Sunday, April 10, 2016

Year of Yes and My Writing Process


Some of my fave nonfiction books

I used to pore over the greats' blogs--Neil Gaiman, Meg Wolitzer, Lois McMaster Bujold--reading about their writing processes and hoping to snag a secret-to-success to chew on. Like wisdom jerky. I wondered does [famous author] suck down a  64 oz of diet Coke while pounding away at the keyboard? Does he write in tiny notebooks in bed or type on a Mac on the couch? Does she wear lucky heels or use a fountain pen owned by Hemingway? I hoped their geniuses were transferable, that by reading HOW they conducted their writing sessions I would be able to adapt their methods and become a great too. I learned some interesting things. Lois likes to think of the worst possible things that can be done to her characters and then she MAKES THEM HAPPEN. Neil suggests that if you don't feel like you can do something, fake it. Pretend. And Meg hangs the banner, "If not now, when?" I found these bits to be helpful, but the other stuff--shoes, pens, operating systems--usually weren't mentioned or didn't apply to me. At all. Such as Neil Gaiman's glassed off woodland gazebo/writing room. Who can afford that except The Neil Gaiman? I can barely afford to pay a guy to kill the dandelions in my yard.

You can imagine how strange it felt when Superstition Review asked ME about MY writing process. I've been published, don't get me wrong. I've written over a 160 articles for the local daily, and I've recently published five essays in several literary journals. There's the stuff I did during my undergrad. I'm nearly finished with my MFA in Creative Nonfiction, and I've written not one but TWO memoirs. Long ones. Like 65,000+ words. I put in the time. I stare at the screen and chew my gum. I have a process. But no one had ever asked me what it was. Until last month.

It felt a little like graduation.

I resisted the urge to ask "Why me?" and, instead, I owned it. I celebrated. And I took Shonda Rhimes's advice in Year of Yes.

"I'm going to say YES to accepting any and all acknowledgments of personal fabulous awesomeness with a clear, calm "Thank you" and a confident smile and nothing more" (179). 

Thank you, SR, and to anyone who views the vodcast. [Insert confident smile here.]

Here's a link:

Here's a link to the essay I published in SR and the recording:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Emerging from thesis hell

Hi friends, 

I have been busy finishing my thesis for grad school, and I'm done. With a draft. I still have two more to go, but at least I'm in the holding period, waiting for notes from my professor, Jake Lamar. (He's so great at his job. But I'm all kinds of nervous that he'll hate it, because...anxieties.)

Ice cream on our bike rides are a staple.  
Now, it's spring break, and we are living it up! We took a bike ride to SOS for ice cream cones, and then rode over to the library for books. I'm reading Shona Rhimes' Year of Yes


Thank goodness for the warmth!
Gavin had a birthday, and he was baptized a couple weeks ago. Love this bug. 

Gav's obsessions: Little Big Planet and Five Nights at Freddy's




Also, this is new! 

If you would like to listen to a recording of me reading my essay, "The Passenger," you can visit Superstition Reveiw's blog here

Aaaaaannnnd forthcoming: A podcast about my writing process! 

Stay tuned and thanks for your support. =)

Rena


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Timed Poetry: Red

[Write a poem in under 5 minutes.]

She wore black lace with red pumps
And, tucking her an ankle beneath her seat,
She told a strident secret
I couldn't keep.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sometimes it's fun to rewrite poetry.

(Reposted from several years ago.)

Unburden Me Here

The sheep herself is hoarse
That bleats the sealed gates of St. Peter
Above my battleground. Come, Holy Spirit
That tends to mortal hearts, unburden me here,
And fill me from the halo to the pedicure
Of warmest serenity!

[modified from Lady Macbeth's speech from Macbeth]

Monday, January 11, 2016

Our next dog will be a Beastie Boys lyric.



My husband says that if we get another dog, we're going to name him "Sabotage", because you can't call his name without sounding like the Beastie Boys.

Other names on the table:

Rasputin (for a Boxer or a teacup Yorkie)
Nostradamus (because dogs sense danger even when it's just a kid riding down the sidewalk on a tricycle)
Tennant (because...Reasons)

Note: We have vowed not to get a second dog until we can afford to put up a fence. But we can dream.



Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Christmas Newsletter: Smithnado!



What we've been up to in 2015:
JANUARY: New York, New York! 
I was in town for a grad school mid-year shindig. We sat down with some agents and editors and visited all the cool sights. 
I fulfilled my life long dream of seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. 

Then I fulfilled Cole's life long dream of visiting the library from the opening scene in Ghostbusters. 

Had to stop by NBC.
"Jimmy, cut. Cats rescuing firemen?! Somebody get me Tina on the horn!" 

March: Gavin turned 7.


You want a Kirby cake? You got it. 
APRIL: Ran a 5K with the kids.


After the first 1/2 mile, we walked. Medals were for participation. 

May: STORYMAKERS!!!


THIS IS THE BEST WRITING CONFERENCE IN UTAH! 

In the Publication Primer class, I presented the first chapter of my memoir, A BIRD IN MY HEAD. My mentor writer loved it. Said he wanted a copy so he could get it signed by next's year's conference. Anyway, this picture is a one-in-five stat representing how one in five women are victims of sexual abuse, which is one of the topics of my memoir. 
This is a quote from her new book. I finished A BIRD IN MY HEAD last year, and it was quite a mental struggle to delve into the memories I worked so hard to forget and work through my trauma. Because of this, I gained a lot of weight last year. I'm a stress eater. 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, LUVAH. 13 years. 
Our relationship in a nutshell. 

JUNE: Layne had a piano recital.

Good job, sweetie! I love "Chopsticks!"
Layne learned a cheer and performed on the football field. She was fantastic! 
Y Mountain in Provo, UT
We hiked the Y for the first time as a whole family.


JULY: Hello, Vienna! 

For my second grad school residency, I spent 2 weeks in Austria. 

Two weeks of writing, listening to writing lectures, workshopping manuscripts, and touring the city. 
The monastery in Melk, Austria. 
Love the architecture. At night the skyline is scalloped in places. 
The canal that runs through the city. 

Whoa.
Castle in Bratislava. 
The Prater in Vienna. 

AUGUST: Summer hiking adventures. If you live in Utah, you take advantage of its beauty.


Capitol Reef

Chimney Rock



Fruita, Utah

First day of school. Gav - 2nd grade, Lane - 5th. 

Segullah published an article of mine. 

SEPTEMBER: We got rid of the chickens. They went to live on a farm.
No, really.

Beaka lives with grandma in So. Utah. 

Gavin played on a community fb team. 

I'm so proud. 

Comic Con 2015. The best time of the year. Layne and Cole loved zombie laser tag. I loved the Animanics panel and the nerd poetry slam. Gavin loved his Sonic the Hedgehog hat. 

 OCTOBER: Publications, birthdays, and Halloween!

Wahoo! Another publication! 

And more hiking in Capitol Reef.

Cassidy Arch


This was a scary one for Layne. She has a fear of heights. 


Layne turned 11 during the month.  


Halloween. Gavin was Sonic.exe and Layne was a mermaid. 

Layne won first place in the PTA Reflections contest for her artwork. The theme was "Let your imagination fly." 


NOVEMBER: NANOWRIMO



I wrote all month, except for a week when I was sick as a dog.

I've been writing my second memoir, Bigfoot & Me: A Memoir of Marriage and Mental Illness.
I have 62,000 now, but it's still not done. I'm close. 

A nasty habit of mine.
Gavin suddenly grew some sort of an artist gene. 

Where did this talent come from???
He's been watching tutorial after tutorial. 

Cole and I refurbished this hutch. It belonged to my mother, and I'm pretty sure it's at least twenty years old. 

Bought these at DI when we moved into our home 6 years ago. I added these letters so they would look a little like typewriter keys. 


DECEMBER: I published another essay
My article in Superstition Review is out! It's been a good year for publications.
AND (spoilers) I had another one accepted for publication for January. More on this later.  

The Praterstern that I wrote about in the first bit of the essay. 


Still teaching. Still loving it. Life is good. 

Merry Christmas, friends and family.
Love you all!
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