Category Archives: writing

Music and Memories and Journeys

Thanks to so many of you for pinging me and saying you wondered what was going on with my job. In short, I love it and am enjoying my profession more than I ever thought I would.

But I have missed writing here.

Tonight, the story of “Peter and the Wolf” came up, and Darcy told a gruesome and untrue version of it. I have a distinct memory of seeing the San Francisco Symphany “tell” the story, via a famous actor whose name unfortunately escapes me. I loved the introduction to the orchestra’s instruments: the flighty and foolhardy duck who meets a terrible fate, as portrayed by the oboe, the clever and small bird (the flute), the scary wolf (three french horns), stolid Peter (the strings).

Many years later, when we were traveling through Provence, (nerd alert) I was working my way through “The Lord of the Rings” series. This was six months before the movies came out. I decided I needed to finish the trilogy before I saw the films. The books were terrifying to read in parts – I remember in Avignon, we stayed in a lone cottage in the forrest, and I was so unnerved by the description of the Ringwraiths that I stayed awake all night, jumping at small noises.

The next day as we drove through a beautiful sunflower populated road, filled with flowers leaning towards the solar rays, we randomly turned the car radio to a classical music station and listened to a French version of “Peter and the Wolf.” I struggled to understand what was transpiring, as the narrator took us through the action.

The music became my own internal soundtrack as I made my way into “The Return of the King.” As I finally reached the crucial section when it is clear Frodo has completed his mission, the strains of the triumphant procession of Peter and the wolf, on their way to the zoo, echoed in my brain. I was in a bathtub in the villa where F. Scott Fitzgerald had written “The Beautiful and the Damned,” the hobbits had won, and I felt magically immersed in literary destiny.

Tonight I showed my already blasĆ© children a YouTube video of “Peter and the Wolf,” and to my surprise and delight, they watched every moment of the 30 minute clip in suspense and wonder.

Tonight was a truly wonderful and resonant moment, where a tradition was passed simply from one generation to the next. And this is as miraculous as a duck alive in a wolf’s belly, quacking its own tremulous tune.

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Filed under Discovering joy, My Favorite Things, Parenting After IF, writing

I Took A Walk

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BlogHer featured my post about needing to amaze a room with my writing. Check it out, here!

Today I found myself in the city, without a car.

I needed to get from one hospital (the wrong one) to another (the right one), and I needed to progress down one street for about a mile and a half. So I took a walk.

Contained within that distance were gingerbread Victorians, Edwardian flats and the rare rebuilt modern mid-century dwelling, as well as numerous boutiques, movie theaters, libraries, cafes, bodegas, juice stores, places of woship and fine dining establishments.

Each one of these homes, these blocks, these restaurants held some sort of memory for me. Unusually, as I walked, the memories attached to the street were almost exactly in the chronological order they occured.

The beginning of the road featured my first post-college apartment. There it was, the flat where I learned how to be a responsible adult: paying bills, cleaning my messes, parking in my correct parking zone and avoiding streetsweeping days. There I lived my young dream of being an up-and-coming urban executive. I wore suits and heels (except on Fridays), and I proudly ran in those heels down the street to catch the 1 California bus. There was the liquor store where I once bought a bottle of wine for my first real dinner party. There was the corner where Darcy and I first said “Goodnight” to each other, even though neither of us wanted to. There was the nail salon where I got a mani/pedi for our date nights. There was the driveway where we packed my meager belongings into a rented U-Haul and began a new life in a new country.

A few blocks down the road was the restaurant where I openly cried into a starched white napkin while we digested the news that my eggs were no good. A few blocks beyond that is the condo we decided to buy, where we become city dwellers once again after the suburbs, with its many happy families, became a wasteland of broken promises. The condo was a possible tenterhook leading to a new reality, one of being a childless couple.

And in that condo, against all percentages and bookmaking odds, I grew and nutured two delightful human beings, spending nine months throwing up, reading Proust, watching The Hills (“Dump him, Lauren!”) and staying in bed. A block away is the hospital where I gave birth to those bundles, who quickly taught me the power of grace and redemption.

And into that hospital I strode, where I awaited the next chapter of this wonderful, terrible, unfathomable world that continues to perplex, astoud, infuriate but mostly just surprise me.

I never know what will happen down the road. But I can truly say that no longer do I wait for the destination. The last decade (or so) has taught me that the moments of memory, of joy, pain, love, ambition, accomplishment and failure are the proof that my life has been lived. Full stop.

And the thing about pounding the pavement today? I realized that the tree-lined road I walked contained countless memories of other people. That tiny church has presided over thousands of weddings and funerals. Hundreds of couples broke up in that bistro. That’s what I love about cities: we live amongst the triumphs and ashes of millions of people’s lives and dreams. And that doesn’t make me feel insignificant. It makes me feel immortal.

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Filed under Discovering joy, writing

Amazing the Room

My dad always said I keep my thoughts to myself unless I think I can amaze a room.

It’s too true.

I’ve written very little this month, and there are several reasons for this. I am hampered by several factors right now, and I’m starting to envy those who blog anonymously. I always want to write authentically, but right now there are only a few things I can discuss without the cloak of vagueness. So why blog at all? I can hear you asking.

I don’t know. I have missed blogging this month. The less I blog, the more pressure I feel to amaze a room with my next post. That’s probably the worst thing about not blogging for me. I get out of the practice of writing, and begin feeling pressure the more I don’t post to ONLY come back if I have something unique, something thought-provoking to say.

Clearly I don’t have anything like that to say today.

Mostly, I just miss everyone. I know I’ve been a terrible commenter, and for that I am sorry. Blogging was always more about community for me. The sense of going to a virtual coffee shop and discussing issues at a roundtable, with smart, opinionated people.

So, since I don’t have anything earth-shattering to say, I’ll ask you guys, oh wise ones, if you are still here at my virtual coffee table. Do YOU have problems when you stop blogging restarting again? Do you feel your next post has to be so amazing that you just give up and don’t post? Would you rather post anonymously?

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Filed under What Say You?, writing

Project Dreamcatcher: Goal Schedule

In which I admit I am struggling with my deadlines. No Ted Talk this week.

My iMac is being rebuilt at the Genius Bar. It’s taking longer than I expected. And I am struggling: I’ve been writing longhand in my pretty journal, but it’s not the way I prefer to write and it’s slowing me down. I haven’t had as much time to write as I thought I would.

I have admittedly put myself on a pretty tight schedule with tight deadlines (see below). And when I start to miss looming deadlines, my risk-aversive brain starts going into escape mode. What cupcakes can I make? Can I go to the gym instead? Or, shamefully, I discovered “Scandal” was streaming on NetFlix and decided to see what the fuss was all about one valuable free night. Four HOURS later!!
šŸ˜¦

This procrastination then leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of shame and guilt. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the hugeness of the goal I have set (30,000 perfect, ready to be published words! In 2 months! With no computer right now!)

Anyway. That’s where my head has been. I reached out a Project Dreamcatcher member and admitted all this. She told me that I tend to be negative toward myself (true) and while I am positive about what I get done and accomplish, I’m very hard on myself when I’m in a nebulous territory.

That’s when I realized that I have some tools for this.

First: the have dones. It helped me to look at what I have accomplished this week.

1. Diagnosed, backed up and saved data then dealt with and got cheapest fix possible for iMac. Brought iMac to Genius Bar. Followed up.
2. Received changes from one editor for 1st half of book. In process of reviewing changes.
3. Got final bids for transcription services. Got closer to making final decision.
4. Began and made it halfway through research and writing of newest profile.

I mean, this is not where I want to be, but it IS progress.

I also started imagining a stop sign when I started berating myself. Weirdly, this helped to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks.

Finally, I remembered that I could be honest here, with you guys, who have been so supportive of this project. And that would help me, too.

So. Want to see my aggressive timeline of deadlines? Of course you do šŸ˜‰

Week of June 17th: send story to profile subject for approval. Finalize transcription service. Begin next profile. Review edits for completed chapters.

Week of June 24th: complete second profile, send to subject for approval. Get completed transcriptions, send to editors. Begin to investigate cost of cover art and PDF conversion of document to Kindle.

Week of July 1: complete third profile, send to subject for approval. Review changes to transcriptions. Choose vendors to get quotes from. Investigate legal fees/language and reprints of poems/song lyrics.

Week of July 8: complete 4th profile, send to subject for approval. Review proposals from vendors of art, PDF format. Investigate cost of hard cover books.

Week of July 15: vacation. But: write 5th profile, send to subject. Send approved profiles to editors.

Week of July 22: write 6th profile, send to subject. Finalize cover art and PDF vendor. Decide on hard cover book. Resolve legal issues.

Week of July 29: Write 6th profile, send to subject. Write introductory chapter.

Week of August 5: end of Project Dreamcatcher. Write 7th chapter, send to subject.

Rest of August:
Write 3 more profiles, get approvals.
Forward and Afterward
Get all edits done and back
Pick cover art
Get finalized document to Kindle vendor
Deal with Amazon

Not included in all of this of course? The many tweaks and changes that will occur as I proceed. This is a working document that will constantly be fluid.

Ugh. It’s a lot. But it’s worth it. I know it is.

I want to tell you all that I am here for you too: if you need advice, encouragement or just a little reassurance. I’m on Twitter at @2manyfish2fry and I’m Too Many Fish To Fry on Facebook or just email me at jessicacarroll@hotmail.com.

For everyone/anyone: do you find providing yourself with a timeline of deadlines is helpful to getting a goal accomplished? Or do you think it stresses you out too much?

And sorry for a lack of links and or typos: I’m currently using my phone to write blog posts. :/ I will update with links tomorrow!!

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Filed under getting published, Project Dreamcatcher, writing

They Help Us To Do The Hard Things

Esperanza and I were talking today about our love of a good memoir. I’m taking a hiatus from reading so I can focus on writing, but as I write more profiles I’m thinking: what makes these stories so compelling to me? Because each person I profile I admire very much. And I’m wondering, why we are so drawn to certain stories?

Esperanza is reading two memoirs I recommended, by two bloggers actually. The first is “Heaven is Here” by Stephanie Nielson. I’ve talked about Stephanie’s blog before (NieNie Dialogues: I’m a fan) but the book is something else entirely. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, once upon a time there was a beautiful young mother of four children, married to a handsome loving husband. A Prince Charming if you will. She was, as Esperanza put it, “so, so happy”. She’d created art out of her own life on her blog, and the beauty she generated from her cooking, decorating and photography led to acclaim from Martha Stewart Magazine and Conde Nast. Stephanie’s blog was inspiring to many women who aspired to be the kind of devoted mother and wife she was. Stephanie attributed her approach to life to her deeply held Mormon beliefs. In 2008, she was truly living the dream. She had everything.

Which is why what happened next was so shocking. She and her husband were in a terrible plane crash. They survived but their friend who was also in the plane did not. Stephanie was burned over 80% on her body (including her beautiful face) and was in a coma for 2 months. The pain, the injuries, the horror: it’s almost unimaginable. Yet, she survived and thrived and eventually even gave birth to another baby, Charlotte. How? How could you recover, mentally and emotionally from such a thing? In the book Stephanie credits her Mormon faith with much of her recovery in every way, and also her love of her family.

In the book, she attempts to hike a local trail to mark her recovery and gain a victory of sorts, even though every movement hurts. On the trail a child she has never met cheers her on, relating the message: “You help me do the hard things.”

The other book I recommended is “Bloom” by Kelle Hampton. Kelle’s a fun-loving photographer and mother-of-one whose world is rocked when her second child, her daughter Nella, is unexpectedly born with Downs Syndrome. The book tells the story of what happend next with honesty and sincerity. Kelle relates the depression she felt immediately after Nella’s birth and then the fierce embrace of her daughter and the decision she made to celebrate the “small moments”, the triumphs and the beauty of Nella’s life. Kelle eventually creates her own pretty unique approach to parenting: one of optimism and expecting the best of a situation, not the worst. The gorgeous photos help to tell the story as well. Kelle’s gang of girlfriends (she calls them “the net”) are at the root of how Kelle adapts to her new reality. Their love and support and words of wisdom are really at the heart of what allows her to fully embrace her new role as Nella’s champion.

After discussing these books with Esperanza, we decided we seek these stories out because they are about women dealing with hard, hard things. Life is full of hardships. It just is. So we seek out words of wisdom from those we think perhaps have answers we don’t, the key, so to speak of what is resilience. And how we can develop it on our own.

What stories speak to you, and why? Do you seek out memoirs?

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Filed under Project Dreamcatcher, writing

Project Dreamcatcher: Define Your Steps

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So. I’m typing this from the library because my computer has died. I’m taking my poor old beloved iMac to the Genius Bar tomorrow to try to get it fixed. Not having a computer? Not ideal. The computer station I was using got stolen by this rude guy. (Yes, entitled rude man with your headphones in so I don’t confront you: I’m talking about you.) Now I’m in the undesirable computer room with a bunch of teenaged math students who are loudly explaining cosigns. ISN’T THE LIBRARY SUPPOSED TO BE FREAKING QUIET? So basically: First World Problems.

(BTW, the library limits the amount of time you can use on a computer to 60 minutes a day. So this may be rushed and have typos. Apologies!)

The Ted Talk by Jason Fox I chose for this week was about using the video gaming model to achieve a goal. I thought that comparison was very interesting because who hasn’t gotten totally addicted to a video game? Candy Crush or Farmville, anyone? My personal kryptonite was the old school Super Mario Brothers game. Why is the video game model so addictive? Well, it fully engages your brain. You gain new skills at each level, learning to get past the dragon or jump over the brick wall. You achieve: moving on to the next level once you acquire the jumps and bounds needed. And you become fixated on making it to the next level and the next level and beyond.

I would love for us all to become just as fixated on making our goals come true as we are in making it to level 36 of Candy Crush.

How do we apply that model to our dream goals? Well, I think pretty much all of the goals include gaining new skills: whether it’s how to best plant vegetables for optimal growing and harvesting, plotting a plant grid to inspire a backyard for a family to enjoy or plan the best way to achieve your writing goals or learning how to take care of yourself (through clothes, food, self-esteem). The thing about gaining new skills: it can be difficult, but once you master a task (getting to the best mile time, learning to use a light meter) it CAN be addictive and confidence-building.

The other thing that you do in games? As Fox says: “Failure. Failure is really important in games…and it’s good because you learn.” I suck at failure, YET I tend to perserve in a game environment. Dang if I CARE if I fail a level in Angry Birds. I want to keep going!

It’s the CHALLENGE. So visualize your goal as the last level!

Here’s the best tip I learned from the Ted Talk: Make a list of HAVE DONES as you progress toward your goal. Each week, list your HAVE DONES. For Example:

1. Rewrote, polished and sent existing chapters to my editors for grammar check.
2. Sent interviews to be transcribed.
3. Determined length of book and chapters and word count to be done.
4. Set up timeline of profiles to write and editing schedule.

That’s significant progress. It’s easy to focus on what is left to be done, but to think about what HAS been done can make you feel as if you are really on the right path.

So, in closing: keep going, keep trying, keep getting to the next level, keep failing and keep listing your HAVE DONES.

In addition, this week I am putting together a master timeline if you will of EVERYTHING that needs to be done to get the book on Amazon. I will miss goals, I will fail. But I will keep trying to get to that FINAL LEVEL. I will save the princess. And so will you!

One more thing: I will be featuring more tips, motivational quotes and fun stuff on my Facebook page. Become a fan! NOT just for participants, but for everyone. And don’t forget: it’s never too late to join in.

I will be updating this list as more posts come in.

Do you think listing “have dones” is a good idea to help keep us motivated? Have you ever been addicted to a video game? Do you think the gaming model is a good way to look at achieving a goal?

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Filed under Project Dreamcatcher, writing

Dealing With the Naysayers (In My Head And Beyond)

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I am working on a top secret project that is really exciting. Mostly I feel driven and passionate about it and very motivated by the general interest it has provoked. Mostly. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk publicly about it soon.

The reason I’m not saying more here? WELL. Things were going really, really awesomely for a while, so I opened up to some, er, people I know about the project. I knew it was a mistake pretty much the minute the description of the project escaped my lips. (You know when you can see the words you just uttered in a bubble above your head? And you wish you could just shovel those words back into your mouth? Well, that happened.) Ever since I opened my big fat mouth about it, I’ve had to deal with non-stop comments about how I am DOOMED TO FAILURE, either because of the insignificant size of my platform and/or my topic area (Sample comments: “You need 77,000 followers to do ANYTHING worthwhile.” and “No one will care about your topic.”)

Then I actually ran into a real obstacle. It is not an insurmountable hurdle at all: in fact, the incident helped me decide upon a crucial point I had been endlessly debating.

But the lingering sting of rejection and the naysayers are getting me down. I’ve never been great at accepting the answer “no.” My (very few) modeling days were fraught with insecurity and I obsessed over the negative things people said about my appearance, not remembering any of the positives. (My lips were too small and needed collagen injections was the most frequent criticism I got. I was 16! So no, I wasn’t going to get collagen injections. I used to put an icepack on my lips to try to get that bee stung look. It didn’t work.) I was scouted multiple times by multiple agencies (including a very prestigious agency in NYC) and in most cases I didn’t even get to the answer “no” because I couldn’t handle the answer “no” so I didn’t even pursue opportunities. I kind of regret that now. On the other hand, I’m sure the answer WOULD have been no.

The thing is, writing and modeling (and acting for that matter) are kind of similar, right? Lots of people want to do these things for a living. Ergo, there WILL be a ton of rejection. You can give up, or you can never surrender, to paraphrase Galaxy Quest.

I was bombarded by rejection during infertility treatments. I probably would have given up sooner had I not been under serious pressure to make it work.

What’s worse? Chasing a dream? Is that wasting your time? Is being surrounded by naysayers detrimental? Or are they around to keep you focused on the ground, where you actually live?

I don’t know the answer, as usual. So I’ll put it to you, oh wise ones. How do you handle naysayers and/or rejection? Does it prevent you from pursuing your dreams? Is it a waste of time to even pursue dreams? Should we stay grounded to the earth?

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Filed under writing