How I Conquered My Book Eating Pigeons (or writing conferences are awesome)

A car crashes into a writer’s bedroom. The final line of her manuscript (the only manuscript that can save the world from fictitious book eating pigeons) is left unwritten. Will anyone ever read it? Will her story ever be told?

Pigeon flying

A book eating pigeon poised to attack.  (Pigeon in Flight. Image courtesy of quinet via  Flickr CC Lic. 2.0)

A young woman leaves her “day job” to write insanely humorous urban fantasy. Follow her as she skyrockets to the top of the industry and remodels her house to include a dark, but well lit library.

study or library

My dark, but well lit future library complete with magical potions, because writing is magical. (Study. Image courtesy of CodyR via Flickr CC 2.0)

These aren’t the plots of Hollywood movies. These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind at night. And by night I mean while in bed desperately trying to fall asleep.

These thoughts can usually be divided into two very distinct categories: Fortune and Fame or Doom and Gloom. Examples:

Fortune and Fame – I can’t wait to sell the first million copies of my book!

Doom and Gloom – What if I never finish the book? What if something happens to me, and my manuscript remains the gooey, messy, but delightful draft that only I’ve read?

Fortune and Fame  – This trip will be amazing! Our Mardi Gras costumes will be the best anyone has ever seen and we’ll be on the front page of every newspaper and meet Angelina and Brad.

Doom and Gloom – Unless our plane crashes into an alligator infested swamp.

Yeah, I might have a little anxiety … countered by delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know why my brain does this. Someone please explain to me the evolutionary advantage of keeping myself up all night worrying about book eating pigeons or fantasizing about my Oscar speech for a book that doesn’t even have a title yet.

But I digress.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, CO and guess what? I learned things. I learned new ways to think about things. I learned that “things” isn’t a very strong word. Well, I already knew that, but I liked the use of anaphora.

Crows reading

Me looking up the word anaphora. What? You didn’t know I was a crow, with other crow friends? (Reader. Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney via Flickr CC 2.0)

When I sunk into my couch yesterday afternoon, I was filled with a range of emotions, the best being exhilaration. Although, you couldn’t tell from my slack jaw and glazed over eyes.

The conference was three days of workshops, pitch sessions, critique sessions and writerly fun. At times it was overwhelming, and the realities of the writing life can be daunting.

While I was splayed on the couch, my husband asked if I felt discouraged. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No, I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, I have never felt more encouraged, supported and empowered. I’ve never loved being a writer more.

When 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was semi-conscious and drooling on a throw pillow. So, I decided to go to bed. And then it happened – I couldn’t sleep. I was up for hours. I reworked my first two chapters in my mind, pondered marketing strategies and, of course, pictured myself walking down the red carpet. There was no worrying, no negative thoughts. Only the positive flowed through my mind.

So, goodbye Doom and Gloom. From here on out, I’m focusing on Fortune and Fame.

Thank you PPWC!

Hiking to Blue Lake: moose, mosquitoes, and a really fit old man

Sign at trailhead for Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake

Sign at trailhead for Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake

Hiking. The Rocky Mountains. Waking up before dawn (well, not me) to beat the traffic to the best trailheads. It’s all synonymous with summers in Colorado.

My first confession: I haven’t hiked all summer. Not that I’m some fancy, gear-toting, Powerbar-eating, mountain goat like some of the people who live here, but I do enjoy climbing the hills every so often.

My second confession: Hiking always sounds like a good idea the night before. Then, 6:00 a.m. rolls around and I wake up wondering why I so foolishly uttered the words: we should go hiking tomorrow.

Around 6:30 yesterday morning, I was in full denial mode. We should have been up at least thirty minutes ago, the bed was unusually comfy, and I could always go hiking next weekend instead. I rolled over and pulled the blanket over my shoulder.

Then my husband did the unthinkable. He sat up and stumbled out of bed.

Crap. He’s actually getting up. I think we’re actually going to go. Fine, I guess I’ll have to go enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery.

I doddled. He kept forgetting things. Whole Foods had nothing appetizing in their prepared foods section. Everything seemed to be standing in our way.

We got to the Brainard Lake Rec area at *gasp* 9:10 a.m. We knew this meant certain misery. We wouldn’t be able to park at the trailhead.

Since we hadn’t been there all summer, we didn’t realize they had a new day use parking area. You can no longer park along the road. Now, we had to walk an additional (I’m going to guess) mile (I have been known to exaggerate) to the trailhead. On the way there, it’s not so bad. On the way back you begin to wonder why they couldn’t install one of those moving walkway things like at the airport.

The hike started off okay. I tried to pace myself.

We hadn’t even made it to Mitchell Lake and I began to struggle. My thighs were trembling, my heart was in overdrive, and I couldn’t get enough air to satiate my demanding lungs. I began to wonder if I was too young to have a heart attack.

“I don’t know if I can make it,” I said to my husband after the first big push past Mitchell Lake. Like a good husband he was encouraging and sympathetic.

Then, during our 18th stop for me to rest, he asked if we could get moving again. Why was he in such a hurry? Because he was getting cold! Cold! I had already stripped down to my tee-shirt, my face was flushed, and I was dreaming of diving into the next pond I saw. And he was cold. What a show off.

I was becoming more and more dejected. I was ready to give up. But I found motivation–twice.

At the last big pond, before the trail gets rocky in a very ankle-twisting way, we saw moose. Two of them. They were just relaxing, watching all of us gawk at them. The Brainard Lake rec area is a great place to see moose. We’ve seen them here before. The last time we were so close he could have trampled us in four strides if he wanted.

Moose we saw last summer on the hike to Blue Lake

The moose we saw last summer on a hike to Blue Lake

This time they were off in the distance, but no less remarkable. My hubby and I lingered and I got to rest before my husband dragged me farther up the mountain.

Moose relaxing by the pond

Moose relaxing by the pond

The trail steepened and I continued to struggle, but the joy of seeing the moose kept me motivated enough to continue. Descending hikers began to bounce past us, laughing, talking, big smiles plastered on their faces. I hated them. I’m always jealous of the hikers going downhill.

I looked up to make way for the next pair coming down and I felt ashamed. Embarrassed. The guy in the lead was like 100 and pretty feeble looking.

After they passed, my hubby looked back at me with a big grin on his face. He didn’t need words. I knew what he was thinking.

I set my jaw and plastered a look of determination on face. I was going to make it to the top with what little dignity I had left.

The final ascent was glorious and well worth it. As we rounded the final corner, we were greeted by chirping marmots, bright pink wildflowers and the clear blue lake. We marveled at the scenery, ate a few dollops of hummus, and repeatedly brushed away mosquitoes. Seriously, at 11,000 feet you can’t get away from these things. People say cockroaches will be the last creatures on earth. I think mosquitoes might be right there with them.

Snow at Blue Lake CO

Snow at Blue Lake captured during our hike last year

As usual, I excelled at the descent. Hiking is much easier when you’re working with gravity, not against it. I smiled and waved at all the folks going up, happy to no longer be gasping for breath.

Now I’m sore and a little tired, but I’m glad we went. I’m glad we pushed past the little obstacles that can easily become excuses to quit. We got some great pictures of the moose, and I was able to enjoy my shrimp boil without remorse. We’ve even talked about heading back up next weekend. He he. We’ll see.

Pinterest: Now offering shots of courage

Courage can come from many places: supportive words from friends and family, an inspirational story, or from deep within yourself.

Well, for me, it came from Pinterest. Not the site per say, but from the quotes I had curated (doesn’t that sound fancy) on one of my boards.

In my last post I talked about my mind-blowing decision to quit my job. But, I still had to give my notice. That would be easier said than done. I’d worked with these people for what felt like forever in my 36-year-old mind. The night before I gave my resignation I frittered about, unable to settle myself. My husband offered me a glass of wine and I said, “no.” Yikes!

Then I logged onto Pinterest and found my new board of inspirational quotations. You know things like “hang in there” or “there is no I in team.” Well, instead of those gems, I had pinned things like:

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.” –Lemony Snicket

“If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” –Dr. Gregory House

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” –Margaret Shepard

I read through quotes from the likes of Mark Twain, Calamity Jane and Pablo Picasso. Some were not credited to an author; some were about unicorns and mermaids. The butterflies in my stomach settled and my mind stopped rehearsing the resignation speech it had been stuck on all day.

The jitters found me again in the morning, but I pushed them aside. I walked into my boss’s office and just did it. She took it well and that was it. I was a victor over my own self-doubt and society’s insistence on a life of conformity.

The remaining weeks of my six-year tenure, floated by. My last day came and went as if nothing special had happened. I mean, people said their goodbyes. I had a lovely going away party. I gave away treasured items from my cube. Who knew a picture of Ace Ventura with my head plastered over Jim Carey’s would be so coveted?

But nothing special happened inside me. I just walked out of the building for the last time and loaded my things in the car. I didn’t crumple with regret or have confetti thrown over me with trumpets blaring. I didn’t feel sad or afraid or excited or anything. I just was. It was strange. I guess I was just content, satisfied maybe?

I woke up the next day and logged onto my Pinterest account. I clicked on one of my favorite quotes and “the people who pinned this also pinned” feed came up. I scanned down until I found it. The perfect quote:

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different…” –C. S. Lewis

Then, of course, since I am a Pinterest addict, I also found:

“That was the day she made herself the promise to live more from intention and less from habit.”

Very appropriate I thought, until I stumbled upon this one:

“Oh, dear. I really ought to do something but I am already in my pajamas.”

Wow, it’s like they read my mind. Not really though, I am actually quite productive in my pajamas. What do you think I was wearing when I wrote this?

P. S. If you’re wondering about the mermaid and unicorn quotes here they are:

“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.” –Author Unknown

“I still like to pretend I’m a mermaid whenever I go swimming. (I’m 28)” –Author Unknown