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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: January 2009

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I've been completely caught up in a new-to-me writing website for the past few days:, by Harper Collins. From their "About" page:

Get Read. Get Noticed. Get Published.

authonomyTM is a brand new community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins. We want to flush out the brightest, freshest new literature around - we’re glad you stopped by.

If you’re a writer, authonomy is the place to show your face – and show off your work on the web. Whether you’re unpublished, self-published or just getting started, all you need is a few chapters to start building your profile online, and start connecting with the authonomy community.

And if you’re a reader, blogger, publisher or agent, authonomy is for you too. The book world is kept alive by those who search out, digest and spread the word about the best new books – authonomy invites you to join our community, champion the best new writing and build a personal profile that really reflects your tastes, opinions and talent-spotting skills.

The publishing world is changing. One thing’s for sure: whether you’re a reader, writer, agent or publisher, this is an exciting time for books. In our corner of HarperCollins we’ve been given a chance to do something a little different.

We’d really love your help.

It's a very cool concept--but is it a good idea to post your work online to such a wide audience? Will that hinder your chances of publication? I asked Editorial Anonymous, who says "Go for it." See more of her thoughts here...and then come join me! Check out the site, see what you think, and search for "Cherylwriter" to see what I'm up to :).


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great beginnings

Now that the holidays are over, conference season is picking back up again...and with conferences come those fun first-pages sessions where would-be authors read their manuscript openings to editors and agents across the country in return for a two minute mini-critique (in front of other would-be authors). So what makes a good page? Andrea Brown says that the first page shouldn't have any grownups because, see, kids books need to focus on the kids. Erin Murphy (way back when I began my books with lengthy descriptions of setting or other non-essential info) says that first pages should NOT contain piles of back story.

No doubt about it: that first page is often your one-and-only chance to hook your reader--be he editor, agent, or bookstore browser. I thought I'd take a look at some first pages--some first lines, really--that really grabbed me:

Skin, by Adrienne Maria Vrettos: "These are the things you think when you come home to find that your sister has starved herself to death and you have dropped to your knees to revive her...."

The Wizard Hunters, by Martha Wells: "It was nine o'clock at night and Tremaine was trying to find a way to kill herself that would bring in a verdict of natural causes in court when someone banged on the door."

Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo: "My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog."

How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell: "Long ago, on the wild and windy isle of Berk, a smallish Viking with a longish name stood up to his ankles in snow. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, the Hope and Heir to the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans, had been feeling slightly sick ever since he woke up that morning."

The Boyfriend List, by E. Lockhart: "Before anyone reading this thinks to call me a slut--or even just imagines I'm incredibly popular--let me point out that this list includes absolutely every single boy I have ever had the slightest little any-kind-of-anything with."

What do they have in common? Some have such an intriguing situation that I want to know what happens next. They ALL have that nebulous quality of a distinct voice. Sometimes I think that my best writing happens when I manage to sound the most like myself. Hmm. Does that mean that Cressida Cowell speaks with Frequent Capitals?

:) Cheryl

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Powers of Popcorn

If you give school talks--or even if you just love hearing how other writers connect with kids--you have to check out today's post over at I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids).

(Image borrowed from "The Popcorn Factor," by David Schwartz).


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Notes to Start a Writer's Week

1. Despite the fact that sleep seems to interfere with writing, sleep has been clinically proven to be essential. Even for writers.

2. Think of it this way: Sleep begets dreams. Dreams beget stories. Stories beget writing.
3. Writing begets staying up way late to finish dreaming up (and recording) this really important plot twist, oh!, and that essential list of character quirks, and long bouts of inspirational reading.
4. Besides, when you're sleep-deprived your writing seems much more inspired and genius than later, when you're actually in full possession of your faculties. Kind of like how drunk people are only funny to other drunk people, except without the alcohol, because alcohol does tend to inhibit good writing.

5. And when you're sleep-deprived, you have this bad habit of reading to fall asleep. And then, instead of going to sleep, you stay up until you've finished the book.

6. This is why you've had to swear off grown-up books. They're too long. You'd never sleep.

7. Bad, Cheryl! Stop salivating and thinking of the book you're going to begin at 10:45 pm! You promised to go to bed early!!

8. Oh. What's that book about again? Really? Well, it's true you'd have a hard time stopping in the middle of a book like that....

9. Ack! What are you saying? Be strong, Cheryl!

10. Nah. Take a book to bed and sleep all day tomorrow. It's Tuesday, after all, right? Right. Nothing important on Tuesdays. I don't think.

:) Cheryl


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Advice on blogging

Alice Pope, editor of the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market has started writing "Blogger of the Week" posts about up-and-coming children's writers. They're fun reads (and she writes a darned informative blog), but I thought this week's blogger-of-the-week was particularly wonderful. Alice interviewed Laurel Snyder who offers this cogent advice:

...a blog is published material. So we should all remember--it is one thing to be a crazed maniac online, and quite another to be a DUMB crazed maniac. If you want to say crazy things, try to sound smart and funny. Smart funny writers can get away with almost anything.

And please, for the love of Mike, do not tell us anything you don't want your boss (or your husband) to know.

:) What more can I say? Check out the whole interview here for your daily dose of wisdom and humor.


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Friday, January 23, 2009

Wanted: Dream Agent

MWF children's author looking for honest, yet encouraging, literary agent who loves her writing. Must love Emma Bull, Garth Nix, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Cassandra Claire, as well as have a taste for writing that ranges from whimsical to kooky to thought-provoking. Sense of humor essential.

In return, said author promises to be a great communicator, maintain a positive attitude through circumstances of all sorts, use constructive criticism, work her butt off, and write tons. Will also provide dark chocolate as needed and keep all obsessive-compulsive behaviors to herself. Not that she has any. At least, no more than the average author.

If interested, please contact author's benign dictatoress, Lily (aka inspirational poodle extraordinaire):

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Thursday, January 22, 2009


According to (a website based entirely on the latest scientific research, right?) here are three things I didn't know about my name:
  1. My personal power animal is the Giant Otter.

  2. My 'Numerology' number is 8. If it wasn't bulls**t, it would mean that I am motivated by material success and have an aptitude for business, managerial and financial matters. This comes through my uncommon discipline and persistence.

  3. According to the US Census Bureau°, 0.315% of US residents have the first name 'Cheryl' and fewer than 0.001% have the surname ''. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there is only 1 American who goes by the name Cheryl R.

At least, that's what it said the second time I checked. The first time I checked, my power animal was the European red squirrel, my numerology number was 5 (which means that I am "adventurous, mercurial, and sensual"), and there were 3 people in the U.S. with my name....

Who knew?

:) Cheryl

(Giant otter image from the conservation web site; Squirrel image by Ray Eye, Germany.)


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 Contests and Scholarships: Cheryl's completely non-comprehensive list of opportunities

  1. January 1-31 (postmark date): Highlights 2009 Fiction Contest
    Submit: Contemporary world culture stories up to 800 words (older readers) or 500 words (younger readers). See web site for details.
    Prize: Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.

  2. February 1: Writing Away Retreats Scholarship Contest
    Submit: Short story or portion of novel UP TO 5K words to using this as your topic: "Dishing up fear" to with "Writing Away Retreats Contest" as the subject line. See contest web site for details.
    Fee: $10.00
    Prize: Full ride to Writing Away Retreats (worth $1350.00)

  3. February 17 (receipt date): The Sandy Writing Contest 2009 for writers unpublished in novel-length fiction.
    Submit: The first 20 pages and up to a 2 page synopsis, for a total page count of 22 pages. See contest rules for categories and additional information.
    Fee: $20 for Crested Butte (or Gunnison) Friends of Library members, fee for all others is $30.
    Prize: Acquiring editors and agents will serve as final judges. They will determine the order of the top three entries in each category. Winners will be announced at the 2009 Crested Butte Writers Conference. The first place entries in each category will receive $50 and a certificate; second place will receive $25 and a certificate; and third place will receive a certificate.

  4. April 1 (postmark date): Pan Handle Professional Writers 2009 Youth Writing Contest Submit: Short story or poetry (length varies with age group; see contest link for details).
    Fee: none
    Prize: ??? (info not found)

  5. April 15th: fAiRy gOdSisTeRs, iNk 2nd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference Scholarship
    Submit: A 250-word, double-spaced essay describing what you hope to accomplish by attending this year's summer conference. Send your essay to:
    Fee: none
    Prize: $1500 scholarship for a SCBWI member to attend the August 2009 conference in Los Angeles.

  6. April 1-June 1 (???2009 dates tbd): Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Writing Contest (2008 info here) for writers of commercial fiction.
    Submit: 20 manuscript pages and an eight-page synopsis.
    Fee: (2008) $25, with additional fee for written critique
    Prize: (2008) SIX highest-scoring submissions in each of four categories will make the finals and then be judged by an agent or editor who works in that genre. They will pick one winner in each category. The winner receives $100 and a framed certificate. The remaining finalists will receive $25 and a framed certificate.

  7. June 30th(?): RMC-SCBWI Manuscript Critique - entry deadline (specific date tbd)
    Submit: Details tbd
    Fee: tbd
    Prize: Top manuscripts will receive critiques and one-on-one appointments with an editor or agent attending the RMC-SCBWI 2009 Fall Conference.

  8. March 1-August 15: Pockets Fiction Contest
    Submit: 1,000 to 1,600 word story (1,400 words preferred). Manuscripts are disqualified if they are shorter or longer by even a few words. Note accurate word count on the cover sheet. Stories must be previously unpublished.
    Fee: none
    Prize: The winner, notified by November 1, will receive a $1,000 award. Because the purpose of the contest is to discover new writers, previous winners are not eligible.

  9. September 25: Decatur Public Library Annual Writing Contest
    Submit: See contest rules here
    Fee: $3/entry, 5 entry max
    Prizes: Small cash prizes for top 3 manuscripts in each category, plus comments (sometimes--not guaranteed) from published author who judges your submission

  10. September 1-November 1 (??? 2009 dates tbd): Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest (2009 info)
    Fee (from 2008): $30 PPWC members, $40 non-members, with additional charge for optional critiques
    Prize: First place winner in each category will be refunded his/her conference registration fee if attending the 2010 PPWC or will be awarded a cash prize of $100 if not attending. Second place will be awarded $50, and third place will be awarded $30. In addition, winners attending the conference will be given top priority with respect to their editor/agent pitch appointment selections.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Notes to start a writer's week

  1. When writing YA, buying Doc Martens is a perfectly acceptable means of character research. Although you should stick to one pair. No, really.
  2. Gravity works every time. Even in the car. That's why the kids are no longer surprised when you spill your coffee while driving, even though you are.
  3. I'm sure there's a nicer term than space cadet for people who forget about gravity, although it doesn't immediately come to mind....
  4. Yes, it is okay to plot stories while driving, although you should probably keep your eyes open.
  5. And your eyes shouldn't glaze over, either.
  6. And you probably shouldn't jot down notes while driving, except possibly at red lights.
  7. You are probably not the only person who drives through town hoping for red lights so you can jot down your latest ideas. Although, on second thought, you probably shouldn't write while driving even at stop lights.
  8. Note to self: buy a voice-activate recorder.
  9. Listen--here's the equation. It's simple. IF you don't write, THEN:
    - you can't sleep
    - you're grumpy
    - you're unromantic
    - you're no fun
    - you aren't a very good mom.
  10. THEREFORE: Write, baby, write!
:) Cheryl


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Speaking of Voice....

Since my current projects all seem to be YA (instead of MG, which is what I usually write) I've been revisiting my journals from high school. Ah, such fun. Here's your teenage-Cheryl quote for the day:

6 February 1985
...So when I get frustrated by so much work (as I invariably am this time of year!), or when I'm angry and bewildered by how others act, I'll read a book. No matter what I choose, it will be something to help me figure people out. That's not an easy task...I'll need all the help I can get.

Wisdom from the '80's: when in trouble or in doubt, read a book! Who can argue with that?


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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Voice in Freak the Mighty

Okey-dokey, I just had my morning cry. My son brought home a book I've long wanted to read, Freak the Mighty, and I devoured it. Gripping characters, great character names (a personal weakness!), and a plot that keeps you turning the pages...yeah, I'd definitely recommend this one.

It's a particularly great read for the children's writer, because it's the story of a boy finding his voice as he writes this book. It's also a great read for the children's writer because it's such an awesome example of voice. Check out this opening:

I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that's the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth, is how Freak would say it, and for a long time it was him who did the talking. Except I had a way of saying things with my fists and my feet even before we became Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world.

The main character's voice is self-deprecatory, humble, and endearing...and completely his own. I bet I could read a random paragraph of this book anywhere, names changed, and recognize this voice. Wow. This one's on my read-again-to-study-craft list.

:) Cheryl

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Friday, January 16, 2009

SCBWI 2009 Summer Conference -- scholarship!

From the wonderful Shrinking Violet Promotions blog:

fAiRy gOdSisTeRs, iNk announces its 2nd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference Scholarship!

FGI is offering a $1500 scholarship for a SCBWI member to attend the August 2009 conference in Los Angeles. The 2008 scholarship to Linda Lodding of the Netherlands.

To apply for the 2009 scholarship, submit a 250-word, double-spaced essay describing what you hope to accomplish by attending this year's summer conference. Send your essay to:

The application deadline is April 15th, 2009. The winner will be notified May 15th, 2009.

fAiRy gOdSiStErS, iNk. is a small, benevolent squadron of Santa Barbara children's book authors who believe in the magic of passing forward lucky breaks, bounty, and beneficence, as so many have done for us. We are: Thalia Chaltas, Mary Hershey, Valerie Hobbs, Robin LaFevers and Lee Wardlaw.

If you would like to share some fairy dust of your own to help send a writer to the 2009 Summer Conference, FGI welcomes your donations!For more information about the grant and/or making a donation, please visit the FGI website (which will be up and running any day now! We promise!) at

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Surrounded by inspiration

My surroundings have an amazing ability to influence my thinking--and therefore my writing. This is why I try to convince my family to move back into the mountains, occasionally. I write much better surrounded by beauty. Or maybe we should head straight to the Caribbean?...

Yeah. Not happening this week.

Meanwhile, I've had to discover other tricks for the cash-strapped writer to surround myself with inspiration for my current WIP. Here are a few favorites:

  • Collages: I started making collages with my critique group and completely hooked. The process of picking out pictures (and string, feathers, beads, etc., if you're really creative) unlocks brain pathways that I don't access merely by stringing words together. The result is a groups of images that both reflect and expand my vision of a story. When I'm working on a book, the collage hangs above my computer, where it serves to inspire and focus me on characters, setting, and ideas.

  • Wallpaper: Computer desktop "wallpaper", that is. There are tons of free images you can download from sites like National Geographic and set as the backdrop for your computer screen. Writing about fantasy? Download a castle photo to spur your imagination. Sailing? Fishing? Tigers? You can find gorgeous photography spanning almost every topic.

  • Digital collage (shown above, for two characters): When I'm trying to visualize my characters, sometimes I find it helpful to find pictures of real people. Using free photo album software such as Google's Picasa, it's easy to put together a collage of images to aid character creation.

I'm also a fan of other hi-tech visual reminders such as Post-Its, index cards, and bulletin boards...Whatever works, get your story in front of you!

:) Cheryl


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The forward and backward writing process

Sometimes, I don't begin writing because I don't known where my story starts--or where its going--or exactly what threads of plot, character, setting, and theme I want to weave in along the way. Or what form to use. See, I like plans. I like to know my story's every detail before I actually sit down to write.

(This would explain why I consider two hours spent daydreaming in my big green chair today as work.)

And yet--at the same time--sometimes I can't know everything about my stories until I've written the first draft. The more I plan, the better that first draft will be; but sometimes I can't proceed with planning until I've started to write.

That's the case with the project I'm working on for the next two weeks. I know the main character, I know she deals with an eating disorder, but that's obviously not the whole story. People and their problems don't exist in a vacuum. They have lives, friends, families, circumstances that help and hinder their journeys.

I have the bare bones of a plot, but so far it feels...flat. I want to outline a better story before starting to write, but I might not discover the tale's flashier counterpart until AFTER I write.

I guess that's why writing--any writing--isn't a waste of time. Writing is thinking, processing, dreaming, and discovery. And that's what I need to do. On paper, as well as in my big green chair.

:) Cheryl

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Story Pieces

I'm cooking up a new story idea right now, and I've been having trouble getting a handle on whether the story problem(s) are enough to carry a novel. You see, usually I write fantasy--tales with lots and lots of plot twists and turns--rather than contemporary books about kids dealing with contemporary problems. So I tried a little exercise on some of my favorite contemporary YA novels: I listed the pieces of the story, all the things that the main character has to deal with during the course of the book. It's a valuable thing to do, because then, when I return to my own work, I can apply the same exercise and see if I'm getting the same kinds of results.

Here's what I mean (WARNING: SPOILERS):

Fact of Life #31, by Denise Vega.

Plot: Kat is trying to figure out where she fits in her world, where her mother is the Perfect Midwife and Kat is...not. Her "plot pieces" include:

  1. Her sense of identity and self-worth (as seen in her artwork, her work as an assistant at a midwifery, and her relationships with others)

  2. Boys: moving from a crush, to a boy who is embarrassed about their relationship, and making up again.

  3. Triathlon training

  4. Friendship: dealing with a falling-out with best friend

  5. Mother: feelings that the mother doesn't value her, feelings that mother is controlling, etc.

Click Here, by Denise Vega

Plot: Erin is starting middle school--in a different track from her best friend. She has to step out on her own to find her niche; but she's used to doing everything with her best friend. Her "plot pieces" include:

  1. Starting middle school

  2. Bossy friend

  3. Boys

  4. Finding a niche for herself in the school computer club

  5. Learning to speak up for herself

  6. Dealing with a mean girl

  7. And, of course, the embarrassment of having her private web journal posted for the entire school to see

The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot

Plot: Mia is a smart ninth grader who is 1) flunking algebra, 2) stressing because she has no discernible chest, and 3) about to discover that Princess of a small principality--making her life even more complicated. Her "plot pieces" include:

  1. Mother who's dating her algebra teacher

  2. Failing algebra

  3. Bossy, unyielding friend

  4. Learning to be a princess (with her unpleasant grandmother as teacher)

  5. Boys

  6. Body image

  7. Learning to speak up for herself

Breathe My Name, by R.A.Nelson

Plot: Frances comes from a terrible past, one that makes people want to protect her; but now it's time for her to face her demons.

  1. Past trauma

  2. Search for her mother

  3. A new boyfriend

  4. Overprotective parents

  5. Inability to speak for herself

Some of these books have big plot concepts. Erin's life is hugely complicated about halfway through the novel because her personal blog--detailing her opinions of everyone in her class--gets published to the school. Frances is propelled forward when a sinister message comes from her mother, who's been imprisoned for the past ten years. Mia learns that she's a princess. At the same time, though, Erin's story is primarily about her relationships with the other kids. Kat's story is about figuring out who she is and what she's good at doing. Mia's story is about learning to speak for herself.

Plot...I guess it doesn't always have to be high-concept, although an intriguing twist is never a bad thing. But the thing that hooks me is a great character. That's my goal....



Thursday, January 8, 2009

Speaking of Children...

I'm mighty glad mine are tolerant, because they're so coolthat I always want to take notes. I write for kids because, for whatever weird reason of my own, my pen always seems to adopt a middle-school (or, occasionally, YA) voice. I write for kids pulling from the details I remember from my own days in school, dealing with family, and generally growing toward being an adult.

But--let's face it--we writers always need fresh material.

So how do I avoid embarrassing them?

So far, I do so by changing names to protect the innocent. I also avoid posting those naked 2-year-old pics (not that there are any). I guess that by the time a particular situation, snatch of conversation, or character detail makes it into a story, no one but a select few can tell what inspired me. Hmmm...I'm talking myself into collecting more anecdotes.

Because, after all, kids like to share their stories--even with someone who might immortalize them on the page!

:) Cheryl

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Never visit family--especially family with associated children--without bringing along a pen and notebook. Every time I visit home (and my sister and her four kids), I return with stories and inspiration enough to last me months...and I make sure to take time every night to write down the details for later.

Case in point: one evening, while my sister and I (well, mostly my sister) were cooking dinner, her youngest son marched into the kitchen and tugged on her sleeve. "Mom," he says, "I'm about to be very sorry for something."

This kid has the biggest brown eyes, an impish smile, and copper-red hair. When he says he's about to be very sorry for something, let's just say everyone stops to listen.

"What is it?" my sister asks. (She's forgotten about stirring the chicken).

"I can't get the floor back together," he answers.

At that, she and I decide that investigating the possible destruction is more important that cooking dinner. Here's what we found:

Ah, gotta love it. And I haven't even mentioned the escapee hamster, the canned bat, or the hay bale construction zone....
:) Cheryl

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Years' Resolutions: Making Changes Stick

I just read a great blog post by Tanya Jolliffe over at (a healthy living web site--lots of great tools for improving your diet and exercise habits) about how to make New Years' Resolutions that stick. Her rule?

Adopt habits and routines you're willing to continue for the rest of your life.

It sounds simple, right? And yet, a lot of times we make New Years' resolutions that don't work in the long run: lose 10 lbs (via a restrictive diet plan), get organized (via a marathon cleaning spree), accomplish more (via an unrealistic plan to accomplish 12 hours of work during 8 hour days).

Jolliffe writes "By adopting habits you are willing to carry out for the rest of your life on December 31, you are focusing on making lifestyle changes. The small changes allow you to learn and incorporate new behaviors and habits to reach short term goals along the way."

Lifestyle changes: that's what I want. I want to continually tweak my life in ways that help me become a better, healthier, more compassionate person--one who continues to improve as a writer, of course, but that goes without saying :).



Monday, January 5, 2009

Life Inventory, Part 2

Friday, I told you I was doing the New Year's thing, taking inventory of my life, and setting some goals for 2009. Now it's time for me to share them--although that's a little scary, making my goals public. I mean, then I *have* to work on them!

Oh, wait. That's the point, isn't it?

Goals for 2009:

  1. Write 1000 words a day, five days a week.
  2. Write and polish that science series (the one that's been on my WIP list for the past six months....)
  3. Submit, submit, submit! Send out ms (of various types) at least ten times.
  4. Take better care of myself physically...which means, actually, focusing less on writing. (Which is rather ironic, since my first three goals are writing-related!)
  5. Practice stepping outside my comfort zone a little every week.

Happy New Year!


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Friday, January 2, 2009

Taking Life Inventory

A day late, maybe, but I'm doing the New Year's thing (now that I'm feeling a little more human after too little sleep on the train) and taking an inventory of my life. I've been taking life inventory every so often since about seventh grade, when I laid out a detailed plan for how to convince my parents to let me travel through Europe with a friend. It looked something like this:

1. Prove I am responsible.

2. Earn money.

3. Learn French.

...okay, maybe these aren't the most finite and measureable goals, but they did lead to some life changes and I did, eventually, get to go to Europe. I also got to go to college, which I was also under the impression I was paying for at the time (since my parents hadn't said otherwise and I never thought to ask).

Point is: taking inventory helps me see if I'm heading in the direction I want to be heading and adjust course as needed. Kind of like setting New Years' resolutions, but with equal attention to looking back as to looking forward.

If you want to take inventory of your own life, be sure to pair the inventory--that is, the list of what you like, what you don't like, what you want to change, and so on--with your goals for the new year. Take what you find and plan accordingly.

  1. Set goals that are specific and realistic, but leave yourself some wiggle room for when life intervenes.

  2. Be accountable to someone--a friend, writing partner, or blog readers :)--who will help keep you going when you hit a roadblock.

  3. Be sure to notice your progress in some way, whether that means checking in with an accountability partner or keeping a log or just posting sticky notes on your wall. '

  4. Plan to celebrate each step of your journey.

  5. Be open to course changes and the winds of fortune.

I like to take inventory of where I've been and where I'm going: it's a chance to discover that yes, I am actually making forward progress, even though it's not always apparent on a daily basis. It's a chance to step out fresh on the road, with the whole world ahead.

What course will you chart for the year ahead?

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Home again, home again

I'm back in Colorado! Funny how wonderful it is to come home--I'd like to bottle all the warm fuzzies that come with reunions with pets, cozying up on my own sofa, sitting down to dinner with my family, wrapping up in familiar blankets. As my son Fletcher says, it's great to visit friends and family but the travel back and forth can be "very stressful".

We don't often go home (home being Pennsylvania, where we store most of our relatives :)) for Christmas. Travel this time of year can be tricky. Picture Christmas day spent in the Buffalo airport; or a family with two little kids stranded in Iowa, their car broken down; or (my personal favorite) there was the year that I started to drive cross-country with two kids, remembering to check everything but the gas tank. Lucky for me, we didn't run out until we reached Nebraska, where we were rescued by a no-nonsense rancher woman in her immense white pickup truck.

When we decided to venture East again this winter, we decided to try something new: we took the train from Denver to Buffalo, NY, a trip that takes (theoretically) 36 hours. The train takes about as long as driving, cost a little bit more, and allowed for a lot more leg-stretching. It was also the kind of adventure every writer needs to experience now and again.

Adventure inspires, but it's good to be back home, where I have a bit more time to write about the experience!

:) Cheryl