Rethinking my writing…

I’ve been thinking, lately. Please do not stop reading… Thank you. When I look back at my writing over the years, I’ve noticed a trend. On one level, it’s very disheartening. On another level, it’s very liberating. 

What’s the trend? 

I never seem to finish a story. 

Just doesn’t happen. 

Never has. 

Not a thing. 

What. is. wrong. with. me? I LOVE to write. Part of me LIVES to write, yet… I never finish stories. 

Ever. 

As I sat in the bathtub thinking about this (I apologize for the image, but I’m just being honest), something occurred to me. 

Okay… Well, maybe I should say several things that have occurred to me before all came together in the midst my bathtime musings:

I do finish something… and it’s generally met with success when I do.

Nonfiction. My nonfiction is basically always a hit (aka when more than three people offer praise for the piece). 

My fiction… Not so much. As much as I love it, I even realize that it’s not as good as the “real stuff.”

And then my friend suggests that I start a nonfiction blog… Hmm…

So… I am now faced with a choice (and I only have about 5,000 other choices to make right now). Do I continue to stubbornly pursue what’s always seemed “right” to me? Or do I take a step back and focus on what’s obviously a stronger area for me? 

Honestly, I don’t know. However, I do know this:

I haven’t been writing much lately. 

The story I’ve been puttering around with is about as flat as it gets. 

Writing just ain’t working out right now and something’s gotta give before I have a breakdown. 

Decisions, decisions…

Thoughts and prayers welcome. 

Rethinking my writing…

“A Writer’s Life For Me” Tag

Hey everyone! I’ve taken a bit of a blogging hiatus because… well… life has been hectic lately. *Understatement of the century.* Anyway, one of my favorite bloggers, Ciera, tagged me for this fun little blog post.

The writers life for me tag

So… Here goes.

What kind of writer are you?

Let’s see… I don’t really have a preferred genre or anything, but I DO have a preferred format. I like short stories, novelettes, and novellas. I’m not saying I don’t toy with the idea of writing a novel sometimes, but it’s not really “my thing.”

When did you start writing? What made you want to try it?

My first story (which I dictated to my aunt) was about a bunny and a flower. It was “published” on a piece of pink printer paper and illustrated with Easter stickers. 🙂

I think the big catalyst for my writing came about when I was in the fourth grade. We were told to write a poem and I wrote about sunflowers. When the teacher read it, she thought I’d plagiarized until my fellow classmates assured her I hadn’t. After that, she became my biggest encourager. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What inspires your stories?

Small town life in the South.  Family. The Bible. Video games.  #notevenkidding

Pretty much anything and everything is fodder for my stories.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Love. Community. Integrity. Joy. Hope. Faith. Pretty much anything biblical.

Are you a pantser, a plotter, or both?

I’m a little bit of both. I like to have a loose plot outline (list of 5-7 major scenes), but I don’t like having everything completely mapped out.

Where are you in your writing journey? Querying? Looking for an agent? Published?

I’m just writing, at this point. Lol.

Have you ever entered any writing contests? Finaled? Won?

I entered a contest, but I didn’t win. I’m still developing my niche/style, so I wasn’t upset by not placing or winning.

Have you ever been to a writing conference?

I have not, but I would like to attend one, someday.

Who are your writing heroes?

L.M. Montgomery. Her characters will win and break your heart and I love the sense of community she created.

Jane Austen. Her wit is absolutely amazing.

Alice Munro. She wrote short stories even though the world wanted novels -and she’s famous for revolutionizing the short story structure.

Flannery O’Connor. She was a ruthless editor. She didn’t take criticism personally. She just did what she had to do to create the best story possible.

3 Tips You’d Give to Newbie Writers

  1. Write what’s on your heart. Don’t just write what everyone seems to want  read. You won’t be satisfied and others probably won’t, either.
  2. It’s okay to mimic your favorite writers, but if (when) you notice your own style coming through, by all means, let it shine!
  3. Be humble and accept constructive criticism graciously. Even if you don’t agree with what someone else thinks about your writing, always take it into consideration. At the end of the day, it’s still up to you… Take the good, throw out the bad, and don’t take it personally.

Want to tackle this tag, yourself?

– Answer the questions.
– Share the picture.
– Link back to the person who tagged you (or wherever you found it).
– Tag new people!
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Writing!
“A Writer’s Life For Me” Tag

 The Football Diaries // The Girl and the Orange Cleats 

 
The last thing I notice before quietly slipping into the locker room are a pair of neon orange cleats on an opposing player.

Coach is in here blasting the boys about the sloppy way we were playing, even though we were considerably ahead of the other team. He can’t go easy on them, of course. The speed at which teenage boys get cocky is stunning. I assume my place in the corner and try not to look too sympathetic towards the guys. Not that it matters all that much, but… you know… one must be careful when coaches get in an uproar.

The lights flicker. Coach turns on me, not angrily. Incredulously, maybe, but not angrily. “Are you over there playing with the lights?”

I shake my head. Who in their right mind would play with the lights during the halftime lecture? Not this girl.

He looks puzzled for a moment and then returns to his diatribe. The lights flicker. I scamper away from the light switch. Another flicker, followed by darkness.

“What the He…”

The assistant coach opens the door. “Lights are out on the field.”

“Good God. Y’all stay in here.” As he passes me he adds, “You, too.”

Suddenly, all is quiet. There’s a bit of shuffling and I see a few cell phones light up.

“Oh my God,” someone says. “Y’all, what if the rapture just happened?”

A few of them gasp.

“Ashley…? Travis? Are y’all still in here?”

“Yeah,” Travis and I say in unison.

“Okay. So, it’s not the rapture.”

I smile.

“Maybe it’s a zombie apocalypse.”

“We can put Ashley in the middle and all the big guys up front.”

This is why I love them.

The door opens and Coach tells us to come on outside. I am the first one out the door because I’m the girl and it’s just one of those things. 

We still don’t know why the power went out, but no one seems too alarmed. I figure my mom’s probably panicking up there in the bleachers, but I can’t do anything about it because I still have water and Gatorade to dole out. 

I am a good student athletic trainer. 

Or maybe I’m just dedicated. 

I don’t know, at this point. 

I find my way back over to the water coolers and refill the water bottles as best as I can in the semi-darkness. By the time I make it back to where I left the team, I can’t find them. And neither can the coaches, apparently, because they’re asking me where the guys are…

I don’t know, but I’ll find them. 

They’re not under the goalposts (where they’re supposed to be). 

They’re not in the locker room. 

They weren’t over by the coolers a minute ago. 

I’m starting to panic a little because football teams don’t just disappear and, while the rapture and zombie apocalypse have been ruled out, the thought of aliens briefly crosses my mind. I decide to run into the coaches’ office to get my phone. If I can even find it in the darkness, that is.

When I open the door, I’m greeted by a couple of emergency lights, a horrendous stench, and twenty-two sweaty faces looking at me. 

“Found ’em!” I yell over my shoulder to the coaches before proceeding into the room to retrieve my phone.

“What are y’all doing in here?” I ask. 

“It was weird out there in the dark,” someone replies. 

True enough. I get my phone and decide to take my leave of the room because I seriously need fresh air. I love my guys, but they smell like death when they get too close together. 

I’m met by the coaches as I leave. 

“Don’t go too far,” Coach says. “We gotta get everything ready to move. Already got a bus on the way. Boys, get your stuff together. We gotta go to Walker High to finish this game. A dang raccoon chewed into the power substation and put half the town out of power.”

Well, this is small town football at its finest…

Forty-five minutes later, we arrive at Walker High School and get ready for the second half. 

We play. 

We win. 

We unofficially name the renegade raccoon “Sparky.”

>> One Year Later <<

I have come to look forward to my two hour lunch break in the training room with Dustin. He’s probably one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever met -and that’s great considering all the time we have to spend together. 

That student athletic training life. What life? 

Today we’re reminiscing about football. We both still work with our high school teams, but it’s a little different now that we’re in college. 

“Man. I remember this one game we played last year. Hey. I think it was your school! The lights just went out at halftime?”

I pause, French fry in midair. “Yeah… Oh my gosh. Yeah. That was y’all we were playing.”

Dustin laughs. “Yeah. I was sitting in an ant bed over there.”

“Aww. Really? Dang. I’m sorry. Kinda funny to think about the fact that we were both out there and didn’t know each other.” 

We practically finish each others’ sentences… and food… these days. Being trapped in a training room with someone and trying to sort through the international athletes’ various requests kind of does that to you. 

“I know, right? Actually, I do remember there being a girl on the other team, but that’s about it.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I just remember seeing a girl going into the locker room when I was looking for our kicking block. You might have noticed me, too. I always wore these bright orange cleats…” 

  

 The Football Diaries // The Girl and the Orange Cleats 

UC for the Healthy One

Having been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis for going on three years now (this month, actually… what?!), I can honestly say that I’m still getting used to having to explain myself to people. SO… I’ve decided to compile a list of things that people with UC would like people who do not have UC to know. Okay… I haven’t polled other people with UC or anything, but I assume others share at least SOME of my sentiments on the matter.

These are in no particular order. I’m just writing them as they come to mind.

  1. Don’t ask too many questions. This is probably the thing that makes me craziest… I get that people want to know what’s wrong with me sometimes. If it comes up, I definitely DO NOT mind telling people that I have UC and explaining what it is. However, I’m not okay with people asking super detailed questions about my personal bodily functions. *And yes… People ask.* Oh! Didn’t I tell you about my last bathroom trip? No?! Well, I probably didn’t want to talk about it… And let’s just be real… Do you REALLY want to know? You shouldn’t.
  2. On that note, let’s take a minute to talk about awkward bathroom situations that make me uncomfortable. You know that whole thing about girls always traveling in pairs to the bathroom? Well… This girl prefers to fly solo. It’s just better that way.
  3. “Want to go to lunch?” Sometimes those five words are truly the bane of my existence. Why? Because I do want to go to lunch. In fact, I would probably love to go to lunch with you. It’s just that my heart and my guts aren’t always on the same page. There are so many limitations as to where I can go. Fast food, for example, is iffy for two major reasons: (1) It’s greasy, and that’s a problem for UC patients. (2) There’s that whole temptation to get it “to go” and I need to be near a bathroom at all times. Furthermore, getting a bad stomachache on the go is no joke. *Translate: I don’t want to be doubled over in pain in public, NOR do I want to get a debilitating abdominal spasm while driving.* Also, see point #2.
  4.  I’m actually not a picky eater. Because I am not a recluse and I refuse to let UC turn me into a recluse, I will indeed go out to lunch with people. Heck. I may even ask you to lunch, but please understand that when I suggest a place to eat, it’s probably because I know there’s something on the menu I can eat. If we do go to an unfamiliar restaurant, please be aware that it will probably take me 2-3 times as long to make a food selection because I have to consider FAR more than what I would like to eat. Things I have to consider include, but are not limited to:
    1. Is this going to be hard for me to digest?
    2. Do I have plans after lunch? The answer to this question is pretty much always “No.” Tread carefully when asking me to do something after lunch and please do not be offended if I politely decline. Again, it’s not that I don’t want to follow up with frozen yogurt, I just don’t want to get into a precarious situation.
    3. Is there a bathroom around?
  5. Must you stare at my horse pills? The amount of medicine (including natural supplements) UC patients need to take on a regular basis can be dizzying. Some need to be taken between meals. Some need to be taken just before a meal. Some need to be taken with a meal. Some need to be taken just after a meal. And some of them are pretty darn humongous (so it is a real word…). If I do whip out my little pill container, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t stare as if I’m about to swallow a live wasp or something.
  6. Okay… So this one can actually be entertaining at times. For whatever hellacious reason, my stomach can make some pretty outrageous noises -and sometimes those noises can get pretty loud. My fiancé and testify that one morning in church my stomach made this noise that sounded like a snarl, followed by a popping sound, followed by a cat’s screech. It was ridiculous and it was loud. It happens, and I definitely don’t like having attention drawn to it when it does happen.
  7. Tickling, poking, elbowing, and super tight hugs are not okay. No, I’m not just saying this because I’m not a touchy-feely person. I’m saying this because it HURTS. Let’s go all medical-terminology for a second and break down the word “colitis”. Col – It’s my colon. itis – swollen. “Swollen colon.” *Is it weird that I kind of love saying that?* SO… That being said, would you go up to a person with a swollen foot or wrist and jab them for laughs (or whatever payoff you get from that odd social interaction)? I SINCERELY hope not. So why would you mess with a UC patient’s abdominal area? Just don’t.
  8. If I tell you that I’m tired, PLEASE do not suggest that I “just take a nap.” Here’s the thing. The tired that comes from having an autoimmune disease is not the kind of tired a nap can fix. It’s a deep kind of tired. Like the kind of tired you feel when you’re sick and your body’s trying to fight off the flu or something. AutoIMMUNE disease. Smell what I’m stepping in? Basically, I’m always tired. And if I say I’m tired, it’s probably because I feel awkward about not being able to keep up with you or not being as conversational as I would probably otherwise be. *Note: I don’t expect you to slow down for me. Just don’t expect me to keep up with you.
  9. You hate my guts? Well, guess what. So do I, but here’s the thing. The big thing we all want you to know. You do not have to deal with this. We don’t expect you to accommodate our every need because we usually do that ourselves. If anything, as I read in another article, we just want you help us feel normal. I made this list so people who don’t have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s can see where those of us who do have it are coming from. We want you to be aware, even if you don’t understand or know what to do. We get that you can’t understand and probably don’t know what to do. Neither do we, sometimes, and that’s okay.
  10. I am OCD and I can’t handle a list of 9 things.

For a couple of great posts on dealing with someone who has ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease check out:

What You Should Know If Your Best Friend Has Crohn’s Disease

What You Should Know If You Fall in Love With Someone Who Has Crohn’s Disease

*Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are very similar because they are of the same family. Both are autoimmune diseases that affect the digestive tract. UC is merely isolated to the colon.

UC for the Healthy One

Chronicle of an Awkward Two Days

Okay. So this was written a month or so before I met my fiancé. It is not about my fiancé, and I’m glad. I’m afraid I’d never have snagged Nick with this kind of ridiculousness, though there was a certain amount of ridiculousness on my part with that as well. I do, however, still want the dogs…

Have you ever known someone that’s just awkward? They don’t mean to be. They don’t want to be. They try NOT to be, but despite their best efforts, they just are. Folks, I am that someone. I am as awkward as the days are long. I used to see this awkwardness as a curse, but the longer I live with it, the more I’ve come to embrace it. Let’s be real, here. People like me make people who aren’t awkward laugh –and considering that I like to make people laugh, I think it’s worth it.

Of course, being “wonderfully awkward” (as my friend described me) has its obvious disadvantages. Plus, I have this theory… I can’t believe I’m actually blogging about this, but why not?

Y’all, I am almost twenty, single, and (lately) worried about how I’m going to manage being a Crazy Cat Lady when I don’t like cats. I’ll probably just tweak it to Crazy Dog Lady to keep up with the awkward theme. That works, right?

Anyway, I used to spend a shameful amount of time trying to figure out why I’m almost twenty, single, and steadily compiling a list of my favorite dog breeds. However, this past week has been somewhat enlightening for me. Before I tell you what happened, I feel the need to explain something:

I get along great with guys. I have always had an abundance of guy friends. Always. When I was little, there were no other girls my age for me to play with, so I grew up with my fair share of toy tractors, toy horses, and incredibly complicated versions of what started out as “baseball.” Throughout middle school and high school, some of my best friends were guys and I spent the fall my senior year interning with the varsity football team. One of my best friends right now is a guy, so it’s not that I can’t handle myself around the male version of our species… It’s just that when one of them happens to be cute, or if I don’t know him very well, things get kind of strange.
With that out of the way, I will now present you with a detailed chronicle of my Enlightenment:

Wednesday, 12:00 noon, Cafeteria

I first see him as I am eating fake Chinese food from the hot bar. I’ll be honest. When I lay eyes on him, my immediate thought is, “Oh my gosh. He is ridiculously cute.” I also say something to that effect to my friend a few minutes later without realizing that Mr. Cutie is sitting right behind me. Problem #1. I don’t think he heard me. I sincerely hope not.

Wednesday, 1:00 PM, Last Class of the Day

I arrive to class less than one minute before it starts. It’s a bigger class than my others, so I’m still not sure who all is supposed to be here. When I find a seat, I look to my right to find that Mr. Cutie is sitting four seats over. I have a class with him and I just noticed him today? Seriously? During the presentation, I find myself glancing over at him from time to time. Okay. I am in no way “slick” and so within the next five minutes, I think he catches me looking at him. I don’t have a mirror at the moment, but judging by the way my face is burning, I’m pretty sure I resemble a pickled beet. Problem #2.

Wednesday, 2:00 PM, Sidewalk Behind the Literature Building

I survived the awkward encounter in my final class and am convinced that I can’t I possibly do any more damage to this situation before I get into my car and go home. Yeah, right. As I’m walking out to my car, I run into one of my friends. She’s on her way to work in the Writing Center and she wants me to come and sit with her so she doesn’t have to be alone for an hour. It seems that no one is aware that there’s a Writing Center at my college, and because I’m a nice person (see previous post for more details) I comply and she and I make our way up to the second floor of the Literature building to get the key to this mysterious Writing Center. As I wait on her, I look down from the balcony just in time to see Mr. Cutie coming through the glass doors. He happens to look up and sees me looking at him. Unfortunately, he falls under both categories of “cute” and “I don’t him very well,” so I get nervous and dart out of sight. I feel like I’m living a sitcom, right now. Problem #3.

Is anyone else beginning to see why I am almost twenty, single, and trying to decide between Shakespearean or Jane Austen names for my future canine companions?

I only wish this story was over, but it’s not.

Wednesday, 9:00 PM, In the Comfort of my Home

I find out that my best guy friend knows Mr. Cutie (except he doesn’t call him that) and has invited him to our FCA meeting tomorrow night. He promises to introduce me to Mr. Cutie and I am suddenly rather excited. In my excitement, I forget that I’m awkward around cute boys that I don’t know very well. Problem #4.

Thursday, 10:00 AM, Sidewalk Leading to the Cafeteria

I have a free hour and I’m done with my massive Statistics book for the day. Best Guy Friend is waiting for me in the cafeteria, but I’m going to go out to my car and ditch the massive Statistics book before I go inside. I see Mr. Cutie at the door, but he goes inside. Good. No contact. I can’t screw that up. I start to go downstairs to the parking lot and I’m pretty sure I hear someone calling my name. I look over my shoulder, but no one is there –except Mr. Cutie, who has come back outside and sees me just as I look at him. I have a mini-panic attack because he is so darn cute and run down the stairs. Problem #5.

Thursday, 7:00 PM, FCA Hot Dog Supper/Peanut Boil

I am a nervous wreck. Mr. Cutie is nowhere in sight, but I know that’s he going to pop up somewhere and surprise me like always. I want to eat, but I’m too nervous. He doesn’t show up. He doesn’t show up. He doesn’t show up. I finally assume that he’s not coming and decided to eat a hotdog. As I’m standing there, in the middle of my first bite, I look up and there he is. Mr. Cutie, himself. Best Guy Friend starts to introduce us and my blood pressure skyrockets. I forget to chew and suck the bite of hotdog down my throat. Not the bread, mind you. Just the hotdog. Thankfully, I’m not choking, but I can feel it going down. VERY SLOWLY. Problem #6. I’m about to have to say something, but there’s still the pesky bread in my mouth that I can’t swallow for fear of crossing over into actual choking mode. We all stand there in awkward silence until I break it with something stupid. Mr. Cutie just quirks his head adorably and I feel like I’m about to choke on pure air. I kind of want to revert to my previous methods of dealing with this guy and just run away, but I can’t very well do that this time. Too many people. Nowhere to run. We make small talk for a few minutes and the group disperses. Epic fail, Ashley. Epic fail.

Thursday, 9:00 PM, FCA Cleanup Time

Mr. Cutie is standing around talking while some of us are starting to clean up. He makes this charming little joke to which I, in a pitiful attempt to flirt, respond in a way that could be taken as an insult. Too bad I don’t think about this until after I say it. Problem #7. I get all disturbed (and I’m sure my face shows it) because of how mean I sounded, but he just laughs. I assume he took it the way I intended it and this makes me nervous, so I grab two folding chairs and run off to the trailer. I am officially an idiot. This is why I am almost twenty, single, and am soon going to start clipping coupons for Pedigree, Iams, and Milkbone products.

For the rest of the night, there is awkward contact here and there. I am simply incapable when it comes to cute males that I’m not used to. I think I should probably avoid the dating scene for a while. I’m just too awkward –and while my friends know that they can laugh without fear at my expense, I’m beginning to worry about myself. Why? Because I am almost twenty, single, and have decided that color coordinating collars are going to be absolutely precious on Darcy, Elizabeth, Bingley, Jane, Bennett, and Whickam…

Chronicle of an Awkward Two Days

Brooms, Buicks, and the Elderly

You know those moments when you’re just standing by watching a scenario unfold and all you can say when it’s over is, “Umm… What?” 

These things happen to me all the time, but one particular moment that comes to mind for me was the time my Great Aunt Marietta killed a snake at church…

One Sunday after church as we were all heading outside, we looked up to see a sizeable snake crawling up the front porch column. Naturally, the girls were scared, but I’m sure we all felt some sense of comfort in the fact that there were plenty of strapping young men around the place to deal with the nasty beast.

Our comfort was clearly misplaced. The second the strapping young men laid eyes on this snake, they were gone. I mean GONE TO THE BACK OF THE CHURCH. They were not going to be useful.

As everyone stood around trying figure out how to deal with this problem, no one noticed Great Aunt Marietta slip out the door and totter over to her little green Buick. At the time, Aunt Marietta was in her early eighties and osteoporosis had shrunk her to a mere five feet. Always the quiet type, she didn’t say a word until she returned to the porch with a broom (Because everyone keeps a broom in their Buick, right?) and told us all to keep out of the way.

Raising up to a full 5’2” my Great Aunt Marietta knocked the snake off the column with the broom handle. When it fell to the floor, everyone (strapping young college boys included) screamed and we then watched in horror as this tiny little old lady valiantly beat the reptilian monster to death on the front porch of the church. When the deed was done my Great Aunt Marietta again used her trusty broom to pick up the dead snake and carried it to the woods to dispose of it. On her way back to the Buick, she smiled at us and called, “Alright. Y’all can come out now…”

We didn’t come out for a few minutes, yet.

All in all the day’s scores totaled as following:

Elderly Old Ladies: 1 – Strapping Young College Boys 0
Reptiles: 0 – Elderly Old Ladies: 1
 

Perhaps one day the Reptiles and the Strapping Young College Boys will get their chance to duel. In the meantime… Go old ladies with brooms and Buicks!

Brooms, Buicks, and the Elderly

Why I Hate Estrogen

This was originally written as a response to a prompt on another blog. It’s a little awkward, but (oddly enough) it’s one of my favorites because I remember it so well. 

I don’t think I need to explain what, exactly, estrogen brings about. Y’all know… This story happened on one of *those* days.
 

TMI? 

We are sitting in the frozen yogurt shop thirty minutes before the weekly campus ministry meeting and my friend is telling me about how she and the guy she likes are FINALLY talking about dating. He did the most romantic thing ever last night. 

I am the only single girl at our table and my coffee (yes… I get coffee at the yogurt shop) is too sweet (never thought I’d say that). Oddly enough, I’m more upset about the coffee than the singleness. I waited all day for this coffee and it’s not right. This is tragic. I am sad. 

We get up to leave and my friend says, “I’m just so happy!” You know what? I’m suddenly ridiculously happy for her. 
I feel the burn. My eyes water. My throat tightens. I know it’s coming. I’m about to… cry. 

I rush out of the shop. I have to make it to the car before this happens. Yep. Driving while emotionally compromised is a great idea. My friends run after me. The car won’t unlock. They catch me. 

“Are you crying?” 

“No!” I screech. “I never…” A single tear falls onto the pavement with an ungodly loud splat. “cry…” Everyone just looks at me -and then it happens. I begin to sob in the middle of parking lot.

I’m not sad. I’m not happy. I’m angry. Because I’m crying. I hate crying. I hate emotions. I hate estrogen. 

Why I Hate Estrogen