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DISTRACTIONS

I’m distracted. I’m distracted by everything. The sky is blue, but look over there, it’s all grayed out because of that cloud formation. Squirrel. Facebook has a great article on the life cycle of deep water jelly fish. Maybe I should check on the vegetable schedule at the you-pick-it farm. Laundry is piling up and what am I cooking for dinner? Wait, I want to finish that audio book I’m listening to.

You get the picture. Anything and everything keeps me away from writing. It needs to stop. I have had productive episodes where I get a lot of writing done. During those times I write every day. Now I can’t even seem to keep up with my blog posts let alone anything else.

How do I solve this dilemma? How do other writers solve this problem?

There are countless sources out there that encourage writers to keep writing. I pulled up more than a million links on a search request. Even reading those inspirational passages is a distraction because I’m reading them, not writing. Reading is important. I must read in order to understand what good writing is, but it means I’m not writing.

I tell myself to put the book down and apply fingers to the keyboard. Okay. That worked. My fingers are typing this blog post. That’s writing and it counts. What else can motivate me?

Deadlines. I took a number of writing classes for several reasons. One was to learn how to write and another was for the deadlines. Assignments are good. They make me apply myself to the task. I also have deadlines when I write for Big Blend Magazine. I find I need the deadlines because it forces me to do the work.

I’ve heard some writers who say they can only write when that illusive mistress, Inspiration, strikes. I think a writers needs to prod inspiration. Some days it may take a cattle prod on full charge to get the inspiration going, but depending on inspiration alone may mean weeks of blank pages.

Some of the greatest authors say their secret to writing is to set a specific time aside every day and write for a predetermined length of time. I know one person that writes for two hours every morning most days. Another author writes when he hikes. He dictates into a voice recorder and gets his exercise at the same time. One person mentioned posting their writing goals on Twitter. That way, the writer’s followers keep her accountable to her writing goals. I find my most productive time is in the evening when the house quiets down. I have no responsibilities and feel free to spend the time doing what I want. Unfortunately, this is also the time when I can be the most brain dead. After a particular difficult day at work, I’m so out of focus I can’t bring myself to open a document, let alone type words. I’m afraid that excuse is just too handy and I’ve been using it too much. Writing anything is better than writing nothing.

Along with write anything would be write everything. A wise and respected author I know lives by the practice of having more than one project going at a time. So if I don’t want to work on the novel right now, then I can work on the next article for Big Blend, or this blog post. I also have the continuing story previously posted on my web site that needs another chapter. Right there are four things I could work on. I also have a new short story that needs some tweaking. I think my inspiration is coming back to me.

So maybe it’s true. If you start writing something then the momentum continues. In fact, I’m close to my word limit on this piece and I’ve already started the next chapter of Fortuna. I can’t forget I have another article due for Big Blend and my novel’s protagonist has been talking to me lately. I think I’m going to visit her.

What gets you writing, or painting, or doing those things you tend to procrastinate about? Someday there will be a pill for that.

TRIBE

It’s been awhile. I have several partially written blog posts which are unfinished because, on second thought, I didn’t want to fuel the fire. I still don’t. The fire scares me, and I’m not going to add to it.

This post is about tribe, defined as a group or community that shares a common culture and is linked by economic, social, religious, or family ties.

I rolled my eyes when I heard that word a few years ago. Here we go again with the trendy and catchy label. I dislike it. The other thing is I never quite fit in.

A few days ago, I read an article about women over sixty and what they need to keep living a healthy and active life. One of those things was a tribe, a group or community with a shared culture, language, ideas, religion, etc. You get the idea. We need to be part of something.

Do you belong to a tribe? How about your family? Do you spend time with siblings, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, or cousins? Maybe you belong to a church group and spend time going to church, teaching Sunday school, or helping the poor and homeless. Your tribe could be the bowling league you belong to, or the hiking club, a book club, other gamers, or people you work with. Maybe, like many people I know, you are a writer and hide yourself away in your office alone while you work. Do you have a tribe then? I hope so because many writers still reach out through the internet and connect with people that way.

For me, I’ve always wanted to be part of something, to be included, to be accepted. I’ve skittered along the borders of groups, invited in, but not absorbed into the group. Over time, and I mean decades, I’ve come to realize that’s who I am and I don’t need a specific group, what I have are individuals that make Venn diagram of several tribes.

Recently, I met a friend I hadn’t seen or talked to for months. We chatted about what was going on in our lives beyond our Facebook posts. We got on the subject of tribe and agreed we belong to each other’s tribe despite the fact we don’t see each other very often. We share interests in writing, astronomy, pets, and travel. She talked about her friends from New York who are still her friends and part of her tribe even though they don’t know her like they did when she lived in New York. I have friends and family like that. We are scattered all over the country, yet we still belong to a tribe.

Facebook connected me to some of my high school classmates. I wasn’t close to most of these people back then, but almost forty years later, I love these women. We have lived diverse lives, but we’ve connected on some other level and I consider them a tribe. I have a couple of friends from work that love fantasy and superhero movies. We read similar books and go out to lunch and a movie. There are women in my life that like to preserve food and I’ve spent time canning peaches with them, or going to a you-pick-it farm to get apples, or corn, or cucumbers for pickles.  One of those women is part of my work tribe and the movie tribe.

My writing group is my tribe of words. Their insights help me fashion comprehensible stories. I couldn’t do it without them. Then there are the Superstars Writing Seminar people that are another tribe of writers, editors, publishers and they have their own circle in my Venn diagram.

I recently visited my ninety three year old Godmother. Yes, 93. She takes care of the other old ladies in her tribe by taking them to the doctor or to get their hair fixed. Yes, she still drives and goes out for meal with her friends. She is a long time member of the German club. She still sews. She showed me these beautiful curtains she made for her house. The curtains were much nicer than any commercially made ones. During the hours I spent with her, her phone rang at least four times. Her friends were calling to chat. Two years ago, she went to Germany for a month. She has a lovely attitude towards life and this is what I aspire to.

I am over sixty. I retired after thirty four years in the telcom industry and went back to work ten months later in the same industry. I had to go back to work to help pay for all the things I’m interested in doing, like traveling, attending workshops, concerts, and working on my house. My tribes keep me interested in life and doing things and push me to improve myself, my writing, and my knowledge base. As I age, I appreciate my tribes more and more. I am not bored. I am interested in more things than I can absorb. I want to keep moving and learning and experiencing things.

The point of the post is to encourage you to stay interested in life, be a part of what is happening around you. Stay positive and take some time to figure out your own tribes. In the long run, they will help keep you going.

 

Nightlife in Tucson

I faced the street and watched people walk by the window at Pizzeria Bianco. Some are hurrying to catch the jazz show at the Rialto Theater. People strolled by, young men and women decked out in their Friday fancies. Older people walked up to peer in the door to see if there was a waiting line at the restaurant. It was a steady stream of humanity and I couldn’t be happier.

When I moved to Tucson in 1979, I worked downtown. It was a vibrant place during the day. Jacome’s Department Store, Walgreens, Woolworth, Harry Horowitz Jewelry, Lerner’s, Café Poca Cosa, Wig-O-Rama, Crescent Tobacco Shop, the Chicago store, Johnny Gibson’s Gym Equipment, Ronstadt Hardware, the Downtown Coffee Shop, and so many more businesses that I can’t remember. Over the years, the shops closed and disappeared. Buildings were neglected and a couple were turned into parking garages. Downtown died. There were still shows at the Tucson Community Center, but the night life was scarce and it wasn’t a place I wanted to walk at night.

2016-01-24 18.29.08

Nightlife in downtown Tucson languished for years and years. I grieved. I wanted the lively place I remembered and I couldn’t have it. It didn’t exist.

Over the decades, a few places opened here and there. The Congress Hotel started having music events. The historic Rialto Theater opened in 1995 as a music venue, but still, downtown wasn’t an exciting place to be unless there was an event. In 2005, the Fox Theater opened on New Year’s Eve featuring Bruce Hornsby. Still, downtown wasn’t what it could be. A couple of art galleries opened, a couple of small restaurants opened. Café Poca Cosa moved to its current location on Pennington and changed from the quaint Mexican themed restaurant in the Santa Rosa Hotel to an urban gem serving the same fabulous food. Most of the businesses were open during the day and there were and are quite a few lunch places catering to the daytime working people, but most of the lunch joints close after the lunch rush.

2016-01-24 18.26.52

In 2008 and 2009, I worked as a phone company engineer. My assigned area was downtown Tucson. Old buildings were being gutted or demolished and aerial phone cables needed to be buried. Some of the buried cables had to be removed because the building was scheduled to be demolished like the Santa Rosa Hotel. The building was obliterated from the corner of Broadway and Scott and a new multistoried office building took its place. This was the visible beginning of downtown Tucson’s rejuvenation.

I heard Tucson was getting a modern streetcar.  I can’t even begin to tell you the controversy involved in that. Even though some of the funding came from federal grants, some came from private sources, and yes, the city pitched in some money, people grumbled about what a waste it was. I heard complaints that no one would ride the streetcar, no one went downtown but college students, and there was nothing to do downtown. I didn’t care and I wouldn’t let other’s negative attitudes dissuade me. I was excited about the streetcar.  I knew it would be good for Tucson.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The roads downtown were torn up, roads closed, businesses were inconvenienced, and people complained. You never knew where you would be routed on a day to day basis when you drove through downtown. Parking was disrupted and a couple of parking lots disappeared. While they were laying the tracks, I noticed other building going up. Some were new buildings taking the place of my favorite parking lots and other buildings were transformed.

In July of 2014, Sun Link, Tucson’s modern streetcar opened its doors to the public. The first weekend, all rides were free and we made an event out of it. I and my friends rode the streetcar from end to end. The route is only 3.9 miles going from the Mercado district which is west of Interstate 10 to the University Medical Center on Campbell and Helen. The streetcar travels through downtown, 4th Avenue, the University of Arizona Main Gate area and through campus.  There are many places to get on and off and it runs until 2:00 am on the weekends. I think it’s a perfect way to travel if you want to get a snoot full and not drive home.

2016-01-24 18.23.30

Every time I go downtown, I discover new businesses. Many are restaurants, but there are some gift shops, art galleries, an olive oil vendor, a kitchen gadget place, and I suspect over time, the jewelry shops will return, as will a clothing stores, a card shop, and all the other shops that make living in a downtown area possible.

Did I mention all the student housing downtown? The old Greyhound bus depot was replaced by an apartment complex of gleaming glass where all you have to do is walk downstairs to find the World of Beer and pizza. Young people fill the area, some watching the numerous televisions filled with sports while others are out walking their dogs. The Rialto is right around the corner and Club Congress is across the street.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Who knows how long it will last, but for now, nightlife in downtown Tucson lives again. I am pleased.

Off Kilter

On November 13, 2015, The French people suffered multiple attacks, killing innocent people that were doing everyday things, like eating, listening to a concert, going to a soccer game, or practicing their religion. It was a coordinated attack by terrorists that will be specifically unnamed because we cannot give them any more power.

This week forty three people were killed in a suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Did you hear about that? Do you really care? It’s just another act of violence in a far away country. It didn’t matter that many of those people were doing their daily shopping at a market. People that had nothing to do with the political situation in the place they lived. Past tense, had lived. Not living now.

A rancher was shot in Idaho by law enforcement. The rancher’s bull had been hit by a car. The Sherriff’s department called him and asked him to come take care of the bull because the injured bull charged the people around it. The rancher had a shotgun, because that’s how you put down a large animal that is injured, a bullet to the head. The end result was the rancher was shot, his wife and two others were handcuffed and the bull lay bleeding on the pavement because the deputies shot it in the stomach instead of the head. You can read about this on the web. I wasn’t there, I can’t say for sure, but something stinks here besides the dead bull.

Every night my husband watches the news on Al Jezera. I listen and sometimes I watch. I am appalled by the devastation in Syria. I see the apartment buildings reduced to rubble. I see so many refugees. I see injured people, dead people, and hopeless people. I don’t understand why some people feel it necessary to destroy everything around them. I cannot see how the destruction and death does anything to further any cause.

Young women, girls really, are kidnapped in a country where the people aren’t white. We make noises of outrage, but what can we do? It’s not here and they aren’t our daughters. Why were they taken? Because some people believe women shouldn’t be educated. Half of those girls were returned months later as women and pregnant. They will be ostracized by their families. Where do they go and what do they do? They aren’t educated and they are very young.

Tens of thousands of people are displaced by the violence in their home towns. They don’t want to leave their homes, but if they stay, they will probably die, or worse. Women seem to have a more difficult role especially when war and violence rule. Refugee camps don’t have proper sanitation, housing, and in some parts of the world, they don’t have food.

In America, we have racial tension, looting, killing, and vandalism. It’s more violence. Violence does not fix anything. It does not open anyone’s eyes to the plight of the oppressed. All it does is piss everyone else off. Being pissed off closes minds. Who wants to listen to your problems if you’re in the middle of destroying a neighbor’s car. Did that business owner do something to you that offended you? Don’t do business with them and tell your friends about. Don’t break everything. No one benefits.  Breaking someone’s stuff isn’t going to make that person understand you or your position. All it does is harden their heart and mind against you.

We humans hate. You have the wrong colored skin. You practice the wrong religion. You follow the wrong political party. You are wrong to love someone of the same sex. You don’t belong to one of the two sexes but you fit somewhere in between and that’s wrong. We hate women. We hate men. We hate the poor. We hate the rich. We hate animals. We hate our environment. You are different than me, so I hate you because I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you, I just hate you. I hate the fact my hands are shaking as I type this.

The organizers, the movers and shakers, the people that initiate and perpetuate the violence are not going to go away. As we’ve seen recently, when one group is dismantled through arrests and death another one grows in its place. It is like the hydra of violence. The only people that benefit are the immortal heads of the hydra itself. The hydra is powerful.

The powerful want change and they want to dominate that change whether it is a change of religion, elimination of one ethnic group or another, oppression of people they believe to be less than them, or they want more resources. They want to dictate how the rest of the world should be. These goals cannot be achieved through violence. Only hate, aggression, and destruction result from violence.

This blog is off topic from my normal travel and writing blog. I’m off kilter from this most recent round of destruction and since this my rant and my blog, I’m going to tell you what I want. I want education, tolerance, social and economical parity or at least some semblance of it. Throughout the world I want the people to have the ability to provide for themselves. These things won’t eliminate the violence. I suspect violence is part of human nature. My hope is if the people’s needs are met, then when the terrorist recruiters come around looking for followers there will be fewer willing to listen.  Maybe we can create a world where we want to live and create, not destroy and dominate.

Wandering

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go places. When I was very young I don’t remember straying far from home, but as I got older, eight or nine years old, I started wandering.  This was the 1960’s and most of us kids were left to our own devices during the summer. We didn’t wear protective gear and everyone played in the streets.

We moved to a new housing development just outside Colorado Springs when I was six. When I wasn’t in school, after my chores were done, I played outside. My parents required that I was home by dinner. That was my main limitation, except I wasn’t supposed to go down by the pond or over to the rail road tracks.

Right.                                                                     2015-08-14 12.19.02

I remember being fascinated by that pond, with its rickety wooden planked dock and mud flats. There were fish in the pond. They were carp, but who cared. I didn’t have a fishing pole, but I was inventive and it was fun. One time I was down in the mud and one leg sunk down well above my knees. I managed to get out and hose myself off at home before my mom saw me, but that was the first time I had a clue that maybe the pond was dangerous. I didn’t know how to swim and my parents warning finally sunk in. It didn’t stop me from going back again and again.

Once I learned how to ride a bike, I wandered further afield. I loved the rail road tracks even though the trains scared the heck out of me. I liked the slag rocks. The melted stuff had pretty colors and weird shapes. The other kids and I would tell scary stories of how people would lose an arm or a leg or get completely squished by the train. I think it was these stories that contributed to my fascination with the train even more than the weird slag rocks.

2015-08-15 10.26.56

We moved to Florence, Colorado, when I was in the fifth grade. Summers were spent on my bike or at the pool. I rode all over the place. I wanted to see what was out there. I rode my bike to the small old coal mining towns a couple miles south, just to see what was there.

When I finally had my own car at the ripe old age of seventeen, I drove everywhere around the area. I worked so I had gas money. I explored Canon City, Wetmore, the mountains, Skyline Drive, and some back roads. One weekend my boyfriend and I ended up in Walsenburg via the mountainous back roads. I called my parents from a pay phone (no cell phones then) and they were mad. I don’t remember how long I was grounded after that.

Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park, MT
Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park, MT

Once I left home, the wandering bug never left me. My only constraints were time and money. I went somewhere every chance I got. After I moved to Tucson, I got a passport and off I went to the Cayman Islands, Hawaii, China, Scotland, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, and Argentina and I’m not done yet.

I didn’t write before 2011. I’d never thought about travel writing. Yes, I read travel books, but the idea that I could write about my travels never occurred to me. Then I took a creative non-fiction class and wrote my first travel piece about Volcano National Park in Hawaii. With loads of encouragement and some shoving by Lisa Smith and Nancy Reid, publishers of Big Blend Magazines, I’ve written several other pieces. What I’m coming to realize is I like travel writing.

Argentine cowboy with limoncello
Argentine cowboy with limoncello

Some of this has to do with Big Blend Magazines Spirit of America tour. Lisa and Nancy’s goal is to visit all the National Parks and Monuments in the United States and Territories. Right now there are around 407 units but the number keeps changing as more places are added. Their enthusiasm for the project is infectious and it feeds into my desire to wander.

I’ve accompanied the Big Blend women to several National Parks or Monuments and wrote the articles about the park for the magazine. The best part of this was going to places I might not have ever visited. I rather like the smaller more obscure places. Most people have heard of The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Parks. Have you heard of Fort Bowie, Pipe Spring, or Tumacacori?  Each place has that something special about it, but I’m finding I like the little bit of obscure human history captured by these smaller tucked away parks and monuments.

Organ Pip Cactus National Monument, AZ
Organ Pip Cactus National Monument, AZ

I just finished a piece for Big Blend on Pipe Spring National Monument. You’ll be able to read it in the November, 2015 issue. The next piece on my schedule is about the National Bison Range followed by a piece on the Izaak Walton Inn. The best part of it is I’m excited to write these pieces. For me, it’s slowly changing from an assignment and a deadline to a desire to share an experience.

Of course, this means I have to keep traveling. And writing. Oh gee, such pressure.

Sunflower
Sunflower

Distractions

I’m distracted. I’m distracted by everything. The sky is blue, but look over there at that cloud formation. Facebook has a great article on the life cycle of deep water jelly fish. Maybe I should check on the vegetable schedule at the you-pick-it farm. Laundry is piling up and what am I cooking for dinner? Wait, I want to finish that audio book I’m listening to.

You get the picture. Anything and everything keeps me away from writing. It needs to stop. I have had productive episodes where I get a lot of writing done. During those times I write every day. Now I can’t even seem to keep up with my blog posts let alone anything else.

How do I solve this dilemma?  How do other writers solve this problem?

There are countless sources out there that encourage writers to keep writing.  I pulled up more than a million links on a search request. Even reading those inspirational passages is a distraction because I’m reading them, not writing. Reading is important. I must read in order to understand what good writing is, but it means I’m not writing.

I tell myself to put the book down and apply fingers to the keyboard. Okay. That worked. My fingers are typing this blog post. That’s writing and it counts. What else can motivate me?

Deadlines. I took a number of writing classes for several reasons. One was to learn how to write and another was for the deadlines. Assignments are good. They make me apply myself to the task. I also have deadlines when I write for Big Blend Magazine. I find I need the deadlines because it forces me to do the work.

I’ve heard some writers who say they can only write when that illusive mistress Inspiration strikes. I think a writer needs to prod inspiration. Some days it may take a cattle prod on full charge to get the inspiration going, but depending on inspiration alone may mean weeks of blank pages.

Some of the greatest authors say their secret to writing is to set a specific time aside every day and write for a predetermined length of time. I know one person that writes for two hours every morning. Another author writes when he hikes. He dictates into a voice recorder and gets his exercise at the same time. One person mentioned posting their writing goals on Twitter. That way, the writer’s followers would keep her accountable to her stated goal. I find my most productive time is in the evening when the house quiets down. I have no responsibilities and feel free to spend the time doing what I want. Unfortunately, this is also the time when I can be the most brain dead. After a particular difficult day at work, I’m so out of focus I can’t bring myself to open a document, let alone type words. I’m afraid that excuse is just too handy and I’ve been using it too much. Writing anything is better than writing nothing.

Along with write anything would be write everything. A wise and respected author I know lives by the practice of having more than one project going at a time. So if I don’t want to work on the novel right now, then I can work on the next article for Big Blend, or this blog post. I also have the continuing story on my web site that needs another chapter. Right there are four things I could work on. I also have a new short story that needs some tweaking. I think my inspiration is coming back to me.

So maybe it’s true. If you start writing something then the momentum continues. In fact, I’m close to my word limit on this piece and I’ve already started the next chapter of Fortuna. I can’t forget I have another article due for Big Blend and my novel’s protagonist has been talking to me lately. I think I’m going to visit her.

What get’s you writing, or painting, or doing those things you tend to procrastinate about. Feel free to share your inspiration. You never know, it might serve as someone else’s motivation.

Conflict

I seem to have a problem with conflict. I don’t like it. I don’t want to imagine it. I’m having trouble writing it. I think deep down, I avoid conflict to the point I don’t believe it exists.

Silly me. Conflict occurs constantly. It’s the way of our universe. It can be as small as not being able to get a lid off a jar or having to reboot the computer. Conflict with nature is an ongoing human condition. We need to have water, food, shelter, rebuild after catastrophic storms, battle our way through jungles, deserts, mountains and the list continues.  Conflict with one’s self is common with things like guilt, self doubt, and self control.  Conflict with society encompasses religion, governments, and social norms.

When it comes to conflict between people, I cringe. People beating up on other people, a couple having a shouting match, or someone murdering innocents are things that frighten me. Most people want to avoid bad things happening to them, but bad things happen anyway. Bad things happen to entire populations. It’s part of the human condition and is something we strive to overcome.

Conflict makes for a good tale. Seems obvious doesn’t it? Creating obstacles for your protagonist to overcome is the meat and potatoes of the story. Take The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, conflict entwines every part. We have person on person conflict with battles between the human-elf-dwarf faction and the orcs and other dark minions, Frodo’s conflict with himself and his effort to destroy the ring, plus the overall battle of good versus evil. The list could fill pages and it is what makes the trilogy epic, in my opinion.

In The Third Law of Motion, by Meg Files, Dulcie is conflicted with herself. She is complacent in her relationship with Lonnie and her internal conflict is the only way the reader knows she isn’t thrilled with the situation. Later in the story, the conflict becomes more physical. This story is not an epic tale but is filled with tension. It’s an uncomfortable story. It’s a good story.

So why do I have such a hard time writing conflict? Every good story I read is a story about conflict of some type. Am I so in love with my characters that I can’t put them in danger? Is my protagonist so perfect they don’t have internal conflicts? Maybe my protagonist loves the world they are in and is perfectly happy going along day by day without difficulty. The weather is perfect in my protagonist’s world and they are so physically fit they can climb Mt. Everest without breathing hard. Did I mention the protagonist is well liked by everyone? And of course, my protagonist never has problems twisting the lid off a jar.

There’s no story in the above scenario. Perfection isn’t reality. It isn’t anyone’s reality, even in fiction. Why do I keep repeating myself? Because I’m trying to convince myself I need to throw all sorts of trouble at my protagonist. My character needs to be riddled with self doubt or guilt. They need to struggle with their physicality or their co-workers. I need an assassin. My character will be attacked by a secret society of assassins. Wait, that sounds familiar. I need to think of something else.

I recently had a story rejected. I believe part of the reason was the conflict was minimal. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a conflict that wouldn’t be cliché so I didn’t write one. That was a mistake.

Several homework assignments for an on-line pitches and blurbs class required that I condense a story to four or five lines. What I saw during that exercise the lack of conflict in several of my stories. The protagonist had no real direction or uphill battles. I had to invent a conflict for the blurb. Now I need to go back to those stories and pull them apart, reassemble them with a defined problem to solve.

I have a story posted on my website. The link is to the left on this blog. One of the reasons I like Fortuna is the conflict. I know what Sharon fights against and it makes the story work. It is one of the few stories I’ve written that does work.

This whole writing thing is a learning process and I have a lot more learning to do.

WRITING AFTER 50? OF COURSE.

When I was a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My parents believed the most important thing for me to do was support myself.

My mom said, “Nobody will take care of you, but you. Go to work.”

So I did. College wasn’t an option for me, at least my parents weren’t going to pay for college and because I was a girl, I didn’t need that sort of education. Girls were secretaries or salesgirls in stores. At nineteen I started working for the phone company. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it paid the bills and honestly, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I went to work every day. One year led to another. One job led to another within the phone company.

I did get a college degree from the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!) thanks to a tuition reimbursement plan and a lot of work. The funny thing is, even after eleven years of plugging away at college, working full time and getting a degree, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. At work, I worked on a monthly newsletter, wrote a collaborative research paper on a new technology that won a prize, and wrote a couple of speeches that were presented in annual meetings. The opportunities were few and far between.

One of the things I did throughout this time was read. If I wasn’t reading text books, I was reading fiction. I love being immersed in some other world. It didn’t matter if it was the Earth we all know and love, or someplace else created from someone’s imagination. I read westerns, romances, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and many other genres.

2010 rolled around and there were changes at work. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around for another company change and I was getting close to retiring. What was I going to do? Sitting around watching television isn’t for me. I began thinking I could write fiction. I had this story floating around my head and writing could be done from anywhere. Right? It would be a great career to embark on after I retire. Right?

In October of 2010, I said goodbye to the daily grind and traveled a bit. In January, 2011, I began classes at Pima Community College for creative writing because writing research papers is nothing like writing fiction. The fiction I wrote was awful. The writing program at Pima has excellent teachers and in three years of taking mostly workshop style writing classes I have been able to turn my amateurish writing into something readable, at least most of the time.

During this process I met a couple of woman that owned and published an on-line magazine and radio show, Big Blend Magazine and Radio, http://www.bigblendnetwork.com,

 Lisa Smith and Nancy Reid knew I was going to Hawaii and said they would be interested in a article about Volcano National Park. Coincidently, my non-fiction class had an assignment that I used to write the Volcano National Park piece. After I submitted the piece for class, I submitted it to Big Blend and they took it. It was my first published article. I tried to control my excitement, but how can a new writer not be excited about having their first piece published. Since then Big Blend has published several travel articles and one about working from home. Lisa and Nancy have pushed me into travel writing and encouraged me to keep going with my fiction. I am glad they did. Their enthusiasm helped focus me and keep me moving forward.

As for the fiction, I’m still working on that. I feel I’m starting late at this game, but I feel it’s better to try than sit back and wish you had. What I’ve learned is you have to keep writing. You have to learn what the “rules” are so that when you break them, you know you are breaking them and are doing it with intention. You need mentors that aren’t your friends and family. You need people that will tell you, “this isn’t working.” You need to keep submitting piece after piece. You have to research the places you submit to and follow their submission guidelines. You need to not get discouraged. Very few writers ever had their first pieces accepted. Don’t quit your day job. (I am still working for the phone company, part-time.) Read more, see what works in other stories, ask yourself why you like this story more than that one? Be patient. If you are persistent and continue to improve your craft, good things will come.

Fiction and Science

It took me a half century to figure out that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. I didn’t want to write just anything, either. I wanted to write science fiction. Why? Because after reading The Star Beast, by Robert A. Heinlein, I was hooked on the stars.

Humans walked on the moon a couple of years before I was introduced to Heinlein’s writing and great things had come out of NASA. We reached for the planets and I wanted to be part of that. Unfortunately, life gets in the way and it took me a long time find my way back, but I never lost my interest in space travel, aliens, and science. Along the way I read Ann McCaffrey, Asimov, Niven, and countless more. Their tales of dragons, aliens and far away societies kept me coming back for more stories of our potential future.

Sometimes when someone asks me what I want to write and I say science fiction, I get responses like, “Oh, like Spock and space travel? I don’t read that stuff.”  They can’t connect with non-humans and unrealistic things like other habitable planets.  There are no such things, right? What they don’t realize is the people and aliens in the stories have the same problems as we do. They get cold or hot, they are hungry, they seek love, they’re not motivated, they are homesick, they are lost, they are persecuted because they are different, or any number of problems that plague the human condition now.

A story is about the struggle of a character or group of characters. Does it matter that the struggle takes place on a different world? Does it matter that the character isn’t the boy or girl next door? A good story is a good story even with warp drive and planets with five moons. Not only do we cheer our hero on, sometimes we wish we could be part of that world; worlds that have time travel, laser guns, or replicators.

In Star Trek, do you remember those simple little communicators? In 1966 did you ever think you would own something like that? Okay, so this assumes you were around in 1966 and watched the series the first time around. I was a kid back then and the technology was as fantastical as being transported in a beam of light. Rush forward to 2015. Our cell phones have more computing power than the room sized computers of the 1960’s.  We don’t have replicators yet. Or do we?  3-D printers are becoming more common and someday, you won’t go to the store and buy a container to store your holiday decorations in, you’ll plug the details into a computer and your 3-D printer will create the perfect sized container for your wrapping paper.

Science fiction helps fuel the imagination of curious people. Faster than light travel isn’t here yet, but it exists in the written word. Scientists are working on the problem as I write this. Researchers are working on battery issues, food issues, medical issues and a vast number of things that will enable us to reach for the stars. Writers keep writing stories of worlds where cancer doesn’t exist or where we have learned to live with each other no matter what race or gender we are.  Those stories trigger the imaginations of a better place and isn’t that what we all strive for?

So yes, I like to write science fiction and hope the stories keep coming. I hope the scientists are pushing the bounds of what we know and we keep coming up with new and different technologies in both the fiction world and the world of science and technology.