Summer 2015 – One for the Books

Summer 2015 – One for the Books

I’m back!

Holy shit, it’s been a while. When I realized I hadn’t posted all summer, I couldn’t believe it. It’s all good though – it’s been a very busy summer for me. Here are some highlights…

  • Traveled for business to Savannah, GA (a city I wanted to visit for the past 15 years and finally had the chance);
  • Visited Washington, D.C. (and got engaged! More on that later.);
  • Saw my favorite band and had a blast with my best friend (Panda), her daughter, and all our girlfriends who came to town to celebrate summer with DMB;
  • Traveled around Indiana for business;
  • Worked on my book (no seriously, I’ve finally made some progress!!); and
  • Enjoyed some amazing R&R and great family time.

And summer isn’t over yet! That thought alone is making me smile. Now for some randomness about my writing adventures this summer… I mentioned I worked on my book this summer. At the beginning of August, I wrote out a writing schedule, to which I promised I would commit. I’m so happy to report that I’m 100% committed and I’ve made some awesome progress. I finally feel like this story is coming together. As someone who primarily writes nonfiction and poetry, with some prose sprinkled in, I honestly had no idea what I was in for when I just suddenly decided to write fiction. I read a lot of fiction, so I figured I could try my hand at it and give it an honest effort.

My biggest hang up in the beginning?? Making shit up. Oh man, I love making up a good story, but I have always been an honest writer. I finally made myself move past that, though. I literally gave myself a pep talk that went something like this:

“Nicole, you can make this shit up. It’s okay. Let your imagination take over. It will be okay. I promise. Just fucking do it and stop making excuses and make something up. What do you want to read? What kind of story do you want to hear? Write it… now, not later. Polish it later. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? DO IT!”
(Cue that viral Shia LaBeouf video that hit the ‘net earlier this summer).

And it worked. I kicked my ass into gear and I committed to my writing schedule. I’ve solidified my outline and have key plot points ready for chapters. I even have a handful of chapters ready. I have a feeling though, with my planning process complete, this book is going to take a while to complete… but I will make it happen!

I also joined a writing group, thrown together by The Geeky Press. It’s laid back and a great group of people. We just meet up on some pre-scheduled dates (#WritersHack) and hang out for a bit, eat, talk about writing, and write. We hosted our first one-day retreat in July and I think it was a great success. We’re doing another one on November 7 and hosting a weekend retreat in December. My favorite thing about these retreats and hacks is that we actually freaking write. We write whatever we want. The goal is to get words on the page. If you’re interested in joining our shenanigans or want more information on events hosted by The Geeky Press, just check out their website. You don’t have to attend every event nor do you have to pay any dues (the day or weekend retreats have a low cost, though). We just are a group of people who want to write and connect with others who want to do the same.

I have to say, it’s awesome to be back in a community of writers. I’ve missed college mostly for that reason, and now I’ve finally found another place to nurture my talent. I finally stopped procrastinating and became a member of the Indiana Writers Center. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of their member discounts and getting to know the folks there in the coming months.

Speaking of writing communities… this thought brings me to the topic of serialized, web-based literature. Have you heard of websites like Wattpad or Channillo? From what I understand, these sites help you build an audience and network with other readers and writers. You post a chapter at a time. This could be a good thing to do, since I’m getting my feet wet in this category and not quite ready to publish a book just yet, even though I have a solid story plan/outline. I’m considering this route with some of my other fiction (short stories, flash fiction, etc.), but can’t decide if I should with this story or not. If you are familiar with either of these platforms or know of others I should be considering, please let me know in the comments. I want to weigh all my options and could really use some advice!

That’s all for now, folks. I won’t be gone as long as I was before this time… I promise. Peace!

A Review of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

About a month ago, a dear friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in writing a quick review of a book I recently read. I jumped at the chance because when I first read Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, I couldn’t put it down. Her story not only was so interesting, it was scary to think that someone could go through what she experienced.

Without further ado – my review as featured on Traditional Femme:


A Review of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

brain on fireOn a rainy summer Saturday afternoon, I was cruising the shelves at our local bookstore and stumbled upon Susannah Cahalan’s memoir, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. I admit I was drawn to it by the haunting image of the author and the book’s title on the front cover, but once I read the summary on the back, I was sold. I took it home and I couldn’t put it down.

Cahalan is a young, twenty-something woman with a bright career ahead of her as a journalist with one of New York’s most famous publications. She has a wonderful boyfriend, with whom she recently entered a serious relationship. She’s healthy and ready to take on the world. Life is great. Not much later, she wakes up in a hospital unsure why she is strapped down with wires hooked to her body that are traced back to monitors and machines.

While the precise point of when her illness began is hard to pin down, she realized in the time leading up to her diagnosis some of her symptoms: migraines, light/color sensitivity, difficulty controlling emotion, seizures, numbness in her left hand, hallucinations, and intense paranoia.

With her paranoia, it started with a bug bite that prompted her to fumigate her apartment to rid it of the bed bugs she thought she saw. She suddenly had the urge to read through her boyfriend’s emails – something she never would normally do. She started to feel like she was slipping into a deep darkness. (more…)

Brainstorming First Lines – More Writing Prompts

Happy Saturday, fellow writers! If you’re sitting around with writer’s block  and need something to get your pen moving, I have just the thing: Brainstorming First Lines.

I have a confession: I struggle with first lines. When I sit down to write a fiction piece, I usually just dive right into the story and go back later to finesse the beginning – just like what I do when writing nonfiction. I want to draw the reader in without being cliché… but for me, sometimes that’s easier said than done. (Ha! See what I did there?)

Earlier today I started out with something that described the weather. How boring. I mean, really? I couldn’t continue, so I deleted the draft and started wracking my brain. When my writer’s block kicked in, I took to the internet. (I love the Internet. Seriously. It has literally everything.) I went through a few random generators on some random websites found via Google Search to help get some words, phrases, and lines to help me generate a story. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT, I thought.

I jotted down a handful of lines I found that I felt had some promise. That’s when I figured I should share with my writing friends. Anything to help the creative process!

Here are some of the best lines I found that make me want to stop everything and write something down:

1. She knelt on the carpet of her new living room, a big cardboard box in front of her, unwrapping ornaments.

2. He was stunned. The stranger in front of him looked exactly like the girl he’d been dreaming about.

3. As he took in the view from the twentieth floor, the lights went out all over the city.

4. It was up to her to investigate how the accident had really happened.

5. The attack was over in seconds.

6. He watched, helpless, as the door closed behind her.

7. She felt for the lock in the dark.

8. More and more people were refusing to obey the laws of the land.

9. Under normal circumstances he would speak his mind, but, with a gun against his head…

10. He had waited twenty years to return it.

If any of these intrigue you, start writing and see where it takes you. If you want to see more variety or find something different, just do what I did – hit up Google and search for random writing generators to get some more ideas and prompts. Maybe you’ll find something for your next brilliant masterpiece. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway. Have a lovely Saturday and happy writing!

Goodbye, 2014 & Goals for 2015. Happy New Year!

Whew, this thing is dusty! Time to get back in the swing of things…nye

So, here we are. December 31. Tomorrow, 2015 begins. Can you even believe it? For much of the globe it’s already 2015, but Indianapolis has about 8 hours left of this year. Looking back, it was pretty low-key for me. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I’m ready to begin another great year.

This will be a big year for me; I can just feel it! Not only do I plan to buy a house with my sweetie, I hope to finally get closer to finishing the novel I’ve started (and restarted several times) this year. Speaking of…

Obligatory New Years “Resolutions”

I’d rather call them goals. Goals are dreams with deadlines, right?

  1. Finish saving the down payment and purchase our first home.
  2. Keep working on and (attempt to) finish my first novel. (Oh, and obviously blog more.)
  3. Work harder on my health and fitness – more yoga!
  4. Be more considerate of others when making decisions.
  5. Read at least two books per month.

I think this is a good start. Each of these will make me a better person and help me have a better life, so that is why I’m calling them goals instead of resolutions. The whole resolutions thing to me is hard to follow through with because there’s no accountability. Sure, for the first few weeks we’ll be on fire to stay committed to the resolutions we make today. But then the magic of starting a new year fades away and face it, it’s just another day, another week, another month, and another year gone by. We fall back into our old habits. At least, I know I do.

I’m ready to change that this year. I’m ready to start my 31st year on this planet and make the most of it by working on myself. I want to be a better person, and I’m the only one who can make that happen. So, this list of goals is my attempt to keep myself in check. I’ve set deadlines for numbers 1, 2, and 5. For 3 and 4, I’ll start small and keep it at the forefront of my mind and make them a part of my daily routine.

What are your goals for 2015? How do you plan to carry them out? Share in the comments and let’s help each other make this be the best year yet!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Bidding Adieu to Maya Angelou

Today, our world lost one of the most wonderful souls: Maya Angelou gave up her ghost quietly in her North Carolina home this morning.

Not only was she an accomplished writer, Maya Angelou wore several hats during her 86 years on Earth. Known for her poetry, she was also a  civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor (Wikipedia). She published seven autobiographies and was an accomplished poet, in addition to earning several awards and honorary degrees between 1970 and today.

When I say “writing is therapy,” I can’t help but think of Maya Angelou and how she started writing. If you are unfamiliar with her history… she experienced something so traumatic during her early years that prompted her to become mute. Her strength came out in words, giving hope to so many others around the globe.

At age 7, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later beaten to death in an assault that some believed was carried out by Angelou’s uncles. The trauma of the rape and her assailant’s death left Angelou mute for six years.

She began writing during that silent period. She would chronicle the first 17 years of her life in the 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which her friend, writer James Baldwin, had encouraged her to write.

The book, which covers the racism Angelou had faced in the 1930s and ’40s and her fantasies of being blond and white, is considered an American classic. (Reuters)

Patrik Henry Bass, an editor at Essence Magazine, says “when we think of her, we often think about her books, of course, and her poems… but in the African-American community, certainly, we heard so much of her work recited, so I think about her voice. You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges.” (NPR)

Oprah Winfrey, who considered Angelou to be not just her mentor but also a very dear friend, will always remember how she lived her life: “She moved through the world with unshakable calm, confidence, and a fierce grace.” 

Harold Augenbraum, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, stated “we share the gratitude of so many for Dr. Angelou’s contributions to literature, human rights, and social justice. Her legacy is one that all writers and readers across the world can admire and aspire to.”

best-Maya-Angelou-Quotes-sayings-wise-people(Source)

My favorite Angelou poems will always be Caged Bird and On the Pulse of Morningwhich was made famous when she wrote and recited the poem for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Give these a read/listen. Hear her voice shine through her words. Share your thoughts in the comments section, if you’d like.

Her work and words are forever etched in our history and she will not be forgotten, but remembered and celebrated for generations to come.

Happy National Poetry Month!

It’s National Poetry Month! Now is the time to celebrate our poet roots and refine those writing skills by creating new work or refreshing/revising some of your previously-composed poems. If you’re a regular reader, you know I love asking if a poem is ever complete… but really, is it ever complete?!

There’s just shy of two weeks left, and I’m going to continue making the most of it by jotting down short poems and attempting to generate fresh lines to work with. Grab your journal, open up Word or your blog, and get some words on the page. Feel free to try the form I’m about to share with you!

I recently discovered Cinquain, which is a form of Japanese poetry. It’s a short poem of 5 lines and 22 syllables. The pattern is like so: two, four, six, eight, two (2-4-6-8-2).

American cinquain, created by Adelaide Crapsey, was influenced by both the popular Japanese poetry forms haiku and tanka. She imposes a stressed iambic pentameter on the lines in the following pattern: one-stress, two-stress, three-stress, four-stress, one-stress.  Here’s an example of her poem, Niagara. Read it aloud to yourself and try to add the stresses to gain the full effect.
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