It was 15 years ago today…

…that I began the Girl with Moxie blog. To paraphrase another song, I started at Blogspot, now I’m here (on self-hosted WordPress).

A lot has changed for me in 15 years, both personally and professionally. I started the blog out of boredom and restlessness at my office job. One day while surfing the interwebz, I found a wealth of bloggers who were writing about music, movies, TV, books, their lives, their jobs, their kids. I was introduced to music I had never heard of, found recipes and ideas that intrigued me, made new friends. I decided to dive in and write about whatever was on my mind.

I miss that simplicity. Because while I enjoy Instagram and Twitter is good for breaking news and a laugh, and Facebook does occasionally have its merits, there was something very gratifying about seeking out blogs to read and connecting with fellow bloggers on a much more low-tech scale. Long-form writing is still around, but it is often drowned out by all the video content.

Even though I don’t blog like I used to, I refuse to give up this site for many reasons, the main one being that it’s still an avenue for me to explore ideas and share my experiences without the editorial process of querying, rewriting, editing and handling rejection. I still get some traffic here (seeing the Google searches that bring people to the GWM blog is often amusing), a good friend hosts the site for free, and it’s an archive of my cyberpresence in a way that other resources aren’t.

Here’s the plan: I’ll share content from that first year and add some updates. I’ll try to carve out the time to craft new posts (it ain’t easy these days, for reasons I will get into later).

Let’s do this, kids.

NaBloPoMo 2014: Let’s Do This Despite a Raging Headache

I’m poking around on HootSuite, reading through tweets on my 4 different accounts, and I see something about NaBloPoMo. I’ve done it before, and I like deadlines and discipline when it comes to writing, so I go sign up, choosing to ignore the headache I’ve had since returning home from a writing session at Starbucks. (Soy peppermint mocha induced? A reaction to my cinnamon apple candle that I fired up once I got home? Who the hell knows.)

Then I start digging in to the WordPress issue I’ve been having since dealing with login attack issues a few weeks ago: it won’t let me update anything AT ALL. Not WordPress itself, not my plugins, nothing. Of course, as many bloggers know, a raging headache is the perfect time to troubleshoot your blog and go through the codex trying to figure out how  this got all shades of f***ed up.

I’ve downloaded WordPress and the plugin that will keep people from trying to access my site, I’ve poked around on the FTP site changing a few settings, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need help figuring this shit out. Tomorrow I’ll reach out to my WordPress savvy friends. For now I’m gonna go lay down.

Got My Mind on My Blog, Got My Blog on My Mind*

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

*paraphrasing Snoop Dogg (NSFW)

This May it will be 10 years since I started this blog. I haven’t lived in one place that long since I was a kid, so to have done something – even if sporadically – for 10 years is a stunning achievement.

With this anniversary in mind, I’m working on ways to make this blog more entertaining and enterprising. I’ve signed up with Bloglovin to generate more traffic and I’m using Influenster as well. Amy over at Chronicles of Nothing clued me in to the fabulous and helpful SITS Girls site and Facebook group, so I’ll be incorporating some of their suggestions. I have more ads on the site, and will begin recruiting some guest posts.

But what about writing actual content? I admit that it’s way easier to shoot my mouth off via Twitter and Facebook than it is to write a long post. I hate to write anything that’s poorly researched or half-assed, which editors appreciate, but it makes for minimal posting on the actual blog. So to compensate for this, I may do some promotional posts and giveaways, since people like getting free stuff.

For those of you who have been reading since the early years, when I was a bored magazine editor with way too much time on her hands, thank you for sticking it out this long. For those of you who may be new to GWM, thanks for stopping by to read my sometimes witty, often wacky, missives on anything and everything. I’ll do my best to keep this site going for as long as the Internet will let me.

Moxie, girl with moxie

This cookie is for you. Well, not really, because I already ate it. But I would have shared it with you. Honest.

 

 

February is the Month of Letters (Sez Mary)

stationery, postcards, pens, mail, letters, letter writingThose of you who have been reading my blog for a while know how I feel about letter writing. Opening your mailbox to see a handwritten postcard or letter is one of my favorite things. Along with brown paper packages tied up in string, of course.

So when I heard about the Month of Letters Challenge through some friends on a social network, I was intrigued. When I read the post about it on novelist Mary Robinette Kowal’s website, I was excited. And I decided to participate.

The two-part concept is simple: for every day in February that the postal service runs in your area, mail something. It could be a letter, a note, a clipping from a magazine or newspaper, a photo, a postcard. You can mail something to your next-door neighbor or to someone on the other side of the world. Part two of the challenge is to write back to everyone who writes to you. The bonus is that mailed replies count toward your final tally for the month.

I confess, this will probably be fairly easy for me, since I’ve been in the habit of sending postcards and notes and cards to people for the past year. But there are a few letters I have wanted to write and haven’t, for whatever silly reason, so the Month of Letters Challenge is my incentive to finally write that letter to my childhood friend who lives in Europe with her husband and three daughters.

For those who want to participate but are slightly daunted, fear not. I have provided you with some pro tips:

  • On a budget? Check your local thrift shop for like-new, unused postcards and stationery. I’ve scored a large number of postcards from all over the world by going to my SPCA Thrift Store and perusing the stationery/postcard section. Sometimes used cards sneak into the available selection, so check first before buying.
  • Hate your handwriting? You’re allowed to type your letters. Just no emailing. I’m watching you. But consider this: the more you write things by hand, the better your handwriting gets. Unless you’re a doctor.
  • Get some nice writing tools. I am addicted to office supplies, so I don’t need another incentive to go to Office Depot, Staples, or Office Max. Trust me when I say a fabulous pen can make all the difference when it comes to handwriting letters. If you can afford a Waterman or Mont Blanc fountain pen, go for it. (Hint: Lamy fountain pens are fairly inexpensive and write nicely.) Otherwise look for a pen that has nice heft to it and doesn’t make your fingers cramp. I am a fan of Dr. Grip pens, which come in ballpoint and gel ink. I also like Sharpie pens – they are acid free and don’t bleed through paper.
  • Don’t know what to write? Get creative. Relay a funny story about your pet or your child. Share one of your favorite recipes. Transcribe a poem. List five things in a random category, such as favorite movies starting with the letter C, books that changed your life, or your least favorite foods. Hint: using postcards or small notecards means you have much less space to fill up with text.

Join me, won’t you? It should be a lot of fun. You have a day to go buy stamps and find some decent stationery. And if you need some pen pals for the month, check out the forums on the official Month of Letters Challenge website.

Blogging Streak Has Ended

The last three days were either busy or I was too emotionally spent to blog. More of the latter than the former, if we’re being honest. Yesterday was Momcat’s birthday and the days leading up to it are very challenging for me. But I’m feeling better now, and ready to get back into the game.

The New Kid in Town

Today was a busy day. Well, the last half of it was, anyway. That’s all because there’s a new kid in town.

cat, orange and white cat, kitten

The Kitten Formerly Known as Jackson, or TKFKAJ for short.

Since Mossimo the Pimptastic Cat died last August, it’s been tough on Ippie the Tech Wizard Kitten. She was used to having Moss to groom and tackle and play with occasionally. I kept promising her a buddy, but as I’ve been stretched thin financially for several months I couldn’t afford to adopt.

Then yesterday I got a nice juicy check for writing a bunch of items in a local magazine. The check was more than I’d originally calculated (math is not my strong suit), so there was much rejoicing throughout the land. I finally had enough money to get Ippie a playmate.

I had been surfing the SPCA’s website for a few weeks, seeing if there were any young orange and white male cats up for adoption. For some reason I’d been fixated on that color scheme for several months. So when I saw this little guy, I knew he was it. And when I drove to the SPCA today in the rain, I had this feeling I would always remember how it had been a rainy November afternoon when he came into our lives.

While the name given to him by the SPCA staff was Jackson, I’m thinking Rooney is much more fitting. For me, I’ll always associate that name with a legendary writer and newsman who once said, “Writers don’t retire, and I’ll always be a writer.” And since Ippie was named for a piece of technology that changed my life, it strikes me as fitting to name this little guy after someone who made a living doing the one thing I most love to do.

So welcome, Rooney. We think you’re gonna like it here.

Doing NaBloPoMo 2011

So at close to the last minute I decided to do NaBloPoMo for November. I did it last year and it was a great motivator. Hard to keep up steam once the month’s over, at least for me, but maybe it will be different on this go-round. Who knows?

So stay tuned, be sure to follow me on Twitter (the link is just to the right of this post…down a little…a little more…there!), become a Facebook Fan, or just read the blog.

Vonnegut on Writing

I spend a lot of time writing. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing, I’m reading good writing, or I’m taking notes about something I want to write later. Sound exhausting? It can be. But I’m a storyteller. I can’t be anything else – and believe me, I’ve tried.

While I don’t read too many books anymore about the art of writing – I find them to be distracting from the actual act of writing – I do appreciate writing tips from authors I respect. Today I found this list from Kurt Vonnegut on Lifehacker and thought I’d share it here.

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

What tips, quotes or comments from famous authors have encouraged or helped you become a better writer?

Of Synchronicity, Music, and The Power of Praise

I love when a plan comes together. I also love when circumstances bring forth a sweet surprise for several people. This happened to me a couple weeks ago.

On October 22, Barbara at Bad Tempered Zombie wrote a review of Emma Hill’s CD Clumsy Seduction for No Depression Magazine. It was featured prominently on the website for a few hours, which had Barbara all excited. Emma read the review and thanked Barbara, which pleased her to no end.

A few days after her review was posted, I head off to the Tomales Bay Workshops, a five-day writing conference in Marin County. It was a fantastic experience, meeting fellow word lovers and published authors, discussing our stories and books we love, getting inspired to write more and more and more. Truly magical and money well spent.

But I digress. On the third day at the I look at the conference program and see that on Saturday night the special musical guest is Emma Hill. The name rings a bell…wait, isn’t that the chick Barbara reviewed? I can’t get on the Internet to find out because my iPhone is struggling to pick up a steady signal. Dammit. I’m pretty certain it’s her, though.

I trudge through the woods to the Friday night reading. As I’m noshing on dessert post-reading, I overhear a woman talking to someone behind me. “Will you be performing solo tomorrow?” she’s asking.

Holy crap, I think, she must be talking to Emma! I turn around and say, “Excuse me, are you Emma Hill?”

“Yes,” she says. Wow, she is young, I think to myself.

“We have a connection in common,” I tell her, explaining how I know Barbara. Emma’s face lights up at the mention of Barbara’s name. “When I read her review, I cried,” she says. “She was so supportive and sweet, it meant so much to me.” I am thrilled to hear this, because even though I don’t know Barbara personally, I’ve been reading her blog for several years so I feel as if we are close friends. As we continue talking I discover Emma has been at the conference the WHOLE TIME. Crazy, right?

The next night I head down to the main hall to hear Emma perform. I get there late so I only get to hear one song, but it’s so freakin’ awesome it makes up for whatever I may have missed. “You’re My Man” is Emma’s tribute to Leonard Cohen, one of her favorite songwriters. She dedicates the song to Pam Houston, director of the conference and fellow Cohen fan.

After the performance ends I weave my way through the chairs to Emma. I tell her, “I know at least 15 bloggers who are going to LOVE that song,” and she laughs. The new CD will be out around February, she tells me. [Now that I’ve heard a few songs from her last two albums, I am betting this next one will be fan-freakin’-tastic.]

I snap a picture to send to Barbara, and to add to this lovely story about synchronicity, music, and the power of praise. So here she is, Miss Emma Hill. Go listen to her tunes, buy a CD. Then go to Barbara’s blog, read her music reviews, comment on a post or two. Send the link to your friends and keep on spreading the love.

The lovely and talented Emma Hill

Moxie on Wire

Back in January, I watched Man on Wire, the documentary about how Philippe Petit fulfilled his dream to walk a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center.  In 2009 this film won the Oscar for Best Feature Length Documentary – and with good reason. It’s a compelling story about dreaming big and not being afraid to fall – figuratively and literally.

The story seems simple yet so ridiculous: in the early 1970s, a rebellious young man with a love of heights sets his sights on the then-tallest building(s) in the world, the World Trade Center in New York City, as the location for his next high-wire act. With the help of his friends and an “inside man”, he manages to sneak up to the roof, get his equipment set up and actually crosses back and forth between the towers for 45 minutes. He’s 1,350 feet up in the air, without a net. Just typing that last sentence makes my heart race.

While the entire movie was incredibly captivating, there was one scene in particular that stood out. It’s right when Petit is preparing to go out on the wire and he is having a crisis of faith. It isn’t until he gets out to the middle of the wire – did I mention it’s 1,350 feet up IN THE AIR? – that Petit begins to smile. He ends up walking – nay, dancing – between the two buildings for nearly 45 minutes. While there’s no video footage of the event from the aerialist’s perspective, the still photos show the incredible rapture and joy Petit felt as he finally achieved his dream.

After watching this film I sat for a while, just thinking about the courage involved in making this walk happen. Not only did Petit have to be fully committed to doing this, he had to have buy-in from his partners in crime, as it were. One close friend had to bow out of the mission, it was that intense.

How many of us are not taking that chance to step out on that wire, to go beyond the feats of derring-do already accomplished? Yes, it is scary, and there’s no guarantee it will end well. But just as Philippe had a support team helping him achieve his dream, we all have people who are ready to help us create that path to success, even if that path is narrow and treacherous. I’ve learned this firsthand over the last couple of years.

When I first started writing this post back in February, I knew it was time to step out on that wire and I was scared shitless. It was high time to leave LA, but where to go and what to do was unclear, at least to me.

And then the answer came. In late March, while I was in meditation at my favorite place in Los Angeles County, the answer came. And the answers kept coming…in the form of a place to live up north, in the form of friends and strangers and opportunities.

To put it simply, I’m here to tell stories. My stories, others’ stories. And by sharing these stories I help myself – and others – process and heal and move forward.

As my first step in honoring this path, I applied to attend the Tomales Bay Writers’ Workshop this October. It’s run by Pam Houston, an amazing writer who also happens to be the director of the creative writing program at UC Davis. I’d never tried to get into a workshop before, as I always thought my writing wasn’t good enough. But this time, with the help of a great friend who read a piece I’ve been working on and gave me unwavering support, I stepped out on the wire and applied.

And I got in. Holy cannoli, I GOT IN.

Now comes the bigger challenge: paying for this shindig. I applied for a fellowship, but with only one per genre (fiction, nonfiction and poetry) there was a slim chance I’d get it. So I have to look for other funding, which is where you, dearly devoted blog reader, come in.

T-Wizzle advised me that I put a PayPal link for donations here on the blog. “You never know what people are willing to do to help,” she said. And while that’s another big step forward, I keep finding, over and over again, that she’s right: you never do know what people are willing to do to help.

With that, I’m taking another step forward on the wire and telling the world:  I want to go to this workshop and I need $1550.00 before July 15 in order to attend. The Donate button is in the right-hand column.

The more I think about how far I’ve come, as a writer and as a person, I wonder if I’m truly ready for the next step. But like Petit, I know I have prepared myself. I have set my sights on other goals and achieved them. So I’m going forward with my own high-wire act. I don’t know if I will reach the other side safely, but I’ve gotten this far, dammit, and turning around now would just piss me off. And more and more I have this sneaking suspicion that, like Petit, I will reach the middle and realize just how effortless it is to reach the other side.

man on wire 2

To me, it’s really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope.

– Philippe Petit