Our Vacation Out West Part 2: The Desert

After driving through the Rocky Mountains, Mike and I watched the landscape turn dryer, the rocks and dirt became a burnt red and orange. Small bush-like trees grew across the desert. And if you looked towards the horizon, the land continued for miles and miles in every direction. Flat and sparse and rocky, shadowed by giant mesas, we were just accessories to an already finished masterpiece.

This was the Utah that first greeted us. We drove for miles with no one around, except for the sparse trailer or house dispersed across the barren landscape. We drove through a good portion of the Navajo reservation and much of the landscape was the same; houses dotted a flat landscape of orange, red and brown.

Whoever lives here must drive for an hour to reach the nearest grocery store, or a half an hour at best to reach the nearest gas station. Little huts which promised finely woven Navajo rugs and pottery and jewelry, started to pop up every couple of miles alongside the highway.

We felt awed by the difference of this landscape compared to what we were used to back home. Upstate New York is green, the mountains are gentle hills, breezes tease the trees and rainstorms nourish. Here in this desert landscape was a harshness and a palette of colors we had never encountered before.

As the we drove into higher elevations and then drove back down, we kept our eyes out for eagles, and looked for big-horned sheep. We saw a few horses, and the occasional grouping of cattle, which chewed on the brown-yellow grass.

During our journey, I’m thinking about Star Wars, about a lonely teenager longing for adventure his desert home doesn’t provide. I’m thinking about science fiction stories of life on Mars, or a desert planet much like this one.

I fell in love with the desert’s stark beauty in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Of dirt, and hot wind and a sun that blazes so hot and bright, it makes the sand burn underfoot.

I’m already in awe and we haven’t even made it to Zion National Park yet…and as we soon discovered, it’s always beautiful in Zion.

Our Vacation Out West Part 1: The Rocky Mountains

I haven’t been MIA on purpose…this month has been crazy. Started a new job that has a lot more responsibility than I’m used to and just yesterday, Mike and I just got back from a beautiful, ten-day vacation.

This year, we camped and went to Zion National park and then, the Grand Canyon. Our trip started in New York and then we cut across country; through a small bit of Pennsylvania, then Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, and then down into Utah.

The first night, we stayed over in a hotel in Morris, Illinois. That first day of driving was stressful. Between tolls and getting stuck in traffic in Columbus,Ohio, and the insane traffic in Chicago; we were ready for bed.

The next day, it was endless cornfields in Iowa. How many times a day did I say: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa!”

Too many times!

If there is a purgatory, I imagine it looks something like Iowa. Flat, and sunny and endless. Miles and miles of cornfields with puffy white clouds and blue skies, and a road that cuts through it that goes straight and never ends. It is beautiful, and timeless and repetitive.

That second night was another rough one. This is only because it was pride weekend in Denver, Colorado, which was a bit of bad luck on our part, as many of the hotels we tried to get rooms in were sold out. Finally, we found one and spent too much money in a Comfort Inn and Suites.

(Note the blurry squished bugs on the windshield, bahaha. We hit a ton of them!)

The view the next morning, however, more than made up for it. We woke up and headed down the highway, and I got my first view of the Rocky Mountains.

They quite frankly, took my breath away. And I know that’s cliché, but I’m totally going with it. I probably took about two-hundred pictures of these mountains alone.

I grew up in upstate, New York, but our mountains are hills in comparison. In the Colorado Rockies, there isn’t just one shade of green. The mountains are capped with snow and then there’s the smell of pine trees and a sky so blue, it could be a mountain lake.

Barreling down a mountain at seventy-five miles per hour surrounded by traffic is both exhilarating and terrifying; and Colorado is such a strange combination of tree-hugging hippies and republicans.

Note how you can see my reflection in the side mirror taking the picture, as I bravely put the window down to get at least one glare-less photo.

I fell in love completely and would go back in a heartbeat. But this was only just the beginning of our vacation!

My Early Birthday Present

Feeling the Sunday night blues a lot tonight. Whenever there is a job to go to on Monday, the blues sink in and it’s hard not to feel sorry for yourself, your sudden lack of weekly freedom and the fact that being creative is always put on the back burner when it comes to paying bills, having a place to live, etc.On a happier note, thought I’d share some pictures of an early birthday present that Mike got me. I used to have an older model of the simple touch nook, but the poor thing died on me a few years ago.

I love having one again and I discovered my digital copy of Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven Boys, which is one of my favorites. I almost forgot I had it and it was a nice surprise for me. Don’t you love finding things that you didn’t realize you had?

Anyway, this weekend passed quickly. Too quickly. Mike and I went to a spring festival around in here in upstate NY, the weather was beautiful and we are fast discovering that Summer is bringing back with it all the freedoms that we missed and love: sunshine, vacation, and camping!

We are in the middle of planning a camping trip to happen in a few weeks; I am happy to spend some days hiking, sitting around a camp fire and being with the one I love, though sometimes I think he doesn’t realize just how much.

These are the days of summer, people: my birthday, no seasonal depression and days spent discovering the earth again in all its beauty; in all it’s rich, glorious beauty…

I hope everyone had a great weekend! (And if these coming days are your ‘weekend’ I hope those are great as well!)

Happy Writing!

Poem: Writing Mind

Managed to spend a good four to five hours writing today! This is good news! I worked on a few projects at once, but one project I really got in to today. I realized I could probably submit it to the writer’s digest contest by June 1st, but to do that it needs some serious rewrites.

I got in the writers mindset a lot today and trying to emerge…is like waking up from a deep sleep. (At least it is for me.) I get this spacey expression on my face, and conversation is difficult, because part of me is still thinking about character’s dialogue in my head or planning which way a character is gong to go next.  It is an interesting feeling to say the least, but hey, at least I was productive today!

Pictured I snapped this weekend at the lake.

a writing sort of mood

everything sounds like poetry

blank stare

“Whaa…”

emerge from the world

like a band-aid ripped from a wound

jarred back to the present

words are like poetry

the trees are like poetry in motion

and everything is heavy, heavy, heavy

like a dark blanket

trapping the sun

in its shadows

Spring Writes! Literary Festival: What I Learned this Weekend

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a literary festival in the new town that we live in! What is a literary festival you ask?

From Thursday to Sunday, writers, readers or literary-lovers of all sorts were able to attend workshops, panels and readings from a collaboration of local writers. These writers are all supported by donations, and a $5 dollar entry fee which purchased the cute pin featured above and was my pass to all the events this weekend.

On Saturday I attended: Workshop: Research Secrets, How to Write What You Don’t Know by and Workshop: The Short Fiction Market, Targeted Writing and Publishing.

What I learned from the Workshop: Research Secrets, is that there is never just one source of finding information out there – the internet is a great tool to finding what you need, but also don’t forget the value of your local library and historic museums, if applicable.

Don’t rule out YouTube and Google Maps as excellent how-to resources when it comes to story research and world-building. Also, remember to validate the credibility of your online sources! (Not everything you read or hear on the internet is true.)

And the instructor also pointed out the value of a good interview. Sometimes the best place to get information is from the person who wrote the book in the first place. Remember to be courteous, prepare your questions and always follow-up.

At the Workshop: The Short Fiction Market, the instructor emphasized that getting your work published is more of a science rather than an art and he pointed out some great strategies that writers can use to get your work out there.

Don’t forget the benefit of submitting stories to Contests. Contests have lower pool of submissions, are judged blindly and carry a lot of weight in a future cover letter if you can brag later on down the road and be like: I am also the first prize winner to XYZ magazine…

He says that contests which feature a specific theme also have a lower pool of submissions, and always remember to ask for feedback when you are submitting something. Most editors will probably not offer feedback, but sometimes someone will.

Focus on the number of submissions that you have out there…it is better to have so many balls in the air that after one rejection, it might not sting as much because you have all those other submissions to look forward to!

The more book reviews you write, the more submissions you submit and the more you get out there and talk to other writers, the more you are building up your social network and other opportunities might present themselves.

Today I attended: Panel: “World Building: If you Build It, They Will Come” and Panel: “Intimate Communities, Starting and Sustaining a Writing Group That Works”

In the world building panel, a group of women spoke about their different processes of world building and their favorite part of the process. Each of their approaches to world building was different.

Some of them approached a world as having a central conflict. What makes parts of the world clash? While answering these questions you get an idea of the different cultures, and the holidays and the food that the characters might eat.

A few of the women started with a character first, and then they built the world around the characters.

They talked about the differences of world building for short stories, versus a novel, and how for some stories you don’t have to know everything, because you will also discover a lot of the world in the writing process.

To organize their notes, one of the women uses the software Evernote, which is what I use! And then another, keeps a notebook with character details.

The best part of world building according to the panel of ladies, is living in another time period, and the power trip: you are basically God.

In the panel, for Sustaining a Writer Group, I learned about the importance of knowing what you want personally from a writer’s group, and remembering to have Guidelines in your group.

Establish those Guidelines from the get-go and you’ll need someone to be the leader, to enforce those guidelines and to keep everyone on task.

I learned so much this weekend, and have some great reference points for finding a writing group in our area that might suit what I am looking for; I am so excited to move on to the next step of the process!

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and Happy Writing!

Writing is Like a Marriage

 

I started going to therapy about two months ago now. It was a hard thing for me at first…I’m not used to baring my soul to a stranger, but I can see the benefits of getting some things out there in the open.

Being a writer has become a big topic of my therapy sessions. My therapist seems to notice how often I talk about writing, how important it is to me, and how frustrated I’ve become with it sometimes.

It is funny, we talk about how writing is sometimes like a marriage; you have your ups and downs and you have to work hard sometimes to keep re-establishing that relationship.

Writing used to be such a big comfort in my life, especially in college. I would take my pen to the blank page and it was like all the cares and worries of the day would fall away as long as I could keep creating, as long as I could keep writing.

Now that magic seems to happen less and less. I don’t always write with the freedom that I used to. It is a rare moment when the words come like a free-flow of consciousness.

It is a work in progress. I blog. I write poetry. I try to work on my novels-in-progress. I try to write at least once a day, but sometimes it is more like a few times a week…

I find myself breaking up with writing and then coming back like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, can we start over?”

I sometimes find myself wondering: Am I still a writer? And seriously, if I still was, then how come I struggle so much? A person who calls herself a writer doesn’t struggle so much, does she?

Coming back to that same thought process over and over is exhausting and not at all productive. I don’t need to keep trying to convince myself that I am still a writer.

I need to remind myself that writing is a process and no one does it the right way, and no one does it the wrong way. You can read all the self-help books in the world…but remember, what works for someone, might not work for you.

I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to realize that…that there was no wrong way to approach writing. And a lot of published authors now express some of the same sentiments.

How do they go about writing? Where does the magic come from? Most answers: Who the heck knows?!

What do you guys think?

Happy writing!

What if You Could Say What You Want in a Cover Letter?

Today was a productive day. I managed to apply for a few new jobs, do laundry, take a walk and enjoy the sunshine. It was a beautiful day today, and I walked the few blocks to the falls from our house. The sound of the water pounding in a plummet over rocks is both beautiful and relaxing.

Who needs the white noise of the city? I’d take my sounds of running water any day! The walk was a much-needed break from the resume and cover letter writing I was doing, which I always find somewhat tedious.

Who loves writing resumes? Definitely NOT this girl…there’s not many people I know who like writing cover letters either. Who likes writing pretty much the same thing over and over but in different, clean and precise words?

During the writing, I was also thinking about how you have to approach different styles of writing with a different mind-set. Well, at least, I do!

While, resume writing this afternoon, I was focused. Like, super focused. Headphones on to drown out the noise, and notebook in front of me, I didn’t leave my desk until I had to switch the laundry over and even then I was thinking about the next paragraph: why am I the best candidate for this job?

The reason might be, because I have a tendency to over-think it. I am a creative writer, I want the words to sound great, to have a flow, but you have to remember: you can’t sacrifice content for creativeness. 

For the cover letter, it is also the same way. It is a business letter to the potential employer, and you are the sales person. Why are you a great person for the job? And no amount of flowery words can cover a lack of experience.

To a person who likes to create characters and disappear into compelling dialogue, resume writing is about as boring as essay writing – and I didn’t much enjoy that, either.

I’ve always wanted to create something different: What would a resume or cover letter look like if we said what we actually wanted?

Like, Dear Ms. Hiring Manager:

I am a great person, a great writer, with a college education and I don’t really care for these cover letter/resume things. They never really say who I am as a person, and you can write the best resume in the world and make yourself look the best – but those people are never as perfect as they claim to be, and honestly, a fake person is not the kind of person you want working for you.

I dislike the fallacy of it all. Everyone brags about being a positive and energetic person, but honestly, there are not many people I know who are positive or energetic without coffee.

You can work at some jobs for a year, others for six months, and some for two years, but the most experience I ever had, was working with great people and for a great team. A job doesn’t really work, unless there are awesome people behind it.

And…how is that going to happen, if everyone basically lies on their resume/cover letters?

Anyway, it would be great to hear back from you. But I don’t expect to. Over 60 people applied for this job (it says so on Indeed) and I’m sure most of them have told you they’ve worked for ten years at the same job and speak french and mandarin, and some of them I’m sure are former beauty pageant winners. (I worked directly with a hiring manager this year, and almost every time, she hired the candidates who were the most attractive.)

My resume is attached for review…or is it? I might have sent you a link to my LinkedIn account instead. It’d be great to hear from you, but I’m not holding my breath over here.

Sincerely,

Amanda

Now, wouldn’t that be awesome?

In this competitive world we live in, there must be some employers out there who want the more creative resumes and cover letters? Honestly, I think everyone could always use a good laugh!

Hope everyone is having a great night! Happy Writing!

It’s Okay to Admit You Need Help

Things have been a little quiet here on the blogging front. Not intentionally. This week I’ve been sick with a lovely head cold and I have some new things going on in my life and thought I would take some time to chat about it.

It’s not easy…admitting that you need help. Help comes in many different forms. Emotional…educational…physical.

You might have heard me mention it a time or two: depression and anxiety.

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective disorder, which is basically depression that one gets based on the lack of sunlight in the winter months. It’s no fun when a chemical in your brain stops working properly and tells you not to be happy anymore.

I’ve…managed with that the last several years. But lately, it seems like the older I get the worse my anxiety is. I have always been a classified “worry-wort,” but there comes a time, where it’s not just worry. Where anxiety becomes something more than just double checking that your doors are locked after you locked them. Twice. And after you already check again for the third time.

The older I get, it seems like the more I don’t function properly. I’ve been debating back and forth why I don’t see myself as “normal” anymore. Why, I think that’s something I ought to be, and why normal isn’t really the same for anyone. What’s normal? And why is it something anyone wants to be, anyway?

But anyway, I digress. The point…I’ve started going to therapy.

Some people might think, so? I’ve gone to therapy, what’s the big deal? But this is a big deal for me. I’m not used to telling my life problems to people, and it’s not always easy admitting that you need help.

There’s no shame in admitting that you need help, and there’s no shame in getting that help. Depression and anxiety are not easy things, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

We all react to our life struggles in different ways, and we all have to find our own ways to encounter such challenges. I am not afraid to talk about my depression and anxiety, but I was afraid to get help. And I’m still afraid in some ways…do people look at me differently? Do I look different?

Does anyone judge me? But…I have to press on.

When I started this blog, I wanted to make sure it was a place that I could always come to, to make sure I was still writing. Now, I also want it to be a place where I can talk freely about my problems with depression and anxiety.

It’s something that needs to be talked about, and seeing as writers and creative sorts always seem to be the ones who struggle with depression and anxiety…we should all do a lot of talking about it.

Anyway, I hope you guys are having a great night, and I hope everyone had a great weekend.

Happy writing!

Poem: Heartbreak Feels

heartbreak

time given

love lost

to move on

without you

 

heartbreak

like the color yellow

sometimes ugly

possible bright days a head

 

heartbreak

feet like lead

days stuck in shadow

heart beats a

heavy, tuneless, solo

 

when it hurts to breathe

when the smell of shampoo

has you sobbing in the grocery store

 

we store our memories

with time and love

and heartbreak

I Want to Live Life, Without Feeling Trapped

Having a case of the Sunday night blues tonight. Happens every night lately before the start of a new week. I love my freedom during the days on weekends. To enjoy the sunshine when I want, to read a book, to bake, to enjoy being human and alive and with others and the people who I love.

This current job I’m at now, while there are some decent people, I feel like everyone is so bored with life there. They are so bored and tired of the next day, of a job that keeps going with no end, of a retirement that is still eight years down the road.

It’s had me thinking a lot about what I want out of life, lately. I don’t want to work in a job where my life is taken from me. I want freedom…I want to travel…I want to live.

People judge millennials because we don’t want to work. But people forget many of us are not working in the job we went to school for. We don’t get money because we are doing what we love. We get money because we work at jobs, (very often) that no one else wants to work at.

I’m no slacker. I’ve worked a myriad of jobs to make money to pay the bills and I’ve been miserable at many of them, but I worked them anyway. Where does it say that we have to be miserable to make money?

People say that you should work hard, stay at a job, get retirement, but the sacrifice of life, freedom, and lack of money just doesn’t seem worth it anymore. Forgive me, but, I am no one else’s money-maker.

I want to live my life, without feeling like I’m trapped in my job. Is that really so much to ask?