Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Life as a Laundress

My Life As a Laundress

Have you ever noticed how much you can learn about your family from what you find in your laundry basket? When there are jeans in my son's things, I know the weather has dropped below zero, otherwise, he wears shorts. Seriously. He's hot blooded. When my daughter's dating someone there are lots of pretty blouses in her basket. When she's not, it's T-shirts.

I get a lot of change that immediately goes into my poker cup. If you leave two quarters in your pocket, kiss it goodbye. Once I find it, either in the laundry basket or in the washer tub, it becomes mine. House Rule. If you don't like House Rule you are invited to do your own wash. So far no one's taken me up on that.

Because I work at home, I almost exclusively wear pajamas. I have more pajamas than a fully stocked Victoria's Secret before Christmas or Valentine's Day. My husband realized a few years ago when I quit working and began writing for a living -- thus living in my PJ's -- that he can go to any department store and find pajamas from sexy lace to work-horse flannel and these make excellent gifts for any occasion. He doesn't have to know a specific size, just be in the ballpark, and if he's got money he can spend big bucks. If he's sort of broke, he can get me something as pretty at WalMart. Unfortunately, before he discovered pajamas, diamonds were his gift of choice. Though I love my PJ's, I'm not sure I made out in that deal.

We use heavy duty, extra strength detergent and we're not stingy about it. We like our clothes clean. Which is probably why each of us changes a few times a day. And why laundry is such a big deal in my life. I do a lot of it. Luckily, there is no water shortage in our city!

My son who now lives on his own is allergic to a certain kind of laundry soap, so we never bought it. Still don't. It's like a ban that's never been lifted, or an old law that's so antiquated it makes us laugh. It's still in force, even though it's no longer needed.

Every morning, I sort out two loads, wash them and put them in the dryer. When the dryer dings, I dump them on a chair and the clothing owners have 24 hours to get their things off the chair and into their rooms. If they don't, then I take the clothes into their rooms. If a drawer accidentally falls open as I walk by and ... well ... I see things then it's on them because I was only in their room to put away laundry that they should have put away.

You'd be surprised what THAT particular adventure has netted me in terms of news and information.

I grew up in an era when women began to fuss and fume about having to do all the housework. I'm not in their ranks. I sort of like housework. Don't get me wrong, if I could afford to pay someone to scrub toilets that person would be living with me right now. But I don't mind dishes. Washing them is very soothing. I love to scrub. Who doesn't love to toss water on a floor and watch a mop try to corral it? But laundry is my favorite. It's like keeping in touch with kids who are growing away from me.

I knew immediately when my daughter switched to thongs. Not because she told me or because I bought them (though in some way, shape or form I'm guessing I did) but because I washed them. I've watched their taste in clothes mature. (Even if their underwear declined.) I washed fatigues when Spunky was in the army. Blood stained shirts after Mikie's trips to the hospital.

I guess in a way, laundry is a history of sorts. Or a way to stay in their lives when they're struggling for independence. A chance to say a quick prayer when you see your kids are growing, growing away, growing into themselves.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday! One Day Before Book In A Week!

This is Friday, January 25, 2008. Right now, my cat is sitting on my desk, in front of my computer monitor. This is my life. A battle between me and a feline for my time. So far, I'm winning.

Sophie's really very sweet, though. Affectionate. And pretty. She's a tortoise shell with golden eyes. Usually, we're a great combination. But some days I know she thinks I work too hard. Either that or I don't pet her enough.

She's been upset since I began April Kilstrom's Book In a Week Class. I've spent hours here in this chair, researching Nevada. I've always wanted to write a historical, and I decided this class was the perfect place to get my feet wet. I chose a time period and a subject about which I knew very little. 1866 Nevada. I chose a sub-genre which isn't selling. (No expectation = no pressure LOL.) Because I really wanted to see if April's system worked and I also wanted a break of sorts from deadlines and expectations.

I wanted to step out of my typical routine. I didn't want to have my internal editor saying...No, Susan, you know readers don't want to read about sports heroes. So don't write that. Or no, Susan, you know heroines have to be a certain age. For one small space of time I wanted to write. Just to remember what it felt like to let my imagination run wild.

Well, it's been running. LOL We don't start writing until tomorrow. The goal is to write for 7 days trying to finish a rough (I'm guessing it will be really rough) draft of your book.

But up to this point, we've been creating characters, writing the descriptions of things like people and towns and houses and cars (or in my case carriages and critters) and reminding ourselves that the best way to write emotion is to remember what it felt like to feel those emotions. We've been thinking about motivations. We've been writing scene cards.

And you know what? Tomorrow when we start writing, I think I'll be ready.

Sophie's not happy. Her tail is swishing across my monitor as I type. She seems to know that next week will be the push. Writing every day, every spare minute of every day, trying to get a 100,000-word manuscript drafted in seven short days.

I know I'll fail. LOL. Even if I don't fail, I know no one wants this book. But, wow, it feels glorious just to write what I want to write, how I want to write it. No expectations.

By the way, I recommend this class to EVERYONE. April's lessons are short and concise and helped me to focus quickly on what was important about my story.

Her website is AprilKihlstrom.com. She has an email addy to contact her about upcoming presentations of this workshop.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's Wednesday, January 16 2008 schedule so far

It's my sister Tammy's Birthday. Happy Birthday, Tammy.

For those of you who visit my web page regularly, you've probably noticed I've been mysteriously absent. I had a terrible cold. Actually, it started out as the flu and morphed into a cold. All this went on in the last two weeks of a book deadline. LOL.

There's nothing like being sick as a dog when you HAVE TO work. It wasn't pretty and/or fun.

But I'm back now. Feeling pretty darned good. Very pleased with the last book I submitted to the UK editors for Harlequin Romance. It's a Christmas story about forgiveness. Proably one of the best things I've ever written. So, see. Being sick doens't have to hinder you. LOL!

I have also been looking at my calendar to see what I scheduled for myself last year when I felt I could do anything.

Here's what I have going on this year:

Right now I'm doing an online workshop for the Low Country RWA chapter on plot points. It's been a lot of fun and the group is fabulous. Some very smart, savy writers!

Sunday 2/10 I'm doing an online chat on Writerschatroom.com

In May I'm doing an all day workshop for Pennwriters. You have to go to Pennwriters.org for information on this. It's an intense one-day thing and we're only allowing 15 people to attend. It's pricy, but, seriously, it's absolutely going to be worth it.

In June I'm in Philly for the Philadelphia conference. When I finish up, I'm on my way to the beach with my family. Tons of fun!

June 29 9-12:00 I'm doing a special presentation for Seton Hill's Masters in Contemporary Fiction program.

In August, I'm doing an online workshop for WRWADC. The DC chapter of Romance Writers of America. The workshop I'm presenting is CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED. This is my most popular workshop. It's also the one I get the most feedback on from authors. So if you're a lover of online workshops, as I am (right now I'm doing April Kilstrom's Book in A Week and it's FABULOUS!) then CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED from WRWADC might be for you!

August 1, I'm doing a chat for Kim Watters on (I think) Cheaper than Therapy (catchy name).

That's all the farther I've scheduled. I'm not going to Nationals this year. But I will probably be adding conferences and workshops for the fall.

Most likely, New Jersey's chapter conference in October.

It's going to be a fun year. Not as busy as normal as far as travel, but that's partially because I'm writing an extra book or two this year.

Tune in later for details!


Goal Setting Workshop Lesson 8

Session Eight: Pulling it all together

By now you are probably aware that motivation inspires goals and good goals inspire you to manage your time more efficiently.

Probably you have also realized that the more important, or necessary the goal, the easier it is to motivate yourself to accomplish it. In the last two lessons, we talked specifically about time management.

Though I taught that you must find your peak performance time and gave you a few tools for working the most efficient ways possible, you probably also noticed that inherent in those lessons was the truth that there are some things that don't need scheduled, yet they always get done.

Come hell or high water we generally accomplish our "necessary" goals like feeding our children, going to our day job, or getting everyone where they are supposed to be every day (Ms. Carpool).

Because it's true. We will do the things we "must" do without hesitation, without question and generally without having to put them on a list.

But did you realize while we were walking through all these sessions that you could actually set a goal and artificially make it a must? Did you realize that you could turn almost any goal into something you do without hesitation, without question and generally without having to put it on a list. . .if you motivate yourself sufficiently?

You probably did, but just in case you haven't let's talk about the motivational technique I've found the most helpful in accomplishing my personal goals (things like regular exercise) and professional (writing) goals by shifting them from "wants" to "musts."

It's Tony Robbins’ Rocking Chair technique. (BTW, Tony/Anthony Robbins is the author of the runaway bestseller Awaken the Giant Within. His 30 Days to Personal Power tapes were phenomenal. He also does "change your life" type of seminars. He's very smart and very successful and his techniques have helped me tremendously! I don’t merely want him to get credit for this technique. If you're predisposed to read self-help stuff, his isn't just among the best. In a lot of ways, it is the best.)

Okay, testimonial over, back to business. . .

I don't want to use writing as the example of Tony Robbins' Rocking Chair Technique because I don't want to influence you. I want you to see the technique for something other than writing, and then do it yourself for writing so your answers to the questions are real and personal, and therefore, have the power they are supposed to have.

So, since I'm beginning the new year as a little ball of butter, who will not be able to wear her own clothes and will have to spend money buying new things from Omar the Tentmaker if I don’t slim down, I'm going to use eating healthy as the example. Because that's one of the hardest goals in the Universe! (At least for me.)

Mr. Robbins basically tells us that manufacturing motivation (turning a "want" into a "must have" or "necessity") is easy. All we have to do is get ourselves to the place where we recognize how the results of our bad habit will hurt us. Once we get ourselves to realistically see the results of our bad habit, then we have to feel the pain that accompanies those results, so that when we leave that place, we will remember the pain and our behavior will change.

So, here's me. At around fifty years of age, with a full head of hair, no beer belly, nice legs and not too many wrinkles, no cough, no insomnia, and very little dementia, how do I get myself to feel the effects of my poor eating habits?

I sit in my rocking chair.

Tony Robbins tells you to sit down, close your eyes and in fast forward imagine keeping your present eating habits for the next five years. When five years pass, stop! See yourself five years from now. Are you heavier? (Hah!) Are you tired? (Hum...) Are you sloppy? (Ouch!) Is your husband going out without you to grocery shop because he has more energy? Worse, is he going to movies or the mall alone. . . Dear God!

That's scary stuff. But don't stop. Once again, eyes closed, deep breath, continue to picture yourself as you did when you zipped five years into the future - - kinda chubby and slow, maybe breathing a tad heavier, then fast forward again. Zip another five years into the future with no exercise and lots of fast food. Then, stop! Suddenly, catch yourself off-guard as you really would be.

Are you fatter? (Do fish swim?) Is your breathing labored? Is your hair washed? Are your clothes ugly? (Probably) Is your room dark? (This is a good one. Most people realize that after year ten of the continuation of a bad habit their room is suddenly dark. As if your life is bleak!) Is your husband home. . .or is he out, again, without you?

Ouch. But don't stop here. Get back in the chair. Eyes closed. Deep breath. Fast forward ten whole years this time. 20 years from today. Fast food, fast food, fast food, doughnuts, doughnuts, cappuccino, banana splits, M&M peanuts in the jumbo bag. Stop!

How big are you now? How tired are you now? Where's that darned husband of yours! Do you fight a lot? Do you spend lots of time alone. . . with your doughnuts? Probably. House dark? No question this time. You are alone, fat, tired, sitting in the dark and a failure. All because you couldn’t get yourself to eat a darned vegetable!

But don't stop here. Reverse the clock. See it all backward. Take it all back. Reverse all those food decisions. Go back and back and back until it's today again. Take a deep breath. You're not 100 pounds overweight. You're twenty. Would you like some fast food? I doubt it. Does walking on the treadmill seem like work or salvation? Probably salvation. Do you feel differently? Probably. Not because you don't want to gain weight, but because you don't want to be alone, sitting in the dark!

You have a second chance!

Plus, your choice is no longer the choice between a doughnut and a carrot. It's the choice between a dark, dingy room in a barren life and happiness, energy, fulfillment.


Interesting. Really think that through. If you truly felt the pain of your bad habit, your entire mindset should be different. And you should be motivated to do whatever it takes to NEVER to be the person you saw in your imaginings!

As I said, I used weight as the example and not writing for a very good reason. I didn't want to impose my "notions" about writing on you. So now that you have the concept down, we're going to repeat the exercise, but without me giving you examples or hints about how I would be feeling.

So, close your eyes and fast forward five years. In that five years, writing is not your priority. It's a hobby. You work "when you can." You write hit or miss, never committing, never thinking writing is your passion. . . Open your eyes . . .Where are you?

Get a clear picture of what your life would be like if you continue on as a writing hobbyist. Where will you be five years from now?

Then get back into the rocking chair and add another five years without commitment to your writing. Without commitment to storytelling excellence. Are you famous? (Without commitment to excellence? I doubt it. Sorry...but I couldn't resist.) Are you even published? Is your office getting dimmer and/or darker?

Back in the chair. . . fast forward another ten years. . .Twenty years into the future.

Take your time and really be honest about where you will be if you treat writing hit or miss, if you treat your passion as if it's a passing fancy. Really think it through. See the dust on your desk. See the half-finished manuscripts. See the unfulfilled promise. . .Feel the pain of knowing you will never be the writer you know you could be...

All right, so I am nebbing my nose in a tad here. . .

The real bottom line is . . .

Do you want to be the person you picture twenty years from now if you don't discipline yourself to write more than "when you can"? Do you want to be the person you picture twenty years from now if you never commit to becoming the best writer you can be?

Interesting question.

And the question with which I leave you. Success and failure are your choice. You may not have complete control, but you have a lot more than you think.

So think.

The next time you want to be lazy, the next time you blame someone else (like an editor, agent or critique partner when something is rejected) when you know deep down inside the work submitted wasn't your best effort, the next time you decide to write for a line or publisher without reading that line or publisher, the next time you think the rest of us are just lucky. . .


Think about everything I've told you this month and then realize the choices are yours.

Not mine.

Not an editor's.

Not an agent's.



susan meier



This workshop is my original material. I have given you examples of the work of others, but I've also given them credit for their ideas.

I would be pleased to learn that any of you quoted me, because I love to see my work help others, as long as I get the courtesy of actually being quoted by having my name appear with my text.

The Internet is such an easy source for information and a work like this can be so easily copied that we sometimes forget that copying the work of another without giving them credit is plagiarism.