Who Knew I’d Give Thanks For…

Boxed by Craig J. Sunter, flickr.com

Boxed by Craig J. Sunter, flickr.com

Twenty plus people arrive at my home tomorrow. Lots of cleaning, shopping, cooking. For that I give thanks.

We’re celebrating with my mom, who’s still kicking and funnier than she realizes, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends. For that I give thanks.

Growing up, my sisters and brother and mom lived in government housing. I didn’t really notice that we were poor until the holidays. For that I give thanks.

There are no more days like that for us, and never for our children. For that I give thanks.

Thanksgiving Poem

Cardboard charity box,

left on the back porch

on a dreary early morn.

 

A big mama chicken?

No, a turkey.

Our very own?

 

Green beans, corn,

lots of corn, cranberry jelly,

a bag of flour.

 

Potato flakes—

none of us ever tasted those before—

made flavorful with welfare butter,

a yellow block of sunshine.

 

A table

with more than two items

to go with the grape Kool-Aid

and tortillas.

 

One parent,

four children,

all together.

For that, I give thanks.

To all my readers, for sharing your generous comments, dialogue, blogs, and books, I give thanks.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and time spent with loved ones this holiday.

NaNoWriMo Madness or The Only Way to Write A First Draft

Yes, I’m slogging through the madness of NaNoWriMo.

The video above is a good indication of how we NaNo-ites or NaNo-etta’s feel about now.

I could only take three minutes of the video. She’s a good singer–sorta.

I’ve been typing words upon words,

compiling hundreds, then thousands.

Fifty thousand words is the goal; 1,667 words per day.

And I have a head cold. Been in my house for the past three days.

My oldest son feeds me cough drops, meds, and ginger ale.

I’m forcing myself to write. It allows me to not think about the 21 people I’ll have to prepare Thanksgiving for in a couple of weeks.

I’m writing a novel with multi-cultural characters, three generations of women and men, the Mexican culture of curanderismo (that means healers), and a love potion that goes awry.

By this time, I should be at the second plot twist, according to Storyfix. (give or take five pages).

I double checked my pages and yes, I’m close to that point.

Here’s a screen shot of my NaNo page—I don’t know about that novel cover increasing my odds, but could be, it is part of visualization— And, lest I forget, I do have some empty badge area sections:

Writing partner and halo. If anyone wants to be a writing partner, hit me up. I really don’t know how to do this step but I’ll figure it out.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014

Mona AlvaradoFrazier-New Adult Novel NaNoWriMo 2014

Participating in NaNoWriMo is a great way to a first draft. Far from perfect yes, but useful.

And don’t refer to it as a “shitty first draft,” because it’s not. It’s raw, you put in some effort, yeah, it’s imperfect, just like your first time at bat, or your golf swing, or the first time you made a casserole.

Remind yourself that you started with a goal. You accomplished it. You now have something to build on.

You have words, lots of them, to play with after the first draft is completed.

Well, you probably won’t play with them, you’ll do the edit, delete dance. Then you’ll pull your hair out a few times, and laugh your head off while doing said hair pulling, because you’ll remember—‘member this now—it’s your first draft.

It’s okay.

It will take time and hard work to shape it up, revise, plug plot holes, revise, and love it into being better.

Remember, first drafts can be powerful. Remind yourself that you carved out time for your writing, you set your creativity loose and you were courageous until the finish line (whatever that is to you: 50K or 25K words).

Only 24,610 more words to go.

Write On!

(Please excuses any left out comma’s or other grammatical errors. I’m partially delirious now). Thank you.

Reading is the Best Way to Relax

pabloneruda_poetofthepeople      

      “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” Carl Sagan 

The week has flown by, riddled with the everyday happenings, participating in the writing challenge of NaNoWriMo, and revising an old manuscript.

Like many of you (I’m assuming) I love to read: poetry, YA, Adult, and Children’s Books. I read during my down time, which is literally when I’m in bed, for an hour or two before I drift off to sleep.

I’ve read some extraordinary books lately: Jean Rhys “The Wide Sargasso Sea,” and Helena Viramontes’ novel, “Their Dogs Came With Them.”  Both five star books, IMHO. These highly emotive, descriptive books had an intensity to them that I loved, but that also exhausted me—in a good way.

Reading doesn’t just keep the mind sharp, possibly stave off Alzheimer’s, and help you sleep better (not if you read horror), but research says reading is the tops in relaxation. Really—they did studies. Here’s the conclusion from the UK-University of Sussex: 

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.

Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles…it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.

Listening to music reduced the levels by 61%, have a cup of tea of coffee lowered them by 54% , taking a walk by 42%, and video games, 21%. 

So today I was delighted to come across a children’s book I think I will enjoy. Maria Popova said this about the book she featured for the week:

I was instantly smitten with Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, with absolutely stunning illustrations and hand-lettering by artist Julie Paschkis 

Go have a look at the gorgeously illustrated pages that Popova has on her website: Brain Pickings. The colors delight the eyes, the illustrations and words relax the body.

An instant chill pill.

I’ve added this book to my public library list, which has grown now to 10 books on hold.

So relax everyone. Take time out to enjoy your favorite activity to help you gather yourself together and take on the coming week.

How About that NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month 2014

National Novel Writing Month 2014

So, who’s taking up the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November?

Me, me, me—I have my hand up—I’m working on a novel about three generations of women, three broken hearts and one love potion that goes awry.

Yes, I know, it’s going to be a busy month, with Thanksgiving coming up and Black Friday shopping, but what about having some fun before all that starts?

Are you in?

Yes! Keep reading.

Here’s a few “How’s” and a “Why” to challenge yourself during National Novel Writing Month.

How about putting those novel ideas, the ones you’ve had for months or years, down on the computer screen?

How about resuscitating that shelved 5,000 word piece you started?

How about building a daily habit of writing—at least for 30 days?

How about going crazy and letting your fingers fly over the keyboard without self-editing judgement?

Why write alone? Follow other Nano’s, write in community, and find some writing buddies.

Here’s what you get:

  1. Pep talks from Veronica Roth, Chuck Wendig, Kami Garcia and others.
  2. Five tips from Nathan Bransford on How To Get Started and other advice.
  3. Self satisfaction that you completed a challenge and a badge graphic to prove it.
  4. Sponsor discounts on some great deals from Createspace, Scrivener (word processing/project management), and other stuff.
  5. Cool web graphics for your social media.
  6. A first draft—sh*tty or otherwise— of a novel (at least 50k of a novel, just 10K more to go).
  7. Something to show for November other than a turkey.
  8. The ire of Nano haters. Ignore them and just write. Don’t look back.
  9. Proof that you can commit to writing for 30 days.
  10. The incentive to make new goals for your first draft: rewrite, revise, rinse, repeat.

Here’s what you don’t get:

  1. You do not get to send your first draft to an agent, publisher, or make it into an E-book.

Go through the process, see numero #10, to make your novel viable for beta readers, editors, agents, or submit for an E-book.

Good luck to those of you who take up the challenge.

See you at #NaNoWriMo2014.

Write On!

What’s up with Mexican Culture and Death?

                        La Catrina from the Book of Life movie poster

La Catrina from the Book of Life Movie

Yes, it’s that time again…not Halloween, but Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1 and 2nd.

I used to hear that celebrating Dia de Los Muertos (DLM)was morbid. But with some understanding of the cultural concept of Dia, it has become quite trendy–a real party.

We did not celebrate DLM in my Mexican-American home (In the 60’s we were Mexican-American, the 70’s Chicanos, the 1990’s Hispanic, 2000’s Latinos- a short history lesson).

Growing up Catholic, November 1st was celebrated as All Soul’s Day, and we attended mass (Not a party).

If you are ‘new’ to the Dia de los Muertos revelries, here’s a list I complied last year on the Icons of the Day of the Dead. 

And if you’d like to celebrate the days leading up to DLM, here’s a list of 10 Must Have Items for Dia De Los Muertos. 

Dia is trendy now but that’s okay. To me, this means DLM is not only culturally relevant to Mexicans, Mexican American, Chicano’s, but the concept also resonates with other people who agree that those who have passed should be honored, remembered, and celebrated.

Hey, even Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon. I’m so glad that the person who pitched this story idea was Jorge Gutierrez and that award winning director, Guillermo Del Toro signed onto the project.

Read this wonderful movie review of “Book of Life,”  by Melanie Mendez Gonzales.

If you’d like to become better informed or give your kids a wider multicultural view, here are some beautifully illustrated and written children’s books on the Day of the Dead.

Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales

Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales

This is a story about a young girl who helps her family prepare to honor her grandfather.

I Remember Abuelito-A Day of the Dead Story

I Remember Abuelito-A Day of the Dead Story

I like to use the remembrance cards that are given out at church funerals. I place these all over my dresser, light a candle, and re-read the cards and think about the good times I’ve shared with the person.

And now that you know a little more about Dia de los Muertos you can chose to honor your loved ones too by setting up a space on your counter or chest of drawers, with or without a candle, and place photos of the person (s) you’d like to honor.

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