The Art of Writing (with cats on your lap)

Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe, Collette, Truman Capote, George Plimpton, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, Patricia Highsmith, Mark Twain. What do all these writers have in common, besides being great? And I share this commonality (not the great part, at least not yet). All were or are cat lovers.

We’ve all heard of Hemingway’s famous six-toed cats that still rule his home on Key West. But I was unaware of how many other authors also loved cats. Take a look at this website, http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/30-renowned-authors-inspired-by-cats, to see some wonderful pictures of the above listed authors as well as eighteen others with their cats.

My partner, Lisa, and I currently own four cats and one dog. Our fur-babies. At one point we had six cats and five dogs. Unfortunately we had to find homes for a few of them when we moved to our current house and one of the cats and two of the dogs have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

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Geri

Three of the cats we own are “my” cats.

Geri is our red tabby, geriatric cat. He’s seventeen years old and is on thyroid and high blood pressure medicine. He’s also the only one of the four who gets canned cat food. He’s got to be one of the pickier cats I’ve ever owned. The food HAS to be Friskies and he’ll only eat about three of the who knows how many flavors they have. Oh, and it has to be paté. I’ve had Geri since he was two weeks old and his momma got hit by a car.

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Mouse

 

Mouse is our big boy at about seventeen pounds. He’s a domestic short-hair with the prettiest gray fur I’ve ever seen. We wonder if he doesn’t have some Russian Blue in him. Mouse is our purr-box. You just have to look at him to set him off. And he’s our lover. Unfortunately, because of his size, it’s difficult to let him sit on me for any length of time before it starts hurting. I rescued Mouse from a “humane society” that was closing and planned to put all its animals down at six p.m. on the day they closed. I arrived at 5:59 p.m.                                                                

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Sullivan

Sullivan is “the kitten.” He’s going to be four on March 17. But he is the baby in the family and he’ll always be our kitten. He’s the one that makes us go “what the –“ as he goes by at warp speed. He doesn’t know how to go in a straight line anywhere. He has to bounce of at least two things on the way to wherever. He loves heights and it’s not unusual to find him on top of the cabinets. Lisa got him for me when he was six weeks old from the veterinarian she worked for at the time.

 

The other cat, Jewels, and the dog, a Boston Terrier named Madison are Lisa’s. Jewels is a long-haired diva who is very much Lisa’s cat. And while Madison and I love each other, I’m NOT her mom and she is sure to let me know that.

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Jewels

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Madison

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what does my dissertation on my animals have to do with the authors I listed above and writing? A lot actually. If you look into each of those authors another thing they had in common was they had a favorite place write. I haven’t had that luxury until just recently. We cleaned out our second bedroom that caught all the overflow from the rest of the house and made a portion of it into an office area for me. I have my bookcases full of books about the art and craft of writing and my reference books and the notebooks that hold my various and sundry manuscripts. I have bulletin board tiles on the wall and a dry erase board and I’ve tacked inspirational sayings all over the same wall. I have my desk and a desk chair and a lamp. It’s MY space – the first I’ve ever had that was just mine.

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Mouse on my lap

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Geri on my lap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I’ve come to find out that space isn’t just mine. Without fail, every time I sit down to write here comes one or the other of my three cats. Mouse especially loves to sit on my lap while I’m trying to tap away on my computer. Geri gets on the desk and rubs against the back of the laptop until it’s almost closed. The Boy – one of our many names for Sullivan – climbs among the detritus that is still stored in the room but once in a while will come and curl up on my lap.

If they would curl up, like Sullivan does, I wouldn’t mind having a cat on my lap while I write. Their warmth and their purrs are soothing and when I find myself stuck I can pet the cat and almost always the words come back to me. Unfortunately, Mouse doesn’t curl up. He has to sit on me, kneading his claws into my leg and head butting my arm, purring so loud he almost drowns out the music on my IPOD. Geri doesn’t curl up either. He prefers to stand on me and lean against my body. He’ll head butt my chin and silent meow when I look at him. Or he licks my chin. But most of the time he just stands there.

I have discovered there is definitely an art to writing when you have cats on your lap. At times I have to type one-handed to rescue my leg from the torment of Mouse’s claws or prevent Geri from closing the computer. Other times I’ve found myself holding my arms up, almost as if to play London Bridge, so that I can reach the computer keyboard over the cat on my lap. Once in a while, though, the cat will lie down and curl up and just purr. Then I can write and I find I’m actually a lot more productive with that ball of fur warming my lap.

More pictures of our fur-babies:

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Sullivan

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Jewels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Geri

 

 

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Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell me about your cats or other pets who help you do your writing.

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Of Being Sick, Writing, and Good News

ImageI wish on no one the hell that is the norovirus. I haven’t been so miserable in a long time and I hope it’s a lot longer before I do again. The one good side of the virus is I lost a couple of pounds or so. The part that was the worst, though, is my muse avoided me.

I was home from work for three and a half days and I wrote not one word, unless you count a couple of emails and Facebook status updates as writing. I had all the time in the world to open my Scrivener file and work on Welcome Home, but I just didn’t have the energy. The one time I did open the file, my muse groaned and crawled back under the covers.

There was once a time when I could write regardless of health, distractions, time of day, or even if I was hungry. But my muse has grown old along with me and now she will shut down or turn her back on me if I don’t feel well or there is too much going on. I used to be a morning person. Even though I could write just about any time of day or night, the mornings were when I was most productive. Not anymore. My muse insists the best time to write now is when I get home from work at 9:30 at night. And if I’m the least bit hungry, she is quite demanding that the growling stomach be shut up before she’ll allow me to do any more work.

Instead of writing, I spent my time reading. I’d like to recommend a novel and a short story to you all.

K.G. MacGregor’s Photographs of Claudia is a beautifully written story of young love cut short by circumstances out of the control of either of the young women and how that love survived the years. I was moved by the strength of the characters. There were moments I laughed and moments I cried. I will definitely re-read Photographs of Claudia. Photographs of Claudia is $9.99 at Amazon, here.

The short story is Penny Nickels by Layce Gardner. Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud and had to read parts of the story to Lisa to explain my sudden eruptions of mirth. I loved how the two women interacted and the friendship that grew between them in such a short period of time. I found myself wishing I lived in Flotsam, TX, so I could go get my hair fixed at the Eclectic Chair hair salon. Penny Nickels is available for 0.99 at Amazon, here.

Fortunately, I’m over that nasty virus and back at work, where my muse seems to like to pester me the most, hence this blog. She’s given me the beginning of a book I’ve struggled with for almost two years; so I spent my lunch break writing instead of eating. Don’t worry. I did get in a couple of bites. And I’ve got my file for Welcome Home open and plan to work on it on my next break.

Being well and my muse being cooperative isn’t my only good news. Lisa has been diligently hunting for a full-time job for over a year now with no luck. She’s been working part-time, on-call at two different jobs and barely pulling in enough money to count. Last week, she had an interview and today a second interview. She will be an AFLAC agent after she completes her insurance training and gets her insurance certification. She’s really excited about this opportunity, especially since it may very well open the door that will allow her to sell pet insurance and own her own company.

The other bit of good news I need to keep under my hat for a few more weeks, but suffice it to say I may be going home for a couple of weeks in December. No, I’m not going to be a grandma, at least not for a few more years. I am chomping at the bit to share this news but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. I’m normally quite good at keeping secrets but this one is eating me alive!

Out of the Past is doing well at Amazon and Smashwords. It is also available through Barnes & Noble. Right now it is only available as an ebook, but I hope to have the print version ready shortly. It is running behind schedule due to circumstances I hadn’t taken into account. One other announcement I have about Out of the Past is it will soon be available directly through the Rainbow Tales Publishing website.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased Out of the Past and to those of you who are planning to. If you would like to have an autographed postcard of the cover of the book, drop me an email with your mailing address and I’ll get one right out to you.

I hope and pray none of my readers get the norovirus or this ugly strain of flu that is making the rounds. The best protection is to wash your hands often and thoroughly and use bleach wipes to disinfect every surface you possibly can. And if you do get sick, please don’t go to work. It’s not good for you or your co-workers. Drink lots of fluids and get lots of rest.

Stay healthy! Until next time.

 

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Disheartened, Dispirited, Depressed?

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Disheartened, Dispirited, Depressed?

I love the above quote. I hadn’t seen it before someone posted it on Facebook on Sunday. But it made me think and it made me think hard. I am the epitome of disheartened, dispirited, and depressed. I have made excuses for why I feel this way – everything from my bad health to the death of my mother to my kids living so far away. And each of those reasons is enough to put even the strongest person into a temporary funk, but I wear mine like a cloak. I hide inside the cloak as a way to protect myself from the world and at the same time gain the sympathy of the world.

After I read this quote I took inventory of my life using the four questions the shaman would ask should I approach one.

When did I stop dancing? In fact have I ever really danced? Not in so many words or movements! I have absolutely no rhythm and I’m tone deaf. But I’ve always loved to move to music, even without the gift of understanding the notes. I have embarrassed myself and my partner with my lack of rhythm and caused lots of laughter to anyone watching. But I stopped dancing.

When did I stop singing? World, this old woman can’t carry a tune in a bucket! But I love music and yes, I love to sing along. I like lots of country music; I love Melissa Etheridge and Norah Jones and Alanis Morissette and Renee Olstead; and I thoroughly enjoy jazz. I know the words and when I’m alone, I belt them out. Or at least I used to. I stopped singing.

When did I stop being enchanted by the stories? I’m a writer. Writers read. And I do read – a lot. And I know a good story when I read it. But I no longer get lost in the words. I no longer lose track of time. I’m no longer enchanted by the stories.

When did I stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? I used to love to meditate. I talk too much and my brain has a hard time shutting down, even long enough for me to sleep. But in my meditation, I found that “sweet territory of silence” and within that territory I often found answers to questions I didn’t know I had and sometimes I found I had questions I didn’t know needed to be answered. But I’ve stopped “having time” to meditate.

So how do I find my way back to these ways to beat being disheartened, dispirited, and depressed?

I may have already found my way back to dancing. I have a gourd that makes a wonderful rattle. I “Zentangled” it to make it make it my own. One day recently I was looking for a new home for it and started being silly and shaking it and moving to its rhythm (or trying to, anyway). And, even with my arthritic back and knees and hips, I found the movement made me feel better. I’ve started trying to “play” with my rattle at least once a day for five minutes or so.

The dancing – if you could call it that – also has the added benefit of helping me feel closer to my spirit. It’s not the type of meditation people think of when they read that word. Meditation to so many people, including me, always meant silence, clearing of the mind. But I’ve found that dancing with my rattle is also a form of meditation. It prepares me for the next step, the step of sitting with myself, with my breath and finding that sweet territory of silence.

I still haven’t found my voice to sing again. But now that I’m dancing again and meditating again, perhaps the singing will return as well. I’ve programmed my new IPOD with music I thoroughly enjoy and I listen to it, often. And I’ve found myself humming and yes, mouthing the words.

I hate to admit I still haven’t found the enchantment in the stories yet. I am reading. But I’m still having a hard time getting lost in the words. I’d like to use re-writing one of my books and starting my own publishing company and self-publishing the books that were pulled with L-Book epublisher closing. But none of those are valid excuses. The enchantment will return, I’m just not sure when.

I am disheartened with life – I’m slowly becoming disabled. But I can beat being disheartened by remembering to dance for a few minutes every day and finding my voice to sing, even if no one wants to hear my voice but the spirits that surround me.

I am dispirited – Life has been hard, harder than it should be on so many levels. But the spirits are lifting me up with each shake of my rattle and dance step I take.

I am depressed – both clinically and situationally. But the depression lifts when I find that silence within me where my soul resides and I know it will lift even more when the enchantment with the stories returns.

I pray all of you always find the time to dance, the words to sing, the stories to enchant you and the sweet territory of silence within you.

 

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Achieving Goals

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At 54 I’m finally learning to set and achieve goals.

Oh, I’ve set plenty of goals in the past but I didn’t do it properly. I’d choose a goal, usually something grandiose and frankly impossible, but let’s use a smaller one as an example. Last year my goal was to write every day. I made up a schedule; I made a calendar; I asked for friends to hold me accountable. What I didn’t do is make it realistic. I didn’t plan for extenuating circumstances and I didn’t work any flexibility into my plan.

I started whole hog. I wrote every day, according to my super-dooper calendar for a grand total of five days. Whoopee!!! And then I either stopped using the calendar or I quit writing, I don’t know which. But, knowing me as well as I do, it was probably both. So what happened next?

I had a melt-down. I’m a type-A personality with some cyclothymic disorder (mild bipolar), ADHD, overly emotional, overly sensitive thrown in for good measure. I’m on anti-depressants and medication to control the roller coaster that life is with cyclothymic disorder, but they only work to a certain extent.

What happens when I have a melt-down? I throw a temper tantrum that would make a three-year-old child look calm. I cuss myself out; I tell myself I’m an idiot for believing I could ever stick with a plan; I kick myself, figuratively, but I would literally if I could figure out how; I give up; and then I sink into a blob of useless, weeping skin, bones, and sweat.

My partner, Lisa, bless her heart, is a SAINT. She scrapes me off the floor, reminds me of the progress I have made, of the work I have done, and she tells me she loves me and believes in me and she knows I can figure out a way to make this endeavor work out. I believe her for a little while, until my next goal slips away from me or something else goes wrong.

This year HAS to be different. I have too much at stake for it not to be. I’ve started my own publishing imprint, Rainbow Tales Publishing. I’ve released my first book under that imprint, Out of the Past. And I have investors EXPECTING me to be a success. I have a lot more riding on my goals coming to fruition.

So, I had to think about HOW to make that happen WITHOUT the melt-downs and the giving up.

I resorted to one of my favorite pass times – research. I researched how other people made goals and make them work. 

And I found out I’d been doing it all wrong. Without fail, every website I visited, every blog I read, said break the goal(s) down into small, doable steps; WRITE each step down; and don’t panic if one day passes without doing one of those steps. Just get up the next day with the ambition to do it that day. But these people differed on one thing. Some said keep the goals secret – don’t broadcast them to the world. Others said tell everyone so you can be held accountable, so you’ll succeed if for no other reason not to be embarrassed.

So, this year I’ve once again set a goal to write every day. And I’ve added the goal to do something every day to promote Rainbow Tales Publishing and/or Out of the Past and subsequent titles I release.

I was a bit panicked by these goals because I know in the past when I’ve said “every day” I’ve held myself to an almost impossible standard. If I didn’t do it (whatever IT was), then I was an abject failure and there was no reason to continue. Cue meltdown.

But this year, I’m taking into account my crazy work schedule, my fragile health, and my precious time with Lisa. I realize there may be days writing or promoting may be next to impossible. Or that there will be little time for both. And I came up with a solution, a solution I read on someone else’s blog (I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember whose). I will write or edit for at least five minutes a day and I will do my promotional activities for at least five minutes a day.

Five minutes. I’m discovering a great deal can be done in five minutes. I wrote almost five hundred words in five minutes this morning. Are they worth reading again? I don’t know. I’ll find out when I take five minutes on another day to edit those five hundred words. And I’m not going to worry about it if I don’t get to that for a few days. And five minutes will seldom, if ever, take time away from Lisa, or work, and I can write when my health is not what it should be.

The other solution is not to set too many goals to achieve at once. This year, I have only two – write/edit and publish/promote. Doable. Doable in five minutes a day.

 

Glenda Poulter

Out of the Past –  available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, & Kobo

www.GlendaPoulter.com

www.Rainbow-Tales.com

 

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What 2012 Taught Me

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Every year is a classroom if we are open to the lessons being taught. For some reason 2012 was more so. I apparently was remiss in picking up what I needed to know in previous years and the higher powers were determined I’m to learn them this year.

Lesson #1: NEVER take your health and your ability to get around for granted. Although it started many years ago, the pain in my body took over my life this year. It finally came to a head in July when I got a tentative diagnosis of fibromyalgia. After numerous doctors’ appointments, even more medical tests and x-rays and MRIs, the official diagnosis is degenerative disc disease with the majority of my spine compromised by osteoarthritis, pinched nerves, and general degeneration, as well as secondary fibromyalgia. I depend on a cane almost 100% of the time and a walker more than I like to admit.

The number one lesson I learned from this is how much Lisa loves me. She bends over backwards to take care of me and try to make sure I slow down and take my medicine and eat and all the other things I need to do to stay as healthy as possible. Lisa is a saint and my love for her is stronger now than ever. 

Lesson #2: Stay in touch with friends, everyday if possible. You never know when they will be gone, forever. I lost three special people this year and in a short period of time. On September 10, my dear friend Kathy Bertrand was gunned down by her ex-husband, who later took his own life. I hate to admit I hadn’t talked to her in weeks – not for any good reason except that we were both “busy.” I hope I’m never that busy again! 

Later that same month, Roxanne Jones, owner of L-book epublisher, passed away. Roxanne was one of the first people to believe in my writing (outside LiOut of the Past was newly published by L-book just before we lost her. While I grieve the loss of L-book epublisher, I mourn the loss of Roxanne more.

In November, the man I long considered my foster father, lost his battle with leukemia. The pain in my heart is knowing how much time I lost with him. Because his daughter, one of my best friends for so many years, and I lost touch with each other back in 2000, I didn’t make the effort to stay in touch with him either. I did get to see him and my “momma” (his wife) in August, thank goodness.

Tell the people in your life that you love them, often, everyday. 

Lesson #3: Never give up. The contract for my first novel, Welcome Home, was released to me early in the year. Then Out of the Past reverted back to me when L-book closed. What to do? Let them die? Re-shop them around? Or take matters into my own hands?

With the help of generous investors, the advice of others, and the support of the ones who love me, I started Rainbow Tales Publishing. Out of the Past is now available as an ebook through all the regular channels and will be released in print shortly after the new year. And Welcome Home will be released in early spring.

Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? By all means!

Lessons #4 through infinity: LIVE. LOVE. LAUGH. Look for the good in people and the positive in every situation. Don’t write people off because of one or even twenty mistakes – give them the benefit of the doubt and offer your help. Take your own advice (VERY important!). Get outside. Listen to the birds and the crickets and the wind. Smile at little kids and old people. Laugh at yourself. Learn from your mistakes and those others make.

I hope the classroom that will be 2013 brings some lessons a little easier to learn and hang onto. But, regardless, I look forward to the new of each of the next three-hundred-sixty-five days.

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