Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vision Board

A recent assignment in my online writing class with Kelly Stone was to create a vision board to help stimulate creativity. I finally finished mine, a collage to help motivate my writing in general. For some reason, I am drawn more to words and phrases than to pictures but I managed to include a little bit of everything here: the elements of a good story, admonishment to avoid procrastination, and a couple of pictures of what eventual success might look like (a wine toast with friends) and feel like (fireworks over Maui). HA! Click on the picture to see more detail.

I am collecting pictures for a couple more collages I want to make. One is a character collage for my work in progress; the other is a "dream" collage, images of some of the things my heart desires, like a beach house, a grand piano, and a red hot lover. Hey, why not?

Have you ever made a vision board? What was the experience like for you?


Now it's time to set my goals for the upcoming round of A Round of Words in 80 Days. I will continue to meet my daily goal of 500 words a day/3500 words a week until my current manuscript is complete, no later than the end of October. Then it will be November, National Novel Writing Month; I fully intend to WIN this year, meaning I will complete 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th, or an average of 1667 words a day. If you are a NaNoWriMo participant, I hope you will add me as a Writing Buddy; my username is "pamasberry." After that, I will return to my daily goal of 500 words a day for the month of December. If all goes according to plan, I will have three completed manuscripts by the end of the year. Won't that be something?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Soul of Somanya

No one has ever become poor by giving.
~ Anne Frank

Soul of Somanya founder Melody MacDuffee with Pam Asberry
July, 2011
Soul of Somanya is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that offers a hand-up--not a hand-out--to West African youth by providing the dignity of living-wage employment. Without this help, many young people there are forced to live out nightmare existences as street prostitutes in order to survive and support their children.

Join me in helping create lives free from poverty and sexual exploitation by visiting Soul of Somanya's Indiegogo compaign (click HERE). You can either make a flat donation or claim "perks" by pre-paying for any of the beautiful Soul of Somanya products you fancy. Don't miss this opportunity to make a real difference in the world. And please help spread the word!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dare To Begin

I have always loved the sound of the mandolin. Last year, my kids surprised me with an instrument of my very own. You can read about it HERE. I did what I could with it, but quickly became frustrated. The neck is bowed, making it difficult to play; eventually, I set it aside, wishing I could afford to buy something better.

Then a couple of weekends ago, a friend invited me to join him in Atlanta to hear Sam Bush play in concert. 

It was an amazing evening. Do you see the joy written all over Sam's face as he performs? I've got to tell you, that joy was contagious. I came home and ordered myself a new mandolin the very next day.

Do you see the joy written all over MY face? My new baby, a Loar LM 520-VS, is a pleasure to play. I inquired with the members of the local band Sans Abri who opened the Sam Bush concert about a mandolin instructor and followed their recommendation; I had my first lesson with my new teacher last night. He is accomplished, warm, kind and patient--just the kind of teacher I need. He admitted he doesn't usually work with beginners, so I am determined to do whatever it takes not to let him--or myself--down. I committed to practicing 30 minutes a day, for starters. Even though I will probably NEVER be able to play like this.

Yes, this recording makes me cry. Bach on the mandolin. Wow. 

It is healthy and humbling to be a beginner. But every great artist--painter, sculptor, photographer, writer, musician--started out that way. I can't recommend it highly enough. Is there something you have always wanted to learn how to do? Well, there is no time like the present. Invest in the equipment you need. Find a teacher, if necessary. Laugh at your mistakes. You will improve with practice. 

Live a creative life. Be who you were meant to be.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ROW80 Round 3: Final Check-In

My original Bird By Bird bracelet.
With gratitude to Anne Lamott.
I fell behind in this final lap, adding 1,947 words to my manuscript when my goal was 3,500. But considering how busy this past week has been, I'm not going to beat myself up for writing "only" two thousand words.

And more important, I have kept up with the lectures and homework in Kelly Stone's online writing course. I cannot recommend this class highly enough. In our latest assignment, we were asked to research the habits, traits, attitudes and behaviors of an author (or authors) we admire, create a list of these, and then turn them into "I" statements. My role model, of course, is Anne Lamott; I found a lot of great information about her work ethic, her attitude towards first drafts and rejection, and the importance she places on daily writing practice. Check out this article, for example, if you are in need of encouragement for finding time to lead a meaningful, creative life. As a result of my research, I came up with the following "I" statements.
  • I live my life with intention, choosing to spend the majority of my time engaged in truly meaningful, creative pursuits as opposed to merely keeping busy.
  • I understand that rejection is part of the writing process. I do not allow fear of rejection to prevent me from writing or submitting my work to agents and editors.
  • I am a disciplined writer who gets my first drafts on paper quickly, without judgment. 
  • I am a persistent writer who is willing to revise my manuscripts until they are the best they can be.
  • I am a hardworking writer who includes time to write in my daily schedule, dedicating a minimum of two hours a day seven days a week to my craft, with a daily minimum goal of 500 words.
I have printed these out and tacked them to the bulletin board which hangs above my writing desk, where I can see them every day and impress them into my subconscious mind. Which puts me in a pretty good place to start Round 4. New York Times Bestseller List, here I come!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Whisperings Solo Piano Concert

Sunday morning Rock Star and I climbed into my car and headed to beautiful Lindsay Street Hall in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Whisperings Solo Piano Concert featuring David Lanz, Michael Dulin and Joseph Akins.

l-r: David Lanz, Michael Dulin, Joseph Akins
There was a nine-foot Steinway grand piano in the house.

The artists took turns performing sets of their original compositions then concluded the concert with a rousing joint improvisation. Hand clapping, foot stomping, and a standing ovation ensued.

Following the program, I indulged my inner fangirl. I purchased CD's and sheet music, collected autographs, and took advantage of every photo opportunity.

Singer Unita Akins, Joseph Akins, Pam Asberry

Pam Asberry, Michael Dulin

Pam Asberry, David Lanz
There was even a cameo appearance by Irish pianist J. J. Sheridan

J. J. Sheridan playing The Londonderry Air.
After the last fan had left for home, I had the privilege of joining the artists for dinner at Tony's Pasta Shop and Trattoria for a lovely dinner. 

Salmon Spinach Salad.
If you ever have an opportunity to hear one of these musicians perform in your area, I hope you will take advantage of it. These men make some of the most beautiful music on the planet. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit their websites and listen to Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, available for free on the internet.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Words, words, words

I finished my short story on Monday, part of an anthology that my group blog, Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, will present as a gift to our readers during the month of December. This was my first-ever short story, so I am a bit uncertain as to how it will be received by my fellow bloggers, who are much more experienced than I. Right now my story is in the hands of our editor; I hope she will be kind!

Since then, I have been back to work on my manuscript The Wishing Box and have come close to meeting my daily word goal of 500 words per day. It is tough because I am revising and sometimes I cut more words than I write; regardless, my aim is to INCREASE my word count by 500 words per day. Tuesday I eked out only 310, but yesterday I did 599 and today I hit 535, pushing my total word count to over 60,000, closer than I have ever been to my final goal of approximately 85,000 words. This feels GREAT!

I am also keeping up with my homework in Kelly Stone's online writing class, Empower Your Muse. This has been such a powerful experience; more on that later. But yesterday, Kelly shared an amazing video with us that I am going to pass on to you here. Warning: Have a tissue handy! You might need it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TEN GIRLS TO WATCH by Charity Shumway

From the back cover:

Like so many other recent graduates, Dawn West is trying to make her way in New York City. She's got an ex-boyfriend she can't quite stop seeing, a roommate who views rent checks and basic hygiene as optional, and a writing career that's gotten as far as penning an online lawn care advice column.

So when Dawn lands a job tracking down the past winners of Charm magazine's "Ten Girls to Watch" contest, she's thrilled. After all, she's being paid to interview hundreds of fascinating women...As Dawn gets to know their life stories, she'll discover that success, love, and friendship can be found in the most unexpected of places. Most importantly, she'll learn that while those who came before us can be role models, ultimately, we each have to create our own happy ending.

I loved this book! Even though Dawn is young enough to be my daughter, I can relate to many of her struggles. Lacking confidence in her abilities, unlucky in love, misunderstood by her family, barely making ends meet financially, she could easily play the victim. But Dawn isn't one to feel sorry for herself. She makes the most of every opportunity that comes along and chalks it up to experience when things don't turn out her way. Most important, she never gives up on her dream.

"At night, when I couldn't fall asleep, behind my closed eyes I'd spin fantasies, and they usually circled back to a vision of myself with gray hair and a floppy hat, coming in after an afternoon of gardening in the yard to a bookshelf lined with books I'd written...That fantasy shelf wasn't full of journalistic nonfiction. Those books were novels. My novels." (p. 238)

Charity Shumway delivers the goods in her debut novel, with its intriguing premise, fascinating characters, and beautifully woven plot. Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE from the publisher, Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dream Pendant

We often forget our dreams so speedily; if we cannot catch them as they are passing out the door, we never set eyes on them again.
~ William Hazlitt 

Dream Pendant. 
Dreams play an valuable role to our health and well-being. They help us deal deal with stress, recharge our minds and bodies, and expand our creative potentials by bringing thoughts from our subconscious minds to our conscious minds. I've been contemplating the importance of dreams to my waking life lately; naturally, this has influenced my jewelry making. Here is the Dream Pendant I finished this evening. I made the word portion of the pendant back in April (click HERE) and added a few charms tonight for interest. The feather is symbolic of a Native American dream catcher; the key represents my desire to unlock the meanings of my dreams. I am looking forward to wearing my new pendant tomorrow and keeping this intention close to my heart.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blog Post #500

I started writing this blog way back in the summer of 2008. So much has happened during these four years. If you have been following me from the beginning, you know all the stories. There have been romance and heartbreak, comedy and tragedy, new beginnings and difficult endings, good times and hard times. I like to think that I have grown as a result of these experiences; in many ways, I am more sure of myself and my place in the world than I ever have been. Still, there are times I feel lost, frightened and alone. And although many things have changed, much has remained the same.

July 6, 2008
In this blog I will share many, many adventures. I am a single mom, a daughter and a sister; a music maker and piano teacher; a writer; a lover and a friend; a dog owner; a maker of things, including but not limited to collage art, knitting, crocheting, quilting, and beading. I cook and bake and clean and do laundry and all the other several hundred things it takes to keep a household running. To tell you the truth, I often have a hard time keeping up with everything and maintaining order and balance in my life. It might have something to do with that denial thing. I am hoping that writing about it will help.

Whether you are a new reader or an old friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this journey with me. Knowing you are out there, with your support and good wishes, means more to me than you can imagine. Keep those comments coming.

Here's to the next five hundred blog posts.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brownie in a Mug

I am quite fond of a spa pedicure, a Sunday afternoon with a pot of coffee and a pile of old magazines, a week on a cruise ship. But when none of those are available, as is far too often the case, I am willing to settle for something chocolate.

On a good day, I have access to a variety of chocolate treats. A Hershey bar. A bag of Dove dark chocolate squares. A box of Nonni's Cioccolati Biscotti. On a bad day, a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips will do.

But there came a day when there was nothing chocolate in the house. Sure, I had ingredients for baking, but I didn't have time to wait for a cake or a batch of brownies. I didn't even have ten minutes to run to the store. I was a woman in crisis. I needed chocolate in five minutes or less.

Then I remembered a recipe that went around for a while, something about a five-minute microwave cake in a mug. I googled the recipe, gathered the ingredients, and gave it a try.

Blech! Yes, it resembled chocolate, but in a bland, rubbery sort of way. But I felt the idea had possibilities. So later I experimented with a few other recipes. Finally, I hit upon one that was rich, gooey and delicious.

Here are the instructions.

Microwave Chocolate Brownie in a Mug

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons flour

In a 12-ounce coffee mug, combine butter, water, vanilla and salt. Add sugar, cocoa and flour; mix well. Microwave on high for 60-90 seconds. Center will be molten; be careful not to overcook. Serves 1 generously.

A few chopped pecans tossed into the batter make it even better. Delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I am always on the lookout for decadent pleasures to add to my repertoire. What are your favorites?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thought-Feeling-Behavior Cycle/ROW80 Update

Today's homework in my online class, Empower Your Muse, is to begin to identify how my thoughts and the resultant feelings influence my behavior where my writing is concerned. Here are the specific instructions given by our instructor, author Kelly Stone:

For one day this week...record in a notebook everything that you think, feel, and do related to writing. Make three columns on a page and label them thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and include a place for the date.

This is what I have so far today.


Thoughts: It's noon already and I haven't done a lick of writing! Of course, I haven't exercised or taken a shower yet, either, and my first student will be here at 1:30. Yikes! At this point, I really don't have time to write.
Feelings: anxiety, panic
Behavior: Spent twenty minutes on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and reading random blog posts.

Thoughts: If I get right to it, I can at least get a workout in before I start teaching. Maybe I can squeeze in some writing time after I finish teaching tonight.
Feelings: guilt
Behavior: Popped DVD into player and did half of a 30-minute Body Bar workout.


I am still hoping to spend at least an hour writing later this evening. Maybe I will even finish that short story. Tomorrow, I will write FIRST. It seems to be the only way that works for me. 

ROW80 Update:
Despite my generally poor performance today, I have added over 2000 words to my novel and my short story is at 3553 words, meaning that since my last check-in a week ago I have exceeded my goal of 500 words per day. Considering the week I have had, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself.

How is everyone else doing with their goals?

Dream Journal

According to author Kelly Stone, the instructor of the online class, Empower Your Muse, I am taking this month, "a dream journal is a physical manifestation of your intention to gain access to your subconscious mind's resources and guidance, and enhances the reinforcement mechanism that will improve your recall over time. Decorating and personalizing a dream journal gives your dreams a special place to live and creates a feeling of sacredness about them."

Tonight, on the heels of a disappointing day battling child support with my ex, I created the dream journal pictured above. It was very satisfying to cut images and words from old magazines and glue them onto the cover of a fifty-cent composition book I purchased at the grocery store. Now my new dream journal rests on the writing desk next to my bed, my favorite purple pen lying beside it. Tonight, before I go to sleep, I am asking my subconscious to help me remember my dreams so I can record them, whether it's the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Who knows what insights and ideas might be hiding there?

Do you believe your subconscious mind communicates with you through your dreams?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ten Building Blocks of a Great Day

You know it was a good day if you didn't hit or bite anyone.
Nathaniel Parizek, age 4

Isn't that the truth? And while we're at it, here are a few more suggestions.

1. Eat well.

This one is foundational to the rest. Eating three healthy meals a day, with the emphasis on whole grains, wild caught fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables keeps my blood sugar at a consistent level and provides me with both sufficient energy to get through long, busy days and good nutrition to ward off illness and disease.

2. Exercise

I love running except when I'm doing it, the t-shirt says, and that pretty well sums it up for me. But the simple truth is that when I do something physical every day, I feel better. Sometimes when I think I think I am too tired to exercise I do it anyway, and I am usually rewarded with a burst of energy. A couple of days a week, I work out with a Body Bar and a video; the rest of the time, I hit the elliptical machine at the Fitness 19 or go for a run in my neighborhood. I don't have six-pack abs and I jiggle in places I wish I didn't, but my BMI, my cholesterol and my blood pressure are all within the normal range and I can actually run a 5K without stopping. 

3. Connect with a friend.

Whether it's writing a letter, making a phone call, sending an message on Facebook, or actually meeting for coffee or lunch, spending time with a cherished pal gives me an emotional lift that lasts for weeks.

4.  Do your job and do it well.

I am a piano teacher; as such, I have an important responsibility to the young people with whose music education I am entrusted. My job is not only to instruct, but also to motivate and inspire. No matter what else is going on in my personal life, no matter how scattered and distracted I might feel, I do my best to put that all aside and provide every student who walks into my studio with a joyful and creative musical experience and to coax a smile, however fleeting, from the most reluctant of participants. Sharing my love of music with my students, keeping their sparks ignited, brings me joy like nothing else.

5. Take a step towards your dream.

I aspire to be a traditionally published novelist. Although my daily goal is to add 500 words a day to my manuscript, even a paragraph is progress in the right direction. 

6. Bring a sweater.

I am cold by nature. In the winter, I shiver for obvious reasons, but even in the summertime I find that many establishments--restaurants, movie theaters, the grocery store--keep their thermostats set at much lower temperatures than I keep the one at my house. Simple solution? I keep a sweater or a fleece jacket in my car so I can grab it if I need it.

7. Work with your hands.

Doing something creative every day, whether it's beading a pair of earrings, knitting a few rows of a scarf, or putting together a scrapbook page gives me something concrete to show for my time on a daily basis. It also inspires me in other endeavors, like blogging and fiction writing.

8. Treat yourself to something special.

I have a beautiful crystal dish that I keep stocked with beautifully wrapped dark chocolate candies. I reward myself with two every day: one after I have met my daily word count goal, and one after I exercise. If I have missed one of these for some reason - I rarely miss both - I might treat myself to one more goody at bedtime, as a reward for simply making it through another day.

9. Give thanks.

Last thing before I turn out the light every night, I pull out my gratitude journal and make note of three to five things I am thankful for. It's easy. Less than five minutes and I am in a satisfied state of mind conducive to sleep.

10. Get sufficient rest.

This is the hardest one for me. My teaching day doesn't wrap until until eight or nine at night; by the time I make dinner, clean up, and crawl into bed, it's getting late.  My body feels it, but my brain is still fully charged. I am trying to develop a soothing nighttime routine to ease that transition from wakefulness to sleep and get a solid seven or eight hours of shut-eye every night.

Your list is probably different from mine. What does a day well spent look like to you?