Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Post - Dancing Flyers Fan

Happy Book BadgeIn honor of The Next Chapter's ongoing work in The Happy Book, I've been taking some today to reflect on what is making me happy. It's great to focus on what is going right since we sometimes get bogged down in what is going wrong.

This week I was lucky enough to attend game 6 of the Stanley Cup. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks in what turned out to be a really intense back and forth game. In overtime, the Flyers pushed hard, but the Blackhawks made a final play that had the whole arena trying to figure out if the puck actually went in the goal. I've never seen such confusion.

Anyhow, the game was quite exciting, but one of my favorite things about it is a fan I've seen at Flyers games before. His name is Shawny Hill and as far as I know he has gone to every game for years. His seat is at the back of the top level in what some would refer to as the nosebleed section.

Shawny dances by his seat at every game. Usually some time during the third period, the camera visits him for a little big screen time. The crowd goes wild. They love Shawny's dancing about as much as they like the hockey. This year he was even featured in a commercial on the local television station supporting the Flyers for the playoffs.

The following video is from a few years ago, but it's a great representation of the energy he brings to every game. Shawny's unbridled joy is my happy this week. (If you're viewing this in a reader, you may need to click through to see the video.)

What is making you happy this week?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wishcasting: Leap

Wishcasting badgeIt is Wishcasting Wednesday, a wonderful day when we can cast our wishes out in the world and support everyone else's wishes with positive energy.

Today Jamie asks, "What leap do you wish to take?"

I wish to leap into the amazing world of fiction writing. Without fear, without pressure. I wish to leap into the process of crafting a story, arms and heart wide open ready to embrace characters and give them a safe space to grow and share their experiences.

If you missed it yesterday, I posted a little excerpt of something I wrote - A Night at the Pool.

I'm leaping already.

What leap do you wish to take?

Visit Jamie's site to see what other people are wishing to have.

Fiction: A Night at the Pool

After explaining yesterday that I have been working on some fiction lately, I thought it might be fun to share a piece. What follows is a short scene I started based on a writing prompt from Writer's Digest. (Do I need to say that everything here is fictitious and any similarities to real people or places is strictly coincidental?)

This didn't have a title until just now, but it felt like there should be something indicating the end of my commentary and the beginning of the story. I give you...

A Night at the Pool

There’s a reason I try to avoid breaking rules. It seems like whenever I do, something goes wrong. I’ve grown accustomed to the notion that the rules are there to protect me. I realize it’s not like that for everyone. Some people thrive on rebellion. It serves them well. Not me.

And so it stands to reason that the one night my friend Charlotte convinced me to go for a late night swim at the community pool, I probably should have declined. Breaking and entering certainly qualifies as rule-breaking, but it was swelteringly hot and the pool beckoned with sweet refreshment. If I was going to be soaked in something, better chlorinated water than sweat, I thought.

Charlotte had flirted with one of the lifeguards on more than one occasion. It hadn’t taken her long to learn where a key was hidden for staff and cleaners. It had taken her even less time to convince me that we could get in, swim for an hour, and lock up without anyone knowing and without anyone being hurt by it. It was a victimless crime.

The pool was a little over a mile from my house so we walked, not wanting to arouse suspicion by parking a car nearby. Charlotte found the key, unlocked the gate, and closed it behind us. In the moonless night, we followed the glow from the pool’s underwater lights. The surface of the water rippled slightly as pools often do and I could feel the relief that was about to be ours.

Charlotte must have felt it, too. Before I could say anything, she had kicked off her flip-flops, stripped off her t-shirt and shorts, and was diving in. I set my clothes on the first chair I passed, adjusted my swimsuit, and started down the stairs into the blissfully cool water.

“See, Jill? I told you this would be great,” she called when I was in. “The pool is all ours. This is the first time a today I haven’t felt like hyperventilating from the heat.”

“Yes, it does feel really good.” I dunked my head and smoothed my hair back, then settled in to a comfortable back float. From the corner of my eye I caught Charlotte starting her first lap.

I closed my eyes and let my tension and my sweat wash away. I tried not to think about how awful it would be to get back out in that humid air, only to never really dry off.

The night was still. The only sounds were the bugs in the near distance and the gentle splash Charlotte’s arms and legs slicing through the water, the latter of which fell away to nothingness.

I didn’t realize this was a problem until I heard her quaking voice call my name. I turned to see her treading water at the far end where the pool turned it’s L-shaped corner into the diving board area. Her eyes stared wide at what I couldn’t see from where I was.

“What is it, Charlotte?” When she didn’t answer, I started toward her adding, “Are you okay?”

She shook her head ever so slightly as she tried to find words. “I’m fine. He is not.” That’s when I turned away from her to what held her attention and no, he most definitely was not fine.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Why I've Been So Quiet (My muse had other plans)

I haven't blogged much in the past few weeks and though it's not terribly unusual for me to take breaks, I thought I'd share a little about what I've been working on.

I spent quite a lot of time a few weeks ago thinking about writing. I'd been feeling a little lackluster with it lately despite the huge urge I felt to write. I felt like I had stories trying desperately to escape, but I just couldn't quite hear them. It was frustrating and had me questioning whether writing was what I really wanted.

I took out my journal one day and started listing places I thought I might want to write. It ranged from the generic "book" to specific magazine titles that I liked. In the end it was a very, very short list.

Since magazines always seemed like the easy way to go (I really don't know why it seems that way, it probably isn't), I stared at the few I had written down and couldn't come up with a single spark. I felt bored just looking the list.

At that point, I put my list away and didn't look at it for a few days. I was feeling lost and frustrated and spent time instead focusing on my garden, my stepson's baseball games, and work. I don't think I wrote a single thing for over a week, not even a journal entry.

When I finally pulled my journal back out, I tried to remember what I liked writing when I was in grade school and college. I described each particular piece trying to recall titles, subjects, or turns of phrase.

Then I read my entry and had one of those fabulous moments of "ohhh... it seems so obvious." Fiction. With the exception of two things listed, everything was fiction. Short stories galore. Even a couple stories that I thought at the time might be the start of something longer. And the two non-fiction pieces were creative essays, high on personality, low on tedium.

I gave up fiction a long time ago. Maybe it seemed too unattainable. Maybe I thought I could never fill a novel. Maybe I was afraid of criticism. Whatever the reason, I'm ready to get back in the game.

In fact, I have now spent the past week stretching my creative muscles. I started by writing a few paragraphs one night from the point of view of a character I made up. It felt exciting. I could feel the energy buzzing around inside me.

The following night, I found a writing prompt and set out to write the scene with a goal of reaching 500 words. A fast hour later I had 1,000 words.

The next day I started recalling a story idea that I never actually wrote. I had started it just after college I think by pulling together notes and ideas. The more I lingered on that thought, the more a scene started to come together in my head. I sat down to start writing it that night and had about a page-and-a-half of something I was really excited about. This weekend I added another scene to it.

Fiction is energizing me right now. I can't believe I ignored it for so long. I'm just happy my muse stuck with me all these years patiently waiting for me to be ready. This is the start of something beautiful.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happy Post - Garden Growth

Happy Book BadgeIn honor of The Next Chapter's ongoing work in The Happy Book, I've been taking some today to reflect on what is making me happy. It's great to focus on what is going right since we sometimes get bogged down in what is going wrong.

I've had a bad cold for just over a week now, so unfortunately I won't be saying I'm happy about my health. Hopefully next week I can make that claim.

This week my garden is making me happy. The kiwis completely covered their trellis, so I added two more to give them space to expand. The raspberries seeded themselves to grow three new stalks. The cucumbers, zucchinis, and tomatoes are getting taller and fatter. I can't wait to eat the fresh produce later this summer.

I also introduced a new addition to my garden, a serene little fairy who looks quite comfortable tucked in the green vines of kiwi. Meet Maribel and her little bird friend, Pete.

[caption id="attachment_1304" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="This year\'s fruit & vegetable garden. (Click to view larger.)"]Garden collage[/caption]

What is making you happy this week?