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A few months ago, back in the fall, I stumbled across a product called a “Traveler’s Notebook.” I was impressed by both the simplicity and versatility of the design. As a writer, it definitely piqued my interest, especially checking the all-important “highly portable” box in the list of desirable qualities. (I’m currently running with a 9×6″ spiral notebook for the longhand draft of pages for the current WIP, and use slightly smaller journals for notes & world-building for other projects, but that could mean carrying multiple volumes at any given time… which can get…unwieldy, especially if working on more than one project.)

But I was reluctant to order one, wanting to make sure it would be something that I could commit to using. It’s a writer thing, I think… there’s an “ooh, shiny” factor to cool loking journals and notebooks, but I have plenty on my shelf that need to be filled before I can justify adding more. So, instead of getting the set-up, I picked up a few of the refills a month ago, hoping to give them a test run for future blog posting. They are, sadly, still in their packaging.

In the meantime, here’s a Youtube review that helped me understand the “system,” yet appealed to the minimalist sensibilities that I’m trying to foster.

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Four Years On…

Yesterday, the eldest turned four. Four. Four! It is equal parts amazing and confounding – to see how much he’s grown in so short a time. and yet how quickly that time has slipped by. We marked this milestone in an unusual fashion for us, for reasons. Instead of celebrating on his actual birthday, we took him – and only him (no brothers*) – to one of his favorite restaurants with most of the extended family, to celebreate. (The first picture, with the candle.) On his actual birthday? Recovering from all of the early mornings and playtime with grandmothers.

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The Importance of “Said”

The Eldest is almost four. He’s not quite at the “read-by-myself” stage, but he isat the point where he can take a story, turn the pages, and tell – verbally tell – the story by what’s in the pictures. Or, if he’s heard it enough, he can actually repeat most of what’s on the page.

One of his current favorite stories to read is “Uncle Scrooge Christmas” [Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol]. Last night, he read it to me. There are a variety of different dialogue tags in the story – growled, yelled, etc. 99% of them, he simply used “said” instead.

Intuitive understanding of simplicity in dialogue tags. I hope he remembers that as he gets older, especially if he follows me onto this crazy writing roller coaster.

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Giving Voice to Yourself…

Slight meander ahead…

The guest speaker for my first MFA Residency was Donald Maass. Most of his program-members-only presentation in the afternoon was focused around his book The Fire in Fiction (something I wasn’t fully aware of at the time, but others discussed after the session). Being the green writer that I was, with a few thousand words written of what would develop into my thesis and no idea where the story would go beyond them, I took copious notes. A means of of trying to internalize those questions by both combining both aural and mechanical exposure. Worst case, they would be things I could refer back to.

Jump forward a few terms. I was entering solidly into revision-mode for the thesis, and decided to use Maass’s Fire in Fiction for my craft book  for that term. I read through the text, taking notes (a practice I’d not been in the habit of doing). Despite all the notes and advice in the book, the ultimate boil-down, take-away nugget is hat the fire in fiction is the individual writer.

Which brings me to my true reason for this post: In making my daily rounds, checking the regular handful of writers and blogs that I follow, I landed on this related post by Mary Robinette Kowal. Go read the full thing (using puppetry to explain Voice)

For writers, those individual choices come from your background, your lived experience, your taste and interests. I can teach mechanical and aesthetic voice, but I can’t teach personal voice. That personal voice though, that thing that is absolutely unique to you as a writer is why you must write.

No one else can write the things you will write in the way that you write them. You have a voice. Use it.

So, yes, that cool story may have been told eleventy-seven times already, but not how you might assemble the fleshy word-bits. There’s a reason why one of the root pieces of  wisdom given to beginning/early writers always seems to be some variation of write for yourself, first, before worrying about what’s in the market. Doing so nurtus the development of that voice.

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Perspectives From a Midwife…

I’ve been listening to the audiobook for Call the Midwife. It’s one of the hardest books, emotionally, that I’ve gone through.I’m curious if it’s because of the actual text, or from the impact of the performance…but it’s no doubt also due to a shift in perspective.

I can’t properly describe why I have been so affected without some degree of spoilering, so here’s the warning. Look below the cut to see more… Read the rest of this entry »

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Losing Mirra…

Somebody put 2016 on notice…it’s only February and this is getting old.

Dave Mirra died yesterday.

This was an odd double blow. Not only did he live in the area, but he was only two years older than me (for some reason, I always thought he was bit older). I have friends from years ago that knew him or had met him.

As a child of the 80s, I enjoyed building and jumping ramps as a kid, rickety things of stacked old car tires and plywood planks or fencing slats. This was all before the X-games, mind, so when they became a thing while I was in college, I had no objections to watching the BMX or skateboarding coverage when it came on ESPN. Mirra was always there, always flying.

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A Political Position: 2016

I try not to discuss politics, since it can be such a polarizing thing. My personal disposition is that a person’s political opinions are their own thing, like the faith/spirituality they choose to practice, who they choose to partner with, or what kind of underwear they choose to wear – nobody’s business but their own. Likewise, with the media the way it is these days with the signal to noise ratio (all relative to what channel you watch), and life’s to short to sort through all the bullshit being shoveled.

But this is a Presidential election year where, to say political opinions are polarizing, would be considered the understatement of the season. The singular advantage to the abundant media exposure today’s candidates have (so much more now as opposed to even in 2008 or 2000), is the opportunity for those on the fence – willing to look at the candidates as people, not just a party affiliation, and determine the best person for the job of President.

That said, here’s my political stake in the ground, as of 28 January 2016, based on what media I have been exposed to. To better understand that stake, however, there needs to be some context.

When I became old enough to register, I registered as Republican, because that’s what my parents were, and what I thought those with conservative tendencies did. As I’ve aged, while I still have conservative tendencies, I have shifted more toward “Independent” (that whole “who do I think would be the best person…?” thing). Some of the folks I have supported have won, others have lost, it’s the way it goes.

When potential candidates emerged a year ago, I made the comment to MC that I liked the idea of a Carson vs Sanders, and actually hoped that’s how things might fall.

Then media happened, and while I would still prefer Carson to get the eventual nod for the Republican ticket, it’s not looking like that will happen. I can’t bring myself to support any of the other candidates.

Which leaves the Democratic hopefuls…a year later, I’m still hoping Sanders gets their endorsement. But part of the reason why him and not Hillary didn’t quite crystallize until I read this, from Wil Wheaton (where he references this article, which pretty much sums it all up), but the tl;dr..

Wheaton writes:

Paraphrasing, the thesis [of the article is] that she lacks political courage, and won’t take a stand on something unless is politically safe for her. From marriage equality to the war in Iraq to ensuring that the poorest Americans have opportunities to have a better life, she has never supported a law or policy that was politically risky or would threaten her chances to advance her political career. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has taken principled and politically risky stances, not because they would advance his career, but because that’s what he believed in.

So, my hope is to vote Sanders in November.

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