Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Challenge Accepted ~ Write 31 Days

Designed to challenge writers to delve deeper, Write 31 Days is an online dare to write daily through the month of October on ONE TOPIC.


But I'm rising to it.

Because 1 - I enjoy a good challenge

And 2 - I'm 'training' for the marathon that is November's NaNoWriMo.

My topic?

Writing. Because what better way to spend 31 days of writing than writing about writing?!

a writer's truth #write31daysThis post will serve as an archive of my challenge and I'll link through to each post from here. {Titles are subject to change as the month goes on but I had to make a plan in order to convince myself that I could do it.}

October 1 - 10 Signs You May Be A Writer
October 2 - Why Non-Writers Will Never Understand You
October 3 - How To Start A Writer's Group
October 4 - Recipe For 'Writer's Jam'
October 5 - The Importance Of A Writer's Space
October 6 - How To Coffee Shop Write Like A Boss
October 7 - The Quest For The Perfect Notebook {and the importance therein}
October 8 - Morning Writer Envy
October 9 - The Great Netflix Conspiracy
October 10 - How I Stopped Being Embarrassed To Say "I Am A Writer!"
October 11 - Why Blogging Is The Perfect Discipline For A Writer
October 12 - Counting My Writing Blessings
October 13 - An Argument For NaNoWriMo
October 14 - The Truth About NaNoWriMo {reality vs. expectation}
October 15 - Preparing For NaNoWriMo
October 16 - What's In My Writer's Toolbox
October 17 - How Writing Is Like A Marriage
October 18 - Daydreaming {the art of productively gazing into space}
October 19 - When You Don't Want To Write Another Word
October 20 - How To Ask A Writer What Her Book Is About
October 21 - Creating A Soundtrack For Your Story
October 22 - How Writing A Novel Is Like Giving Birth
October 23 - What Scares Me About Writing?
October 24 - How To Get Over Your Fear Of Self-Promotion
October 25 - How To Edit Your Own Work
October 26 - Finding & Knowing Your Writer's Voice
October 27 - Understanding What Kind Of Writer You Are {and accepting it}
October 28 - Why You Shouldn't Be A Hermit {but you should be able to say no without feeling guilty}
October 29 - 9 Signs You Live With A Writer
October 30 - Why Letting Others Read Your Manuscript Is Like Sending A Child To Kindergarten
October 31 - When You Write 'The End'
I hope you'll stay with me through it all. And who knows...maybe you'll find your own inner writer and join me. {click the 31 Days button <-- to sign up before October 4}

Cheers to 31 days!

P.S. October 31 is also my final goal to have my novel manuscript ready and off to the first batch of beta readers so wish me luck as I finish it up AND complete this challenge AND prepare for NaNoWriMo, 2015. 

P.P.S. Yikes!

Friday, September 25, 2015

That Time 'The Kings Of Summer' Almost Crushed My Writer's Soul

The Kings of Summer vs The Church In The WildwoodThe Kings Of Summer. It's a beautiful coming of age story about three teenage boys who run away from home to live in a house they built themselves - to live off the land, and find themselves among the wilderness of the forest. It was beautifully shot; the story was heartwarming, funny and touching. The soundtrack was gorgeous.

It was magical.

It tugged at my emotions and made me want to feel the grass beneath my own bare feet.

Except for one small problem.
Last night I watched

I saw my own story all over it and all that kept repeating in my head as I watched it was 'crap, crap, crap, crap!'

When you've been pouring yourself into a project, it's natural to see it everywhere - to hear it in whispers, to see it in signs, to read it in newspapers, to glimpse it across the faces of your loved ones...

That's all well and good. The whole world is a writer's inspiration.

What is NOT all well and good is seeing what you thought was your very own idea, birthed in your own imaginative mind, playing out on a screen from a script written years before your wrote the first word of your story.

This is a sure way to find your writer-spirit crushed.

The Kings of Summer

Main character: Joe (JoJo), fifteen years old

One dead parent, one emotionally damaged parent

Finds a clearing in the woods and builds a house

A quest for freedom and self-discovery

The Church In The Wildwood

Main character: Joseph (JoJo), fifteen years old

One dead parent, one emotionally damaged parent

Converts an old hunting cabin into a church...in a clearing in the woods

A quest for freedom and self-discovery

Do you see why I had a hard time with it?

Of course, I got to the end of the film and realized that really, The Kings of Summer and The Church In The Wildwood are actually completely different - holding enough similarities to make me question myself but not enough to make me question my story.

Because, here's the thing: there's nothing new under the sun. Everything comes from something. My ideas came from a million sources BUT no matter the similarities I saw I will always know that my ideas didn't come from this film.

I'm very close to writing 'The End' at the bottom of my manuscript and I hadn't even heard of this movie until it showed up in my 'You May Like' feed on Netflix last night.

What annoys me most is that we both share the same character name. I mean - how does that even happen??!! (Though they never call theirs Joseph and I never call mine Joe...so I guess there's that...)

All in all, it comes down to this: my story is still mine, similarities be damned! You can't stop me now! I'm almost at the end...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

When There's A Monster In Your Living Room

Since we've lived in this house I've always loved that television and video games have been confined to the basement family room. I've loved that there was a living space in my home void of screens, where I could curl up with a book or a cup of tea and not worry about being disrupted by a distracting screen.

But my husband is a sucker for a 'great' deal.

And so, unfortunately, all good things come to an end.

I don't know who first told him about the government auction site {and thanks a lot, whoever you are} but he got caught up in it and made some bids on things we absolutely didn't need but that were "just so cool".

Thankfully, his bid for a huge scoreboard {think high school football field} did not win; however, his fight for an old SmartBoard from a closed-down Catholic school did.


I was thrilled.

And by thrilled I mean annoyed.

BUT because I love him and because he was genuinely excited about it, I {mostly} kept my feelings silent and talked myself off the ledge by accepting that it would be fine in our very large basement - not infringing on the parts of our house that I take pride in.


This beast is HUGE! Like rent a U-Haul trailer to get it home HUGE. LIKE IT WON'T FIT DOWN THE BASEMENT STAIRS HUGE.


I tried to make the best of it. I tried to rearrange my small living room to accommodate this thing that was basically like fitting a Brontosaurus into a human-sized space. I tried to tell myself that I was okay with it - that it wasn't really affecting my relaxation - that I could ignore it easily when it wasn't turned on.

I tried.

I really, really did.

But no. Not a chance.

It threw off everything. It overlapped the window and that annoyed me. It was the first thing you saw when you approached the living room and that annoyed me. It forced the couch to be in a place that blocked what used to be a very open landing and that annoyed me. It was ugly. And that really annoyed me.

I mean...just look...

It's HUGE! And UGLY!

I tried for a whole week.

I really, really did.

But it not only threw off the peaceful balance of our homes main level - it turned my house into something I was embarrassed of.

Does that make me a monster?

I don't think so. But it does makes that ridiculous SmartBoard a monster.

So I took back my living room! 

And I did it without eliminating The Beast. 

It is amazing for watching movies on. It's totally like having our own little movie theatre. So it's not useless. Which meant I had to find a compromise.

So now the SmartBoard is pushed back in a corner by the coat closet where we can easily pull it out when we're in the mood for a NetFlix binge {it's conveniently on wheels}. It is NOT the main focus. It is not such a distraction. It's still ugly but it's no longer controlling my focus.

Ahhhhhhh....I can breathe again.

{Apologies for the grainy cellphone photos...it really does look nice in here again}

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I Am Quite Concerned That I May Be Writing Romance

The Church In The Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak excerpt

...not that I have anything against romance writers BUT that's not what I set out to do. This little scene poured out of me today when I realized I needed a transition between two other scenes...

Iris hated the way her footsteps echoed across the lonely chamber. The high ceiling stretched above her and Jesus watched her move down the aisle as she held her cardigan wrapped tightly around herself. “You’re not here,” she whispered to his image.


She spun around to see Samuel standing at the back of the church.

“Iris, what are you doing here?” He rushed down the aisle and took her hand, leading her into one of the pews and gesturing for her to sit. “Why are you here?” he asked again.

Iris tucked her hair behind her ear and looked down on their hands, clasped together on Samuel’s thigh. “You met my son,” she said.

“I did.”

“He wouldn’t understand.”

“He might.”

“Did you say anything to him?” she asked
“Nothing that would make him question you,” Samuel told her.

“I think he questions everything about me. He says he loves me but I worry that his love is really hate.”

“Impossible,” Samuel said. “Iris, you’ve raised a good boy. He’s gentle and curious. You should be able to trust him with your heart.”

“Do you trust me with yours?” she asked.

“Always,” he said, running his thumb around her palm. “And I’ll wait forever until you trust me with yours.”

She felt a flush rise in her cheeks as he leaned towards her—a hurricane in her chest at the thought of kissing him in his church. She tried to turn her face but he caught it, gently moving it back and setting his lips over hers—as soft as summertime.

“What are you afraid of, Iris?” he murmured against her skin, their foreheads bent together as if in mutual prayer.

“Losing everything,” she whispered. “Losing you both.”

“Impossible,” he said, kissing her again. “Absolutely impossible.”

“I hate it here,” she said, eyes flitting around the sanctuary.

“I know,” said Samuel. “But I love it here.” He set his hand over her heart. “And I love it here.”

Iris bit her lip and blinked back tears. “I know,” she whispered before falling into his kisses all over again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Talking Teenage Internet Addiction

Talking teenage internet addiction - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
He sat uncomfortably, chewing the inside of his cheek, eyes shifting between us with a look that bounced from nervous to annoyed to nervous.

"I want you to succeed," I said. "I want to set you up for a great year."


"I'm not so worried about that," his father told him. "You're smart. You're going to do well. We need to talk about addiction."

That's a heavy word to throw at a thirteen-year-old but it didn't shake him. "Okay," he said.

Screens have forever been an issue in our home and we often find ourselves struggling for balance and agreement. Having been raised {mostly} screen-free, I tend towards a stricter target while my husband, Scott - admitted video game lover - is more lenient, even using them as a tool for spending quality time with the kids.

I don't have an issue with video games. Or the internet. Or internet video games.
I do have an issue with allowing something - anything - to control your life.

Zander is a great kid. Crazy smart. Receiver of the award for the boy with the highest average at his Grade 8 Graduation, thank you very much. Brilliant designer of Minecraft kingdoms. Avid supporter of YouTube weirdos.

Hider in his room after lights out - playing games, watching videos, breaking rules, seeing 3 am.

He was honest about his dishonesty. I'm proud of him for that. 

"Do you think you're addicted?" we asked him.

"I don't know."

Because Scott works with troubled youth, he has knowledge of and easy access to all kinds of resources and right there in the middle of our conversation he pulled out a test for internet addiction.

Zander completed it without complaint, blushing over the 'how often do you prefer the excitement of the Internet to intimacy with your partner?' question until we changed 'intimacy with your partner' to 'time with your family'.

His resulting score put him right on the cusp between mildly and moderately addicted.

This is the first validated test for measuring internet addiction BUT I wouldn't scream it from the roof tops as absolute; however, it did open doors for more discussion.

"So how can we help you keep this under control so it doesn't affect your life and your performance?"

"I don't think I can decide that," he said. "I just want to do it."

"Then you'll have to respect whatever limitations we decide," we told him.


Internet addiction is real - perhaps it doesn't deserve a spot on the list of recognized mental illnesses - but it has, in extreme cases, ruined lives and relationships. I don't believe Zander is anywhere close to that point but I do think, if left unchecked, it has potential to develop into something that could jeopardize his future and his overall happiness.

I'm not willing to let that happen.

If it were just up to me, I would have him lock up all devices at a certain time - by removing the temptation you can't be tempted, right? But, if his history in youth work has taught Scott anything, it's that consequence-based lessons don't really teach - it's more positive for everyone if attainable expectations are made clear and the child is trusted to reach them.

This doesn't mean he won't fall. This doesn't mean that I won't poke my head in before I go to bed to check and make sure he's not hiding under his blankets watching Good Mythical Morning. And this doesn't mean there won't be consequences if he does break the rules BUT I think Scott is right--raising a child who knows his parents respect his passions {whether they understand them or not} and trust him to manage his time and limitations maturely is huge for strengthening both his own self-esteem and his relationship with his mom and dad.

One thing we try very hard to maintain is an open line of communication. The first rule in our home is honesty. We want to be sure our children know that all topics are fair game and that we won't shy away from saying {or hearing} the hard things. {This is tough for me, an internal processor, but I'm constantly growing and learning even as my children grow and learn.} We strive to speak into problems, praise good choices, celebrate truth, and work together to find solutions.

Yesterday, I stood at the dining room window, feeling my eyes burn and a sob hitch in my throat as I watched him climb into the bus that would take him away to high school {HIGH SCHOOL!!!?!}  - that baby who cried for six months, who would pat my shoulder while I cried with him, who drew on library books and wrote me love letters with a hundred X's and O's, that baby who even at the dawning of his high school career kissed me before he left the house and said, "love you too." That baby. My baby. And I thought 'I'm doing okay...we're doing okay." 

And we are.

And I'm going to do everything in my momma powers to make sure that beautiful boy becomes a beautiful man.

Photo taken by Stephanie Rusnak

Parenting is tricky. We've been doing it for almost fourteen years now and we still don't have a clue. All I do know is this: a parents whole job is to teach, to try to understand, to love them through it all, and to always always always allow yourself to be taught too.

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