2013 in Review

I realize I’m 10 days late with this, but it’s still important to reflect, so here it goes. Last year, I fell short on some of my goals, but I also accomplished a lot, so I’d say that depending on how you look at it, it actually evens out pretty well. But let’s go through the goals 1 by 1 from last year:

1. Read at least 25 books

I read 15. Half of my goal isn’t horrible, but definitely not good enough. It’s easy to let excuses like work and grading get in the way, but when I think back to how I managed to read so much during grad school, despite classes and a thesis, I just can’t justify reading only 15 books–especially as an English teacher. So this year it changes. It has to.

2. Write at least 10o blog posts

Well that didn’t happen, but I did write a lot more this year. I may not have final drafts of my new stories, but NaNoWriMo really helped me kick-start my writing habit again. And I may not have written a novel, but I was able to start a collection of short stories about my adventures in Turkey. Why not use my travel as inspiration? I can’t wait to write more this year.

3. Submit at least 3 things for publishing

Nope. Didn’t submit one. We’ll have to reevaluate this goal because I’ve failed majorly two years in a row.

4. Challenge myself more/actively continue my learning

Done and done. Last year I applied to two PhD programs and didn’t get into either, but that’s ok. Life presented me with other opportunities. I moved into my own apartment this year  and living in a foreign country on your own is one of the best and worst kinds of challenges. Not to mention, I’ve been learning more Turkish, refreshing my German, taking dance lessons, and reevaluating what I want out of life. This past year was a great year for spiritual growth and though it had some rough patches, it was amazing in so many ways. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my capabilities, and about where I want to be. Also check. Living on my own has helped me realize what’s there for me. In my second year in Istanbul, I’m still learning new things everyday. I’m using this chance to travel and learn and get as many experiences out of it as I can.

So now the time comes for my goals for 2013.

Continue writing about my adventures. Hell, just continue writing.

I’d forgotten what an amazing feeling it is to lose yourself in a piece of writing and I don’t want to forget that feeling again. This year, I’m going to forget about submitting anything and just concentrate on actually writing it first.

Read at least 25 books

I will do it this year! I will!

Be healthier

As  I get older, I realize how fragile we are. True, I’m not exactly old, but in the past year I’ve had bronchitis, two intestinal infections, and a sprained wrist just from slipping on ice. Not to mention numerous colds and allergy related annoyances. So this year I am going to take more time and pay more attention to my health–physical, spiritual, and emotional. If I’m sick, no more staying up late to grade. If I’m feeling lazy, no more staying inside all day. If I’m upset, no more dwelling on negative things. This year will be happy and healthy, dammit.

Get a job back in the States

My plan is to move back this summer, so Inshallah (God willing as they say in Turkish), I’m able to do so. Applications start this weekend.

 

I would include continue learning and challenging myself, but I think that at this point, they should just be givens. Hopefully this is something I’ll continue doing no mater what.

 

NaNoWriMo Updated

Well, I didn’t reach the 50,000 words, but I did way better than last year. At 18,000 words, I have a great start to something new. November was a little rocky as far as work and other things, so I’m not displeased with 18,000. Of course it’s all very rough and I’d like to review, edit, add, etc., but I hope to post some samples soon.

And as the new year approaches, it’ll soon be time for me to review my goals from last year’s post, reflect on 2013, and figure out what I want to do next year. Thanks for keeping up with me. 🙂

2012 Review

Last year I decided that instead of making resolutions that would never come to fruition, I was going to try to make attainable goals, while still trying to challenge myself. I realized that I needed to find a happy medium between striving to be better and being realistic. The result was a lengthy blog post and a few goals for the new year. A year later, it’s time to reevaluate these goals, determine how realistic I really was, and decide new goals for 2013.

2012 Goals

Read at least 30 books

I’ve been keeping track of all the books I read this year and I am disappointed to say that I did not reach 30. However, I did reach 17 and I guess that’s not too bad. It was fun always keeping this goal in mind; though I enjoy reading and usually read more than many (I think), I think that having this goal in the back of my mind pushed me to read a little more than I normally would.

Write at least 10 short stories

…I may have fallen way short on this one. I wrote one short story this whole year. As they say in Turkey, “oof ya.” (That’s a phonetic interpretation, of course.) I need to work on this

Submit at least 3 things for publishing

I submitted one thing for publishing. While it’s not three, it’s more than zero. I definitely need to work on this for next year.

Move to Istanbul

Check. Done and done. I accomplished one of the biggest goals I set for myself. Not too shabby.

Reach 200 blog posts

The main purpose of this goal was to make sure that I was continuously writing. Last year was the first year in 13 that I was not in school and that I didn’t have someone telling me to write something. I needed to make sure that I could maintain some sort of writing schedule (be it an erratic schedule) on my own and that I wouldn’t get lazy just because the teachers were gone. Final result: 107 posts. No, it’s not 200, but I don’t think it’s a horrible number either. It shows me that I don’t need teachers to make me write and that I am capable of pushing myself. However, I want to push myself even more next year.

Challenge myself more

Check. I have done nothing but challenge myself this past year. I worked at a job where I was solely responsible for the whole department. I traveled on a low-budget, pushed myself to get a teaching license in a new state, moved to a foreign country, started learning a new language, started a new job, and retook the GRE and have been working on PhD applications. Not to mention I lived through an apocalypse. I think that counts.

Take advantage of what’s available to me

I feel that I am still working on this one. While I took advantage of plenty this past year, I don’t think I took advantage of as much as I could. Now that I am in Istanbul, I realize that I missed out on some things in the States. I need to actively work towards going out and experiencing what’s around me.

2013 Goals

So now it’s time to decide what to focus on for 2013. While the below goals may not be everything I want to do for 2013, they are at least some things I can try to hold myself to.

Read at least 25 books

Reading goal, take two. I’m hoping that by dropping it by five, I will be more likely to reach it. I will again keep track of them on my “books read” page, but I won’t hold myself to writing reviews of them.

Submit at least 3 things for publishing

Yes, I’m going to try this again. I’m not going to adjust the number, though, because this is when I have to tell myself that I am completely capable of this, but I must manage my time better and not be so lackadaisical about things I want to achieve.

Write at least 100 blog posts

I have to say that I am impressed with myself and how much I actually posted this past year. Though I didn’t reach my goal, I did make a greater effort to post more regularly and my numbers were much greater than last year. True, the posts are not masterpieces or my best writing in any way, but they keep me writing and researching. So this year only leaves room for more improvement.

Continue to challenge myself more

Since I’m living in a country where I don’t speak the language very well, I don’t think this should be too hard. I just have to make sure that I don’t let my friends help me with things when I can easily do them for myself (such as order my food or ask for change). And I also plan to travel as much as possible this year and continue to go places I have never been before.

Actively continue my learning

This goal is something I do anyway, but I want to hold myself to it. I’m always listening to podcasts, reading the paper or essays, and am currently trying to learn Turkish (though this one is more of a necessity). Perhaps in this new year I can take some additional classes or try to learn some new skill. But as a teacher, I think it’s vital to always continue learning.

The fiddle sounds and the mountains burn

It would happen. The year that I move to Colorado has to be a crazy year. The winter is unusually warm, my aunt breaks three ribs, and as of this past Saturday, the mountains are on fire.

A view of the fire from my work this afternoon–before it got too bad.

From the last time I checked the news (about an hour ago), over 5000 acres have burned, 3500 people have been evacuated, 70 homes have burned, and a local landmark, the Flying W Ranch, is completely gone. They’ve closed down the Garden of the Gods and have the fire 5% contained. It’s been dubbed the Waldo Canyon Fire and is thought to be an act of arson. Though I don’t think the fire will reach us, being able to see the flames from my work isn’t reassuring. I’ve gathered the important documents, packed my emergency bag, and am currently playing the waiting game, along with the rest of Colorado Springs.

With the waiting game comes plenty of time to contemplate, and contemplating made me realize that I wasn’t writing enough. What a silly thing to think as the fire rages on and thousands of lives are affected: I should write more and what a shame I can’t take my books with me. I feel like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns. (And though our fire might be a bit less epic than the Roman Empire burning, I like to think that it’s still relevant.)

It also probably doesn’t help that I recently saw Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, with Steve Carell and Kiera Knightly, where they have three weeks left on Earth before a meteor crashes into it. True, it’s not the end of the world (that I know of), but it makes me think what I should actually be doing with my time and of course, I come back to the ludicrous and most obvious conclusion: I should write more. Whether that makes me odd or honest or a bit of both, matters not; the mountains are burning and it’s time I took notice.

2012 Book #2

I have officially finished reading my second book for the year (only 28 more to go) and have to say that it has been my favorite so far. (It had a 50/50 shot.) Despite my days filled with teaching and writing and various activities, Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing caused me to pause what I was doing and pay direct attention to what she had to say. Though it isn’t too long (the pages aren’t numbered) and some pages have no words at all, it is by far one of the best books on writing that I have read.

The book is a mixture of encouraging and honest advice, clever prompts, quotes, tips and personal experiences from the author. And so I thought I would break down my review into those categories:

Advice

In her intro, Wood explains that she used to be a school counselor–a job which she loved and quit in order to pursue the writing life.  Like the rest of usm she has struggled and succeeded, and offers the lessons she’s learned from that. For example, she offers 7 Rules of Etiquette for a Reading, such as:

  1. Arrive on time, even if you’re famous
  2. If you’re reading poems, don’t explain them first. If you must add an intro, don’t make it longer than the poem.
  3. Slow down. Most people read too fast.

She also talks a lot about the writer lifestyle and things she has learned that come with the territory—such as the dreaded rejection. Wood offers a lot of advice on rejection.

Prompts

Wood’s prompts vary from fun and silly to serious and thought provoking. She uses some of her own words, words from others, single words, pictures and a plethora of other tricks to get that pen writing or keyboard typing. Open the page, pick a prompt, and start writing. You might end up with a prompt such as:

[insert picture of two hippos in front of what appears to be a brick building]

These hippos are called Dodger and Betsy. Your challenge is to figure out how they got into the parking lot of a Catholic school.

OR

Who were your parents at your age?

Quotes

Surrounding myself with writers has made me realize that we don’t only love words—we love words about words, words about writing, thoughts about words and writing, talking about words and writing. While some of the quotes she uses are for prompts, a lot of them work for general inspiration (about words and writing) as well.  For example, Wood includes the following quotes as part of her conglomeration:

“I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something terrible.”

–Roy Blount, Jr.

OR

“Let us write and let us dance—two amusements that will never do harm to the world.”

–Voltaire

…truth.

Tips and personal experiences

Wood shares one activity she enjoys where she goes to a café with someone, but does not listen to them. Instead, she listens to what’s going on around them.  Or she asks, “what is the subject you’re avoiding? Write it down.”

Another example is when she explains:

“Colors can be delivered as similes that suggest something about the character’s inner life. Your reader will receive a character in a red shirt a little differently if that shirt is described as the color of spilled wine or fresh liver or SpeghettiOs.”

The Pocket Muse  calls directly to my odd character traits and intense literary desires that often come with the gift and burden of being a writer. The only point on which I disagree with her is that I should get a cat.  However, the rest of the book is gold. And she so eloquently ends it with “don’t forget to be grateful that you love words.”

…As if I ever could.

Overall grade: A++

Post Script:

I found out that there is a sequal to this book. I plan to pick it up and review it for your reading pleasure in the near future. 🙂

Worthy dialogue

“I don’t like people to talk for no reason, but I really like dialogue between people who aren’t listening to each other.”

–Raymond Carver

Not necessarily new, but always improved

I’ve always had mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions. Until March they seem like such a good idea, and then they are forgotten again until December. In leadership training, they teach you about SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and I try to keep that in mind when making plans for a new year or new beginning. The problem is that when I sit down to make new year’s resolutions, I am determined to keep them as they are throughout the entire year, but they usually end up adjusted to lack of time or dedication. So two years ago, I made two absolute resolutions: 1. I would no longer call them resolutions, but goals or life changes and 2. I would make ones that were well thought out so that I could ABSOLUTELY stick to them. Two years later, I have stuck to 95% of the goals I’ve made and though I’m still aiming for that 100%, it’s better than I was doing before.

And now the time has come, my friends, to talk of new beginnings. Though I have kept some for myself, I thought I could share some goals for 2012. I would wish all of you luck in your goals and changes for the future, but I’ve realized it takes a lot more than that. So instead, I wish you constant determination and may you not lose sight of what you really want, or in most cases, what you really need.

Goals for 2012:

Read at least 30 books

When I was younger, I was that kid with a book behind my textbook at school. I was grounded from reading because my chores wouldn’t get done and my books were confiscated before my video games or tv privileges, because those simply didn’t mean as much. When I was in school, obviously I read plenty for class, but between class and work and researching, I was lucky to read ten books for pleasure. Younger Tessa would be disappointed. I’ve always been the girl with an extra book in her bag, but this year those books will be rotated more, no matter what’s going on in my life. No excuses, play like a champion.

Write at least 10 short stories

As with the reading goal, I’ve allowed myself to let excuses of little time or other priorities to take over and my reading and writing have fallen to the back burner. No more, I say. Now that I’m not in class, it’s time learn how to motivate myself. And after the fail of NaNoWriMo, I really need to step up my game.

Submit at least three things for publishing

This is simply for an adventure. I’ve only submitted a few things—partially because of fear of rejection and partially because I wasn’t really sure how to. It’s time to get over that.

Move to Istanbul

I’ve been trying to move abroad for three years now and each time has fallen through because of something, but I feel good about this year. I’ve ordered the Turkish Rosetta Stone, done my research of schools and jobs, made my connections, and am determined to go somewhere. Maybe one day I’ll get to Germany or back to London, but for now I want to step outside of my box. By September, I plan to be updating y’all on my Turkish adventures!

Get up to at least 200 blog posts

The first time I tried blogging, it did not go so well. Perhaps that’s the wrong pronoun. I did not do so well. However, that has changed. I’ve finally gotten into the swing of things and since October have hit about 50 posts. Goal attained? Check. Now it’s time to set the bar higher. I have 365 days to get in 200 blog posts. Done and done.

Challenge myself more

Part of this process is realizing what things I need to change and I have noticed recently that while I set the bar high for many aspects of my life, I will allow myself to stop once I reach that bar instead of going beyond it. Whether it is learning a certain skill, exercising, doing tasks at work, traveling, or what have you, I want to go beyond not only the expectations of others, but what I expect of myself. I want to feel challenged and I shouldn’t have to wait for someone else to challenge me.

Have adventures and try new things

This is a constant with me. There are so many things in this world that it is impossible to go and try all of them in one lifetime. However, it is possible to try something new every day (or at least every week). It can be something little, like trying new foods, or something big, like climbing a 14’er. Whatever it is, I need to not only improve on what I’ve already done, but continue to try things I haven’t done.

Take advantage of what’s available to me

I just moved to Colorado in August and since I plan on moving to Turkey this coming August or September, I need to have as many Coloradan adventures while I can. While I’m here, I might as well try snowboarding, hiking in the Rockies, going to a Baseball game, trying the local breweries, etc. I’m close to CA and have never been, so why not take a road trip? Growing up an Army brat, I learned that you have to make the best of wherever you are, because it always has something to offer.

Happy New Year!!!

No matter the troubles or struggles you might encounter in the new year (for there will always be some), my hope is that you make the most of every situation in order to not only overcome, but enjoy what life has to offer.

NaNoWriMo Part 1 (1058 words)

Word Count: 1058

So after a ridiculous week at work and a complete lack of ideas on what to write about, I’ve finally been able to get a start on NaNoWriMo. I suppose four days late is better than never. So far my biggest struggle has been to turn off my inner editor. I didn’t think I would have such an issue with not editing as I go, but I have been proven wrong. I’m posting what I have so far mainly as motivation for myself to continue (ie something to hold me accountable).  It’s a very very very rough draft and I am trying my hardest not to reread and revise, but to just continue toward the word count. I’ll work for a bit longer on it tonight and hopefully I can manage my life a little better to work on it some more this week as well, because I’m pretty sure that my students have been writing more than me lately. I’ll be posting as I continue. I make no promises regarding the structure, content, organization, or overall quality:

 

 

Mr. Pittman, my high school ceramics teacher, once told me a monkey could make something nicer than what I’d made.

“Homegirl,” he’d said, “what exactly do you think you’re making there?

“A bowl?”

He shook his head, lifted his large glasses and rubbed his eyes. “A bowl,” he muttered. “Homegirl, a monkey could make something better than that.” And with that, he’d walked away to his next victim. I liked Pittman. I’d recently moved from the South to Maryland (I chose to ignore the Mason-Dixon Line argument based on the culture shock I’d gone through) and Pittman was from Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The first day of class, I’d mentioned that I actually knew of Rocky Mount, North Carolina and I’d been Homegirl ever since. I wasn’t aiming for the favorite, but I didn’t mind being associated with home either.

Mr. Pittman was probably in his early sixties when I’d taken his class. He’s long since retired, but I know he would have kept working if his health allowed. He’d often give us a hard time, but no student ever doubted that Pittman cared. Like I said, he was probably in his early sixties and always wore a blue smock, dress slacks, and dress shoes. He had a deep voice and deep smile lines. Pittman’s dark hands were always cracked and dry—the result of constantly working with clay and not believing in lotion. His large glasses were remnants of the seventies, as was his short, gray afro.  I’m assuming he wasn’t very tall, because I remember constantly looking him in the eyes when we spoke and I’m only five foot six. He’d often tell us stories of when he was enlisted in the Army in the sixties and coming home to race riots and sit ins. When he found out I was Jewish, he told me about Black Jews and their contributions. It was never dull in Pittman’s class.  I took his class three years in a row and there was one day each year when he would give his life speech. Continue reading

And so it begins…

Today is the first official day of NaNoWriMo. Hopefully I can make this work. I’m already semi-behind because of work, but I am determined to get to the word count. Any suggestions for a first-timer are awesome.

NaNoWriMo

What’s the rush, October? I feel like you just got here. Don’t you want to stay a bit longer?

Today I realized that I am far behind where I should probably be.  As a unorganized list maker and continuous idea person, this is

neither new nor surprising.  However, perhaps I should be more nervous than I am. This is the first year I’ve decided to try National Novel Writing Month and I have done hardly anything to prepare. I keep seeing other blogs where people are talking about their plot developments, their chapter outlines, their super awesome advanced planning.  Then again, I’ve always thought the mark of a great writer was the ability to use sudden deadlines as a motivation. True, I’ve been writing more, but what English major doesn’t procrastinate, completely confident in his or her abilities until right before they need to write something? (Unfortunately, this seems to usually work for me, only reassuring my procrastinating tendencies to settle in a bit more.)

Ok, so November starts on Tuesday and I have no idea where to start with this. Maybe I should do some more research and start writing and plotting.  Or maybe I’ll just go to Barnes and Noble and get a hot chocolate and look at the books on the shelves as motivation.

Anyone selling a typewriter?