The Third is…

I wrote my first novel in 2013. The first draft was just over 79,000 words. Edits, rewrites and subtractions have left the book hovering around 77,000 words. My second book (2014) came it at just over 120,000. After Edits, rewrites, subtractions it is still at 120,000.

For the third book, I made a conscious choice to keep myself to 50 thousand. I liked the idea of clear writing goals and a word restriction. The second book had a life of its own and refused to be limited. It still does, and while I enjoy the feeling of having written something so long, I wanted to see if I could limit myself, focus the content, make hard choices.

The first completed draft was 43,000 words. Three versions later, I now have a story of 37,501 words. I fear it is becoming too short, but each time I edit, I find more to cut, and have come up empty on ideas of where to expand. Maybe it doesn’t need anything more, and maybe it needs less. Is this really a short story; a novella? I don’t know. I am looking for some brave souls to volunteer as tribute, fearless warriors, willing to offer suggestions, direction. Two would be great, more would be better. There is no rush on feedback as I am not actively trying to sell this to any agent or publisher.

Any takers?

Reply here (or on Facebook or Twitter, for those who don’t like commenting here. Weirdos) and I will send you a lovely .rtf document.

Illegibly

I have some of the worst handwriting in the history of handwriting. It is a family curse. All my siblings (and my father. My mother writes beautifully) create equally atrocious letters. If word processing had never been invented, if I were forced to write everything by hand, it is highly likely I would not be a writer.

Elementary schools used to (maybe they still do) include handwriting in their grading system. My first D’s were earned in handwriting. I remember the teacher’s comment- “Sloppy work. If Ryan were to practice, take his time, his handwriting would improve.” Sorry, Mrs Lindsay, some of us are deficient in our fine motor skills (I’m not allowed near scissors), and all the slowness and patience in the world isn’t going to make things any better.

Still, there is something very appealing to me about handwritten texts (letters, poems, stories). I enjoy going through the stacks of letters sent to me by family and friends over the years, not only to relive old memories, re-discover forgotten moments, but to revel in the intimate connection something handwritten provides. Each smudged letter, crossed out word, is a connection to the moment of composition, a closeness to the expression of thought.

At various points in my life, I’ve kept handwritten journals. Some of these are day to day, what did I do, sorts of writings, while others are sketches- of emotions I’m dealing with, people I’ve encountered or characters I’ve created. I like the difficulty of handwriting, the struggle I have to write legibly. It focuses my efforts, narrows my scope. Sometimes, I don’t bother and just fly through a page, laughing at myself as the ends of words blur into unintelligible squiggles; sentences and paragraphs that barely qualify.

I’ve just spend the last two days reading a journal I wrote when I was between the ages of 19 and 21. Terrible spelling. Every event described was either the most important or most mundane of my existence. Certain phrases repeated themselves on almost every page. As I read, each entry made me guffaw at my strangeness, cringe at my hyperbole. Today, I plan to read a journal from my early years at the community college. I expect to have a similar response.

Every time I go through one of these readings, I am ready to commit myself to writing more often. I’ve managed a page a month for the last two years, but I want more. So much of life gets lost over time, altered or forgotten, and while a handwritten (or typed) account of an event is not free of bias or distortion, it is an honest attempt at telling.

Do any of you keep journals? If so, are they something typed, stored in a file, or are they written out longhand? Is your handwriting like mine?

 

 

Memory Shmemory

A *mostly* Wordless Wednesday post today.

I’ve been thinking about our old house lately. It has only been 3 1/2 years since we moved from the city to the suburbs, but in many ways it feels much more time has passed. While I am grateful for where I currently live, I miss certain things about our former residence. (mostly the yard). Looking through the images of the interior (I took most of the following pictures the day after we moved out), I am surprised at how small it looks now.

Anyway, here are some pictures.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Below-The family, one week before the move.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Garden boxes.

SN155180.JPG

Basketball court and mountain view. I miss both…

SN155183.JPG

Swell parties were held in this fine kitchen

SN155146.JPG

This room, long, narrow.

SN155168.JPG

SN155165.JPG

 

SN155188.JPG

First weekend in the new place.

SN155219.JPG

Advice Needed

I’ve another blog. It goes by the name Only One Shoe. The concept revolves around very short stories written about photographs I take of found items.

The rules for what gets photographed are simple-If I come across something that seems out of place or uniquely situated, I take photographs. I am not allowed to re-position the object or manipulate the surroundings in any way. I take several images, hoping to capture as much of the area around the object as possible, pick the best one, then write something (hopefully) clever about how the object ended up where I found it.

It has been suggested to me in the past that this would make a swell book. I rejected the idea at first, thinking that: My photography is far to amateurish for publishing- and I would need close to 150 to 200 images and stories to reach book length. It seemed daunting.

I’ve come to realize that I actually really like the idea and am gearing myself up to pursue it more aggressively. The blog has sort of languished over the last year, and I think part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to add to the collection is I want to save the ideas and images and include them in the book.

What I need is some feedback about the idea, the blog, the images, the stories. If you’re feeling up to the effort, take a look, then tell me what you think about what is already up there. If this is not something you as a reader would be interested in seeing in print, odds are others feel similarly. On the other hand, if you think this would be a stellar book, I could use the boost.

Thanks in advance, friends.

IWSG-March

Happy March 1st. While technically still winter, my mind is already planning for warmer weather, walks in the sunshine, iced coffee. I’m ready to start cycling again as well. Hooray for spring.

It is also Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog time. You know the drill- Every writer is insecure from time to time and in need of some good support. The first Wednesday of each month (and all the time in our Facebook group, really) we gather to share our experiences, fears, doubts, achievements and successes. You can’t ask for a better group. Check us out here– Once you realize how amazing we are, you’ll want to participate.

InsecureWritersSupportGroupBadge-300x295

This months question-Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Yes. Yes.

The end.

Okay, not really the end.

My first completed novel was written from a reworked story. I had the idea five years before I began writing it, and when I finally made the attempt, things did not go well at all. I wrote myself into a corner after ten pages. Frustrated, I left it alone for three more years.

When I decided I was tired of being the writer who had not yet written anything of substance, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, and my first inclination was to return to that old story. The same issues remained and time had not offered me a clear way out of them. I agonized over how to proceed. I didn’t want to scrap what I had written as I really liked it, and this story was my best hope for reaching the 50,000 word goal. The tone was right, and the voice as close to what was in my head as possible. I finally decided that this one moment was not worth any more agony, wrote three pages that felt satisfactory moved forward. After that, most of the story unfolded cleanly (but not painlessly, as a mountain of insecurity was still waiting for me). I’m still not sure my solution worked, and that particular chapter is one of my least favorite, but revisiting the old story paid off in the end. I am very proud of that book.

I’m trying it again with a flash piece which I felt would work well as a longer story. So far so good. I’m looking for another beta reader for that particular story, if anyone is interested.

Now, tell me what’s good with all of you…

 

Clutter

Over the weekend, my wife and I spent several hours de-cluttering. Because our home has ample storage space, it is easy to put things in a closet, a bin, and forget they exist. I am amazed at the amount of stuff we’ve acquired over the last few years since moving to South Jordan. Add that number to the things we’ve hung onto for 20+ years of being married  and we have an embarrassing amount of possessions.

Going through the linen closet, we discovered washcloths, hand and bath towels that were wedding presents. Faded and worn out, they had not been used in more than a decade. There were medicines which had expired years ago, first aid kits with dried out antiseptic wipes. We made quite a pile of things that must go from these items.

But it wasn’t only old and worn out things that were taking up space. Our storage areas and closets were full of nearly new items we weren’t using which could benefit others in our extended family (and beyond). We collected shirts, pants, and shoes, jackets, books, and put them into sacks with the intention of offering them to someone else.

Changes.

Somewhere along the road. I’ve lost interest in the concept of more. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, it felt like I could never have enough stuff, and when I had the opportunity, I lobbied my wife to purchase these things. Often, I got the things I wanted.

I finally understand that there is only a fleeting pleasure in pursuing the bigger and better, and even less happiness in in the acquisition of things. And while I type, I see the arrogance of even writing about this, the privileged position of having a choice at all.

Even after going through and removing objects from my environment, I still have more than enough, more than I need, and certainly more than I deserve.

Luckily, none of us ever get what we really deserve.

Through the Years

It has been a while since I’ve talked about my boys. In the summer of 2007, Dylan and Destry were placed with us through the foster care system. They’d just had their 7th birthday. Nine months later, we officially adopted them into our family.

They are juniors at Herriman High School now. I feel the way most parents do- One day they were little boys, and the next day they’d become young men. I am grateful for the good people they are, regardless of the strange parenting they receive. They both have huge hearts.

What follows is a year by year photo essay, starting with their first weekend in our home up to last Friday, when they attended a school dance.

s7000429

August 2007-Onion Days Parade and picnic, Payson Utah. Seven years old and not quite sure what to think of their current situation. They did get some swell MetLife swag.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer 2008- We went to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City for a play-date with some friends. We arrived early (or were the friends late?). Here, Destry (left) and Dylan (right) ponder the pros and cons of swinging.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

On the year anniversary of their adoption, we took them to Timpanogos Cave. Dylan is on the left.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

October 2010- Halloween morning in our kitchen (our Sugarhouse, Utah home). I’m not sure what Dylan is supposed to be, but I’m assuming Destry is dressed as a tourist.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

June 2011 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. One of our favorite places to vacation. I like to make the boys stand next to random statues (I have quite the collection). It likely makes me a bad parent (joking), but they are always good sports about it. Well, they used to be.

img_0422

Outside Smith and Edwards Country Store in Ogden, Spring 2012- A bad hair period? Perhaps, but we’ve always let them wear whatever clothes they liked and have their hair as long, short, sloppy as they wanted.

img_1965

Cancun, Mexico Spring 2013- We’d been at the resort less than five hours and both of them already had their summer tans going. Cancun is both boys favorite vacation destination. img_3787

October, 2014. Back in Cancun. Both boys look much older than the previous Spring. Here, they are posing with a kid from England they met while swimming about. They were inseparable for five days. I’m not sure they’ve spoken since.

img_4392

The lads and me, Fall 2015 in our South Jordan, Utah kitchen. Dylan is sporting the rhino look, while Destry and I model a less severe style.

img_6915

Track season, Spring 2016. Orem, Utah at Grandma Kempton’s house. While this photo is clearly posed, I am stunned at the difference 8 months can make. These are no longer boys, but young men.

img_8351

Outside our South Jordan, Utah home- Last weekend, February, 2017. They had a grand time at the dance, and by all accounts, were perfect gentlemen.

It is funny, I feel I haven’t aged all that much. Yet somehow, in what feels very much like overnight, my family has changed from this-

SN151528.JPG

To this-DSC_0092.JPG

It may have happened quickly, but if I stop and think, the years, events, vacations, good and bad days are floating about for me to remember. I am grateful for each and every day being their father. I’m a lucky guy.