because I'm into you, August

In August, I returned to roots—looking for greenery and trees wherever I could. 

In August, I returned to roots—looking for greenery and trees wherever I could. 

August showed herself with roots and chakras as I began working through some things that apparently weren't going to leave me alone. If July came as clarity, luminosity and embodiment, August proved to be alchemic and cohesive.

In fact, as you read this I'm currently on a two week hiatus from social media (thank you, internet scheduling gods). It's not the beach, but it's my couch and if I'm doing this right, there's a book in my lap and a fruity drink in my hand. 

So you know, basically the beach without the amazing view and the gritty sand.

books read :: 

Ugly Love, Colleen Hoover - Ever since one of my friends turned me on to Hoover's writing (way back when SLAMMED was a new release) I've read everything she's published. I was slightly disappointed with her last book, but UGLY LOVE was read in a few hours. It just may be my favorite of hers—primarily because of her toying with structure in order to show two different view points. Loved that concept.

APE: How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki - If you're looking to self-publish, man. This is the way to go. Kawasaki offers so much information in this book I know I'll be referencing it in the future. I used this to beef up my own knowledge (since I only know fiction-related indie publishing) because of a certain-something I'm cooking up behind the scenes. Grab this book if you're interested in pushing out your own words, but buy the paperback because of underlining and tabbing. You'll want it.

Speak, Nish Weiseth - It was a no-brainer for me to have this book on the day of release. I'm pretty sure I pre-ordered it way back in March or April or whenever it went live on Amazon. I loved working with Nish when I wrote for Deeper Story, and this book speaks to her desire for good and true story-telling rather than pounding on our platforms and yelling out our opinions. Grateful for her vision.

Stupid Girl, Cindy Miles - This book was engaging, but a little disappointing. I still enjoyed it, and I would recommend it for a quick read (I found it for free on Netgalley) but the title and the ending just made me cringe. I'm curious to see where Miles is going with the series. 

This Sky, Autumn Doughton - I've been a huge fan of Doughton's writing since finding her last summer, and this book is no exception. I loved the quirky characters and the way she pushed against some of the more common motifs within indie plot-lines. 

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt - I have ALL OF THE THOUGHTS about this book, and will be writing more about it next week. It did something to me, I believe. Especially that ending. MAN OH MAN that ending.

books still reading ::   

The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective, Richard Rohr 

The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin

Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin 

Book of Life, Deborah Harkness

for the love of poetry ::  

Has it ever occurred to you
it oughtn't to be
it's scarlet fever of the soul.
I choose to do it my way.

-  me, a found poem from this month in my art journal

television ::  

We binge-watched Luther last month but have slowed down considerably these past few weeks because holy cow. It's like the intensity just grows and grows and grows until I can't even take it anymore. There have been plenty of nights where we're watching the show and then the credits roll and I'm just left shaking my head. So we turn on New Girl reruns. 

We also started watching The Killing. I'm intrigued that the entire show is based on one killing — but also I just like to see the rain because I live in central Texas and I forgot what it looks like. 

I also watched the season finale of Scandal and all I can say is OLIVIA POPE YOU CAN'T LEAVE AND DADDY DEAREST IS A HORRIBLE AND MEAN MAN AND HARRISON BETTER BE OKAY. 

I just have feelings about it. 

music :: 

I may have been charged with creating a playlist for a friend's 30th birthday party with the theme of (wait for it) SECOND CHANCE PROM. Other than that, I've basically been listening to this song on repeat >> 


on beauty ::

I've had a minor moment of grief because of canceling my Julep subscription, because I LOVE NAIL COLOR and who doesn't take Discover anymore? Apparently Julep, that's who. 

But that's okay, because I have Essie to fall back on, as well as Sinful. 

Oh and I dyed my hair with Color Brilliance Brights' ROSE and I love it. 

everything else :: 

Thankful for friends who will experiment with me and don't mind having their hands dyed along with my hair. 

Thankful for friends who will experiment with me and don't mind having their hands dyed along with my hair. 

  • Two weeks of reading.
  • Dancing with my friends to songs from our high school years.
  • SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY now available for pre-order
  • Reminders that I am safe and cared for—even when I don't feel it.
  • Synchronicity
  • Launching the second round of Rebel Diaries with my partner-in-crime Brandy Walker
  • Investing in yet another eCourse from Braid Creative (they're brilliant. Check them out. No really.) 
  • Surprise books waiting for me in the mail 
  • A husband who understands me working late nights so I can eally unplug for two weeks
  • Friends who know me well enough to ask if I'm okay.

What about you? What's made your July magnificent?  

:: Linking up with the amazing Leigh Kramer for her What I'm Into posts ::

Posted on August 28, 2014 and filed under this-here blog.

shakti energy and knowing when to embrace the rhythm of reading

This post is a special peek into the Rebel Diaries course content. I wrote this for the week of White Space, and it's one of my favorite pieces. Want to figure out how to write what you really want? Registration is open now for the course, and we would love for you to join us.

I am not an achiever. 

At least, not like Brandy.

Where Brandy will run her body into the ground working on her ideas. I exhaust myself by chasing the ideas in my brain and trying to create something out of nothing. 

It's my need for shakti-rhythm I think. Whenever I'm in that creative energy, I will go until I realize I can't go anymore. 

This makes Brandy and I really, really good team. Her Achievement coupled with both our needs for Innovation and Originality and topped with my uncanny ability to connect the dots with Intuitive Research? 

Golden. 

But I can't always be creating. Eventually, if I'm not careful, I'll reach within and come up dry. 

.::.

So there's reading. 

Reading has always been huge for me — when I was younger my uncle would call me Belle from Beauty and the Beast because I would walk around with a book constantly in my hands. I fell asleep reading, I woke up reading, and often in middle school, I would finish about ten novels a week. 

Part of this was my need for escape. My life was deceptively boring, and there was an internal storm I didn't know how to navigate. Reading helped. 

Since dealing with those demons, reading has turned into a way for me to unplug—to dive into another story and remind myself why narrative is so important to me. 

I build other worlds through reading. 
I understand my characters better through reading. 
I create a better business through reading. 

If I'm not reading, it's a sign. I'm diving into that shakti energy, but I'm not remembering the rhythm. And this? It's never good for anyone.

.::.

I'm not sure exactly when it started. I just know one day I was keeled over in exhaustion from the Story Sessions' retreat, and the next I was creating things left and right. 

It was the most exhilarated I'd felt since finished Somewhere Between Water & Sky

I developed a rhythm: wake up around 9:00, put on coffee, walk my dog, make some breakfast, and hit the desk at 10. I'd work and create and build until Russ got home, take a break, and then return to work when he went to bed. 

And then I'd work some more. 

This past Saturday I felt my body slowing down. 

I noted a few things: it was the first day off of my steroid regimen for an all-over allergic reaction; it was the moment of exhaustion I often feel the day after my cycle ends; it was the new moon and it was my birthday. 

I have to let go of some things. I kept thinking throughout the day. 

I have to let go. I have to make room for new. 

I went to sleep that night thinking of ways to start fresh. 

.::.

It's 5:40pm and I didn't crack open my laptop until about 40 minutes ago. 

All day long, I've been reading. I'm inhaling these words. Enjoying the quiet and already considering how tomorrow will be a day that I set aside to finish this book that's captured me so completely.

(In fact, when this post goes live I'll probably still be sleeping and I won't even check into the Facebook page until after a massage). 

I need to edit book two. I need to keep organizing my thoughts surrounding the shifts associated with Story Unfolding. I need to schedule emails for courses coming up within the next few months.

But more than those things, I need to breathe. I need to not create just for a moment. I need to not learn. 

By taking a beat and reading, it's going to remind me of the words still inside. And when I reach within to create whatever it is that's calling me next? 

I'll pull out my hand to find words waiting for me.

What are your rhythms? Do you have any? 

Posted on August 25, 2014 and filed under writing, {soft}.

the forgotten art of specificity

When I taught AP courses, we had these things called embedded quotes. 

In papers, students were expected to back up their thoughts and assumptions and opinions with specific quotes from the text. 

Like, for instance, writing this —

In his introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne mentions his desire for people to listen by "again [seizing] the public by the button" (5). This phrase creates the image of a man grabbing one by his collar, forcing his stance. The reader has no choice here. He or she must pay attention to Hawthorne's experiences living in the Custom House.

It wasn't enough to say It's obvious Nathaniel Hawthorne wanted us to pay attention. The students had to show us how they knew this. 

Be specific was something I wrote on almost every single paper that crossed my desk. 

I understood that Bellingham was inherently conflicted, but I wanted them to catch that he was described as "rigidly severe" yet surrounded himself with "worldly enjoyment" (127). 

It wasn't enough for me to read that Cathy was a scary character in East of Eden. Show me how Steinbeck built her as a monster with human skin. 

I knew that John Proctor held his name as something sacred, but I wanted the students to show me they understood the inner turmoil he possessed in giving his name and why he screams at the end of The Crucible "but it is my name! How may I live without my name?" 

Call it metacognition—call it higher level thinking—I just wanted to know my students could take a text and create an argument based on what they read. 

I wanted to know they could use their words well. 

.::.

Since leaving the classroom, I've noticed something. We don't like specificity. It's too much work. 

We say we love a movie, but when pressed for reasons, we mention a brief platitude of it was just really well done.

We gush about a book, and when asked what made it so amazing, we come back with the main guy character was just so hot or I didn't want it to end or it made me stay up all night reading! 

We read a blog post we love and comment yes or this or amen. 

It's in our relationships too. We say someone can absolutely do something, but we don't mention the specific reasons why we see this potential in them. We support, but keep it generic. 

Or someone says something in conversation and we agree, but instead of building on their premise we say ditto or right?! or I know. 

Often, this last one is because we're wanting to talk about something else. We're not really good listeners, as a whole. 

I say we because I'm guilty of all of these times about a million. In a rush to get my point across, I can settle for lesser words. 

But does it work?

Words are important. Our whys are important. I'm starting to reach for specifics, even when it's difficult. If anything, it's slowing me down (which is probably a good thing, honestly) and forcing me to search for the best word, not just the easiest. 

What I've learned: when you begin to take more time building your own personal specifics, this practice will bleed into your writing. 

I'm reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and am amazed by her incredible specificity. I'm only a few chapters in, but there have been numerous times in which she hasn't settled for the typical generic details of characterization. She's aiming for inclusion of human moments — those motions and thoughts we practice without realization. 

The vigilance of surroundings. 
The marking of time. 
The study of personal objects. 
The fantasies involved with difficult relationships. 

Grief is a finicky beast, and she's wrangling him with her words in the beginning of this book. It's mesmerizing and makes me want to keep reading. 

It's also making me more aware of my own movements throughout the day. 

How I always look up at the sky when I take my dog to the park. 
How I look out my study window to watch the wind move the branches of the large oak tree. 
My own marking of time. 
The way my eyes move—and what they focus on most. 
The taste and feel of things—whether it be food or drink or words or situations. 
How many times FedEx or UPS or a moving truck stops in front of the office—and how often this interrupts my flow.

Sure. This makes for longer first drafts. But details never hurt anyone. If anything, they spice up our writing and reveal to others what makes us unique. 

Be specific. 

Don't just tell us something. Show us. Pull a Hawthorne and seize us by our own hyperactive button. Make us want to keep reading, and make us want to come back for more.

Posted on August 21, 2014 and filed under words that work.

clenched fists and haunted faces.

I don't know how to tell you this story.

I don't know how to explain the haunted look in our surrogate son's eyes as he walked down the stairs in our two story house on the east side three years ago. 

My eyes caught the look—the hunched shoulders, the darting eyes, the clenched fists. 

"What's wrong?" I hadn't even gotten two steps in the door. Russ guided me further, his hand on my lower back. 

"They handcuffed me, moms." 

I blinked. "Who?"

"The police." 

This is where the story gets tricky. This is where our son paced up and down the stairs—in his under shirt, gym shorts and crew socks—telling us about the police who came to our door and handcuffed our son and pulled him outside. 

"Why?" It was the only question I could come up with — "why?" 

His hands ran over his face and found each other behind his head. I knew this look too. The one of lost words—of previous trauma—of discouragement. 

"I don't know. There's some robberies in the area? I guess? And they saw me here—I don't know. They thought it was me. They thought it was me and wouldn't listen. They didn't believe me that this was my house."

He shook his head and looked at me. "It didn't even matter that I had a key, moms." 

He sat down on the stairs and clenched and unclenched his fists. 

"I don't know, man. I just don't know. It was messed up. I had to show them pictures. Of us. That's the only way they believed me." 

Maybe you've had those moments where your sense of justice gets a little hazy. I used to teach To Kill a Mockingbird. I know the history. I saw the appreciative glances from students when I refused to use the n-word in our readings.

But this? This was new. 

When I called the precinct the next day, they had no record of an incident at our address. 

I could feel myself getting angry. 

"What do you mean there's no record. Police officers came into my home and handcuffed my son and wouldn't let him back in until he proved he lived here!"

"Ma'am, I understand. Sometimes foster kids have a way with stories, you know?" 

Bullshit. 

I laughed. "And so does this precinct. You can write this down: this is the second time an incident has occurred at this address and nothing has been filed." 

I thought of the week we first moved in—when the pounding of our door startled us awake at 2am. Russ grabbed the gun in his nightstand and tucked it in his sweatpants. I made my way to the door of our room and watched.

"It's just the police," he whispered as he looked through the peephole. 

They didn't flash a badge. They didn't let him know who they were. They just started asking questions. 

"Do you know...." 

"...she doesn't live here anymore."

The only way he knew they were legit was because he saw the flashing lights of their squad car in the distance. They had parked down the street rather than in front of our house. You know. Like in our driveway.

And so again, I was on the phone with someone trying to explain a way the very real situation of my son being handcuffed. 

"Ma'am, now that I'm looking, we do have something mentioned here about a dog?" 

I shook my head out of disbelief. Only then do I remember the squad car creeping by our house later that night when our dog, chasing a cat, raced out into the street and was hit by a speeding car. The tears are threatening now. 

"You have it written down about our dog being hit by a car but not our son being handcuffed?" 

"Ma'am, are you sure your son is telling the truth?"

"Am I..." I pulled the phone away from my ear and glanced at it as if it would change anything. Taking a deep breath I keep talking. "Am I sure he's telling the truth?! Why would he lie about this? Why would he make up a story about police handcuffing him? Why would he when he's scared shitless of doing something that will disappoint us?" 

I close my eyes, images of our son on the stairs, hands shaking and eyes darting every which way in vigilance. The only other time I saw him this upset was when his best friend's father was gunned down in his front yard and all of his memories of his own father's death came rushing back to haunt him.

Just no. 

"I need to go. Please do better. This is not okay." 

I hang up with the precinct, too frustrated and lit up from the inside to talk to them anymore. My words were staccato beats, and I'm not making any sense to them. I could hear their disbelief in the tone of voice.

That familiar weight started building in my chest and I collapsed on our bed, eyes looking out of the blinds on our window to a street wrought with drug abuse, neglect and the stigma of location.

How do you fight the imbalances of power?

How do you live when everything you were told is washed clean and found false?

How do you look your son in the eye and tell him everything will be okay when you don't even know if that's a lie? 

Before he was our son, before he took up residence in our hearts and home and co-opted a spare bedroom for dance crew practice, I heard his story. It broke my heart even then, and I noticed a resilience in this man-boy that wouldn't take nothing off nobody. 

He has anger. Everyone knows it. There were multiple times where he left our presence needing to blow off steam by walking or running or labbing — getting together with other dancers. In one of our first conversations at the house we watched youtube videos as he spoke with animation about krumping and how the creator of the dance-style did it out of recognition of anger. 

"It's about getting our anger out, moms. Punchin' the air instead of punchin' faces, you know?"

I close my eyes and see the clenched fists by his sides that night he was handcuffed. 

Posted on August 18, 2014 and filed under the {true} and the questions.

a letter to the tired ones.

I woke up this morning with my mind on the tired ones. 

You know who you are. 

The ones contemplating quitting, the ones who can't take one more negative word about their lifestyle or brand or book or artistic goal. 

The ones who cried last night because it feels the brick wall in front of them is made up out of people who just don't get it (and these are the ones who probably should be supporting you the most).

Am I talking to you? It's devastating, isn't it? Negativity can bring you down in an instant. And here's the secret that so many artists try not to think about: negativity will happen. 

Failure will happen. 

Does this describe you? Are the words of others (or maybe even the lack of them) pushing you to consider closing up shop and leaving your art for good?

I see you.

Diving into the creative life is hard. It's isolating. People aren't able to see the way you work yourself to the bone every single day. They don't know the sacrifices made or the frustration building up inside. 

And that's okay. 

Because what they do see? The beauty you release into the world? That makes all the difference. 

So keep creating that art, love. Keep pushing for the words you know will come. Rest for a bit if you must, let the fallow ground gain strength, and then get those hands dirty and plan what you know will be your best work yet. 

It's okay if no one understands. 

You do.

That loneliness? It's the quiet song of inspiration. That frustration? There's anger there that could move people to action. That exhaustion? It's a sign that the creative work within just needs a bit of air to breathe before launching out into the world. 

No one creates anything worth sharing when they're pounding the keys while looking at someone else's manuscript. Keep that head down. Keep those eyes focused. Breathe in the atmosphere of your Muse. 

And then finish. 

I can't wait to see what you create.

Posted on August 11, 2014 .