountains, planets between the person I was six and a half years ago and the person I am now. Most days, I feel like an exhausted wisp of my former self. “Yeah, I used to be smart,” is a common retort of mine. But as I reflected longer, I realized, though I have changed, it’s not in the negative, and all-consuming way it sometimes feels.

Motherhood has made me, more me, which I believe was exactly her point. It’s forced me to be more honest about myself. It’s shed light on anxiety issues I’d previously been able to hide with careful planning. It’s forced me make more specific, more confident requests:

“Yes, I am sure I want you to pick up those toys, even if you are going to play with them sometime in the next 10 years.”

It’s made me focus on what’s actually important.

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And now reader, if you’re wondering what any of this has to do with me beginning my master’s program, here it is:

Old me, the one with brain power, and free time, secretly wanted to be a writer. A real one with a book, or several, on the shelf and another formulating on her computer. But old me would not have signed up for this program and pushed to make this dream into a goal.

So, although three children ago might have been an easier time to decide to enroll full-time in graduate school and be away from home for 10 days a semester, although I might have felt more quick witted and less frazzled, although my biggest hesitations now center around my children and how they will cope, I know it is because of them, not in spite of them that I’m here.

No, I don’t have hours a day to stare blankly into the heart of my computer and come up with a masterpiece. No, I haven’t suddenly turned into an extrovert who loves meeting new people. Of course I’m going to miss my family like crazy.

But I wrangle three small humans, bent on mutual destruction, on a daily basis now. So yes I’ve changed. And Yes I’m the same.

And yes, I can do this.IMG_20180713_165755

I’m planning to document my creative writing MFA (Masters of Fine Art) adventure here on this blog and to be faithful about writing regular posts about my experiences and progress. So, if you’re a mom on a mission, an aspiring author, or you’re my relative and feel obligated, make sure you check back! And, to make it easier, if you follow the blog you’ll get an update when I publish something new.

Thanks for visiting!!!

Storytellers: Expanding Minds and Hearts

“Expand your mind by reading non-fiction books.”

This is advice I’ve heard several times from a popular radio personality. Sounds great, except he goes on to qualify it by insisting fiction book-reading isn’t edifying. It’s “only for fun.”

Yes, fiction books can be fun. (And he and I both agree there’s nothing wrong with that) But they can also be devastating.

And a great fiction or narrative nonfiction book ALWAYS expands my mind.

Good stories, well told. They influence decisions and view points without effort. Without being didactic. And a story doesn’t have to be “real” to be true. Eleanor Estes’s, The Hundred Dresses, Margery William’s The Velveteen Rabbit, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. These stories shaped the lens through which I view the world.book-1760998_1920

Yes, you should stay well-informed. You should know what’s going on in your world. Facts are important. But facts tend to fray if they’re not sewn together by a story.

“Top Ten Ways To…” and “self-help” books have value (though in the interest of transparency, I’m usually not drawn to them). But if a reader is really looking to expand their mind, they should reach for a story.book-2624494_1920

Tips are forgotten. Facts misplaced. Names spend a lifetime wondering around on the tips of our tongues. But stories, stories are remembered.

I am not a prolific author. I am not a world-renown anything. But I’m still betting on my side. Because I work for stories.

And stories shape souls.

Smith's ClickList: My New Mom-Necessity by Tacheny Perry

Smith’s ClickList: My New Mom-Necessity (10 Dollar Coupon Inside!)

A few posts ago I wrote about how my boys are the reason I push forward with my writing. And that is still very true. But it’s also true that, lovable though they are, they don’t leave me much time.

Whether you’re trying to write or not, if you’re a momma you know, kiddos keep you BUSY. And they tend to turn what used to be a 45 minute task into an entire morning ordeal.

Well, I have a solution…to at least one of your problems.

Last week I was introduced to #clicklist @mysmithsgorcery. And, after using it twice, I can tell you decisively: I am IN LOVE!

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Convenience
    • I placed my first order while watching netflix on my couch. After that, all I had to do was show up during the pick-up time I selected. The groceries were brought to my car by two friendly workers and I headed home without having to lift a finger or unbuckle a kiddo.
  2. Smith's ClickList: My New Mom-Necessity by Tacheny Perry
    (the chocolate was gone 3 seconds after I took this pic)

    Customer Care

    1. Not only did they call me to make sure they understood my meat order correctly, they also brought a flower and piece of chocolate to my car. (it was Mother’s Day) The chocolate, of course, was gone 3 seconds after I snapped a pic. AND when I came a second time with all my children in tow (one of whom was very tired – read cranky-) they rescued me with complimentary fruit and water!
  3. Same Day Pick Up
    • Ok, so I know some of you have your groceries planned out way in advance, but honestly, I”m lucky if I remember to get fully dressed most days. SO being able to place an order and pick it up a few hours later is amazing for me!
  4. No Hidden Fees
    • Smith’s is not the only store to offer pick up services, but I love that the prices you see on the #clicklist app are the same as you’ll see in the stores and in their adds. You can use online and printed out coupons and if they don’t have an item they’ll swap it for a more expensive option or give you the kroger version for free. The only difference in price is a $4.95 charge, which doesn’t increase no matter how much you buy. I’d pay a lot more to have someone else shop for me! (Luckily I don’t have to!!!)
  5. Produce Experts
    • Picking the right fruits and veggies is a challenge for me. For one thing, I don’t know what I’m doing. For another, even if I did, there’s no way my children are going to stay in one place as I dig through avocados. Smith’s gives all their pickers extensive produce training. You can ask for ripe fruit, green fruit, some of each. Just add it in the special requests and they’ll get it done. And unlike me, they actually know what a ripe avocado looks like!

Smith's ClickList: My New Mom-Necessity by Tacheny PerrySO if you’re a mom, dad, human being, download the Smith’s app or go to your computer and try out #clicklist. They wave the 4.95 fee your first three orders AND click here and you’ll get $10 off when you spend $50!

Fellow Albuquerque-ians, here are the three Smith’s locations that have #clicklist:

1000 Rio Ranch Dr SE, Rio Rancho
6125 4th St. NW, Albuqeurque
4700 Tramway Blvd. NE, Albuqerque

Not in ALbuquerque? Check out smithsfoodanddrug.com/onlineshopping to find a location near you!

Writing Conference: A Family affair by Tacheny Perry

Writing Conference: A Family Affair

A couple weeks ago I attended the Nebraska Writers Guild conference with my dad and sister. It was the first non-pregnancy/birth related overnight away from my oldest children. And so, naturally I was both excited and nervous.

I made an itinerary, promised a special prize for good bedtime behavior, and then I got on a plane and prayed everything would be fine. Those worries however, I’m going to save for a moms blog.

This post is about the writing.

Writing Conference: A Family Affair by Tacheny Perry
My baby and my sitter!

Friday evening, with baby and built in babysitter (aka grandma) in tow, we headed to the conference center to enjoy reading from other Nebraska Writers Guild members and share some of our own. I was actually called second and was able to share one of my favorite moms blog posts: Boy: Why I Cried when I Found out I was have my Third. It was a lot of fun to hear all the different voices and genres, and though we had to leave before my dad could share, I had a wonderful time.

Saturday morning opened with a talk by Sabrina Sumsion about press releases, which I found informative but difficult to write on the spot. (No one’s allowed to read my worksheet 😉 ) Then we were treated to some very interesting stories by retired journalist George Ayoub. He also had some wonderful quotes. Some of my favorites were:

“Don’t be a writer; be writing.” – Faulkner

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you’re dead.” – Tom Stoppard

My pitch session came during the last (and my favorite) talk of the day. Before you get excited, I wasn’t successful, not in the “Yes, I’m going to sign you today!” way. However, I felt much better about it than I did about my first in-person pitch. For one thing, this time I actually sounded like I was familiar with my book. The agent asked several clarifying questions and I was able to give coherent answers to almost all of them. AND when it was over I got to rejoin a talk about creating compelling characters.

Danny Manus, the final speaker, works in Hollywood, mainly on scripts. But he had some wonderful ideas and specific tools to help any character, whether on screen or in print. I loved that he had exercises and questions I walked out excited to apply to my projects. His presentation was a condensed section of a 4-week webinar series. (Writer buddies, if you’re interested in checking it out here’s a link)

A couple of my favorite character exercises:

  • come up with 5 core traits/adjectives for protagonist and antagonist
    • for each, write 3 ways you bring them out in the story
  • What are 5 things that brought your character to page 1
  • Create 3 ‘deal breakers’ for you protagonist; make him/her break one
Writing Conference: A Family Affair by Tacheny Perry
Right around here I got this picture…thanks mom ;-/

I loved learning new tools for my craft. I loved meeting new people with whom I share a dream. But mostly, I loved being able to go to a conference with my family. More than any book, or lesson, or experience, my family, their writing legacy, has influenced my writing. My dad, my mom, and my grandpa were my first readers, critique partners, and champions.

During his opening remarks, the Nebraska Writers Guild president mentioned our family and the fact that I was a third-generation member. My father took me to my first guild conference and his father took him.

“How cool is that?” he asked.

Pretty damn cool.