Monthly Blog - Ernie in the Sandbox...My Very First Story

I have this memory from childhood.

When I was about four or five years old, my parents had brought me to the playground by our house.

This was a treat, because as I've mentioned before, my mom had agoraphobia. Rarely, did we go out in the world where I would have the opportunity to socialize with other children. This might explain why I don't mind the solitude of being a writer. I was always good at playing by myself.

As other kids swung on swings, and slid down slides, I stuck to less adventurous equipment like the little horse on a spring. I watched as boys and girls made sandcastles and buried toys in the playground's sandbox.

We didn't bring toys with us to the playground, or anywhere for that matter. I imagine it was because my mom didn't want me to lose something that might have been important to me. I had a strong affinity with my stuffed animals (still do, really). Also, I didn't like other kids touching my stuff.

BTW, still don't like it. If I see someone manhandling, say, a perfectly good book and breaking the spine while flipping through it, or if my hubby scribbles on a magazine I haven't read yet, I lose my mind because now it's ruined! LOL.

As the kids vacated the sandbox to go play elsewhere, I noticed a doll had been left behind.

It wasn't just any doll, it was an Ernie puppet from Sesame Street. Identical to the Ernie puppet I had at home. I remember wondering how Ernie had gotten there, who he belonged to. It plagued me to think that he was being forgotten. That some kid would go home and cry themselves to sleep that night because they were negligent and Ernie was lost to them forever. I actually cried all the way home. Thanks to the story I'd created in my head, I became very distraught over Ernie being abandoned.

This narrative is probably the earliest evidence of my storytelling nature. I had a wild imagination when I played. I used to pretend I was a twin. My grandmother would play along asking if I was the "good" twin, when I'd appear to her in a different shirt from the one I'd had on earlier. I had an imaginary friend, my stuffed animals had feelings and thoughts and emotions.

It wasn't until I started reading novels, that my interest in putting my stories to paper came to fruition.

One of the first novels I read that inspired me to write was "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton. I had read many books before that one, but at 13, I was a bundle of hormones. I had devoured the book, and not long after, the movie came out. Seeing all those characters on the screen--hot boys in leather jackets (remember, I was 13, and Rob Lowe and hormones!)--I wanted to live in their world. I went right home after the movie, opened my new spiral notebook and wrote a different version the story. A version where the main character was the Curtis boys' tough sister, and her dilemma was picking which boy she liked the most.

I filled that notebook up with scenes, calling my girlfriend to read her what I had written. To talk to her about my ideas. And, to swoon over those cute boys.

Years later, that love for cute boys had led me to writing in the romance genre. It had always been just a hobby, until about five or six years ago, when I had finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up...a writer! Even though I had been doing just that all along.

Somewhat recently, I found my Ernie puppet in my parent's attic. It was missing a hand and all of its hair. My hubby took me to a vintage toy store in our neighborhood and bought me a used one. It was in almost pristine condition. I kept them both, because I still feel original beat-up Ernie has value. At least, in my heart he does.

Now, forty years later, when I drive by that same playground, I reminisce about that day and wonder if that other Ernie ever made it home. And, if he didn't, what happened to him?

I bet there's a story there!

Monthly Blog: What I Learned About Myself While Reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Recently, on a business trip to Charlotte, I brought along the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. So rarely do I have focused time to just sit and read a book. Usually I am capturing half hours here and there on the train, or on weekend mornings when I have coffee, or at a doctor's office. I had hours of pre-boarding and flight time to actually dive into this self-help book, not because I'm unhappy, but curious as to how I can be even happier and how could I use what I learned about myself to help tackle finishing my novel.

Rubin states a lot of the obvious in her book, but there were some takeaways that hit home.

Rubin has what she calls her "Twelve Commandments," things that can set you on the right course for happiness. Here's what I came up with for me:

  1. (and most important) Don't sweat the small shit
  2. Do more of what you enjoy
  3. Don't take it personally (because...)
  4. Assholes will be assholes, let them be
  5. Get your house in order (clean up, toss out, display what matters, hang up coats, put shoes away, and don't let the kitchen island and table become a dumping ground)
  6. Find one thing to be grateful for every day
  7. Don't waste time
  8. Read what you write
  9. Exercise the body and mind
  10. Travel (even if it's locally, it gets creative juices flowing) 
  11. Be you
  12. Chase your passion

If you go back and read past blogs of mine, you'll see a theme. Me, stating the obvious, always making promises to myself that I will finish the manuscript. As I attend conferences and other literary events, I look around at the other authors out there who have done it--they've finished their book and it's published...and I want to face palm. Of course, they met their goal. They put in the time. Kept their ass in the chair.

I seem to always have an excuse.

Here's my top ten most common excuses that keep me from finishing the edits on my current WIP:

  1. The house is a mess, I should really clean (insert room, table, closet, etc. here)
  2. It's too early/late in the day, no good work will come out of me at this hour
  3. The work isn't ready/good enough
  4. I'll never make a ton of money from it, so why rush
  5. I'm probably just going to quit writing anyway, focus on other things I want to do, like reading all those books I've collected
  6. I deserve a break and should go do something fun
  7. I should take the pups for a walk
  8. I'm hungry
  9. Maybe I should look at the other novels I've attempted to write and work on those
  10. I need a nap

So, in an effort to reach my goal (being published), I've created a routine, where I block Sundays so all I do is (laundry and) write. Then during the week, I write on the train (thank you Scrivener for iPad!). I use my twelve commandments as a guide, and if one of my excuses gets in the way, I give it the finger and get to work. 

Realistically, I could push this damn thing out and have a Christmas gift for friends and family.

Now that would make me truly happy.

Mid-Week Blog: Bookmarked Favorites (#1)

Join me as I embark on this new blog series. Even if you're not a writer, feel free to read it for the entertainment value (if there is any, LOL). And, please, share it with the writers in your life. My goal is to write a bi-weekly blog, because, you know, I have nothing else on my plate (LMAO). Let's see how long it lasts.