In which Theresa talks about a possible new direction for the blog

#amwriting, #writinglife, #writingcommunity
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I’m sitting at my desk this morning thinking about the immense thunderstorm that happened here in Seattle last night. Seattle rarely had electrical storms when I was a kid. In fact on TV last night the weather meteorologist said, “This is Midwest weather!” According to the national weather service there were over 1200 lightning strikes in the Seattle area last night. I believe it! They had to postpone our local college football game over two hours for safety from lightning strikes, for the first time ever. At one point my spouse and I threw open the front door, looked south, and the entire sky was white with lightning flashes. So odd for Seattle! Exciting!

What’s coming up

#amwriting, #dailywriting, #writingcommunity
Photo by Theresa Barker

I’m excited to mention that last month was my six-year-anniversary writing the Lab Notes blog. In the past several weeks I’ve been reviewing my blog and going over my thoughts and feelings about it. When I started the blog, I would write a very short flash fiction piece and post it daily. It was a great feeling to put out my work and let the world take a look at it, no matter how small the audience. Gradually I started reading more blogs, loved hearing more about the writers and their own lives, and I added some updates on my own writing and on the process of writing itself.

Lately, however, I’ve been sensing a possible shift in the focus for the blog. Recently I did some research on blogging, tips and best practices, that kind of thing. I’m mulling over some possible new directions for the blog that will engage my interest and readers who have been part of my community.

I still love the series that I’ve written for this blog, like the Haunted Wedding Dresses story, and – going way back – the #productivewriter and #beingthemoment articles. Reader feedback has been such a great part of this blog. I’m looking forward to continuing those fun aspects of my blog and to make them even better.

Writing excerpt

This is a story that I wrote quite a while ago, and it’s never found a home, though it did win an Honorary Mention in a writing contest. I think you may enjoy it!

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Strike Breaker (Part 1)

Princess Amadea stood at the scullery sink up to her elbows in soap suds. As the princess of the realm she should never have washed dishes herself. But with the elves on strike, there was no one to do the servants’ work in the castle. She had to host the Banquet of Lords this evening to take her rightful place as sovereign of the realm. Thirty-six sets of china, silver, and glasses had to be clean and ready for setting by six p.m. Food furnished by wood fairies would served to each of the thirty-five royally-appointed nobles of the kingdom. The entire event must be carried off without a hitch, or she’d be the laughing-stock of the realm by this time tomorrow.

But the elf-staff were on strike. Had her father the king, been alive, he wouldn’t have stood for a strike. He would have brought in ogre troops, just as he had when she was a girl. She shuddered at the memory. Ogres vs. elves was not a pretty sight. She still recalled the sight of elves, still dressed in palace livery, scattering before the violent clubbing by the ogres. Bloodied heads and crushed limbs, with more than a few casualties. The old king had kept his palace staff in line ever since.

But the old king was dead. In his absence, Elf Leader Mitchell had called a palace strike almost immediately, leaving Amadea scrambling to meet her obligations, as Crown Princess and prospective ruler of the kingdom, the first of which was to host the Banquet of Lords.

Amadea rinsed the plates and stacked them in columns on the counter beside her. “This is the last of them, your highness,” came a raspy voice from the doorway. Mistress Periwinkle, Amadea’s longtime companion and maidservant, appeared through the doorway to the china cellar, her arms full with a load of china. “I’ll start laying out the linen.”

The princess took the china from the older woman and placed it in the sink. As Mistress Periwinkle headed for the dining hall, Amadea dropped her arms into the soapy water again.

If she had been raised in the palace, she might have known what to do. But she’d been sent away from the palace when she was ten, just after her mother’s death, to live in a hunting lodge with a contingent of her father’s woodsmen, chaperoned by Mistress Periwinkle. She knew nothing of court manners, of how to handle the staffing of royal functions. She had to rely now almost exclusively on Mistress Periwinkle’s knowledge, which may not have been as up-to-date as possible. Still, it would have to do.

Thankfully, if she and Periwinkle could set the table and prepare the banquet hall, that would be sufficient. Food would be catered, by tradition, by the fairies of the wood. If she’d have to prepare the food as well . . . she shuddered to think of it.

Mistress Periwinkle came into the scullery and picked up a load of newly washed china. “The linen’s all laid out, your highness,” she commented. She did a half-curtsy and bowed her head toward Amadea.

“Oh, Periwinkle, no need to curtsy when it’s just the two of us,” the princess said. After all their years together in the forest as companions, Periwinkle had now started this annoying habit now of curtseying and bowing to her.

“Yes, your highness,” Periwinkle said. And she did another half-curtsy.

Amadea sighed. Just then, there was a knock at the scullery door. In panic, Amadea looked over at Periwinkle. The wood fairies! Could they be early? Surely not!

The knock came again.

Periwinkle opened the heavy door. There stood Mitchell, the leader of the strike. He was dressed in the customary palace livery of blue and gold tunic and knickers, black boots. . . .

(To be continued!)

Happy writing!

On rejection

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Well, here we are in the last part of the summer, post-August 15th, at the time when you really start feeling the curve of the sunlight dropping slowly slowly slowly toward the golden autumn crispiness that leads again into winter. At my latitude we get about fourteen hours of sunlight in a day this time of year, down from almost fifteen hours at the start of the month, and by October 1st we will have passed the equinox, and it will be less than 12 hours of light in the day. Such a gradual process, losing the length of daylight, that one hardly notices. But there is a feel in the light this time of year that seems to suggest the passing away of time, even before autumn arrives.

Lately I have been thinking about rejections I’ve received on my work. I have been fortunate to receive a number of acceptances and to have my work published in some small fiction journals over the past three years. But the acceptances still fail to take the sting out of rejection. People say putting one’s work out there is one of the hardest things to do, and I always tell other writers that they should give themselves credit simply for being willing to take the chance to submit their work, even though it is difficult to take the rejections that inevitably come back from submissions. Even if one is confident in the value of their work, even if one braces themselves against the possibility of rejection, though, it can still be discouraging and frustrating to get back rejections.

When the rejection includes an indication, however small, that you might have some acknowledgment of the value of the work, it feels much less bruising. This week I got a rejection email from a flash fiction market on a story that I submitted, which is a bit of a quirky piece, but which I still like very much as a work of art. In this rejection they sent me the feedback from their 5 slush readers. While most of the five readers obviously did not like the premise at all, asking questions that indicated they didn’t get what I was trying for in the piece, one of the readers completely understood it, and they said they liked it. It was wonderful just to see that.

Today I would like to share a piece that is a one-sentence story of about 400 words, which did get rejected from the market I intended it for, but which I still like very much, and in that spirit I wanted to share it with you. By putting it out here on my blog I am choosing to publish it myself, so I will not be sending it out for first-publication rights to any other markets. But I have a feeling you will enjoy it, and that makes me happy to know.

About this piece: I wrote this in response to a one-sentence piece published in monkeybicycle some time ago. If you click on the link here, scroll down to Prelude Op. 02 No. 21 by Dean Liao, you will see the piece that inspired this one. I wanted a more upbeat tone in my piece, since that one is fairly dark in its ending.

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Prelude in B-Flat Major

(After Dean Liao)

She sat on the windowsill in a hotel room on the 25th floor, a wide and deep sill from the 1930s when the hotel was built, a windowsill on which you could eat a five-course meal or play a game of checkers with your grandfather or make love to your most cunning crush from work, looking over Central Park like in the movies, freshly full from room service’s delicate poached eggs and tartly shredded hash browns, sesame-grain wheat toast with sweet jam from a tiny jar made for elves, a jar kept company on the room service tray by matching doll-sized salt and pepper shakers, all encased in a slate-steel protective heat cover that indicated her meal was crafted only for her, even though it was not, it was just one more meal in the kitchen for a guest on the twenty-fifth floor overlooking the park, but she liked to imagine herself as unique and worthy of attention, if only from the staff of room service in a hotel across the street from Central Park, because, as her therapist had told her, it is in the connections to one another that we can hold back the specter, the temptation, the impulse to take one’s life, and of course she did not wish to disappoint her therapist, Ms. Ramsay, who wore reindeer sweaters at Christmas and Fourth of July fireworks earrings in the summer, Ms. Ramsay who suggested this little holiday after their recent check-in session in which the therapist had pronounced much progress had been made, and wouldn’t this be the perfect time to take a break from your demanding job, to take care of yourself for a change with a stay at a New York hotel, yet in the back of her thoughts, hovering like a pack of jackals in the Serengeti, there it is, the thought you don’t deserve this, all this, that you cannot be happy while you know your son has died in a distant dry land and will never be back, will never cross the threshold of your home again, the thought that led you to see Ms. Ramsay last year, and how could she have known two celebrity suicides would be in the news this weekend, but for now you breathe, breathe, you savor this moment of not-knowing, and you smile at your flat reflection in the window, so familiar and so distant, so calm.

Happy writing!

 

Farewell, Summer!

In the middle of August you start to feel the pull toward autumn. Here in Seattle we’ve been having hazy skies that turn the sunlight yellow and sometimes make the sun glow red. It’s a scene that feels almost apocalyptic, something about the yellowness of the light making the world feel older, reminding me of the goldenness of light in the fall.

In the past few weeks I’ve been doing some long thinking, thinking about what direction I want to go with my writing and with my work. We all have different reasons for writing, and at the same time we all have the same reasons for writing. To be heard. To express ourselves. To connect with other readers. To become more than we already are.

If you’re like me, you’ve learned a great deal from your writing. Whether it’s new techniques for conveying your thoughts, or how your work is perceived by others who read it, or it may even be new ways to express yourself.

 

Photo by Theresa Barker.

 

It’s been five years since I started this blog, and it has given me a wonderful opportunity to express myself. Back then I posted small “flash” fiction pieces, every day for five months, based on the WordPress.com Daily Prompts. I had once piece selected for “Freshly Pressed” just a few months into my blogging, which was sensational. It made me feel like a “real writer,” whatever that is. After five months of daily posting, I switched to 2-3 times a week, still posting fiction. Along the way over the next few years, I added some reflection pieces and updates to the fiction mix, all learned by reading the work of other bloggers like you! What’s been even more fun is serializing a couple of longer stories, which was great fun, seeing how each episode took the story further along.

Along the way I’ve been privileged to be part of a wonderfully supportive community of blogging writers. My colleague Anna Jailene Aguilar and I collaborated on an anthology of Cinderella-retold stories that we published on Amazon.com. I have had multiple and deeply rich conversations with fellow writers who have taken the the time to comment, and sometimes email, their thoughts, suggestions, and kudos about my writing.  It has been hugely encouraging. I am deeply grateful for the generosity of the blogging community.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

 

Thank you for visiting, thank you for your time to read my work, to click “Like” on a post or to write your thoughts in a comment.  I can’t express how much it means to have a conversation, however briefly, as part of an ongoing conversation, about one’s writing and about the connections it makes with other writers and their experiences. It has been uplifting, and it has helped me build confidence in my creative ability, and build determination to keep writing.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

As you know, we all strive to “bloom where we are planted.” My Lab Notes blog has been rewarding and fulfilling. As my outside-the-blog fiction work has been taking off, I have been less and less active on Lab Notes. Besides writing new stories, I am working on a couple of chapbooks of stories, including The Little Book of Lies, and I have started working with a couple of novel projects. It is with regret that I have decided that it may be time to put Lab Notes on hiatus for a while.

I have one more episode in mind for my ongoing serialized story “The Tattoo Girl,” and I’ll write and post that episode in the next couple of weeks. To you: my blogging community members and those who have faithfully and enthusiastically read my work on Lab Notes, THANK YOU! You have been extraordinarily inspiring to me and my writing. I hope to rejoin you again in the future, with more stories, more reflections, more poetry, if possible. Have a wonderful end-of-August, and keep writing!

Very best regards,

Theresa (“Lab Notes” blogger)

in which Theresa considers a blogging anniversary

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Do you think about why you blog?  Do you set goals, have a schedule of blog posts?  Perhaps you participate in blog challenges, such as weekly photo challenges or topics.  What makes you thrilled about blogging, what keeps you motivated, what do you most enjoy about blogging?  What do you enjoy the least?

This spring I realized I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of my “Lab Notes” blog in August.  When I started this blog I had no idea where it would take me.  In fact, I wrote a blog post about the start of this blog last year (Feb. 2017), in which I described hoping for a way to overcome writer’s block, a difficult challenge that has plagued me all my life.  What I didn’t realize then is how much I would enjoy the community I had become a part of.  I am grateful for those blogger-writers who have touched my life, and I theirs.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and I am grateful to those who have taken their time to read my work, and those who have shared their thoughts in a message.  Even though you may be across the globe from me, or across the country, your warmth and kind reassurance have been important and affirming.  Thank you!

As I approach the five-year anniversary of my Lab Notes blog, I would love to hear about what makes blogging worthwhile for you.  Have you changed how you blog over time?  Do you have specific goals or objectives with your blog?  How does your blogging become a part of your other creative pursuits?  What advice would you give someone who is just starting their own blog?

Thank you for visiting!  I’m looking forward to hearing even more from you soon.

 

Have you ever looked at tea?

Tea2
Photo by Theresa Barker.

This morning I made a cup of tea.  Have you ever looked at tea?  If you take a look at tea, before the leaves are brewed, each leaf is curled up into itself, like a little piece of a mystery.  And then, when you add hot water, voilá!  The leaves unfurl and emit their special fragrance and taste.

Doesn’t that seem magical?  Every time I scoop out a spoonful of tea leaves and drop them into a tea leaf infuser I just think, wow.  It may be a tiny thing, but it’s a lovely and wonderful thing, all the same.

Tea1
Photo by Theresa Barker.

And here’s the result! A lovely cup of oolong tea and the basket infuser of unfurled leaves. Doesn’t that look amazing?

Do you drink tea?  What is your favorite type of tea?  I’m partial to Oolong, but I also enjoy Darjeeling, Assam, and other flavors and types of tea.  If it’s really good tea, the first swallow makes me feel happy.

Indie Bookstore Day, part 2

Photo credit: Third Place Books, Seward Park, Seattle.

This weekend my daughter and I had the chance to go to another bookstore and claim our “prize” for making it all the way around our bookstore tour earlier this month.  We had refreshments, including yummy spice cake with cream cheese frosting, and we visited with other bookstore lovers and staff.  Super-fun!  Here we are!

Tea and Writing . . .

. . . My adventure with tea (above) reminded me of the power in small details.  If you are a writer, photographer, artist, you know what I’m talking about!  There is a talent – isn’t there? – in being to take a moment to see things, really see things, that are small and easy to miss.  And they say, that’s the way into poetry and other art, noticing small details.  And making something out of them!  What do you think?

 

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