2017 Updates, and Looking Ahead to 2018

Wait, what, it’s almost 2018 already? Hold the freaking phone…

It has been nearly a solid six months since I’ve posted something – anything – on this blog, about writing, or even not writing. For that obscene lapse in communication, readers, I profusely apologize. But a lot has happened. Allow me to share…

In which the author finds herself gainfully employed once more.

I accepted a position in county government, smack dab in the middle of my degree field, so that is the good news! (MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: All thoughts, opinions, etc. I post on this blog are mine and in no way represent my employer, whose name I am intentionally neglecting to reveal. Must keep day job and dream job separate, people! SECONDARY DISCLAIMER: And no, I’m not a spy or anything. County government administration doesn’t really require a new employee to bring with them a spy’s skill set, anyway.)

However, the inevitable trade-off with gainful employment is, of course, fewer hours in my day/week to devote to my first love and ever-aspiring career accomplishment: publishing a book people want to read. This acknowledgement has been a devastating one, friends. But by acknowledging this new yet necessary obstacle, I have been afforded the opportunity to actually expand my creative leanings into the realm of time management. I’ve discovered there is joy in rising before the sun, brewing coffee, and diving into the world of Stormriders for an hour or so, before most of the rest of the world has any idea a new day has begun. And this is speaking as a human being who keeps a List of Top Five Activities Of Which To Glean the Greatest Sheer Delight, and includes the art of sleeping near the top of that list.

In which the author recommits herself to the completion of the book of her heart.

The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet a memoir by Jen Lynn Anderson

Once upon a time, a girl visited a land far, far away. It was many years ago, but the colors and voices and sounds and tastes of that land have stayed with her, vibrant and strong. Throughout that visit, she kept a journal. From that journal, came a story. A true story, according to the girl, but what she didn’t realize was her truth didn’t necessarily align with the truths of others. And so the girl soon realized she was left with a hopelessly personal and biased story, from the perspective of an optimistic and idealistic Western white mind. It was a story that did not tell the entire truth of the land wherein the girl worked and played and explored and rested her head for a month of her life. And the girl’s heart broke as she began to understand how close she came to harming the people and places she has come to care about the most, by making the story hers instead of theirs.

The world does not need another story of a privileged girl learning from people who look and speak differently than she does. The world DOES need to hear those people’s stories, from their perspectives. And so, the book that began as the personal tale of a voluntourist has become a journalistic voyage into the villages and neighborhoods around Moshi, Tanzania, to bring to Western attention the efforts of local nonprofits and non-governmental organizations, run by people who grew up within those same neighborhoods, visionaries working tirelessly to improve the lives of their neighbors and communities.

The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet was going to be released late this year. For obvious reasons, that has been pushed back indefinitely while I rework the structure of the book and conduct interviews. But I am excited and grateful and privileged to tell this story the way it needs to be told, the way it should have been told from the beginning.

In which the author resigns herself to yet another headlong foray onto the literary roller coaster that is National Novel Writing Month.

Like my fancy NaNo mug? Get it here.

Thirty days. 50,000 words. Fifty. Thousand. I do sometimes feel a bit repetitious this time of year. You’ve heard it before. The problem is, I’ve gotten close but never actually have won NaNoWriMo. Every October, I prep and plan and post words of inspiration and encouragement. “THIS IS MY YEAR,” I say. Only, it never is.

So this year, I’m going into it a little differently. I’m taking my newfound love of early morning candle-lit writing sessions and will commit to put as many words as I possibly can into that hour before dawn. I am going to ignore the daily word-count.

I’m going to remember, each and every single time I sit down in front of my computer, that I am continuing a journey with the characters I love and whom I miss when I’m away from my keyboard. I’m going to surround myself with music and images that inspire me and remind me of those characters and places I am trying to get out of my head and into the book. And what the result will be? I won’t know until I’m there. But whether it’s fifty or fifteen thousand words, my goal is to have a completed first draft of Stormriders in my possession by the end of November. “Winning” be damned.

In which the author signal-boosts a wonderful little group of fellow writers and dreamers.

I’m a big believer in sharing. But as a writer, sharing your work is often incredibly difficult to do. Sometimes it is flat-out painful. Criticism hurts, and even constructive criticism can sting. But critique is a vital component of any writer’s growth in their craft. So what better cure for the sting than finding others who are on the same growth journey as yourself?

Writers groups are an invaluable resource for any seasoned or aspiring author. They prevent you from writing in a vacuum. Whether you have a story you already know you absolutely must tell, or are still searching for your story, a writers group gives you a place to start. To sit down and talk about your ideas, to navigate the tricky twists and turns of the imagination only writers know about. To commiserate about the numbing void of writer’s block, and tap for feedback on the books of our hearts (yes, even when that feedback hurts).

Fortunately, the Twin Cities, with its many celebrated arts communities, boasts dozens upon dozens of well-established writers groups. In any city or town around the TC metro, you can most certainly find a group of your fellow writer people who meet in a somewhat organized fashion at least once a month. Just in Carver County, we have juggernauts such as the Arts Consortium and the Chanhassen Authors Collective, for starters. For my part, I love the small but meaningful meetings of the Waconia Writers Group, where anywhere from four to a dozen or more writers of all ages and experience levels meet twice a month.

Writing can be a lonely experience. It’s easy sometimes to forget that we’re NOT alone. Writers groups help us remember that fact. So don’t be afraid! Find your people, find your story, and grow your writing.

 

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Spring Cleaning (and Rediscovery)

– For the dreamers

A few weeks ago, while digging through my family’s storage unit, I found a plastic bin that belonged to me. One of those clear plastic tubs from Rubbermaid or Tupperware or whoever owns the assembly line that makes them and ships them to Target. I hadn’t seen that bin in several years, perhaps a decade; when I moved to Arizona for grad school, a lot of my baggage (so to speak) stayed behind, and my parents became (perhaps unwilling) custodians of the crap of my youth.

Now, nearly eight years since I moved to the Southwest, and nearly two years since I returned to Minnesota, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’d left behind. I continued to neglect that dusty and deserted storage space that held the crumbling contents of my formative young adult years.

Now, I’m eternally grateful to my parents for holding onto what I left for them to deal with, when they just as easily could have tossed it all out.

I am thankful I found that one particular bin, because I could explore it with fresh eyes and recognize it for what it was (and is)… a treasure trove worth more than the combined caches of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, and the rest of the legends of the Golden Age of Piracy.

In that nondescript plastic bin, I found a pile of my old manuscripts. 

As a writer, I’d like to think I’ve matured and grown in my craft since I started capturing my imagination on paper, since I started on that ever-exciting-yet-ever-perilous journey to write and publish a novel. However, that growth has at times been quite painful, especially since I’d all but given it up when I left for Arizona, my master’s degree, and writing of a different kind. I had all but forgotten how much I loved to dream up stories that existed in their own universes, with wildly strange and sometimes frightening characters whom I still loved, and whose glints of humanity still shone through. Stories that took me places, that I longed to share with others but of which at the same time was terrified to let go.

I placed my writing away, into the shadows, as I was required to make room for new pursuits that monopolized my time and energy. Career objectives for which I signed up to achieve. Skills and qualifications I purchased, which I was told I would need to “take me places” in practice, in actuality.

I left my writing behind as I stepped forward into a different identity, fell in and out of love in real life, and lost and remade pieces of myself in the process.

I left my writing behind as, healing from a broken relationship and not quite trusting myself, I entered into a circle of truly wonderful, supportive and creative people, enveloped by music and adventures that were rejuvenating and entertaining and diverting in the best possible way. I miss them every day, and my heart dances in anticipation of the next time we’re all together.

In the process of witnessing them pursue their own creative truths, they helped me understand that as a person who creates, it was time to start listening to my own voice again.

I began to listen. 

I found my way back to my writing when I found my way back to Minnesota. Through the continuing parade of trials and uncertainties and insecurities, through my attempts to find my footing on the next steps. My burgeoning career path abruptly coming apart from underneath me, and with the heavy burden of my educational pursuits forcing me to return to a state of pre-independence beneath my parents’ roof. Picking up the pieces once again, education and experience and career goals; pieces that don’t quite all fit together, and maybe never will.

And then I found that dusty Rubbermaid tub, full of the dusty dreams of Seventh Grade Me, and I cried. In those pages, yellowed with time and neglect, I read the soul of a girl who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up, who absolutely knew what she was supposed to do with her life. I cried for a long time, mourning all of that time lost. I mourned that young girl who held such lofty aspirations, who understood the truth of herself… and who had been sitting so still, waiting, for so long.

And then I dusted myself off, and began to dream again.

In the Philosophy class I took my senior year in high school, we read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and one particular theme resonated with me and lingered to this day. The idea of personal legends: that we all have true destinies that reflect our true selves, and we recognize them in ourselves when we are young, but as time progresses and the burdens of life begin to weigh us down, we forget. We leave them behind.

When (or rather, if) we manage to clear away the distractions and remember what our personal legends were to be, we are then ultimately faced with the choice of whether to pursue them, or let them go for good.

In this springtime of my own personal legend… with these tattered manuscripts in hand, and with bright and shiny new ideas at my fingertips… I’ve decided to follow it, wherever it goes.

 

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New and beautiful things.

file_003-6I got new ink today! Thanks to Mike Grant at Saint Sabrina’s in Uptown Minneapolis, and thanks to Neil Gaiman for dreaming up the source material, I have a beautiful new reminder to keep taking risks with my writing and to keep jumping off proverbial cliffs, even when it seems like the only inevitable direction is down. Because sometimes… during the pursuit of dreams… sometimes, when you fall, you do fly.

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New Year’s Revolutions

December 31, 2015. Lola’s Lakehouse.Notes on a Bar Napkin


We’ve traveled tremendous distances
across a vast abyss, to circle around a star.
It took us three hundred and sixty-five days,
only to end up where we started.
New Year’s resolutions are like this,
endless circles around who we wish we could be.
Even though the shortest distance between
who we are and what we want
is a straight line.
We circle.
We go through motions.
We compromise.
We bow to status quo.
We lose our footing.
We stop moving.
We stop being.
We stop being ourselves.

What if, instead,
we say:
“This year, I will walk the shortest distance.”

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Inspiration (Or, The Kickoff of The Blog)

Quote

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

― Neil Gaiman

 

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