Lori Robinett: {Creating} My Path

musings of a wife, mother, writer . . .

Archive for the tag “writing”

Throwback Thursday #TBT: 8th grade graduation gate album

Here’s a post about the gate album I made for my daughter’s 8th grade graduation. Enjoy!

One of my hobbies is scrapbooking, which dovetails nicely with my love of writing. Those are two things I can do that really get my juices flowing. Over the weekend, I worked on a gate album to commemorate my daughter’s 8th grade graduation. I thought I’d share, since this is a project I’m especially proud of.

1. Pick your pictures. Just pick the good ones. The not so good ones can go into your regular album, but you want a special album like a gate album to shine. By saying good pics, I don’t mean just those that are perfectly composed & lit – I mean those that mean something, those that bring back memories.

2. Pick a color scheme based on your photos or your theme. My album was celebrating my daughter graduating from 8th grade and going into high school, so I went with the high school’s colors – green and black – and added pops of pink and yellow to accent. I let my daughter pick most of the papers since this is her album.

3. Choose your base. I’ve been on a tree hugger kick lately (not sure what’s up with that, but last week I stopped twice to help box turtles across the road), and decided that recycled materials would be good. We still use old fashioned telephone message pads at work, so I started saving the backs of them. It’s like chipboard, basically, about 4 1/4″ x 5″ or something like that. I mounted 4 of them to cardstock (or mounted the cardstock to them. Six of one, half-dozen of the other.) to use as the base, then I built up from there, using 2 across for some pages and 2 stacked atop one another for others. Just remember to trim your pages that are not the base to allow for binding.

4. Scrap each page, leaving room along the outer edges for binding.

5. Bind the outer edge of the album using whatever method you prefer. Personally, I like the Zutter Bind-It-All, but you could also hole punch holes then use yarn or ribbon to tie your pages together. You could also use jump rings through the holes. The reason I like the Zutter binding  is that it is easy to use, easy to turn, and is sturdy. Another note: if you use the Bind-it-All (or some other binder), flip your pages so that the album back is at the front when you bind, so that your rings will be “clean” on the outside and the rough binding wire will be concealed inside your album. If you’re not sure what I mean, email me and I’ll send detailed instructions.

And here are a couple of images:

The front of the album (which is actually 2 half pages):

And here’s one of the inside pages:

Thanks for looking – and let me know what creative projects you’re working on.

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Drawing Inspiration

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I always assumed that the writers I look up to (Stephen King, James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Lea Wait, Jennifer Crusie, and many others) are surrounded by inspiration. That is, until I decided to start taking my writing seriously. One of the first affirmations I chose for myself was “I do not wait for inspiration to write, I am inspired by writing.” If I wait to be inspired, I won’t touch a keyboard for weeks, even months, because life gets in the way. There are so many demands on our time, that we don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. One of the young writers I work with years ago told me the blank page staring at her freaks her out, and asked how I can sit down and just start typing. “What inspires you?” she asked.

The answer for me is competition. In order for me to be successful, I have to be accountable to someone other than myself. It’s way to easy to lie to myself and bargain with myself. I believe me and fall for it every time. At this point, I have eight completed novels (one published, one in the editing stages and the remainder in rough draft stage). I would never have gotten there if it were not for four very important things – in no particular order: Book-in-a-Week (BIC HOK TAM!!!), National Novel Writing Month, my critique group (this is a talented group: Colleen Donnelly, Ericca Thornhill, Carolyn Branch and Jennifer Bondurant – pay attention to those names. You’ll see them on the best seller list someday), and my friend Lynn.

I need that push, that drive, that accountability, which is currently offered by my critique group. And there used to be NaNo (this is only the 2nd year I haven’t competed). All of my completed novels started as NaNo novels (by the way, our little region frequently finaled in the top 10 for the average production per writer list!! Kudos to us!!). And that’s how I got hooked up with my writers’ group. I really like these people, and even though I only see them occasionally, we share a unique bond. I joined up as a Nano’er and stuck with them throughout the year. It is well worth it to have a face-to-face meeting with other writers. We writers are a different breed. By our very nature, many of us have tendencies towards introversion. This gives us a chance to talk to others that understand our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our frustrations.

So, that’s what does it for me. Accountability and competition.

And the chance to meet some fantabulous women for breakfast every other Saturday!

I encourage you to give serious thought to what inspires you. Do not wait for inspiration to hit. It doesn’t knock on your door and ask if now is a convenient time. Surround yourself with inspiration. Think about what fires you up and makes you productive. It may be something like a support group, or it may be something completely different, such as having a ritual before you begin writing. Once you find something that inspires you, incorporate it into your life, and start making your dreams become realities, bit by bit.

Make Yourself a Priority

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For years, I put my daughter first. She has now flown the coop. For the first time in my life, as an empty nester, I do not feel guilty putting myself first. But what does that mean? How do I make myself a priority? Today is a perfect example. I took the day off. A whole, entire day to myself, by myself. Feels decadent. And it is. But it is also work. I have a LOT that I want to accomplish today, because my time is precious. And by extension, by recognizing that my time is precious, I am recognizing that I am precious. I am editing, critiquing, drafting. I’m having so much fun! :o)

Over the past several months, I have done a few things for me and allowed my wants and needs to be a priority:

  • Went to a Star Trek convention. If you haven’t and you enjoy sci-fi at all, go. The con was an absolute hoot.
  • Went to ORACon 2013. Whatever you want to do with your life, whatever your goals, you must invest time and effort into achieving your goals. If you want to write, go to a conference. You will make connections and you will be inspired.
  • Went to Michigan with my husband and stepdaughter. That time was invaluable. It allowed us to reconnect and make memories.
  • Went to Gulf Shores with a good friend and her mother. The trip was amazing. I got to know myself a little better, allowed myself time to heal recent wounds, and spent time focusing on the craft of writing.

Hmmm. Looking over this list, I note a trend. Went. Travel and experiences are important to me. By experiencing new things, I grow. I learn. What have you done for you lately? How are you making yourself a priority?

 

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

In my recent journaling, trying to mine the depths of my soul for writing, I received a tip to explore my wild side.  Yeah, right . . . I may have had a wild side when I was younger, but my days now consist of work, taking care of our furbabies, watching TV and going to bed, with a side of laundry & housekeeping for good measure. If I drink 2 glasses of wine, I’m sound asleep. I don’t drink and drive, don’t do drugs, don’t smoke. BUT . . . those times when I have pushed myself, I felt more alive than I ever have before.

  • We took a rented Jeep up & over Tin Cup Pass – a 4×4 trail in Colorado. That was exhilarating as all get out. It was fun, exciting, challenging. I remember two main things about that day: (1) having to pee so badly when we were above the tree line that I dropped trou & hunkered down behind a scrubby bush – just as a bunch of 4-wheelers came down the switchback trail above us. My ever-so-thoughtful husband snapped a pic. And (2) when we reached the summit, it was like being on another planet. Truly awe-inspiring beauty and solitude.
  • I went on a police ride along last year, during the downtown night shift. The officer who took me was very helpful, glad to answer questions and allowed me to experience more than I ever though I would get to. I remember a couple of intense moments from that night: (1) the ability of the officer to maintain his composure even when the perp puked towards him, (2) the strain in the officer’s voice when he was responding to an attempted suicide that turned into an attack, and (3) that moment when I was locked in the SUV in a rough part of town with flashing lights strobing around me and thought, “Holy cow, what on Earth am I doing here?”

So, what have you done that was a walk on the wild side for you? Something that pushed you out of your comfort zone?

Fear . . .

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As a writer, I mine the depths of my psyche for things to put on the page. The common adage, write what you know, can be a bit misleading. At least I think so. If I wrote what I know, you’d be reading about a boring paralegal who is a newly-minted empty nester who spends 40 hours a week behind a desk and her free time reading and scrapping and watching television. Not exactly edge-of-your-seat reading. But I do know something about fear, desire, longing, love, etc. Emotions are at the heart of every piece of fiction that resonates with a reader. After all, it’s the emotion under the actions that inspires a writer as well as the reader.

Fear is what first sucked me into reading – Stephen King is the master. He can take one little situation and turn it into the most terrifying hours of life (and he is the reason I would never, ever, ever let anyone handcuff me to a bed . . . heck, I can’t even READ about that anymore after I read Gerald’s Game).

I’m trying to include more depth of emotion in my writing. Here’s what scares me the most, in no particular order:

  • Spiders. I can’t even stand to touch a dead one. They creep me out. Just attaching the photo above gave me the willies.
  • Tornadoes. I read an article when I was 8 or 9 years old about a woman whose body was found naked in a tree. The tornado had literally ripped her clothes off. At least that’s the way my 8 year old mind thought about it. Didn’t occur to me back then that she might’ve been sleeping nude. My hubs laughs at me, but during storms I am FULLY dressed. Don’t want to be found nekkid in a tree.
  • Fire. I lived through the Centralia Gas Fires (Jan 28, 1982 . . . lest we forget). I remember vividly being told that there had been an explosion at the elementary school, where my little brother was and I thought I had lost him. Terrifying doesn’t begin to describe the situation.

I’m going to mine some of those memories in my writing this week. Help me out. What scares YOU?

Creativity Takes Courage

Creativity Takes Courage

Creativity Takes Courage

The subject matter of this page is a few years old, but it still makes me smile. I started participating in National Novel Writing Month in 2004. I’ve won several times. The first couple of years, if you won, Lulu (a POD publisher) would print your book. They published Denim & Diamonds, which was my 2004 winner, and I released it to the public. As part of my NaNoWriMo responsibilities as a Municipal Liaison, I sent out press releases. In 2009, Megan Murphy, a local television reporter, contacted me and asked if she could do a story about our group. She brought a videographer to my house and they filmed my story in my scrap room! It was really, really exciting. I asked if she minded if I took pictures while they were filming and these are a couple of the shots I got. It was beyond exciting to have her here, talking to me about my writing. Even though the photos are not the best in terms of lighting, they tell a story.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been enjoying the CSI site (Color, Story, Inspiration), and when I saw the most recent case file, I knew exactly what photos I wanted to scrap. Take a look at the inspiration and you’ll see why I chose to do the layout above.

CSI: Case File 88

CSI: Case File 88

Blog Hop: Writers write

I’m honored to have been asked to participate in an author blog hop with my friend Tierney James this week. Be sure to click on her link at the bottom of the page and visit her! Blog hops are a great way for authors and readers to connect, plus by adding links to each other’s pages, we create some dynamic group marketing.The blog hop rules are simple. Each author answers four questions and invites three other children’s authors to participate the following week. I invited some entertaining, talented authors to participate. You’ll see their names, book titles and links to their sites below.First up, my job is to answer four blog hop questions as follows:

What are you working on right now?
I am working on a rewrite of a suspense novel drafting during National Novel Writing Month. It is about a pregnant woman who kills her researcher husband, and then discovers that he was using their baby as a guinea pig for his research – research that his boss will do anything to complete.
How does your writing process work?
I draft a story from beginning to end, completely linear. I can’t skip around like some writers do. Once the story is drafted, I let it sit for a couple of months at least, then I read it through, beginning to end, making note of plot holes, character changes, time line goofs, that sort of thing. And then the rewrite starts (and it is definitely a rewrite!). At that point, I send it to my critique group, a couple of chapters at a time, every couple of weeks. They are a tremendous asset. Once it goes through them, it’s time for a line edit.
What is the hardest part about writing?
For me, the hardest part is that first draft. Turning off the internal editor and getting words on the page. Once I can get that done, and reach “THE END,” the next hardest part is rewriting. It is so difficult to kill your darlings, but that is often what must happen.
What scares you?
Failure. And success.
Thanks for stopping by . . . and be sure you drop by to say hello to my friend Tierney James and let her know I sent you. And check out her debut novel, An Unlikely Hero.

Star Trek Chicago: The Westin

Westin O'HareAs I mentioned before, going to a Star Trek convention was a dream come true. As soon as I decided to go, I made reservations at the Westin because that was the host hotel. Although it was expensive, I think it was worth staying, largely because it was easy. We got to the hotel and that was our home base – we didn’t have to worry about getting here or there, plus there was the added bonus of running into folks in the hallways. The night we arrived, we saw several other Trekkies, all spotable because of their sci fi themed shirts.

The morning the conference opened, I saw Jeffrey Combs walking through the lobby. He is my favorite alien, on my favorite series – Shran, the Andorian captain. I smiled shyly at him and he nodded, probably thinking, oh, dear God, please don’t let that fan-girl bug me. And was probably hoping I wasn’t a stalker. Later that morning, I passed an elegant woman in the lobby with a large man escorting her. She was gorgeous, in that old movie star way. I thought she was Jackie Collins, perhaps, hiding behind large sunglasses. As we passed, I smiled and she said, “Good morning.” Watch for an upcoming post to find out who she was.

The layout above is part of my Star Trek album. It’s done using Kraft paper from my stash, misted with Glimmer Mist in roll top desk, and Core Crackle Paper. I inked the edges of everything with Soot Distress Ink, and attached the wristband with a Fastenater Staple. The final touch were some stickers from the Simple Stories Destinations collection.

Location, Location, Location

ImageLocation, location, location – that’s not only true for real estate, it’s true for fiction, too. The setting may be simply the backdrop for the story, or it may be a character. Think about Gone With the Wind. That book was set in the South – and it provided a beautiful backdrop for the story that simply would not have worked set in any other location. The setting is tied so closely to the story that there was no option for locating Scarlett anyplace else. Then there are stories like the Stephanie Plum series written by Janet Evanovich. Yes, the setting provides a nice backdrop and there are certain regional aspects to the story – but you could just as easily place Stephanie in another tight-knit community and the story would still essentially be the same.

Think about Lost. I know, it’s television, but the storytelling in that series was awesome (well, up until the finale)! I loved the way all the threads (characters) were woven together (plot) to create the tapestry that was Lost. In that series, the Island literally became a character in the show. It was a force to be reckoned with. That story would not have been the same set anywhere else.

I chose to set Denim & Diamonds in western Missouri, largely because I live in Missouri and am comfortable describing the area. It is essential that you know the location that you are writing about. You don’t absolutely positively have to have first hand knowledge, but it helps. I read a book a few years ago by an author who wrote about a woman’s travels as she was trying to outrun the mobsters after her. At one point, she was in Kansas City, Missouri. The author described her stepping onto her front porch and looking south to the mountains. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Missouri, but you sure don’t see mountains from your little bungalow in Kansas City. I was naive enough to think the author might want me to point out the error, in case she was writing a sequel. She emailed me back and pointed out that she had seen a map and the Ozark Mountains are clearly in the southern part of Missouri. So, she had (sort of) done her homework and looked at a map. But she was from the East coast where something in the southern part of the state could conceivably be within view of something in the center of the state. That ain’t the case in Missouri! And the Ozarks aren’t what most people think of as mountains.

There are resources available to help you make the location in your story realistic (I apologize – these links are not live yet due to a problem with my blog software, but you can cut & paste them into your browser until I get the issue resolved):

www.city-data.com/  – for basic information about a BUNCH of cities.

maps.google.com/ – for map information. Street view can be very useful for writers.

www.writerswrite.com/journal/nov98/keegan13.htm – Great article on creating the perfect setting.

Creating my Path

My life is in transition now. I thought I was doing a good job of preparing for the Empty Nest, but when my daughter moved out unexpectedly, I was forced to transition sooner. That got me to thinking about the Path each of us takes during our lifetimes. It’s not about forging a path. “Forge” isn’t really the right word. Forge indicates a forceful manufacture – I picture a blacksmith holding a blazing red chunk of iron in a roaring fire, then pounding that metal into shape with every swing of his heavy hammer. Clang-clink! Clang-clink!

That is not what we do. Instead, it is a more organic process. We create a path. It zigs this way and that, occasionally backtracking. The Path may be fast and swift, through a clearing, but more often it is slow-going, over and around obstacles.

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Creating my own Path has been difficult at times, and as I look back over the years, I realize that there were many, many crossroads where I had a decision to make. According to string theory, each of those crossroads created a new universe. In another universe, I may well exist as a canoe-paddling explorer out to chart new waters in the Boundary Waters along the US-Canadian border (trivia: I took a bunch of Girl Scouts on a 3-day backpacking trip in the BW area. It was an exercise in patience and survival.). In another, I may be an Olympian guiding my hunter-jumper over spine-tingling jumps. But in this world, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, paralegal, writer, animal lover.

What was an important crossroad for me? Going to the World Affairs Seminar comes to mind. At that seminar (thank you, Centralia Rotary Club, for sending me!), I suddenly realized that there was a whole world beyond my little hometown. Talking to students from all over the world was an eye-opener. My weekly thoughts were “What movie am I going to see with my boyfriend?” and “What color should I paint my nails?” It was mind-boggling to talk to other kids the same age as me, who were thinking things like “Is Mutual Assured Destruction really a smart foreign policy?” and “Should the US government be aiding rebels in Central America?” After listening to folks from the State Department and talking to other teenagers who actually cared about more than themselves, I decided my own future deserved a little more attention. Although I was tired of school, I went to college determined to earn my degree and do something worthwhile with my life (which is why I decided to go into education).

Creating your Path is an individual thing. When you reach a crossroads moment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I want to end up?
  • What are the directions I can take?
  • What will it cost me to take each direction (“opportunity cost” will be discussed in a future post)?
  • Which path will take me towards my desired destination?

Please share below the crossroads that have had an impact on your Path.

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