Category: Author Blog

Joan G Rasmussen Author Blog

Writing a Quilt

I’ve been hanging out in the NaNoWriMo starting gate for about a week now, and the starting gun will go off in 3 days, on November 1. So it’s time to stop hanging out and get poised for a good break from the gate.

I’ve been mulling over how to approach this project, and now it’s time to stop mulling and get a plan in place. The novel I’m going to write has been in my head a long time. I have an outline. I have 3 chapters completed, for a total of about 3,000 words that will not count toward the 50,000 challenge. So now what? Do I just proceed in an orderly, linear fashion and start chapter 4, then chapter 5, and so forth?

While I do have an outline and know where this story is going (at least where it’s going right now), I also have a lot of subplots, peripheral characters, locations, that have popped into my head and may or may not be part of the finished product. It reminds me of putting together a patchwork quilt. A patchwork quilt is made up of a lot of individual squares, each put together separately, and then assembled into a finished quilt that, hopefully, will be pleasing to the eye.

It has occurred me that one approach to this project is to think of all those chapters, subplots, peripheral characters, etc., as individual squares, and my project for November could be to design those squares and baste them together (basting, for the non-sewing reader, is to temporarily stitch something together, so the stitching is easy to remove later if need be). Get them down on the page, whether or not I know how they will fit into the finished product. But get them out of my head and onto the page!

Then, at the end, it will be time to take those individual ‘squares’ and start laying them all out to see if there is a finished product in there somewhere. I anticipate that I will be changing the layout of some of the squares so they fit better into the finished product. Maybe the finished product won’t be what I think it will be. And maybe some of those squares just won’t fit into this quilt, but could be the start of an entirely different quilt later.

So that’s the plan. At least, that’s the plan at this moment. There are 3 days to go, so the plan could change! But it’s always good to have a direction in mind at the start of any journey.

Insomnia

It’s 6:41 a.m. and I’m on my third cup of coffee. Usually at this time, I’ve fed the cats and horses, and I’m just starting my first cup with my breakfast.  But I’ve been awake since 3 and finally got up just before 5, so I’ve seen the sky go from star-pricked ink to moody blue-gray, and now a misty blue as the fog has risen up.

I usually sleep pretty well but there are nights like this when my thoughts just won’t shut down. My usual tricks (think of every word I can that starts with a random letter–last night it was “R”) didn’t work. Little thoughts pop into my head. Am I eating too much sugar? Is it the wrong kinds of sugar? Is sugar keeping me awake? Then the bigger thoughts make an appearance. Is that client ever going to pay me? Am I going to get the info I need to run those 2 payrolls that need to be submitted by 5 tonight to make the direct deposit deadline? Can I dump the bookkeeping business and make my living as a writer?

Aha. There’s the big question. I’m ready for a change. I find that every 10 years or so I’m ready to shake things up. Fear of the unknown and lack of security usually make me hold on for a lot longer than 10 years. Sometimes more like 20 if I’ve got a really good thing going on, job-wise. In this case, I’ve been at the freelance bookkeeper thing for 15 years. I have a solid client base and a reasonably steady income. But I’m at the point where I’m bored, and I don’t want to grow the business.

It seems I’m getting signs I should move on. It’s getting harder and harder to get the information I need to get the work done on time. Clients are getting slower and slower about paying their bills. My schedule and my bank balance are getting a bit tight. The thing about signs, though, is that it’s hard to tell if they’re really showing up to tell you something, or if you are just reading more into normal events than you should because your are looking for signs.

So on to do a bit more work on this and explore my options! And hopefully get some sleep.

Read to Your Kids!

After I posted my children’s story, Cowboy’s Day On The Trail, somebody asked me what age range it was written for. I had to think about that,  and came up with a range of 4-6 years, and it was really designed to be read out loud to a child.  My mom read to us constantly and it seemed obvious to me that some stories are designed for that. Turns out the person who asked the question, and who does love to read, had not been read to as a child, making me reflect on how much I had taken that childhood pleasure for granted.

Mom loved to read to us, and she was good at it. She got all the inflections right and it was like a little mini-theater performance in our living room. I suspect she learned that from listening to radio when she was a child. It wasn’t an entirely selfless act on her part–we had to rub her back while she read to us. Even then, I wasn’t the touchy-feely type, and I learned to read at an early age so I could enjoy the stories and skip the back-rubbing. Mom’s been gone about three years now and I’d give a lot to be able to rub her back again! She wouldn’t even have to read to me, although that would be nice.

Studies have shown that children who are read to experience a wide range of benefits, including learning to read earlier themselves, developing better imagery and language skills, and bonding with their parents. Check out this article that goes into more technical details This is What Happens When You Read To A Child.

My brother and sister and I did gain the benefits listed in the article. We’re all readers and in addition, we can tell a pretty good story.  But what I loved was the ability to have an adventure right there in our living room on a chicken farm in Northern California. Sitting on the couch, tickling Mom’s back, we traveled to France with Madeline, found our way around cities with “city kids”, rounded up ponies on Assateague Island, and generally found out that there was a lot of life to be lived outside our safe little bubble.  We developed a thirst, not only for reading and the well-written word, but for adventure and for seeing the world. We also found out that there are perspectives other than our own that have value and need to be honored.

So if you aren’t already reading to your kids or grandkids, start! You have an opportunity to bond with a child and to plant the seeds of learning, curiosity, and expanded horizons.

 

 

Welcome!

I am finally pursuing a long-held dream of doing a bit of creative writing for public consumption. For years, this has been on my “someday” list, and as I recently turned 64, it has occurred to me that the “someday” window is getting smaller, not larger. So it is time to start down this road.

My first step is to set up my author website, which includes this blog. Until now, I’ve only been involved in business-related activities, and all communication is meant to inform or educate. Since my professional writing career consists of articles written for our local horse journal, I was stumped as to what I was going to blog about. Then I decided that I will just share my journey with my two followers (those would be my cats, Jasmine and Maxie) and see what happens. I hope you will join them and tag along for the journey.

My first writing venture will be to revive a character that I used to write about to relieve the boredom of my day job (true confessions—I wrote about this character while actually AT my day job). She was my alter ego, a much bolder and comelier version of me, who cavorted with wild abandon with her lover Raul. She’s been lurking in the shadows of my imagination in the 15+ years since then, and is now emerging as an older-but-not-much-wiser woman, now known as Dane Jane. Visit Dane Jane’s page on my site. The Adventures of Dane Jane

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