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Angela Goff

Writer. Teacher. Potter. VisDare Creator.

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4 Ways My 1st Page Hit Back

For while the ways of art are hard at best, they will break you if you go unsustained in by belief in what you are trying to do. – Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Several years ago I stopped calling myself an Aspiring Writer and decided to take my dream seriously. Not long after, I ran across the above quote in a book of Cambridge Lectures called On the Art of Writing. Though small, the book was a bit daunting to get through, but this quote stuck to my ribs.

I copied the quote on a notecard. Because that’s what Real Writers do, yes? We find inspiration quotes about writing and we champion our ideal.

A few years on, that quote is still a much needed reminder. Right now I’ve got it taped to my bathroom mirror.

I say this because I am currently in my NINTH rewrite of The Blank Mara.

Nine. Yes. Starting over from scratch. Each. Time.

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Above: Glimpse of my first page, as it was about a month ago. Needless to say, it has changed DRASTICALLY since then. Also: Pinterest in the background, giving oblique references to the plot.

I’m taking the time to point this out because of something valuable I learned during my Manuscript Academy workshop this past May. The focus for that one week, online class was to tighten up my first page.

I’d already had my manuscript out in queries for almost two years so I thought, why not? Let’s tighten up that first page. Make it really shiny.

Well.

It turns out that the class highlighted more than just the issues with my first page (which is no doubt what the Manuscript Academy gurus intended). Here are four things I learned about myself as a result of that class: Continue reading “4 Ways My 1st Page Hit Back”

The Decision in Which I Pay $25 and Promise to Scare Myself

Today I did something that I’ve long considered doing, but haven’t been brave enough to do before.

It surprised me too, because this Scary Something was now in my budget, unlike most writing conferences, online classes, retreats, etc. My budget currently lives deep in Hand-to-Mouth-Feeding Territory, probably wearing old potato sacks and being held at gunpoint in an Old West ghost town somewhere.

But that super-tight budget has also been the convenient excuse to Not Do The Thing That Needs Doing – which, for me, is: Getting a better grip on how I approach my manuscript.

Because honestly? It’s time one of my Idea Babies learned to tie their own shoes and strut their stuff, dangit.

Result: Today, I signed up for an online class with The Manuscript Academy.

If you haven’t heard of it, The Manuscript Academy is a somewhat recent offshoot of the long-running Continue reading “The Decision in Which I Pay $25 and Promise to Scare Myself”

Bookstunami

My desk and bedside tables are overflowing with books purchased, loaned, or handed off to me with the words “YOU MUST READ THIS” and I’m…well…having a hard time getting to all of them.

I am a history and literature teacher, so that complicates things.

But these books…they’re all staring me in the face and I NEED the time to read them all. Or finish them, as I’ve started quite a few and just got interrupted.

Titles currently in the queue:

Tanglewreck – Winterson

American Gods – Gaiman

Enclave – Aguire

The Red Pyramid – Riordan

Runemarks – Harris

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm – Dartnell

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Metaxas

Origin – Khoury

Daughter of Sand and Stone – Hawker

I should probably add To Kill a Mockingbird to the lineup, as I am teaching it this month so I am on another reread….Tanglewreck and The Red Pyramid are at the insistence of the nephews (and who can resist such a recommendation?), but the others….where do I even begin? Recommendations? Anyone? Bueller?

Where’s My “I Survived 2016” T-Shirt?

 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like 2016 aged me about 15 extra years.

That’s not true, of course. And not all of 2016 was bad — well, apart from feeling like the universe deliberately vacuumed most of my childhood into the afterlife, and enduring the most over-the-top absurd presidential election in the history of Existence.

School. Family. Finances. Work. Nearly losing my family to a horrendous car accident this past September. Ugly crap hitting the fan at my nephews’ respective schools. Wising up to a financial screw-over that did me no favors. Just plain not getting enough sleep.

2016 was one for the books, and one that I’ll gladly padlock closed, put in a lead-lined box, and drop into the depths of the Laurentian Abyss.

And yet.

2016 was not all bad.

  • I still have my family, after that awful wreck. Miraculously (and yes, I DO believe in miracles, and this was one) no one was injured. Not a broken bone, not a scratch. Some stiff bruises, and my dad didn’t do a lot of walking or flights of stairs for a couple months, but still.
  • I did my first round of serious queries on a manuscript, and had several positive rejections*, including one full manuscript request.
  • I participated in NaNoWriMo this past November, and won for the 7th straight year in a row. I’m pretty excited about the direction this manuscript is going, too.
  • We decided to start homeschooling my nephews in 2017. We’re still transitioning into that new schedule and mindset, and we’re all on a learning curve for sure, but so far it’s been a very, very good thing for everyone.
  • I was able to help several new disabled babies via my contract work as an in-home therapist for deaf, blind, and deafblind babies and toddlers. (You want a rewarding day? A giggling baby doing something the doctors never said they would do — that redeems any crappy day ever. EVER.)
  • My 11yo nephew made it to regionals in CrossCountry, and participated in a big meet in Tallahassee, Florida. He was pretty darn proud. We were, too.
  • My 9yo nephew nailed some gymnastic techniques this year, qualifying him to train once a week with a bonafide+ male gymnast** starting next week. He’s pretty darn excited. We are too.
  • Several good friends got engaged and/or married. Yes, I’m single and no, this doesn’t make me bitter. I’m ecstatic for all of them.
  • Several good friends made headlines with book deals, agent signings, and runaway bestsellers. In each case, it was a well-deserved accolade and I am delighted for all their successes.
  • I became an aunt again – twice – this year. Once by blood, and once by you’re-good-as-family bond. I’m telling you: BABIES. Even if they’re not yours, they make everything better. Also, some people make ridiculously good-looking babies. (My sister is one of them.)

So. Did 2016 suck? Yeah. But not totally.

And that lead-lined box that got sent to the crushing depths of the ocean?

It doesn’t have all of 2016 in it. I kept the good parts.

Why?

Because the good parts are why we tough it out through the hard times. And sometimes, the harder, wilder, and crazier the season, the more glorious the rewards of the beautiful things that happen to us.

I have my family. I have my health. I have fantastic friends and coworkers and students. I have a roof over my head and food to eat, and a loving community that has my back, even when Life doesn’t seem to.

And really….I can’t ask for more than that.

* I hope that makes sense. Maybe I should write a blog post on this, too.
+ bonafide = a true gymnast, not a tumbling/cheerleader coach. He’s had male tumbling/cheer coaches before – and adores them – but he wants to do the hard-core gymnastics. Rings. Pommel horse. Vault. The works.
** Yes, I know gender doesn’t matter when it comes to coaching, etc. But considering gymnastics – at least in this area – is so female dominated and driven, it’s made a big difference in our little guy understanding that it’s A-OK for boys to do gymnastics or tumbling/cheer – whichever he chooses. His coaches rock, male and female; but we especially love it that he has male role models in this discipline. (Maybe I should write a blog post about this, too.)

VisDare 150: Encroach

Here it is – your new Visual Dare!

150 words. One week. Your voice.

Multiple entries accepted: prose, skit, poetry, song lyrics. Your call.

Badges and FAQs can be found under the Visual Dare tab.

Ready…set…WRITE.

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photo source

VisDare 149: Deep

Another week, another prompt!

150 words. Your voice. Poetry, prose, song lyrics – your choice.

Where does this photo take you?

Ready, set…WRITE.

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photo source: F&O Fabforgottennobility

 

VisDare 148: Vow

Ooops! Between celebrating the 9th birthday of my nephew yesterday, and getting both boys ready to start school tomorrow — I totally neglected to post a new VisDare last night. SORRY.

So here it is, a day late. This wonderfully evocative photo from Dzineblog360 is just the thing for some open-ended story prompting, or poetry, or song lyrics. Your pick!

150 words. One week (er….6 days?). Your voice.

Ready, set, WRITE.

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Photo Soruce: 50 Inspiring Examples of Emotional Portrait Photography from Dzineblog360

 

VisDare 147: Disillusioned

This week: the photo “Hard Times” by Vignes Balasingam. (For more info, see link, etc beneath the photo.)

150 words. One week. Your voice.

What story can you spin from this? The sky’s the limit….

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Photo: “Hard Times” by Vignes Balasingam

Photographed for Junk magazine, 2008

New to the VisDare? Select the Visual Dare tab for more info and FAQs.

VisDare 146: Dignity

Thanks for all the camping well-wishes! We had great fun, without any sunburns, tick bites, major cuts, broken bones, or splinters. Older Nephew lost a pocket knife on a long hike, and the squirrels made off with our coffee creamer in broad daylight, but other than that we had no real mishaps (thank goodness!).

Below is your new Visual Dare. The original link to this photo appears to be broken, so if anyone knows who the photographer is, please let me know. But it was just too sweet and rich a photo to pass up.

150 words. One week. Your voice. Ready, set….WRITE.

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photo source

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