My Favorite Posts

There’s less than a week til the one-year anniversary of this blog!  I can hardly believe that I’ve been writing and sharing with the blogosphere for a year.  I’m so glad I let a friend convince me to start it.  It has been a friend when I had no one to talk to, an outlet to vent, and the best place in the world to share my writing.  I sincerely hope that those of you who are kind enough to follow me have enjoyed my nonsensical ramblings and bitching and exultations.

For those of you who may not have been around since the beginning of this blog, I wanted to catch you up a little bit/ share my favorite posts from this past year.  I hope you enjoy!

The Road That Let to Know

Originally Posted October 15, 2009

It’s amazing how seemingly insignificant moments in life can become catalysts for major change.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  And it must be true because I’ve witnessed the phenomenon time and time again.

I tend to be the type of person who thinks I always know what path I’m walking when, in reality, I could stumble upon a fork in the road, trip over a tree root, or walk right into a dead end at any moment.

Read more here…

My Top 10 Favorite Books

Originally Posted November 9, 2009

This was a HARD list for me to make.  I love to read.  I’ve always loved to read and my taste in books is broad.  I only had one requirement for a book to make my top ten list: I had to have read it more than once.  To me, that’s an automatic way to determine if a book is good.  Do I want to read it a second time?  A third time?  Otherwise, I just went with my gut.

1.) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I know, no big surprise here if you’ve read other blog entries and the Randomness page.  I’ve read this book more times than I can count.  I cry every time Darcy says, “You are too generous to trifle with me…”  I have “I love Mr. Darcy” as the screen saver on my phone.  Yes.  I really do.  I’m such a dork, but I don’t care.  Elizabeth Bennett is witty, independent, and kind.  She stays true to the women of the time period she lived in, but she also breaks new ground.  Jane Austen is a genius.  This is ABSOLUTELY the best book ever written.  If you disagree we cannot be friends.

Read more here…

Bookshelf Browsing- Why Judging a Book By Its Cover is Totally Fine By Me

Originally Posted January 6, 2010

I read somewhere that writers aspiring to be published should

(A) Read as many books in the genre they are writing in as possible

and

(B) Support other beginning (or non-famous) authors by buying their books.

Well, if you’ve been reading my blog regularly you’ll know my financial situation as of late hasn’t really allowed me to purchase many books (or any at all), so I’m dreadfully out of touch with what is out there in book world right now.

Read more here…

What I Learned This Week

Originally Posted March 11, 2010

I’m often told that my writing is very honest- that I’m not afraid of putting myself out there on the page.  And I definitely find this is true.  In fact, I’m more honest in my writing than in actual conversation.  Not because I am untruthful in real conversation, but because I often just can’t find the right way to express myself.  Somehow, in writing, I always can.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon a lot lately.  Namely due to this guy I went out on a couple of dates with.  Let me emphasize A COUPLE OF DATES.  I’ll be more precise.  TWO dates.  You’ll see why the number is important in a minute.

Read more here…

The Query I Wish I Could Send Out

Originally Posted May 3, 2010

Dear SuperAgent,

I wrote my first novel, Twenty-Five, a year ago, on the verge of my own twenty-fifth birthday to deal with the trauma of that milestone.  It is the first time I’ve attempted to write fiction other than a contest in the fourth grade (which I won) where I wrote a short story entitled The Summer Aliens Invaded My Brother’s Brain.  I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses.  Twenty-Five is a love story, pure and simple.  The characters are not so utterly unique that reading about them makes one wonder if I was on acid when imagining their personalities.  The plot is not so action packed and full of twists and turns that readers will sit looking at the wall, scratching their heads, for ten minutes after reading because they have no idea what the hell just happened.  Instead, I’ve created characters who are a lot like you and me, your best friend, your next door neighbor, and the boy who grew up down the street from you who you always had a secret crush on.  What happens to them is what happens to us all- the firsts of a new relationship.  The first meeting, the first date, the first kiss, the first fight, the big breakup, etc.

Read more here…

And some milestone updates for you:  this is my 99th (eek!) post and there are only 4 days until the anniversary!!!!
A little thing that makes me happy: decorating for Halloween!

I Dislike Conflict…

In real life.  I mean, I really hate it.  I can’t stand fighting or debating or even disagreeing with someone else.  And it literally makes me sick when someone is angry with me or thinks I’ve done a bad job or criticizes me.  Makes me want to vomit and keeps me awake at night.  And even months later, if I think back to a person who has been angry with me, I find myself saying “I hate my life.”  I’m totally serious about that.

So, aside from the obvious- I need a therapist- I tend to stay away from conflict as much as possible (okay that was probably pretty obvious, too).

Not really a very good quality for a writer.

Because a writer needs to understand conflict.  Needs to be able to dissect it and take out all the little pieces and understand why each character feels the way they do and why they would do what they do and why what they feel and what they do causes problems for other characters.  Still with me?

Also, if you can’t take criticism, your writing will never live up to its full potential.

But back to understanding conflict.

On the first draft of Twenty-Five I constantly got feedback that there wasn’t any conflict.  That the problems the characters faced weren’t really in the conflict realm because they were so easily resolved.  That there wasn’t one overarching conflict holding the story together.

So on the “second” draft I tried to bring out more conflict.

And now on the “third” draft, I’m trying to bring out even more, because if a book needs an overarching conflict, I still don’t think I have it.

Because in Twenty-Five, the conflict is life.  And living a new relationship.  And learning how to love.  Sometimes it’s really great.  Because falling in love is great.  And sometimes it’s a little blah, because life is a little blah.  But what real conflict do we have in life?  I don’t have one overarching thing that holds the story of my life together.  And I don’t think the characters in my book need to either.

Yes, I realize I’m probably crazy.  No publisher or agent is going to want a book that doesn’t have a conflict.  But when I started writing this book over a year ago, my goal was to write a book without a hook, without a gimmick.  Just a story as real-to-life as possible about the beginning of a relationship.  Isn’t that conflict enough?  I mean really.  What’s more difficult in this world than starting a relationship with someone new?

I think this whole desire to avoid conflict at all costs is one of the things preventing me from finishing any of my other novel ideas (characterization is another big problem I have.  And description.  I hate description.  And prose, too.  I don’t hate prose, I’m just no good at it.  Dialogue- I’m good at dialogue).  Because for the most part, a story has no where to go if it has no higher conflict.  That’s what makes Twenty-Five so special though, I think.  I managed to write a story about two people and that’s all it’s about.  Two people and their love for each other.  A love story is what most people want for themselves, right?

I realize that my posts lately have really been lacking in the substance department.  I hope this makes up for it a little bit.  But what you have to understand about me is that I really don’t have a lot of substance- at least not in the way a writer/blogger should have substance.  I wish I did, but I know that I don’t.  I’m not deep.  I read a lot, but I usually can’t have an intellectual conversation about books.  I can’t really put into words how something makes me feel.  I find it difficult to stay on topic and to argue a point of view.

Because arguing, after all, is too much like conflict.

So, these random, journal-like, entries are what you get when you come to I Picked Up A Pen One Day.  I’m sorry if you wanted advice on how to be a better writer.  Or to see the process of what going from start to finish on a book looks like.  Or the kinship of another intellectual pursuing their true passion while the world holds them back.  I can’t be those things.  I wish I could be.  But I can’t.

I know what you’re thinking- Never say “I Can’t” because you can!

I don’t want to be someone I’m not.  So, sometimes, saying “I Can’t” is the best thing I can do for myself.

Wow, this has really wandered from my original topic.

Back to conflict.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to write it.  So maybe I’ll try and be the conflict-less writer.  And maybe I’ll still be unpublished 50 years from now.  And maybe that is just going to have to be okay.

Milestone Update: This is my 96th post!  There are 23 days until my One year Blogiversary!

And a little thing that makes me happy: GLEE!  That show is so stinkin’ amazing!

You Know I Love to Write Poetry

Observations in Ten Minutes

I’m the only one

eating alone tonight

Not the only one in the world

but the only one here

in this restaurant

Everyone I see around me

is paired up

with a friend

a mother

a father

a lover

I see them all

but they don’t see me

They sip their waters and sodas

spear lettuce with their forks

gesture with their hands

and talk about their days

or politics

or family

I see a hug

and the door being held open

Kindness and laughter

love and conversation

A little girl stumbles

and her father lifts her up

A young woman finishes her meal

and her boyfriend clears her plate

Everyone unaware

of the gift they’ve been given

Time and simplicity

They don’t see it

they don’t feel it

But I do

And I see

an empty chair

across the table

A desire unfulfilled

life slipping away

and yet moving so very slowly

An employee finishes his shift

and walks out the door

He’s checking his phone for messages

wondering if anyone

cared enough to leave one

I’ve turned my phone off

no one ever calls it

Yet I feel happy

Sort of

Happy to be breathing

and watching and seeing

and wishing and hoping

and knowing that

there will come a time

when I’ll be just like

everyone here

Missing out on

the wonders of humanity

Consumed by the presence

of a friend

a mother

a father

a lover

Finding joy in simple conversation

the taste of a good meal

the warmth of a touch

Maybe I’ll know then still

that life isn’t perfect

Or maybe I won’t

But it will not matter either way

because I’ll be happy

Definitely

Maybe

Sort of, at least


And a little thing that makes me happy: A movie that makes me cry (I know that doesn’t sound like it should make me happy, but I love a tear-jerker) and the novel that was at 5962 two days ago is at 7549 tonight!

I’m Happy Tonight

Since my last post, I re-read one of the fragmented beginnings of an idea and fell in like with it.  I wondered why I ever stopped working on it.  And then the characters began speaking to me!  Hurray!

I haven’t had a ton of time to work on it, just here and there scratching out what I could in my notebook.  But it feels great.  Really great.  I don’t think this is going to be a fantastic story by any means, but the fact that I can actually put my pen to paper and the words flow out without effort- well, I can’t even describe how it feels.  Fantabulous isn’t good enough.

I’ve gone from 4,133 words to 5962 in five days.  That’s the most I’ve written in that small span of time in months.  I realize it’s not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things (I hate the grand scheme of things, anyways) but it’s huge for me right now.

I’m super stoked!

A little thing that makes me happy: buying myself something I really shouldn’t spend money on 🙂

I’ve Been a Bad Blogger Lately

And I’m sorry.  I haven’t had much to say, honestly.  Life is busy and I haven’t been writing very much.  It makes me sad, but it’s also okay.  I’d love to work on The Death Effect, but the characters are being very quiet.  They don’t seem to want to speak to me.  And that’s okay, too.  Sometimes the mind just needs a bit of a break.

So I’ve been giving my brain a lot of rest.  I’ve been watching a lot of movies and just relaxing as much as possible.  It’s been very nice.  I wrote a poem a few days ago which I really liked.  I think right now my creativity is on the short-winded side, so I’m going to work my pen out with short stories and poetry.  If I write anything interesting, I’ll post it for you.

Some good news for you: my novel, Twenty-Five, is a finalist in The Next Big Writer‘s Strongest Start 2010 Competition in the Romance category!  There are six finalists in each category and there will be one winner and two runner-ups.  I’m sure I won’t win anything, but I almost didn’t enter, so being a finalist is pretty cool!

And a little thing that makes me happy: getting a random text message from one of my siblings with a quote from Mean Girls or Friends.

A Short Story/Poem For Your Enjoyment

I haven’t had any time recently to post anything new, obviously, since I haven’t posted anything new.  And I probably won’t this week either, so here’s a short story/poem I wrote based on events that happened on my birthday.  I say short story/poem because I can’t decide which it is.

Observations in Thirty Minutes

I’m exhausted

My brain feels wiped clean

And I have an hour to kill

My fingers close around

The steel handle

I wonder how it stays cool

In this June heat

The door yields easily

And the delicious aroma of coffee

Greets me as I step inside

A quick survey reveals

Four open leather armchairs

Exactly what I need

I drop my bag

Let my body fall into the cushion

And close my eyes

Aaaaaaaaaaah

But I can’t sleep in such a public place

So I open my eyes

Tuck my bag between the chair and my legs

And I look around

Not many customers for a Saturday

The only people

Who really catch my eye

Are the barristas

One guy, one girl

He has blonde hair

A clean and pressed white button-down shirt

Khakis and a dark green visor

Matching his spotless apron

She has a long, dark ponytail

Messy strands stick out

Beneath her visor

A bottle-green polo shirt clashes

With her apron

She loudly tells her co-worker

A story about her mother’s cat

I watch them for a minute

She gestures widely

To emphasize the important parts of the tale

He stands still

Hands behind his back

Slowly scouring the small crowd

But I can tell he’s paying attention

To her uninteresting narrative

He looks in my direction

I turn my head

Embarrassed to be caught staring

But she really shouldn’t speak so loudly

I check my phone for the time

Only ten minutes have passed

I groan, but internally

Not wanting to draw any more attention to myself

When I look up

I’m conscious to keep my sight

Away from the barristas

Instead it lands on a young guy

Probably around my age

He’s wearing those old school headphones

Black, the kind with a rounded arm

That fits over your head

And large, circular, ear muff- like sound receivers

But he’s wearing a baseball hat, too

Tan, with no team name or logo

So the black band is sitting

On top of the hat

His face is scruffy

Three or four days worth of growth

It suits him

Makes him seem warm

Like the kind of guy

Who gives really great hugs

He’s writing, like me

I wonder what he’s working on

He has a laptop open

And a thick book beside him

Is he studying?  Taking notes?

Every now and then

He raises his pen to his lips

It’s silver and looks expensive

I compare it to the cheap Bic

In my hand

Mine writes well enough

But probably doesn’t look as good

Pressed to my lips

The slender cylinder smushes his pout

He rolls it side to side

I’m entranced

He’s completely in his own head

No self-conscious embarrassment

He’s not aware that I’m watching him

But the guy barrista is

I happen to glance to the counter

And see him looking at me

I turn away again

And the pen has been lowered

By headphones guy

Did he look at me

When I looked away?

Probably not

Did he look at me

When I looked down to write?

Probably not

I’m drawn to him

I want to stand and approach him

Sit down at his table

Smile, introduce myself

But I don’t

The headphones are removed

And placed on the table

He pushes his chair out

Stands, leaves his laptop and book

And walks out the door

Where is he going?

Why’d he leave his stuff?

I check my phone again

Twenty more minutes have passed

Only thirty to go

The Act of Writing

I really love to write.  And I don’t mean the process of telling a story through words recorded on paper (although I do love that), but I mean the actual ACT of writing itself.  I love the feel of a pen in my hand, love moving it across a piece of paper to form letters, words, sentences, paragraphs.  I love seeing my handwriting fill up a page, making something that was once pure and clean messy and complicated, but so much more valuable.

Sometimes, before I began writing fiction and poetry, I would feel this urge to pick up a pen and just write, though often I didn’t have any purpose, so I didn’t write anything at all.  I still get those impulses now.  I’ll be sitting at work and will have a few slow moments and in my head, suddenly, the desire will strike.  I’ll wish desperately in the moment that I could pull out my notebook and form words across the page, even if I don’t say anything.

There’s something so immensely satisfying about flipping through my full notebooks, seeing my familiar writing.  No one in the world writes exactly like me.  When I write lowercase “g”s I’m often going so fast that I don’t form a complete loop at the top.  And my uppercase “I”s are often written in such a hurry they could be mistaken for “N”s if the page was turned 180 degrees.  And there are a million other things about my handwriting that when combined mean I’m the only person in the world to write like I do.

I think that is amazing.

I wonder now if my love of the Act of writing led me to write fiction.  Was that a direction I was always headed in and I didn’t know it?  Were my diligent note-taking skills in high school and college just precursors to the notebooks that would one day carry my heart and soul on their pages?  Were the urges to pick up a pen I felt for twenty-four and a half years before writing Twenty-Five trying to tell me my destiny?

That I really should be a writer?

*****************************

Lua posted an interesting exercise on her blog a few days or weeks ago, I can’t be sure exactly which.  It goes along really well with these thoughts, so here it is:

The Rules:

Write down the following, snap a picture (or scan the document), post it, and tag others.

1.Name/Blog Name.
2. Right handed, left handed or both?
3. Favorite letters to write?
4. Least favorite letters to write?
5. Write: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
6. Write in caps:
CRAB
HUMOR
KALEIDOSCOPE
PAJAMAS
GAZILLION
7. Favorite song lyrics?
8. Tag 7 people.
9. Any special note or drawing?

I love my handwriting, even if I'm the only person able to read it!

I wrote this down in the actual notebook I’m carrying around at the moment, where I write whenever I get a chance.  It has random chapters and short stories and pieces of poetry along with driving directions and notes from classes and seminars and meetings about weddings.  I love my notebook.

Note: I didn’t do #8- tagging people.  I’m not really sure how that works on a blog.  I mean, I know how to add tags to each post, but does it mean I should link to these people’s blogs?  And disclaimer on #7- favorite song lyrics- I actually just wrote down the lyrics playing at the moment I got to that step!  Sorry, I guess I don’t have one song or set of lyrics that sticks out enough for me to call it a favorite.

Random Ramblings From My Notebook

I was looking through my notebook today, trying to figure out which chapters of which stories I’ve actually typed and I found a couple of random things.  Basically, these are pieces I penned when I couldn’t work on one of my books.  Enjoy!

**********************************************************************************************

What good does it do me

To be angry at you?

What good does it do you

To ignore me?

Can’t we just agree

That we’ve both been wrong?

**********************************************************************************************

I don’t know what love is.  I know I love my parents and family because I have to, not because I actually feel anything.  I’ve never felt an emotion I could classify as love.  As far as I know, no one has ever felt that towards me.

So do I love God?  No.  But not necessarily because I don’t want to.  It would be easy to just believe, to just say the words.  But what good is that going to do?

Blind faith is idiocy.  If you just believe to believe, then really, what do you believe?

True faith is doubting, questioning, fearing.  And then believing anyways.

**********************************************************************************************

It’s hard to feel alive

When life is empty

I exist in a world meant for others

I watch them experience

Breathing is a struggle

Waking up torture

I’m slowly dying

Every day losing pieces of myself

And it doesn’t matter

No one cares

Life or death

It’s all the same for me

And for the world where

I wasn’t meant to be

*********************************************************************************************

The fluorescent lights in the hallway dimmed as the bustle of people exiting the building died down.  Soon the only lights left on the floor came from my desk lamp and the glow of my computer monitor.

“Hey Julie,” Shaun’s lanky frame leaned into the door, clinging to the brass knob, “I’m about to head out.  Do you need anything before I go?”

I tossed my pen onto the desk and tucked a few loose curls behind my ear.  “I don’t know.  My brain is completely scrambled.  I’m sure that the second you walk away I’ll think of ten things I need help with before the presentation tomorrow.”

“That sounds about right.”

I laughed and leaned back over the charts and graphs I’d been preparing for the last two weeks.

“Have you eaten dinner?” he asked, taking a couple steps into the room.

“No, I’ll probably grab some fast food on the way home.”

“I could get you something, bring it pack, help you finish up the details.”

“That’s a really nice offer, but I’m almost done.  One of us should go have some fun and enjoy our evening.”

“We could have dinner together and then we’d both enjoy our evening.”  He was just a foot in front of my desk now.

I didn’t know what to say.  Was he asking what I thought he was asking?  Or was he just being my friendly coworker, a member of the project team who wanted the presentation to be as perfect as I did?

“Um, I’m not hungry.  And I really don’t have much more work.  Thanks, though.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  Picking up my pen, I focused on adding comments to the index cards I would need the next day.

“Okay.  Have a good night, then.”  He pulled a granola bar out of his pocket and smiled crookedly as he set it on top of my papers.  “Just in case.”

“Oh, thanks.”

“Don’t work too hard.  You’re ready.”  He took long strides into the hall and faded into the darkness.  The wrapper crinkled loudly in the silent air when I tore into it and took a bite.

*  *  *  *

“Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen, my team and I will be happy to answer any questions you have about the proposal.”  I set my postcards on the podium and unconsciously glanced behind me to Shaun, who gave an encouraging smile.  He nodded towards the group of suits sitting around the conference table in front of us and I turned to answer their numerous questions.

When the last executive shut the door behind him, our boss Mr. Henry approached and extended his hand.  “Congratulations, Julie.  They loved your ideas.”

“Thank you, sir, but it was a team effort.”

“Well, you’ve certainly proved you can handle a team.  Come by my office after lunch and we’ll discuss your next project.”

“Yes sir.  Thank you.”

Once our boss left, my coworkers congratulated me and I thanked them for all of their hard work.  I looked around to speak to Shaun, but he was gone, he must have slipped out while I’d been talking to Mr. Henry.  Disappointment settled into my stomach, but at least his leaving let me know that the moment in my office the night before meant nothing except in my imagination.

I gathered my charts and index cards and filed out of the conference room after my teammates.  I watched as they split up and entered their different offices before reaching my own at the end of the hall and dropping the armful of presentation materials into the chair inside the door.

A vase of pink and yellow tulips stood in place of my computer keyboard; I stopped at the edge of my desk and looked over my shoulder for the deliverer of the gorgeous gift, but there was no one there.  I sat slowly and pulled the chair close to the desk.  A small white envelope was tucked into the flowers, my name visible in bright red ink.

Leaning forward, I breathed in the sweet smell of the bouquet and felt a smile emerge across my face.  I took the envelope and pulled the card out.

Julie, Congrats on the presentation.  I really appreciate everything you did for the project.  And if you ever DO get hungry, I’d be happy to take you to dinner.  ~Shaun

It was simple, sweet, not over-the-top.  I propped the card against my computer monitor, moved the vase to the right side of my desk so it was framed by the open doorway, and found my keyboard in the center drawer beneath my computer monitor so I could get back to work.  But temptation got the better of me and every few minutes I’d look to the tulips and smile.

At the end of the day, I collected my briefcase and plucked a bright yellow bloom from the vase to take home with me.

“Great job, today.”  Shaun’s voice came from the doorway again.

“Thanks.  And thanks for these.”  I lifted the chosen stem and inhaled the sweet fragrance.

“You’re welcome.  Do you like them?”

“Very much.  It’s the first time anyone’s bought me flowers.”

His smile matched mine as I joined him at the door.  Our hands joined together effortlessly, we didn’t speak as we walked to the parking lot, but we both knew he was taking me out to dinner.

Official?

**Update 11/21/11** I tried to go to Mezzo Magazine’s site, and it was gone 😦  My previous triumph now seems premature.

 

I’m officially a published writer!

Well, sort of.  My poem, “My Pen,” has been published in the online magazine, Mezzo Magazine!  It’s amazing to go to the site and see it and know that I didn’t upload it for feedback, or as something random on my blog, or as a note on Facebook.  I submitted to a group of editors and they chose it for the magazine.  They Chose My Poem!  I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that.

BTW, I absolutely love the graphic they came up with to go along with my poem.  It’s really beautiful.  I wish I could  get a jpeg of it.  Maybe I should email the editor…

Okay, so now a question.  Should I use this publishing credit when I’m querying my book?  It really has nothing to do with my book, but it’s the only publishing credit I have right now (keep your fingers crossed that there will be more in the future).

Does this mean I’m a “real” writer now?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t feel like it yet.  But will it ever?  I guess I’ll just have to wait for some other little writing victory to come along to see if I feel any different.  For now, I’ll say, I’m one step closer.

The editor saw my blog post and emailed me a copy of the jpeg!  So, here it is, my beautiful graphic thanks to Mezzo Magazine!