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_Tell me a story..._ (1)

I have waited for this day for quite a few years. The moment I would wind down and type those final words.

“The End.”

Today, I finished the rough draft of my Fishbowl manuscript as I had it outlined. I expected to feel a rush of relief. A sense of accomplishment. Maybe even some euphoria.

Mostly, though, I feel like it’s not really finished.

As I wrote, I tried to stick to my outline, trusting that the story would expand to fill the gaps. What I discovered along the way were more gaps than I anticipated.

So. Many. Gaps.

Technically, I finished what I had planned to finish. I’m going to celebrate that.

(I am. I promise.)

I don’t think I’m actually done, though. I think there’s more to this story and these characters than I’ve managed to eke out.

I’m going to follow the wise counsel I’ve received to let it lie for a month or two before picking it up to edit.

But I suspect editing may really mean finishing.

Meanwhile, if you want to raise a glass to the quasi-finished Fishbowl, I’ll take it.

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“If you have to make a decision, picture yourself telling someone what you chose and then go with whichever option makes the better story.”

As a long-time follower of Leigh Kramer’s blog, I knew her first novel would be something special. She consistently displays acute interpersonal insight and seeks to understand different points of view. I was excited to meet the characters she created.

And A Storied Life delivered.

The family dynamics in this book ring so true that I felt like I was in the room with them. Through every heated or awkward conversation, with every guarded move, I felt the pressure and nerves Olivia was feeling. At the same time, I wanted to take her out for a cup of tea (or something stronger) just to give her a breather. It’s unusual for me to relate to a character on such a visceral level. I was on Olivia’s side from the beginning.

I want to buy this book for everyone who is at a crossroads in their life, trying to choose between the options before them. Leigh does a great job of showing the struggle of unpacking choices that led down a path where Olivia didn’t necessarily intend to go.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the exposition of the family’s experience with hospice care. As my own parents are aging, and we are nearing a time in upcoming years when similar decisions are going to have to be enacted, this story relieved so many of my fears without being trite or formulaic. It would be so easy to tie a neat bow on this topic, leaving it flat, and that didn’t happen here. Leigh dove straight in and revealed the raw and touchy edges.

A Storied Life is the creation of a talented writer who does not shy away from the hard work of getting below the surface of what seems to be happening with her characters to reveal their motivations and desires. It makes them come alive and sets the story apart from others in its genre.

 

I am honored to have received an advance reader copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Favorite thing about summer. FAVORITE.

Fresh peaches that practically burst when you touch them. Snow cones. Festivals and retreats and reunions. Lounging and reading. Air conditioning (because it’s already dabbling in triple digits here and Lord have mercy).

Ah, summer.

I don’t have to talk myself into fall and winter. I have made my peace with spring being my least favorite season, because allergies.

But the people looooove summer. And I just…don’t. But I also know how annoying it is to me when people complain about winter (just…shhhh. Let me enjoy the five minutes a year I’m not in a constant state of sweat and nausea in peace). Therefore, in the interest of not being the gnat swarm at everyone’s picnic, I decided to follow Joy the Baker’s lead and make a summer bucket list.

I know the purpose of a bucket list is typically accomplishment, and there’s an element of that in here. Mostly, though, this is a list of the things I’m looking forward to doing this summer.

  • Finishing Fishbowl. I’m super close to finishing my first rough draft of a full-length novel. Like…within-the-next-couple-of-weeks close. I’ve been playing with this manuscript for so long that I can’t imagine it being finished (well, the first step of finished, anyway). And it may expand in the editing process later, as I have pesky notes of a side view, and I’ll have to read it through to know if that’s a distraction or an important part of the story. But the bones will be written. So, so soon.
  • Road trip to Virginia to the writers’ retreat where I will be presenting my workshop. There are still spaces available, and you can read about it and register here.
  • Leave the house on purpose at least twice a week for fun. Not because I have work or errands or a meeting. Just to join civilization. It’s not something I need to do every day, but life is richer when I get out regularly. Summer is an easier time to do that.
  • 3rd annual Hemingway party. There may be dancing this year. There will definitely be alcohol and mixers and lots of food.
  • 24in48 reading challenge! July 21-22. Sign-ups are coming soon. I’ll keep you posted.
  • High school reunion in July.

I also need to settle into a better daily rhythm with the things I know that feed my soul. I started off well in January, but the goals have sort of fizzled. No, that’s an understatement. My resolutions tracking sheet (post forthcoming) is a desert. As most of the resolutions I set are activities designed to help me maintain balance and sanity, it makes sense that I have been scattered (tidy euphemism) as of late. I’ve been in survival mode for about three months. I know that there are other factors involved, so getting back to stability is not as simple as checking things off a daily to-do list, but the things on the list can help.

What are you doing this summer?

 

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It’s National Donut Day, so that tells you everything you need to know about how my ability to focus is going to go this afternoon. Here are some things from the intrawebs I loved this week.

  1. I think I want Reimagining the Ignatian Examen. Examen is part of my nightly ritual, and I am interested in Thibodeaux’s perspective on it.
  2. “That’s the thing with my important life moments, they always seem to emerge slowly, like a Polaroid picture. I suspect few people have instant-capture aha moments. Especially those of us ensconced in the nebulous realm of anxiety where discernible lines between normal and neurotic cease, at some point, to exist.” I love this excerpt by Sarah Wilson, and I think I’m going to like the book.
  3. “We ask for wild dreams, for places to be our fullest selves, for the courage to walk outside of our fears and expectations of who we are, moving always towards what lies ahead. We keep going even when we can’t quite see the road.” From Ask Relentlessly by Hilary Yancey.
  4. I love this idea! Jen Hatmaker’s recap of the ceremony where graduating seniors honored their teachers. I defy you to read some of the things they said and not get a little teary. Then write a note to your favorite teacher.
  5. Literary quotes celebrating friendship from Book Riot. My favorites –
    “I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.” —A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
    “Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.” —Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

I’m looking forward to a weekend at the farm with the folks. Hope your weekend is relaxing, too!

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Most of the writers I meet describe their writing practice as either their hobby or their work (or a hybrid of the two). Today I’m over at Andi’s place talking about how to bridge the gap and make sure inspiration comes along. Hop over and give it a read!

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At UNT, it’s close-down day and graduation day and block party and we’re tired. So here are some comforting things from the internet. I know I need them. Do you?

  1. Joy the Baker’s strawberry pie bars. These sound delicious. I bet you could make them with blueberries, too.
  2. RED PANDAS ARE THE CUTEST.
  3. Long-suffering animal moms.
  4. Bookshop with a coffee shop and a piano. Pretty much what I imagine Heaven looks like.
  5. And finally – the way I would like any pun delivered to me. Via Husky:6.26.16-Bad-Pun-Husky4

Hope you’re having a good day!

 

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I have danced around a way to express this particular value. I struggled (and still struggle) with finding the exact wording I wanted to say everything that it encompasses. I’m still not sure that I found the right one, so I’ll just call it “story” and say a lot of other words to go with it.

First I want to detail what story is not to me.

Story is not an argument for a position. A better word for that might be “reason” or “data.” It’s not that story isn’t strong enough or even true enough for belief to take hold. It’s just that one person’s story is so customized to his or her individual needs and position that it doesn’t always translate to the common good. For every story that supports one way of thinking, there is usually another equally valid, equally true story that supports the opposite point of view. I get frustrated, therefore, when people expect me to be dissuaded from my opinion by their story alone.

[I’m sure the frustration is mutual. Our stories are powerful that way.]

It’s not that I don’t believe them. It’s that I also believe others.

Thinking through this concept started as “listening.” But listening does not encompass the whole value. Story also creates empathy. When I hear where someone is coming from, I feel for them. Even if I come from a very different place. Even if I still disagree. It softens my sharp edges toward them.

[Not that I thrust sharp edges at people, of course. I don’t know where you heard that.]

Story also creates curiosity and wonder for me. I think that’s what I love most about it. Hearing the stories that people tell about themselves – the specific ones they choose out of the millions they have to choose from – makes me want to know more about them. I love it when they tell stories they didn’t mean to tell about themselves (not so much when they tell others’ stories for them).

My love of story is the main reason I write fiction. When I told my aunt about the premise of Fishbowl, she asked to hear about one of the scenes when Bob and Jenny talked to one another. I read her one of my favorites, and she responded, “That’s just how it is. That’s wonderful.”

Just how it is. Best compliment I can imagine getting.

When I hear a person’s story, I know I’m hearing their world just how it is (in their mind, at least, even if that reality exists nowhere else). It’s an honor to be trusted with that.

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