Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A-Z Challenge Reflections

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Writing a daily blog is both incredibly easy and unbelievably difficult.

Easy, because it is fun. Way more fun than expected. Because when you have the right topic, the sentences just flow. 

But when you don't, they are a bit more like glue. And by glue, I mean paste. 

I'm a perfectionist. I had to learn to let go. I joined days before the challenge began, so didn't have time to learn about the mechanics of creating a better-looking blog. Things like mysterious extra spaces & colors showing up, when they weren't in the original or the font size only showing as HUGE or miniscule. My instinct was to tweak all of these until I got them right, including what I wrote, but I had to learn to post even when it wasn't perfect. Because the point of the challenge was to get something, anything, up every day. 
To create habit. To teach us that maintaining a blog is entirely possible. If you can do it every day for a month, you can certainly do it every few days, or at the least, weekly, for years.

And then, there were the images. This was the most time consuming part.

Let me first say that I am incredibly grateful to the generous sites that offer free, unrestricted pictures--this is in no way meant to be a criticism of them. In fact, for many of my posts, the images I found on these sites were the very best things about the posts. 

That said, if you stick to the free ones all the time, and you are looking for something very specific, it can be frustrating because, although there are many breathtaking shots, (especially nature-themed) for certain subjects, there is sometimes not a lot of choice. Also, the image might be a little off. Maybe it is blurry, low res, or out of balance. Not quite right. Which is why it is free in the first place. Frequently, however, my first or second choices required purchase or had complicated permissions, which meant I had to keep looking. And that took some time. But I'm still terribly grateful. 

Would I do it again?


Will I keep my blog going until then?

Not sure. The thing is, there are so many fabulous writing blogs out there. I did hear from a few people who got something out of the posts, and that made it all worth it. But it's probably a better use of my time to read the other exceptional blogs and, ahem, focus on my own writing. Which sort of fell to the wayside during the challenge. But maybe, just maybe, I can find the time to direct people to those blogs, or recommend new books that I've fallen in love with. 

Things I learned:

There are so many incredible blogs out there. That we all should be reading on a regular basis.

There are so many generous and kind people. Not only the amazing bloggers whom I discovered thanks to the challenge, but the ones who offer up prize-worthy photos for free, meaning anyone can put together a great blog.

I can write a post every single day, if I need to. Which means I can write a blog. It just takes commitment. So creating a blog is kind of like becoming a parent--it takes more out of you than you ever expected, but can be one of the best things you've ever done in your life. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

What Next?

It was only yesterday that I was saying how relieved I was to be done blogging every day for the yearly A-Z April challenge.  Lots of people asked if I'd keep the blog going. 

My standard response was. "Hmm. I need to think about that. For about a year."

It was an awful lot of work. And yet, here I am again. I must be a glutton for punishment.


But I had such a great weekend, and it revolved around books and writing, so....

Hawaii's Book and Music Festival

This weekend was Honolulu's 11th annual Book & Music Festival. You can always count on this festival for great music & books--new and used (bring your own 5 books to the bookswap to get 5 others), inspiring panels, and live author readings.

Luckily it was only a 10 minute drive away, and always has free admission & parking, because I had to dash to the festival between multiple family activities. Over the course of the weekend, I only made it to two panels, a few of the kiosks, and the bookswap. 

But what wonderful panels they were!

The first, Shaping the Story, was made up of New York literary agent Jeff Kleinman, editor/author Don Wallace (Honolulu Magazine) and grammar vixen Connie Hale (Sin & Syntax). The panel was informative and hilarious. Wallace moderated & played the straight man as he sat between Steiner and Hale, who had different takes on just about everything, which made for great entertainment. Hale is a spitfire prone to using spicy language, and listening to her is pure pleasure (though Kleinman might disagree).

The second panel, Navigating Truth in Fiction and Nonfiction, was more serious in tone, but equally full of wisdom. Moderated by the ever elegant Shawna Yang Ryan, the panel included Cecily WongPam Sakamoto, and Julie Checkoway. I've had a copy of Checkoway's classic Creating Fiction since 2001, when it was first published, but it's been out of print for a while. Good news for Checkoway fans--they will be updating and publishing a second edition in the near future. Sakamoto and Checkoway detailed the impressive amount of research & integrity involved in their most recent historical nonfiction works, Midnight in Broad Daylight and Three Year Swim Club. Wong is someone to keep your eyes on--she's out of the gate fast, and I predict many more success stories in her future. 

Tomorrow the Mokule'ia Writer's Retreat begins. Those lucky enough to be registered can look forward to an idyllic week of writing, inspiration, workshops, yoga & hula--right near the beach. If you can't be there during the day, they apparently have some free events at night if you are willing to brave the pau hana traffic to join them.

Have a great week, everyone!