Aug
30
2009
20

Serve.gov: A Complaint

I love the idea of serve.gov. In fact, I’d hoped it would help me find opportunities as I travel to different cities.

I’m disappointed.

It is SO abused. It makes me nauseous. A whole lot of the “volunteer opportunities” aren’t really service, by my definition: they are giving free help to for-profit companies.

A few weeks ago, a for-profit pharmacy advertising for unpaid help. A marketing company asked for a “volunteer” to man their booth at a county fair to advertise their for-profit services. There were many more instances of, what appeared to me, companies and businesses who want something for nothing.

I’m sorry, I just don’t see that as service. It’s starting to look like small companies, who don’t want to pay real employees, enticing people to work for free.

There are still a few gems, if you scour and scour, so I suppose serve.gov does serve its purpose.

But it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. So many people are unemployed. I really hope for-profit companies aren’t taking advantage of volunteers who think they’re serving the country—but are only serving the profit line of a business—instead of hiring real employees who need real work. And with serve.gov being such a national force… could it be contributing to an (albeit, small) increase in the unemployment rate?

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Volunteering | Tags:
Aug
29
2009
26

Time to Barricade and Write

Time to get a ton of writing done. I’m barricading myself in until Tuesday. Items gathered:

  • Bananas
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Marshmallows
  • Coffee
  • Ovaltine
  • Almond Milk
  • Sweet Potato Chips
  • Chocolate
  • The Internet
  • Facebook 
  • Good Books

I have other, healthy food. This is just my comfort food that gets me going while writing. I might pop down to Books & Company and barricade myself there, but… I think I might stay here with my cats. They cuddle.

So what are your supplies for a writing barricade? How do you get a ton of writing done?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Aug
27
2009
38

Perplexion

I know that’s not a real word. I just spent a couple hours reading through one of pseudonym’s old works that is going to be released in a new format in the great big, wide world. So I got another chance at tweaking, which is a good review for me, since I’m currently writing book five of that series.

The problem is that I was, without a doubt, a better writer then: three years ago.

I don’t get it. I simply don’t get it. I’m completely perplexed. I’m depressed. I’m frustrated. I’m embarrassed.

I’m getting worse. Much worse, no contest, no subjectivity, I’m getting worse.

All the practice, all the reading, all the writing… and for what? And good lord, this is from the period when I was hacking out 56K a month! I have all the time in the world to fuss, now, and I’M GETTING WORSE!

I was hoping that by the end of this post, I’d have a way to spin this into something positive, something uplifting.

But I don’t.

Back to the drawing board, I guess. I think a movie is called for. Maybe two. Any suggestions?

What do you do when your writing’s frustrating you? Ever been afraid you’ve lost the magic touch?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: ,
Aug
25
2009
16

Acclimation

Getting used to my new life is difficult. I still have all the old guilt. Because, with two jobs, I used to work from the time I got up until the time I went to bed, I feel guilty when I don’t work all day long.

When I used to work two jobs, I used to have 4-hour nights a majority of the time. Lately, I’ve been sleeping a full nine hours. Also makes me feel guilty.

I am struggling to overcome this.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the fact that when my niece wants to pop by my camper and spend the afternoon, I can do it. I can spend a couple hours with her, and still get my work done later. I can take a walk with my best friend during her dinner break. I have time to babysit my niece for an evening.

I am also enjoying the fact that I have time to make dinner. Before, the maximum time I could spend on dinner or lunch or breakfast was about five minutes of preparation, and I had to eat it while working.

At the end of the day, I have time to sit by the campfire and just look at the flames. And do nothing.

I am still reading a book a day. You can friend me on Goodreads, or just check out the little widget to the right: it lists all my latest reads, in descending order. I’ll put up a list of what I want to read in a bit, but I’m starting to worry: this could be expensive! I might have to end up just reading whatever I come across. We’ll see!

So how is your life going? Do you have the time to spend with friends or family when they call? How’s the writing?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures |
Aug
24
2009
18

The Arbitrary. The Sweets.

image The blogiverse is a bit like a magic eight ball: it always has the answer to my problems. Today I’m trying to finish a story that I’ve been trying to finish for over a year. It has two alternating plots, two POVs. And I just can’t seem to finish it.

Then I read the Intern’s post, Annihilating the Arbitrary. (If she is not currently in your reader, you must add her. Now.)

(Have you added her yet?)

Going through my WIP, I’m realizing that the pairing of these two storylines is arbitrary. Well, not entirely. They are mostly there because they will please the reader. This is a series, and the main through-line characters have unfinished business that needs to be finished, but that’s not enough for a whole story. And the second plot is needed because it’s new and yet it’s what my readers want and expect.

But that’s not good enough. There needs to be a reason for this pairing.

I usually start with my theme/s and my through-lines and my character arcs, but this time I’ve either forgotten them, it seems. So I’m making a list. I’ve dropped all the seeds; now I just need to make them bloom. And I have to tie the two story-lines together at the end in one big climax, or else it will read like a soap opera.

What’s wrong with a soap opera, again?

image And why the pictures of candy? Well, in my 365-books-in-a-year reading project, I’m re-reading some of my all-time favorites: the Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter series. I want to make Turkish Delight and Treacle Fudge. I’ve read about both for years. It’s time for me to try them! Although I fear I’m going to be devastated if I hate Turkish Delight.

Thanks again for all the book recommendations. I’m still wading through them and trying to make my list and post it, but it might take awhile. In the meantime, if you’d like to friend me on GoodReads, I post what I’ve read every day.

What think you on arbitrary? And what foods from fiction have you always wondered about but never tried?

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Aug
21
2009
20

The Graveyard Book

imageI started with a quick read. I don’t think I’ll blog about all 365 books I read this year, but this is the first, and this is a good one. I mean, it’s Neil Gaiman.

The Graveyard Book is one of those books that you connect with so well, you feel bits are written just for you. It’s also an inspiring reminder of how to live life—at least, how I want to live the rest of my life.

It’s about a boy, Nobody Owens, whose family is killed and he’s raised by ghosts in a graveyard, where he learns how to live life from the dead. Above is the “adult” cover, I’m told. Neil Gaiman’s books seem to work really well for both kids and adults, and it’s hard to pigeonhole some of them as either.

In the first part, there’s this quote that is so applicable to my recent decision:

“It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

I was afraid of that.

I purposely left bits of myself behind, LOL. And I’m happy to report that I am happy, annoyingly so! Bod, (short for Nobody) at the end of the story, finally leaves the graveyard, and these are his plans, which are my plans exactly!

“See the world,” said Bod. “Get into trouble. Get out of trouble again. Visit jungles and volcanoes and deserts and islands. And people. I want to meet an awful lot of people.”

The end also has another bit of wisdom:

Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken

“Leave no path untaken,” repeated Bod. “A difficult challenge, but I can try my best.”

It’s the sort of book you want to give as a graduation gift and make sure they read it and make sure they learn and apply its lessons well. But of course, that would sort of ruin the experience, wouldn’t it? Because it doesn’t read like a “lesson” book. It reads like a great adventure.

Below, Neil Gaiman does a 2-minute reading of one of my favorite parts, about a poet, Nehemiah Trot and his revenge on his critics. I think it was written for all of us writers!

(There’s a Q&A session, if you want to watch the whole talk at the National Book Festival.)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Book-A-Day Reading Challenge | Tags: ,
Aug
20
2009
15

Ya’ Lazy Louse!

I’m writing all out of order again. I’ve got about 15K of the end, and today I filled out two scenes in the beginning. And added more to the end. Ended up, by the end of the day, having written over 5,000 words.

I really dislike when my process changes. I’d rather it stay the same. Predictable and reliable. IN ORDER.

Anyhow, it sounds like a productive day, doesn’t it?

But.

I didn’t get up. I didn’t dress. I didn’t shower. I didn’t brush my teeth. I just lay in bed and wrote until I was done. Until 2pm.

I was going to get up after the writing and go to a movie, but then I remembered that I set the absolutely crazy goal of reading 365 books this year and I’m a bit worried I’ve bitten off more than is humanly possible to chew.

But I told you guys. So now I’m embarrassed. So I sat in bed for another three and half hours, reading. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing through my camper, and everything was drying out in preparation to be rained and leaked on again tonight. The window is right here when I’m in my bed, whereas if I sit at my little tiny desk, I’m looking at the dirty dishes in my sink. I mean, if I want to look at the window from my little desk, I have to put forth the incredible effort and TURN MY HEAD.

This is the life.

So I can look at this in two ways. I’m writing a lot and reading a lot and that’s productive to my goals and I need to do that every day. Worse, out of the last week, if I lie in bed and don’t get out until I finish writing, I get my writing goals done before 11am or 1pm or 2pm. If I get up like a normal human being? I get nothing done.

(I would’ve sat outside but it was raining. I might be able to sit outside tonight, if it doesn’t rain. But it will. :-( This is Ohio.)

Or you can look at it like the whole campground probably sees it: that lazy louse in the little camper lays in bed all day. She didn’t get up until 2pm!

I promise to go on an hour walk every night (while listening to books on tape… this goal was a lot bigger than I thought it was). I promise to do yoga every night. A whole hour. I promise to go hiking this weekend. I promise to patch the leaks in my camper… soon. I might even go to the county fair tonight.

I still feel guilty. I still feel like I lay in bed all day like a lazy louse. See? I’m the one who gives writers a bad rap.

Jury: What’s the verdict? What would you do?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,
Aug
19
2009
29

The Importance of Being Arrogant

Nothing good comes from being humble. Not in writing. Sure, it’s socially acceptable, and even moreso for women, I suspect. There is nothing that endears us more than a self-deprecating person. But when one sets pen to paper, one must be a “little god.”*

There’s nothing I love more than strong, arrogant, cocky writing. My best work, which for some odd reason I hardly ever do, is always when I’m at my cockiest.

I’m rarely so. And when I am, I promptly school myself into humility again.

Well, bah-humbug humility. What is this watered-down crap?

Enough.

What think you?

*If you get that reference, I will think you are the coolest person on the planet.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: ,
Aug
18
2009
41

A Reading Challenge; Help!

I used to read two or three books a night. That was after school, after homework, after playing outside, after swim practice, after watching TV and after practicing piano. (When I was young, I used to spend two hours watching TV after school. I’d play along with commercials or practice during commercials.)

So how is it that I seem to have less time to read now, and definitely have a lighter schedule than above?

I have been envious of Lauren Baratz-Logsted, ever since I learned she reads a book a day. Jealous in a good way: I like her, and am grateful because she was instrumental in getting me my first gig at BenBella Books. (As an aside, she has a great series going on at BiblioBuffet: “The Seven Stages of My Reading Life So Far.” Here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, which is my favorite. I dream of working on the floor of a bookstore, even though the pay is abysmal!)

I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but I’ve decided it’s time. Between August 18, 2009 and August 17, 2010, I want to read 365 books.*

But now I need suggestions. Will you help? Feel free to answer none, one, a few, or all questions here or treat it like a meme and answer on your own blog. If you answer on your own blog, paste the link here, and I’ll link to you in the post.

  • What book(s) made you a better writer?
  • What book(s) made you cry?
  • What book(s) made you laugh until you were in tears?
  • What book(s) made you feel like you could conquer the world?
  • What book(s) have you read three times or more?
  • What book(s) kept you up all night reading?
  • What book(s) do you want to read again?
  • Any other recommendations?
  1. Michelle posted a list on Magical Musings.
  2. Kath posted a list on her blog, Writeful Mumblings.
  3. Rachel posted a list on Facebook.
  4. Katie also posted a list on Facebook and on her newly-designed, very pretty blog—check it out!
  5. Starving Write Now has a list up on her blog.
  6. Valerie posted a list on her blog, too!
  7. Alyson Noel posted a list on her blog.
  8. Aerin recommends all the 5-stars on her goodreads list.
  9. Bee Nagel has a great goodreads list, too!

*If I get freakishly behind, I reserve the right to change it to 5 books per week (weekends off), for a total of 260 books. Don’t you love this fine print? Do you think I’m nuts? Okay, I am. I mean, I’ve read entire books backwards, just because I was curious to see what they looked like that way…

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Book-A-Day Reading Challenge | Tags: ,
Aug
17
2009
34

The How, the Cat, the Question

imageHow are you doing this?” is the number one question I’m asked. Since I can think of nothing else to write about, I’ll write about that. :-)

First, living on the road can be cheap or expensive. There are those who do it on 6K a year, and there are those who insist it can’t be done on less than 100K a year. (They eat out every night, have parties, drive 500K motorhomes, and stick to the luxury campgrounds.) And then there’s everything in between.

We are using my meager writing income and Glenn’s income from Alaska. After we save enough to upgrade our “home,” Glenn will retire, and we’ll use his retirement.

The decision was made easy by the fact that I didn’t want most of the stuff we had. And the piano studio was just paying to live in this community I didn’t like, with overpriced rental homes that was just holding stuff I didn’t want. Although, in the last two weeks, I’ve been BOMBARDED with phone calls for piano lessons. The economy must be improving, because while this used to be the norm, the last two years have been pretty slow. I don’t regret my decision, though. I’m just so happy, I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

I almost forgot to tell you: CAESAR’S BACK!!! Didn’t I say he’d come back? He was waiting by the camper when I got home last night, sitting there like, “I found mommy, and now I’m not moving until she comes home.” He snuggled with me ALL night! I’m SO happy!!!!!

Um, yeah. Like I said, not much to talk about. So I’m going to steal a page from Melanie’s book: ask me anything, any question, and I will (probably) answer it. It can be about camping, my new life, my old life, reading, movies, or anything. Not that I’m that interesting, LOL.

Here’s a question for you: What do you dream of doing when you retire?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags: ,

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