"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

In the Belly of the Whale (or Big Fish-depending on how literal you are)


When 2016 was just around the corner, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the new year. Not resolutions really, more like goals.  Like every year in recent years, I wanted to bring in more organization to our home and purge clutter, be healthier and train for another half marathon.  Oh yeah, and get a solid direction for this little blog.

Over a quarter of the way through the year, I’ve been organizing my office, training for the GO! Half Marathon, which I ran this past Sunday with my daughter, Erin, and trying to make healthier choices for meals (well, sorta).  What I’ve been avoiding like the plague is the direction of my blog.  You may have noticed this little hiatus as I noodled for a bit what it was I was going for in my posts.

Who was I writing for? How much family/personal info is too much? How often should I post? What’s my goal in this? Do I really have the talent/energy to actually work on it?

If you’ve ever blogged, I’m sure you can relate.  When I’ve read articles and books on blogging (probably my first mistake), generally they are geared towards people who want to earn money from a blog or have some area of expertise they’d like to share. Not really my audience.

I started looking at what type of person would be interested in my blog—this goofy, Midwest Mom’s take on people and events in my life—and got stuck.  And then self-doubt crept in.  As the weeks passed and I did nothing with the blog, I told myself I was only trying to gain perspective on where to go next, and these things take time. I continued reading other blogs that I feel are similar to mine and tried to define what it was about those posts that I enjoyed so much.  Like a flowery romance novel with unrequited longing that I devour, it’s the relatable -people thing that pulls me in.  I love reading other people’s life experiences and thinking, “Hey, that’s me!” Or “That was a brave thought to put out there.” Funny, because if you read about why I started my blog it’s one of my main points.

Still, I felt I needed to be more purposeful about what I was blogging about.  I posted nothing—I wrote them, but I never put them, or myself, out there.  I trashed them and I couldn’t finish them.  The Lighthearted Dragonfly seemed like a pointless, silly endeavor.

Shelving something that was at one time something that brought me tremendous joy and fueling of hope wasn’t easy.  I prayed about it, asked God what it was He wanted me to do. It went a little like this:

“Inspire others,” He whispered.  “In doing so, even if you don’t mention my name directly, you will glorify me.”

“I’m not good at that,” I told Him.  “People will think I’m pious and stereotype me as a squeaky clean Christian.”

At this point I picture God just shaking his head.  “So what?”

“Well, I won’t get followers and I won’t get to write posts about hilarious and dirty misunderstood lyrics.”  (I think God would roll his eyes here, because He knows how I much I love to laugh over mistaken lyrics.)

“Uh huh.”  I thought about it some more and why it would never work.  I hid away from the computer, and writing in general.  I applied for full time positions where I work part time now and didn’t get any offers.  I busied myself with marathon binging on “Criminal Minds” and ghost/paranormal shows.  I played lots of games on my phone during the time I used to work on the blog.  The couch became my ship sailing away from the very thing I felt I was led to do.

And despite the fact I thought I was getting away without doing the blog or any writing, I got a touch depressed.  It wasn’t a real fish belly I was in, but it was similar.  It was a prison of unproductive, wasted time, feeling purposeless and just standing by waiting for life to roll on by.  When someone would ask me about my blog, or writing in general, I felt embarrassed for having failed at it.  I would see pictures of dragonflies in odd places.  And this verse came up in my life, all over the place, again and again.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I started thinking about Jonah (ironically, that story came up a few times, too.)  In no uncertain terms God had told him exactly what He wanted him to do.  If you remember the story, Jonah didn’t really feel up to the task, and tried to get away on a boat to hide from God.  It took ending up in the belly of a whale to get him to wake up and follow directions.  Was that what I was doing? Running from God’s plan for me?  I didn’t want to end up that way!

I started writing posts, again only half finishing them and never posting them, but with the idea that I needed to do this.  I’m not saying I’m in the same league as Jonah by any stretch, but in the smaller manuscript, God’s Plan for Amy—you may have heard of it—I think there may be a chapter about a little dragonfly blog.

So I’m getting off the couch and back up on that horse (yes, I really do like clichés in my imagery!)  I won’t pretend to know the big picture, but I hope that you will follow me and check out the blog now and then.  If you were a follower before, thank you for your patience; I’m still here!

I couldn’t end this post without giving a shout out to some of my fellow bloggers that have inspired me to do this thing again.   Almost all of them I’ve never met, I’ve just read their blogs and enjoy what they have to say.  A big thank you to them for showing me that writing about things you love—from life from the perspective of a young person finding her way, wonderful stories of families and genealogy, to the single dad going to seminary after serving as a Captain in the Air Force sharing his opinions and struggles.  Each one of them have made me want to continue doing something that can, at times, seem like a fruitless pursuit.  Please keep on writing!

Bloomin’ Flower           Moore Genealogy

The Baby Perks               Tali Norfalli

Captain’s Log               Rookie Notes


(You may need to hold the CTRL key to get the links to open!)


2015 RT Convention: A Newbie’s Perspective

Two weeks ago I attended the 2015 RT Booklovers Convention in Dallas, Texas, with my fellow book-loving cousin and aspiring author, Kim.  Neither one of us had attended an event like this before, so part of the fun was not having any expectations of what it would be like.  In fact, the only thing we really knew was to bring along an extra suitcase for all the books we’d be bringing home.  I registered for the conference as a blogger, although I think the types of blogs they had in mind for that type of attendee were those that specialized in book reviews.  Rookie mistake.

The Blogger listing page in the RT Convention program

The Blogger listing page in the RT Convention program

The “RT” stands for Romantic Times, so primarily the authors and books featured were romance writers, but there were several Young Adult authors there as well.  In fact, many YA authors have romance books out there—sometimes they use a different pen name to distinguish their works between those marketed for adults.  Before attending this conference, I hadn’t realized how many subgenres fall within the romance novel umbrella, and they were all represented—from Inspirational to Erotica and everything you can imagine in between.

From the time we arrived in Dallas, it felt like events fell into place in our favor.  Our flight arrived earlier than what we’d planned, and we got to the convention in time to attend the RT Convention newbie workshop, where we learned some tips to best negotiate the conference.  Being the book nerd that I am, these authors are my rock stars; it was great to be told to be sure to seek out and talk to my favorite authors.

Kim and my obligatory selfie upon our arrival at the convention

Kim and my obligatory selfie upon our arrival at the convention

I grew up loving to read, and when I hit my teens, romance novels, especially anything that was historical romance geared towards teens, were my favorite.  There was a book series in the 80’s called Sunfire that I absolutely devoured as a teen.  All of the books featured a young heroine growing up in various historical times in American history like the Civil War, western pioneers, or the American Revolution.  Think the American Girl doll books of today with the girls growing from young teens to young women, trying to decide between suitors that represented opposite ways of life for the time period.  Only a few months ago I found a couple of my books from this series at my parents’ house and ordered a few more from Amazon.  I started re-reading them and I still think they are great reads.  When I got older, I enjoyed other types of romance books, but historical romance holds a special place in this reader’s heart.

Our goal was to attend the workshop sessions geared towards writing—and there were plenty to choose from.  Two of my favorite sessions about writing were “Oops, Your Research is Showing!” and “All Things Old Are New Again”.  The first one, which ended up having one of Emily’s favorite YA authors, Lydia Kang, on the panel, gave great information about ways to go about researching topics for your writing.  Everyone on the panel shared how their books’ storylines had aspects that required they find out specific information to ensure their novels felt authentic, without bogging down the reader with too much information.  In “All Things Old Are New Again”, the panel of authors discussed ways they continue to come up with new ideas book after book.  At this session I met Erin Knightley, who is one of my new favorite authors.  In part because she really is a gracious person who was generous with her time in talking to Kim and I, but also her books are historical romance.

In addition to the workshop sessions, there were several publisher sponsored events with opportunities to meet the authors and get free copies of their books.  These events were heavily attended, so there were a lot of lines to wait in and it could get a little overwhelming, but these events were a lot of fun.  Not that I enjoy waiting in lines, but for the most part I found interesting people to talk to in line with me.  Most of the time I would just wait in a line, not even knowing what book or author was on the end of it.  In doing so, I was introduced to various books and authors I would not have otherwise found, and I loved it.

One of the authors I met this way was I.G. Gregorio.  Her YA book, None of the Above, would have never been on my radar.  In reading the premise of the book, which is about a teenage girl who learns rather traumatically as a senior in high school that she is intersex (meaning she was born with both male and female parts), it seemed like an interesting premise that I had never really thought about before.  I didn’t want to pass it on to any of my favorite YA readers without screening it first, so I started reading it that night and I couldn’t put it down.  I finished it by the next morning.  Later, at the giant Book Fair held the last full day of the convention, I sought her out to let her know how much I enjoyed the book, which she seemed to honestly appreciate.

The Book Fair, included as part of the convention, is open to the public and draws an amazing number of book lovers.   The authors are arranged by genre in alphabetical order at huge tables.  Kim and I made it a point to meet up with authors we had met during the convention to get signed copies of their latest books.  I had a list of YA authors that Emily had asked me to look for, and I scored some big time Mom points getting her books that were signed personally to her.  After the Book Fair, we went up to our room to try to figure out how, even with the extra suitcases, we were going to get all these books home without going over the weight limit for our bags.  It wasn’t easy!

Lydia Kang, one of the authors Emily asked me to visit, was kind enough to sign Em's book and pose for a pic

Lydia Kang, one of the authors Emily asked me to visit, was kind enough to sign Em’s book and pose for a pic

This conference rekindled my love of reading as well as reminded me of how much I enjoy the writing process.  I learned so much in the various sessions about the writing and publishing world, met some great people, and was introduced to several new authors that I’m sure will become favorites.  Now if only I can find the time to get to all those books!

Here are the books I brought home with me, many of them signed by the author.

Here are the books I brought home with me, many of them signed by the author.

The Return of the Dragonfly

Check out more macro photos like this one at http://urdu-mag.com/blog/2012/05/25-beautiful-macro-photography/

Check out more macro photos like this one at http://urdu-mag.com/blog/2012/05/25-beautiful-macro-photography/

I’ve been putting off writing this post—after all, it’s been awhile since I’ve added anything to the Lighthearted Dragonfly site.  I wasn’t sure if I should address the hiatus or just plow back into posting again.  To be honest, it’s been hard to find the time to write ANYTHING worth reading, although I’ve started many, many posts that I never finished.  It wasn’t exactly writer’s block; it was more like the longer I hadn’t posted the more I felt like I was behind and could never catch up.  It reminds me of the way I feel when I haven’t run or worked out in a while—getting back into the groove and lacing up those shoes for the first time seems to take a lot of effort. But similar to how overthinking hopping onto the escalator can paralyze me at the top of those rotating steps, I’ve realized it’s important just to take a deep breath and step out.

Dragonflies aren’t around in the winter.  Although I’ve read in some studies that some dragonflies migrate south in the winter like birds, most adult dragonflies die off as winter approaches.  It’s the nymphs in the water that hatch each spring.  I like to think of myself as one of those dragonfly nymphs that was just hanging out in the water under the surface, waiting for the spring.  It sounds much more poetic than the reality of having too many commitments that my blog had to take a backseat.  I won’t bore you with the “I’m so busy” stories, but the last few months can be summed up in saying that I was doing contract work with solid weekly deadlines, my regular job, and helping out in another department that was in between Administrative Assistants while trying to keep up with my kids’ crazy schedules.

Two weeks ago, my cousin, Kim and I attended the RT Booklovers Convention; I attended as a blogger, although the other bloggers seemed to be all book review blogs.  I will be posting more on this wonderful experience, but in short, being around all these people who live, eat and breathe words, stories and books just made me realize that writing, even short little posts on my little blog, is a part of me.  I am happier when I’m writing and not just focusing on my paid to-do list.  One author I met and really enjoyed talking to at the convention, I. G. Gregorio, is a surgeon in her “other” life.  Yeah, makes my whining about my contract work and job seem a little….well, whiney!

So I’m here to say I’m back, just like those beautiful dragonflies I am hoping to start seeing soon.  If you’ve been following me before, thanks for visiting again and not forgetting about me entirely.  We’ve got a lot to catch up on.  And if you’re visiting for the first time, I hope you choose to stick around to see what’s next.

What’s Going On These Days…

One of the things that I do that drives my kids crazy is to start a sentence and not finish it when I’m talking. Sometimes it’s because I assume they know the end of the sentence, but other times it’s just because I’ve gotten distracted. I realize that my blog has kind of gone in the same direction as some of those unspoken sentences.

Here lately, I’ve been very distracted from blogging and writing in general. As a Financial Peace University graduate, it’s good, because the reason is that I’ve been working a side job as a form design contractor. It’s a great gig—I can work in my PJs on the couch on my laptop. However, as a paid gig, it takes precedence over other things—like writing. I wish I could put things on hold like laundry or housework instead, but for some reason it’s frowned upon to go out with no clean clothes.

So as to not leave some of the more recent blog topics dangling like a participle in one of my unfinished sentences, I thought this would be a good time to follow up to some “goings on” around here recently.

The Wall

The new view from the living room into the kitchen.

The new view from the living room into the kitchen.

The wall we removed the week of Thanksgiving was successfully taken out without incident. Over that weekend, Darrell removed the wall and finished it with the wooden trim he painted, leaving a strip in between the two floors of the kitchen and living room unfinished (for now—I’m not the only one who runs around like a loon).

The strip that needs to be covered.  There's a teeny little hole that peeks into the basement.

The strip that needs to be covered. There’s a teeny little hole that peeks into the basement.

He touched up the paint on the living room side, and I decided that it really was time for a new color in the kitchen. My friend brought over a gallon of paint she had leftover from a project at her house, so we tried it out in a couple of spots in the kitchen. The color is “smoked taupe” and it looks pretty good. Now we just need to paint!

Here's "smoky taupe", the color we'll probably go with.

Here’s “smoky taupe”, the color we’ll probably go with.




Our Engineering Notebook

Our Engineering Notebook

Last Saturday the Nuclear Unicorn Girl Assemblers (NUGAs) attended the FIRST Robotics qualifier competition. After an (almost) all-nighter the night before, complete with printer issues and a few robot hiccups, they managed to do quite well. (By the way, the girls did win the 3D printer, we just haven’t received it yet!) The game, called the Cascade Effect, required our robot to try to score points on the game field by knocking out the kickstand of a container that had wiffle balls in it, and then trying to loft them into these tall beakers. The teams were assigned other teams as alliance partners for six separate matches. The girls had to make sure that the robot was programmed keeping in mind that another robot would be in the same general area, trying to do the same general thing. One robot starts on a ramp and the other one on the floor (hence, two possible programs to use). There is also an “interview” type of judging session (our girls rocked!) and an Engineering Notebook they have to turn in documenting their work and how it progressed.

A scene from the qualifier.

A scene from the qualifier.

In the robot matches, the girls came in tenth out of thirty-three teams, which was amazing. They did not make the cut to advance to the next competition, but we are attending another qualifier next month to try again. This month we will spend updating the robot, its programming and the presentation to wow them at the next competition. The girls all learned a lot from Saturday’s competition—and I know I gained valuable insight as well. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing the kids that do the FIRST Tech Challenge are. The atmosphere at the competition is one like no other. Yes, they are competing against each other, but teams are continually helping each other with troubleshooting and supplying items that a team may have forgotten. Officially it’s called “gracious professionalism” and it’s stressed throughout the competition. It is so encouraging to see it being practiced by these very mature, very smart young adults.


Maybe next year???

Maybe next year???

Poor Adelaide. She never saw it coming, which is kinda crazy because seeing things coming is a big part of her story. Adelaide is a little bit psychic, but not of anything of importance. Just weird, small stuff that doesn’t really amount to anything, so she really keeps this “gift” a secret. Until this nudge causes her to uncover the plot of a murder. Now, usually-reserved Adelaide has to go out on a limb to protect people she loves. Will she risk leaving behind her “normal” life to set the story straight?

That’s the premise of my silly little story I started for NaNoWriMo at the beginning of the month. I’m not anywhere near the 50,000 words that is the goal by month’s end, mostly because I didn’t see my side job coming. It’s not a huge deal, so it does fall into the realm of possibility to be the type of thing that my character would get a heads up on.

I haven’t completely shelved her at all. I just have gotten swamped with home improvement projects, robots, work and Christmas. Hopefully someday Adelaide will get all the attention she deserves so she can be brought to life on the paper. In the meantime, I just keep writing her story in my head.

When I’m not thinking I’m George Jetson on the treadmill screaming, “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

Happy NaNoWriMo!


Another first for me this year is participating in NaNoWriMo. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, where writers commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November in an attempt to have a rough draft by month’s end. On the website, www.nanowrimo.org, participants create a log-in where they can share some info about themselves and their novel (there’s even a place for a novel cover art). More importantly, it’s where aspiring novelists can log their word count for each day and get motivation from authors like Veronica Roth, who wrote the Divergent series.

For me, NaNoWriMo serves as the kick in the seat I need to actually sit down and put my ideas in some sort of coherent document. I am always on the lookout for inspiration.

The funny thing is, I read a book about NaNoWriMo a few years ago and was fascinated with the whole approach simply because it made writing a novel seem actually doable. Apparently that’s a problem for some critics of the concept, who complain it is just a bunch of amateurs cranking out crap. I agree that is true if all that a writer is concerned with is word count, but I think the idea behind it is more important than just putting some number in a website. For us aspiring writers, who like to tinker with words, but haven’t set a definite goal, NaNoWriMo can be what it takes to get our ideas written out in some fashion. Most of us realize that a great, polished piece takes much more time than a month to work out from beginning to end. And those who don’t know that, who think writing is easy peasy, well, they learn pretty quickly that it does take effort, thought and time.

At the end of November, I hope to have a lot of words written in my story, Adelaide. The idea of it has bounced around in my head for a time now, but I didn’t really have motivation to put it down on paper, let alone turn it into a novel. I’d love it if I could actually make it 50,000 words! But I am also realistic enough to believe that even if my word count reflects a “win”, it doesn’t mean I’m going to have a piece ready for submission on December 1. What I’ll have, though, is many hours practicing the craft of writing and disciplining myself to devote time to “butt in chair”. Time that I may have spent in October vegging in front of the TV, I’ll be spending in front of the computer instead this November.

The other cool thing about NaNoWriMo is, similar to what happens in the blogging community, a bunch of people rally together to support one another. Who can find fault in that? Writing can get kind of lonely, so for extroverts like me, having a group of people to reach out to makes the solitary act of writing a teeny bit more social. In fact, I can thank two of the girls on our robotics team for getting me to participate in NaNoWriMo this time around. Olivia, who also loves writing and words, asked me if I was doing it and asked me if I was going to participate. At that point I had been on the fence with the idea, but her enthusiasm was contagious. It was fun talking to her and her sister, Cecilia, last night about our word counts and what we’re doing to get rolling with our stories. Later, when we were driving home Erin asked me if she could try to write something for NaNoWriMo. Of course I said yes, because who knows if this first taste of writing gives her the writing bug. Anything that can inspire young people to try something new with their writing is definitely a positive.

If the website traffic from over the weekend is any indication, NaNoWriMo at least still knows how to generate a buzz. The website gave me an error or two and was a little slow; I’m sure it was due to people setting up their accounts and checking out the great resources. A week into this month of intense writing, I’m guessing it may die down a bit as the newness wears off—like how people are when they first start a diet or exercise program. The first days are exciting and full of promise, but when the hard work part kicks in, it’s awfully easy to get discouraged. Yes, I do include myself in that category!

So three cheers for NaNoWriMo! One cheer for being a motivating tool, another for giving writers a sense of community and a third for promoting writing to our youth. If any Dragonfly readers are participating, I’d love to hear how your story is progressing. Message me on their site. My user name is Lighthearteddragonfly.

Happy Writing!

Is It Empty…or Just Blank?

Blank checks. Blank stares. Blank slates. Blank computer screens.

Depending on your perspective, blank can represent the fresh possibility of unchartered territory or the frustration of having no direction or understanding.

Our family’s calendar this weekend, although not completely blank, does have some open time slots. A Saturday morning free from scheduled obligations provides for me a reprieve from the usual hustle and bustle of our household. As much as I love the things we do, sometimes I just want to stay home and catch up on laundry. Not many people’s picture of bliss, I know, but there’s something very therapeutic about having the luxury of getting those everyday tasks caught up all at once.

Yet, while these blank spaces on the calendar represent precious freedom to me, I realize that to others they represent something else entirely. I remember when I worked at a retirement home that the residents didn’t always look forward to the weekends for that very reason. During the week, we had classes and events full of social interaction most of the day, every day, but the on the weekends there would only be a few scheduled activities. For some of these folks living alone in their apartments, two days without something on the schedule brought up an unpleasant feeling of loneliness or worse—meaninglessness. These chunks of open time, are they blank or just empty? Apart from perspective, they are neutral.

Two of my favorite things are a brand-new, pretty notebook and a smooth gel pen. When they’re new, they’re blank—but they’re not empty. I just haven’t put anything in them yet. Because in writing, the empty kind of blank can be terrifying. The dreaded writer’s block for me always makes me question if every ounce of my creative juices has begun drying out. Confession: I have pretty, blank notebooks with cute gel pens fastened to them that are…well, empty. There’s a weird part of me that thinks that if something’s written in a gorgeous little notebook, it has to have some sort of worthiness to it. I know, I know, I should think of those notebooks as a stomping ground for my ideas, not museum paper. But if I only jot down one or two ideas, that spanking new blank notebook becomes a half-finished one—at least in my head. And completing or revamping a half-finished anything is a whole other blog post!

The difference in perspective between blank or empty can sometimes be boiled down to one word—fear. If I fear that marring a notebook with trivial or unfinished thoughts will forever curse its pages, I’ve already lost the battle. My attitude makes a huge difference as to what can be viewed as a challenge versus a burden. (Not that controlling your attitude is easy, but it is possible and a great place to start.)

How about you? Do you have a blank in your life that you’ve been seeing as an empty? Could the artist’s canvass before you be disguised as that stagnant, barren place holding you back? It’s definitely something to think about—whether it be time, notebooks or even that white wall in the dining room.


Writing: An Expensive Hobby? Thought That Was Just Running…

I have a knack for finding seemingly cheap hobbies and making them expensive.  Let’s take running for example…a pair of shoes and some water and you’re off to conquer the road, right?  At least that’s what I thought when I first got started.  I mean, I already had work-out clothes.  So just add running shoes…oh, and a Garmin would be nice.  Cotton is rotten when it comes to socks, so I’ll need some good moisture wicking ones.  Oh, and Gu or Chomps are needed to sustain me during my long runs.  And let’s not go into how much race fees are—I actually have “Race Fees” as one of my budget categories in the family budget.

I like to think that I’m not the only one whose hobbies expand like that.  Darrell is always so sweet about indulging my hobbies.  For years I was an enthusiastic scrapbooker—not even a remotely cheap hobby.  Over the years, I’ve purchased enough paper, rubber stamps and embellishments to chronicle albums for ten families.  I still have all my supplies in the basement, along with several years of pictures that need to be put in albums.  What I don’t have is the time (or enthusiasm) to do it right now.  And so it sits, there in the corner of the basement, awaiting a time when I make it a priority again.  I’d like to think that I will someday—I just hope that I’ll be able to remember who the people are in the photographs!

Writing, another hobby that’s cheap on the surface, has also cost more over the years than one would think it could.  I’ve taken several online writing courses, bought many books about writing and now I’m gearing up to register and attend my first writing conference.  The RT Book Lovers Convention (www.rtconvention.com) is scheduled for next spring in Dallas, Texas, and my cousin, Kim and I have been planning out how we’ll be attending.  There’s a lot to take into consideration when attending—namely if I’ll attend as a blogger, reader or aspiring author (they all cost the same—a lot).  They did not have an “all of the above”, so I’ll have to decide exactly what I am.  I like to think of myself as all three, but here lately, the aspiring author in me seems to be buried deep within.  Very deep.

I started this blog as a writing outlet, and it’s been just that.  What I like most about blogging is the interaction with people—it’s almost an “instant gratification” type of thing for me.  Thanks to Facebook, I can see who “likes” my posts and read comments about them right after I write them.  There’s a certain accountability factor as well—I need to post regularly to remind people that the Lighthearted Dragonfly is still flying.   On the other hand, when I’m working on other writing, it just sits there on the computer, where no one views it but me.  I start ideas and re-work and sometimes delete them.  I stall on them. To be honest, I’m not productive with the types of writing that an “aspiring author” would have under their belt to take to a convention.  I can’t bring ten half-finished stories that I haven’t figured out how to resolve.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when I started calculating the cost of attending the convention and decided to write a post about it that the image of the scrapbooks in the basement popped into my subconscious.  As someone who writes for fun, it’s one of my biggest concerns—that I’ll never finish the one story that might have someday made it to the publisher.  Instead of boxes of pictures and papers there will be loads of files with names like “Adelaide—the Misfit Psychic”.  I can’t let that happen.  Adelaide is way to cool for that.

When someone is invested financially in something, they’re more likely to hold it to a higher standard.  Take the typical teenager and their car.  Hand over a car to them, and chances are it won’t be valued as much as the car they had to save and work for themselves.  The same is true of hobbies.   I look at it this way.  Investing in a hobby—your time and your money—returns to you in a lot of ways that aren’t always tangible. My little running hobby helps me maintain my weight, developed friendships and boosts my mood.  Scrapbooking, although incomplete, documents so many family memories—again, priceless.  And then there’s writing.  I may never make a dime from the hours I’ve poured myself into pages.  But money making from it has never been my sole motivator (it’d be a great by-product!)  So I’ll go to this convention and indulge myself a little.  I’ll be surrounded by other people who love books and words and storytelling.  And hopefully come out a little more knowledgeable.  And who knows?  This little “aspiring author”, poking her head out of her shell might just join the race against the hare.

In Defense of Lollipops and Rainbows

Image from mistiquecandy.blogspot.com   If you like candy, check out this blog!

Image from mistiquecandy.blogspot.com
If you like candy, check out this blog!

As this is The Lighthearted Dragonfly blog, not The Depressed and Down-trodden Dragonfly, I try to keep my musings (hopefully) a little more positive. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not naive’ enough to believe that the world is full of lollipops and rainbows, but I try on my blog and in my daily life not to focus on all that’s wrong with the world.

Recently I read an article about the craft of writing Personal Essays. After I read it, I felt like I should just quit writing all together because if the author was to be believed, you have to be dark, brooding and borderline suicidal to ever be published out there. Luckily, I read this just before my weekly Writing/Therapy meeting with Kim, my writing buddy, who was able to make some valid counter arguments. I disagree with the point the article made that essays that don’t probe the depths of human despair are not worthy for submission. Yes, most people love to read about others’ struggles, including me. Whether it’s because it makes us feel better about our own problems or because we like having others to identify with, it’s just plain old interesting when someone bares their soul and allows us into their head.

But I feel like there’s also a place for humor in the midst of the mundane. A place for observation of everyday life. Even a place where gratitude is expressed for people who make our lives worth living. Do essays always have to be joyful? Definitely not. That would be so boring. But sometimes I get tired of all the negative, deep thoughts and just want a little fluff or a good laugh. The darkness in the world needs to be balanced with redemption.

I’m glad I read the article, despite the initial discouragement I felt after reading it, because it opened my eyes to the idea that the type of writing I do on this blog only appeals to a small niche of people. It also made me realize that my other writing projects (family history one aside) may need to be a little edgier with meaner characters than what I tend to write. Lesson learned. But in real life, I really do hold out hope for those lollipops and rainbows.

What’s Your Writing Process?

Story ideas are like seeds. There are plenty of them, but they take careful tending to grow into anything worthwhile.”   Sexton Burke, The Writer’s Adventure


I found this quote in a book my husband bought me for my birthday, and it’s been yammering in my head all week. It describes one of my biggest weaknesses in my writing. I have tons of ideas to write stories about, but I get pulled in so many directions—outside of my writing life as well as scattered writing projects—that I always am juggling them instead of focusing on one. While it’s one of the reasons I love to blog, it’s also why you can find me staring at my computer screen wondering what the heck I was thinking when I started a story idea.

My blog, The Lighthearted Dragonfly, is about my life, and I just write about what I experience and observe with my family and friends. It is a piece of my heart, really, so it’s super easy to sit down at the keyboard and churn out what’s going on. Okay, maybe not super easy, but since it’s my creative outlet I feel like I get to express myself without concern about character and plot structure, plausibility and what some unknown future editor would say about it. Although I do try to edit posts so that they’re grammatically correct, the only censoring is mine alone.

With my stories, it is completely different. I see stories everywhere and I have as far back as I can remember. Before I started really writing them down, I would replay scenes in my head that I would make up—like I was watching a movie. I daydreamed a lot, especially if I was in the car by myself with some good tunes. The thing about the daydreaming was that I didn’t have to fill in the missing information. If I liked to make up sassy dialogue or an attention-grabbing first line that was all I had to do. I didn’t try to explain all the things that led my characters to that scene. I never shared my silly daydreams with anyone (they’d think I was crazy!) so these individual ideas and scenes piled up in my head—mostly they were forgotten when I grew bored with them.

Actual writing is definitely not the same as daydreaming or having a great story idea. Writing takes work! Like the quote says, you have to nurture the idea, and, in most cases, flesh it out to the point of exhaustion, only to clip it back to keep it simple.   This is where I get in trouble. Because I have this need to know every character’s backstory I find that if I struggle with a part of it, I get frustrated, especially if the character’s personality is radically different from mine. A lot of my characters are different from me, because, as I’ve pointed out before in other posts, I live a stable and not too dramatic life that’s not exactly story/novel worthy. Frustration = Put Aside for Later = Forgotten and Left Behind (aka Giving Up).

So here’s what I’m doing about the whole dilemma of starting ideas and not tending to them properly:

1.)      I started meeting with my cousin, who also writes. This has forced me to organize my writings. I can’t ask someone to critique something that is only partially done or has big chunks missing out of the middle of the plot. Just simply having a deadline for when we meet is enough to get me to have my act together. Meeting with Kim regularly gives me purpose in my writing and I’ve been better about committing to a story I’m working on.

2.)       I jot down any and all ideas I have—every time I have them. Some are stand-alone, some mesh into another story or blog post. It doesn’t matter, I just get them down so I don’t forget them. Even if it means running from the shower to my little notepad on my nightstand!

If you’re a writer who’s been writing awhile, this probably seems pathetically basic, but it’s the baby steps that have brought me to the place in my writing where I can feel organized and purposeful. Writing down outlines and timelines does not come second nature to me. Brainstorming random thoughts does. I have scenes in my head that I string together. I need the characters to get from one situation to the next, so I fill in between the scenes I know and love with what makes the characters and plot go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 5. It sounds like kind of a sloppy process when I explain it that way, and sometimes my heart is just not into writing these “cement” chapters that glue a story together, but it’s how it works for me. It makes the characters come alive to me when I feel like in some weird way they are guiding the story.

Do other writers out there have a similar process they go through for their stories? Do you use a Bubble/Brainstorming Method? A dartboard? Do you outline the entire story first? Or do you sit down to write and see how the characters lead you? Does it depend on what genre you’re writing in? I’d love to hear suggestions and have others share what works for them, so please share!

The Achievable Poem

Happy Friday!  Today I was going through old computer files to clear some electronic “clutter” when I found an old poem I’d written for a class taught by Eva Shaw called Writerrific: Creativity Training for Writers.  It’s been at least five years ago, and I couldn’t remember much about what was going on in my head when I wrote it.  What made me laugh was that my writing style is still…ME.  Some things never change.

Here it is, including the prompt that started it.

Okay, Amy. I have a special nudge for you. I want you to write a poem of possibilities that you can achieve.

The poem should begin with:

Writing comes easy. I’m such a nut
When glued to the typing chair with my petite, pretty butt.

Okay, now that you’ve fallen off your chair…seriously I want you to finish the poem and post it. No excuses.


Writing comes easy. I’m such a nut

When glued to the typing chair with my petite, pretty butt.

I ponder exchanges between characters cross

And when the protagonist cries, I lament her sad loss.


She is such a dear friend, unfolding her story

In my ear she whispers with details—all the gory.

The antagonist, she bellows inside my head.

“She’ll get under your skin,” her past lover has said.


Of course, this is chapter 3

There’s much more to the tale

I’ve only just finished where she’s first drunk on ale.

It’s funny, endearing, and so fun to write.

To finish this section, I’ll be up half the night.


Oh the words how they tumble

From somewhere deep in my soul

They flow from my fingertips,

Like the ultimate goal.


“What a delicious day writing!” I marvel aloud.

I finish my piece and walk away on a cloud.


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