“The scariest moment is just before you begin.” Stephen King
This quote is true for people like me, people leery of the unknown. I tend to frequent the same stores and restaurants, eat the same dozen or so meals, and follow the same daily routine. I even visit the same vacation spot and stay at the same great little B&B each year.
There’s something to be said for comfort.
But there may come a time when you realize you need to push yourself—to grow, to change, to improve your life. What do you want to accomplish more than anything else? What are you doing to reach that goal? Have you surrounded yourself with like-minded, supportive, or inspirational influences?
A new year is a wonderful opportunity to make a positive change in your world—big or small. Embrace change for the better by making the most of each moment.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
Welcome to this week’s Margarita Moment! If you enjoy this post and are a newcomer to my little island life inspired blog, sign up for your free, weekly escape (Look along the right sidebar.). It will sail to your inbox on Mondays, more or less, depending on life’s currents and my novel writing schedule. Thanks for visiting.
Hi! Rylie here. Like Mom said, I’ve been swamped with essays for medical school, but I want to show you the most incredible pictures and memories from this beautiful city. *drum roll* And the highlights are:
Traveling by waterbus down the Grand Canal
Seeing someone buy a freshly killed shark at the Rialto market
Getting gelato from every store near San Marco plaza
Waving to gondoliers
Finding as many paintings with Jesus in them as we could at the Gallerie dell’Accademia
Having – and hating – my first cappuccino
Getting lost on the way back from San Marco and unsuccessfully asking the police for directions
Almost knocking over a statue at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Going to over 40 stores to find the perfect Murano glass earrings
Watching two kittens play-fight in the garden outside our restaurant during dinner
Getting a beer glass for free at a pub after asking the bartender if I could buy one
Sitting on the Arsenale pier at night to watch the waterbuses finish their route
Getting lost in the back alleyways in San Marco
Learning that a dead-end in Venice is an alleyway that ends in water
Five writer lessons I learned at Connecticut Romance Writers’ recent Fiction Fest:
1. Secondary character subplots must match the story’s main plot theme. (Kristan Higgins)
2. When ridding of that pile of papers on your writer desk, turn it over and start from the bottom. Quickly choose which items can be thrown and which need to be kept. Then file time-sensitive papers by the month, with files for the current month in files from 1-31. Check the following day’s file folder at the end of each workday to prioritize the next day’s to-do list. (Lisa Lelas)
3. Hybrid authors are fast becoming the trend in publishing. (Roxanne St. Claire)
4. Smashwords provides free books on its website for those authors going the indie route. (Jim Azevedo)
5. Attending writing conferences are worth the time, money, and effort invested. (Jolyse Barnett)
I hadn’t planned on attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta this year. My husband had been undergoing medical treatments, my son encountered difficulties through much of eighth grade, and my day job had been overly demanding in the past months. In spite of these obstacles, my husband insisted I go.
I’m so glad I did.
The national conference is about workshops, pitching, and networking. Writers at all different stages of their careers attend and each can tailor her experience to meet specific goals. My first year, I focused on learning all about the craft, attending every possible workshop and pitching my first novel. I socialized very little, still a shy newbie. This year, I balanced the workshops with both pitching, networking, and socializing. Even more, I had fun hanging out with friends, making new friends, and visiting the Georgia Aquarium a few blocks away from where we stayed at the Peachtree Center’s Marriott Marquis.
But very much like my friend, Patty Blount, discovered and shared quite eloquently in her recent blog post for our local writing chapter, I found RWA’s national conference to be much more than all of these wonderful things. Nationals is a place where people of common interests and big dreams come together to support each other and be inspired. We writers all suffer at times from the Doubt Monster. We all go through periods where we believe our writing sucks, that our aspirations are unrealistic, and we wonder if we shouldn’t just quit.
RWA13 reinforced my desire to make my passion a career. To keep working until I succeed. To know I’m not alone. And that I can always, always turn to my RWA colleagues for guidance and a shoulder to lean on.
For those of you who didn’t have the opportunity to attend this year’s conference, and perhaps as a refresher for those of you who did, here are ten of the most memorable bits of advice I took away with me about writing from some of the greatest in the romance writing profession:
1. Writing is a process of controlled chaos.
2. Your goal is to complete one book every nine months. Don’t lollygag.
3. Write through the fear.
4. Be disciplined.
5. Query the NY publishers while building your writer platform. If they don’t buy your story, self-publish, but only after you’ve written and edited a very clean, polished book.
6. If agents or editors like your writing but not your book, focus on creating emotional depth of characters, pacing, and a compelling plot.
7. Regarding plot, be outrageous. Readers don’t read fiction to escape to real life.
8. Outrageous plots must be tied to well-motivated reasons to allow your reader to suspend disbelief.
9. Don’t undervalue yourself or your work.
10. Determine how many pages you can complete in a day, make a reasonable goal each week, and be responsible for achieving that goal, no matter what.
And here’s a bonus, the quote I scribbled on a sticky note and placed on my laptop, courtesy of the inimitable Cherry Adair: Finish the damn book!
What are your favorite quotes from RWA13 or about writing that guide or inspire you?
Georgia Aquarium is home to many creatures, from teensy frogs to sizeable beluga whales and whale sharks. The picture above was taken inside the Ocean Voyager tunnel, one of seven galleries within the facility built in the heart of Atlanta on land donated by Coca-Cola.
Two of my Romance Writers of America pals and I took a break from the frenetic pace of our national writing conference to explore this beautiful underwater world on a rainy Saturday. Despite the sell-out crowds, the visit was worth the thirty dollar admission price.
Bernie and Billi Marcus of The Marcus Foundation are the aquarium’s benefactors, and companies such as Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, and AT&T sponsor exhibits.
We arrived at about two in the afternoon, and were able to explore five of the seven attractions before having to return for our conference. We experienced all but the dolphin show and the 4-D theatre that allows guests to see the world from a marine animal’s point of view. Okay by us, as my friends and I had seen previously seen these types of attractions, but if you’re traveling with children and/or want to squeeze every penny out of your admission dollar, arrive early. Allot at least three hours; more if you plan to eat and shop for souvenirs.
In Cold Water Quest, you’ll see cool creatures like the ones above, as well as beluga whales, Japanese spider crabs, and an odd creature that made me wonder if dragons really do exist.
If you like cuddly puppies and kittens, you may enjoy crawling through a tunnel to pop up and view the world’s smallest penguins.
For those traveling with little ones, your favorite part of the aquarium may be the Georgia Explorer. According to the facility’s brochure, this interactive gallery “includes touch pools full of horseshoe crabs, sea stars, rays and shrimp.” The children I observed were having fun playing in the mock fishing boat and crawling through what I’d call an overhead hamster trail.
The Tropical Diver was my second-favorite, with its colorful fish, coral reefs, and simulated ocean surf. The exhibits make it easy to imagine yourself snorkeling in warm, salty waters. Or perhaps that’s just me?
After oohing and ahhing over the vibrant tropical sea life, we anticipated the River Scout gallery to be bland. We were wrong. The fish colors may be predominately brown, but the water cascade, playful otters, and overhead river for much of the walk made for a fascinating experience.
At first glance…
These river fish (below) don’t strike one as particularly fearsome. That is, until you read the exhibit plaque.
Last but not least, here’s my favorite photo from our aquarium adventure. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite activity on a rainy summer day?
For those of you interested in romance books and such, check back Wednesday for this writer’s take on RWA13. For next week, Rylie has promised to post about Merano, Italy. I’m homesick for Key West, so I may sneak in a bonus Conch post along the way.
I attended a book launch party for a dear friend at Sunken Meadow Beach, Long Island this past weekend. When I caught a glimpse of this incredible sunset, I was heartsick that I’d left my Nikon at home. Luckily, my romance writer pal saved the night with her iphone camera. Beautiful, huh? Thanks, Jen.
Then I discovered the sunset in Jen’s wine glass, and I asked her to take a shot of it so you could enjoy it too.
What did you do this past weekend? Any special accomplishments or simple pleasures?
I click on the closet light and yank a sweater off the shelf to pull it over my head. That makes three layers. I lean down to slide my hand along the chilly wood floor, pushing aside wool skirts and cordoroy slacks as I search for my fuzzy slippers. No luck. I do find a colony of dust bunnies and a pair of sandals, however. The shoes must have accidentally been left behind in the Columbus Day transition.
I glance down at the girly-girl heels in my hands. I miss summer. I bet they do, too. If my sandals could talk, what would they say about our years together? I sit on my bed, hugging them close as ideas float through my head.
We biked through Old Town, Key West and sunned ourselves at South Beach. The sand was quite hot!
We treated ourselves to pedicures. Our favorite color was Powerful Pink, a stunning combination with my metallic blue leather, if I do say so myself.
We attended a July wedding and my comfy soles allowed you to keep up with your Dad and son on the dance floor.
We explored Jefferson Fort at Dry Tortugas National Park and climbed to the top for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic. You appreciated my sturdy heels.
We splashed through rain puddles (and we didn’t complain) while you played at Universal Islands of Adventure with the family.
We lounged in the backyard with girl friends and you drank strawberry margaritas and listened to island music. Thank you for being careful and not spilling sticky drinks on me.
The margarita reference reminds me of the task I still have to finish, the one I was in the middle of when I became too cold in my den to concentrate. I shake my head and laugh. Yes, I’m caught, guilty as charged–Number One Procrastinator. I have a post to write, and here I am, reminiscing about summer with inanimate objects. I shiver under my three layers of tops. Darn, it’s cold in here. Maybe I’ll grab a blanket out of the linen closet on my way downstairs, make a cup of hot chocolate, and sit by the fireplace while I brainstorm more ideas.
I set my pretty blue flowered sandals on the tippy-top closet shelf. That way they won’t have to fight off the dust bunnies while they wait for summer to return.
If an item of yours could talk, what would it say?
Forgive the me, me, me format of this final post of 2012 as I reflect on the year. I wish you and yours a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year, and I look forward to entertaining you with this blog of mini-escapes (and occasional venting) and getting to know each of you more through our conversations in 2013. May it be a year of good luck for each of us!
My Top Three Gifts this Christmas:
A heartfelt sentiment from my husband on Christmas morning, a gift of his undying love. I cried.
A wallet from my son, who knows how disorganized I can be with pesky things like cash and credit cards. Even better was learning he “bought” the wallet with points earned at his school for excellent behavior. He could have purchased something for himself, but he didn’t. Yes, I cried.
A red wine glass from my sister-in-law and niece etched with my name. I didn’t cry, but I really appreciated it, and made quick use of it. I needed to test it, right?
My Top Three Quotes for Margarita Moments:
1. The finest amusements are the most pointless ones.
2. I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.
3. The happiest people are those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, and good conversation. They are not only happy themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others.
I’m proud of these little pieces of writing, but what made them successful was your participation through your views, likes, and comments. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit Margarita Moments each week.
My Three Life (Writing) Lessons:
1. Follow your passion. If you aren’t passionate about writing the story, your readers won’t be passionate about reading it. The caveat to this lesson–write from your soul, not from a marketing standpoint or what you think others expect you to write.
2. Be consistent. I’m good about this one as a parent and at my day job, but when life became overwhelming in other areas this past fall I didn’t post blogs consistently. I may have lost some readers because of this and that makes me sad, for a writer’s joy is sharing her world with others. For 2013, I promise to post on Mondays without fail, even if only to submit an apology or announce a change of plans.
3. Don’t give up, unless it’s to do something you feel even more strongly about. This was a difficult lesson to learn. I’m very loyal. However, I wasted spent almost six months toughing it through a story that wasn’t panning out the way I’d expected. I began to lose interest in writing each night. Thankfully, I let go of that story (for now) and this year is ending on a high note as I complete a romantic suspense.
Please share your “My Top Three _____ for 2012” with us!
The following post is adapted from my article, “The Purposeful Writer” published September 2012 in SHORELINES, the Long Island Romance Writers newsletter. Although the original was written for fellow writers, I believe it’s easily adapted to any life pursuit. Let me know what you think!
What On Earth Are You Here For?
By Jolyse Barnett
One of the most influential non-fiction books I’ve read as an adult was The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren. As I began my quest as a new writer, quotes from this bestselling book would pop into my head, and I soon realized many applied to my life as a writer. They easily apply to whatever your passion or life pursuit entails. Here are three of my favorites:
“Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is “T-I-M-E.”
If we are passionate about something, we take the time and effort to learn it. We don’t try to cut corners. Learning your craft well takes time. For writers, that means write, write, and write some more. Read about writing, read a variety of genres, and consider story elements in the various dramatic forms. Accept the ebb and flow of writing. Think about writing, keep a journal, talk to your characters, and people-watch for character and dialogue ideas—whatever inspires creativity.
One of the greatest lessons I learned in my first two years as a serious writer was the importance of thinking like a writer, not a reader. A reader enjoys the well-crafted novel, but the writer understands the purpose of each part of a story, and how they interconnect to convey a particular mood and move the story forward. Time spent writing allows the writer to develop her voice as well.
“Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time? One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, Earth is not heaven!”
People at all stages of their career likely experience setbacks or at least little roadblocks during the learning process. Yet-to-be-published writers like me may fret about getting an agent or selling that first book. Debut authors may worry about sales and getting the contract for their next story. Multi-published authors may be concerned with meeting deadlines, juggling the business aspect of writing, and maintaining their love for the art of writing. Remember, follow your dream career not because it’s easy, but because it’s your passion.
“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain.”
You invest yourself and your time into making your dream a reality, and it’s painful to fail. Your hard work is rejected. This experience may cause some people to give up, hide from judging eyes, and move onto less frustrating, wound-inducing pursuits. When I received my first rejections as a writer, I was very disappointed, but I determined to use that experience to improve my first novel and future work. Learning from your failures in life, and persevering despite failures will lead to ultimate success. I’m not a quitter, and neither are you.
A few days ago, I came across a beautifully written article by blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Hansen, and I had to give it a try myself. Turns out, she discovered this nostalgic writing exercise after reading “Where I’m From” by Sharla Lovelace, which includes a template. Apparently, that template has been bouncing around the internet for a decade or more. Perhaps it’s so popular because you don’t have to be a professional writer to try it, not even close. The next time you’re trying to figure out what to give a parent (or your child) who already has everything, or doesn’t need another whatchamacallit, perhaps consider writing your story and gifting it to them. Just a thought.
With that said, here’s a little bit of me.
Where I’m From
I’m from wollastonite, Big Wheels, Tinker Toys, and a backyard sandbox. From a sunny kitchen where my mom lined up Velveeta and mustard sandwiches and Kool-Aid for us kids to grab before running outside to play some more.
I’m from a white clapboard house perched at the edge of a hay field, a second-story Holly Hobbie-themed bedroom with white, flowing curtains, and a paneled den large enough for a family of seven. From a kitchen with daily homemade meals, a fridge with a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea, and the occasional rhubarb pie.
I am from evergreens, Lady Slippers, pussy willows, and hummingbirds, oak trees, pink clover, and dairy cows. From a mining town with a K-12 central school and graduating class of forty, one grocery store, one blinking light, and a river that we’d skate come winter.
I’m from Sunday summer picnics with grandma’s potato salad and grandpa’s sons–large, tobacco-chewing men grilling hot dogs and burgers. From a backyard where we played horseshoes, croquet, and H-O-R-S-E until it was too dark to do more than roast marshmellows around a cinder block fireplace.
I’m from a no-nonsense, hardworking father and graceful, classy mother and too many aunts, uncles, and cousins to count. I am from the frugal and independent, the pinocle players, the shift workers, and the practical jokers. From “If you make a mess, clean it up” and “You can be anything you want to be if you work hard enough.”
I’m from a Catholic home, from where we love others as God has loved us, turn the other cheek, and believe the meek shall inherit the earth.
I’m from where the Adirondack foothills meet the crystal blue waters of Lake Champlain, a home with veggies grown in the backyard and canned in the kitchen, laundry drying in the breeze, and Sunday breakfasts of fried eggs and bacon.
I am from shelves of photo albums next to the stairs, to be pulled out and pored over whenever we visit my childhood home. From boxes of art and school work in the attic, to skis and boots in the cellar. Never touched, but there just the same.
A Few More Thoughts
This exercise stirs up a myriad of memories as you write. I’ve worked on this piece for a few days, but I continue to remember more–and I want to include it all. Next weekend my family will travel upstate to my childhood home, and I imagine that will inspire me further. Writing, like life, is very often a work in progress.
My mind is on my mother this week, even more than usual. She would have been seventy-five this year. I love and miss you, Mom, but here’s a little gift to you, to let you know I meant it when I said I’d love you for always.
And to my readers, here’s your gift. My husband made up this little summer concoction early in the season and I adore it. As Nicole Basaraba pointed out to me recently, every cocktail needs a good name. Let me know if you like it! Here it is…
Pink Flamingo Cocktail
Fill a 15 oz. cocktail glass with ice, pour in a shot-and-a-half of your favorite Scotch (I prefer single malt), add pink lemonade, stir, and top with a lemon. Enjoy!
Where are you from? Did this exercise stir any memories for you? What summer drink did you savor?