Category Archives: Writing

Where to find me!

I may not be the most prolific blogger during this season of my life, but I’m still writing. For now, my priority as a writer has shifted to paid work. However, I hope to be able to write more personal pieces in the coming years. If you’re curious about my current projects, check out my freelance tab, and don’t be shy about getting in touch!

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Are you a Jackhammer or a Hummingbird?

“If you can let go of passion and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I wasted some of my twenties feeling depressed about my lack of passion. Like most people my age, I’d been told I could do whatever I wanted with my life, but had no idea what I wanted. I had things I loved to do, but no idea how to turn them into a career. Somehow I found myself sitting in a cubicle typing away about topics I didn’t find so interesting after a few years.

Then, driven by my unhappiness, I let go of the idea that I had to be madly, deeply committed to my career and started to just follow my curiosity. I knew I was adequately entertained as a substitute teacher right after I graduated from college. I felt drawn to the elementary school I walked by each morning on my way to work. Even though I didn’t feel a moving passion to become a teacher, I was curious whether it would be a good fit. So, I applied to a teacher residency program, got accepted, and quit my job.

It was a good move. I pushed myself to become more outspoken. I let go of a lot of fear. I loved working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Maybe it wasn’t anything close to what I’d ever imagined for myself, but it was enough. I felt inspired, motivated, and dare I say it, happy.

But, as I’m beginning to understand is my nature, it wasn’t enough to hold me for more than a few years. After the birth of my daughter, I experienced a sort of renaissance where suddenly I had permission to explore all my curiosities without needing to be financially viable. In the past two years, I’ve written a middle grade novel, started an online business, and taken on two part-time jobs at a Waldorf school, one teaching games, the other special education.

Pulled multiple directions, one of my new year’s resolutions this year was to focus. Because I’ve been conditioned to attack goals one at a time, I felt a need to put more energy into fewer projects so I could actually “accomplish” something. Then my step-mom pulled me aside and had me watch this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.

It finally clicked.

In Gilbert’s description of either being a hummingbird (someone who flutters from project to project) or a jackhammer (someone who focuses intensely on one “passion”), I realized I needed to let myself be a hummingbird for awhile. My whole life, I’ve tried to approach everything with a jackhammer resolve, when really I derive a great amount of joy from exploring my many curiosities. And, the best part, there’s still hope for one of these curiosities to become a full-fledged, all-in passion.

Whew.

Talk about a relief. It’s amazing how reframing your perspective can change everything. So, this year, instead of trying to focus on just one or two things, I’m letting myself be a hummingbird for a bit longer. In fact, I’m embracing the hummingbird and trusting it will lead me where I need to go.

What about you?

***

Here’s a teaser from Gilbert’s talk, (the full version is available in the link above):

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The Words Are Back

Damnit.

They’re back. A blessing and a curse. I’ve learned with practice to get out of bed and write them down. Otherwise, I just lie there for hours as they pulse behind my eyelids.

It’s 2:23 AM. I should be asleep. One hundred and twenty little people wait for me tomorrow, ready to run, jump, and play outside. Anxious to know if I’ve learned all their names. Try as I might, I haven’t. Once a week just isn’t enough. I still have about 30 to go. It’s always the ones I don’t remember who ask. Always.

The four hours of sleep won’t be enough. I must let out the words and close my eyes again. Maybe the two droppers full of Passionflower tincture will help. The Melatonin is too strong. It leaves me grumpy in the morning.

I used to awaken in the middle of the night years before she was born. I went through a period of what I now accept must’ve been depression. I didn’t know how to escape my cubicle. I felt stuck. I worried I would never discover a job I loved. Life seemed long. My stomach ached and the doctor suggested anxiety. I didn’t believe him.

Now I have too many vocations calling my name. Life feels short. My husband is contemplating a tattoo reminding him to focus. Maybe I need one too. I don’t want to give up my time at home with my daughter. I teach games class at a Waldorf elementary school. I’m attempting to run my own business. I write. I lie awake in bed and contemplate signing up for yoga teacher training. Like I really need something else.

I expect her to summon me back to bed any minute now. “Mommy!” shouted into the darkness. A siren song. She knows when I disappear downstairs to let out the words. At best she gives me 45 minutes. A crib is headed to our house as we speak, on some airplane or truck or train or sitting in some warehouse ready to be picked up. 19 months of mostly co-sleeping and it’s finally time to try something else.

Even so, I wouldn’t have done it differently. It helped me bond with a colicky baby, connecting us in a way that only the warmth of bodies and shared dreams can. The relief of no more screaming and no need to crawl out of bed to nurse. In a way, it saved me for a very long time.

But now, my shoulders hurt from lying on my sides and I’m hopeful extra space will buy us all more rest. Or at least me, since everyone else seems to be asleep around here. However, I know the words will still drum in my head, pulling me downstairs much to the confusion of two sleepy dogs on the couch.

Yes, for better or worse, the words are back.

And, right on cue, I hear her stirring. My time is up.

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Middle-grade fiction? I’ve got that!

Excited to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person's first birthday!

Nice to have finished Little Bird in time for this spirited little person’s first birthday!

Excited to share the completion of my first middle-grade fiction manuscript, Little Bird & the Graveyard (23,000 words). While everything is a work-in-progress, from the title to the pitch below, it is exciting to be on the road to publication, (traditional or otherwise). I get a lot of questions about what my story is about– below is a peek:

Eleven-year-old Indie has a lot of questions. Not only is she on a mission to find a ghost in the graveyard across the street from her house so she can ask what happens after we die, but she also wants to know why her mom left her and her brother with their dad a few months earlier. She figures if she understands why her mom is gone, then maybe she can stop feeling so upset.

To find answers, Indie will have to be brave. She needs to befriend the family of caretakers who live at the graveyard, which means coming face-to-face with the old man who hates her dog and dealing with a boy who is a year older and clearly does not want her around. Her quest will also push her to snoop through the creepy apartment downstairs and visit the graveyard with her brother at night. While none of these adventures will keep Indie out of trouble, they will lead to life-changing revelations, including the realization a ghost has something to do with her mom’s absence.

***

I was inspired to write middle-grade fiction while working as a classroom teacher with fourth and fifth grade students. During our read alouds, I noticed certain themes resonated more than others, like growing up in dysfunctional families and chasing ghosts. While on maternity leave, I began writing Little Bird and finished in time to dedicate the book to my daughter for her first birthday. Indie embodies the independent spirit I hope to instill in my children and students alike. And, of course, I am also hopeful she will reappear in many more books to come!

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Update: Oh hi, it’s me!

Still here! Just a little preoccupied with the creature in my arms.

Still here! Just a little preoccupied with the creature in my arms. This is the only recent picture I have with me actually in it– but pretty fitting since I took it last night while I typed one handed. Learning to get a lot done with a little extra creativity.

As I sat down to start writing today, I remembered I had some comments over on Leap of Mama to check out. Then I wandered back over to this blog and realized, wow, it has been more than a month since my last entry. That made me a little sad. This blog used to be my baby. Then I had a baby and, well, she took over that spot and my writing had to become a lot more prioritized, (as in, somehow, this blog fell to the bottom of the list).

I hope you stick around despite the neglect. I plan to triumphantly return one day and hopefully soon! The non-mom part of me is still alive and kicking, if just for a couple hours here and there throughout the day. Most of my writing attention has been going to middle grade fiction, a novel about an 11 year-old girl in search of answers about why her mom left and what it means to be alive, all within the kid-favorite context of living across the street from a graveyard.

I am having a blast writing it, started the last week when E was in my belly and picked it back up a few months ago. I’m 15,000+ words deep, which for middle grade fiction means I’m about halfway through a book, exciting stuff. I look forward to sharing more as I finish up in the next few months. My goal is done with my first draft by E’s first birthday; the best present I can think of for her, even if she has to wait ten more years to appreciate it, (which is great, because that gives me plenty of time to polish it up and slap a real cover on it!).

Anyway, just wanted to stop by, say hi, and tell you I’m still around, writing. I miss the community that was beginning to emerge on this blog. Now it’s a little like an abandoned garden plot, but I know there are more good things to come, just hope you are still around to say hi too! If you really miss me, (which how could you not?), you should stop by my other blog, Leap of Mama. I make a more frequent appearance in those parts.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

And, oh yeah, let me know how you’re doing– what projects are you working on? What’s new in your life? Would love to hear, whether it’s a comment or email!

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Getting Meta: The Stories we tell Ourselves

A collection of notebooks I found around the house... I'm sure there are more.

Time to whip these suckers back out and get intentional about my present and future again.

I have always been a storyteller. When I was a kid, this got me into a bit of trouble as I molded my reality to fit the story I wanted to tell. I wasn’t a liar, per se, but I manipulated details to create my world into one where I wanted to live.

Without stopping to notice, I am still the same person. I tell stories all the time. And just as when I was a kid, they are neither true nor false, but rather subjective to the lens I choose.

Today I was feeling down for the first time in awhile. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was those pesky hormones still sticking around after baby. Really it does not matter. What does matter is what I realized.

I had a choice. I could either tell myself a negative story or a positive one. Both were true enough, depending on which details I chose to focus. What a thought. I could live in whichever story I wanted, so why choose the gloomy one?

Time to get out those notebooks again and be more intentional about the stories I'm creating now and five years down the road.

I love old pick-me-ups in forgotten journals… It is like the old me knew I would someday need a picture of a fish saying, “Boo!”

Even so, I let myself bask in the gloom for a bit. Sometimes I enjoy a good mope. Contrasts are good. Recognition of feelings is good. After all, we can’t always opt to live on a bright, fluffy cloud. {Where is the growth and variety in that?}

Still, we can choose where we want to spend more of our time. Overall, I prefer the rosier lens. Maybe not the one filled with rainbows and unicorns, but the one where even the less enjoyable details serve some bigger, higher purpose.

Have you stopped to think about the stories you tell yourself? What kind of reality are you crafting in this very moment?

With those questions in mind, I am off to create a new story for myself, one where I get back in the driver’s seat and count my blessings for what they are worth. {A lot…}

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Living my Bohemian Writer Fantasy (a Couple Months at a Time)

A cross-over post from my other blog as I embrace life as a mom and writer. The scariest part of this decision? I have zero excuse not to write!

Leap of Mama

The sale-pending sign hangs outside our house. This leap is getting real! The sale-pending sign hangs outside our house. This leap is getting real!

Our house is in escrow. Half-packed boxes are scattered in every room. By all appearances, we are moving. Five years in one house is the longest I have lived anywhere. Ever.

It feels good to go through everything and make piles. Keep and give away. We own so much we never use. Going through it all is a good reflection on what matters.

I like stuff. Dresses, jackets, shoes, woven wraps. But I have more stuff than I use. More stuff than I stop to appreciate. More stuff than matters.

My favorite part of moving is finding the person who could use what we don’t. Baby swings, strollers, clothes. The list goes on. For most everything, there is a person in our life or sphere who will put the item to better use. It is like a puzzle.

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Gearing up for Fall: Focus & Writing Inspiration

As the light begins to change again, my connection to childhood and the seasons feels stronger than ever.

As the light begins to dim and Eloise continues to grow, my connection to childhood and the seasons feels stronger than ever.

Childhood was intertwined with seasons. The excitement of a new school year with the supplies and smell of the classroom, the changing of the leaves with pumpkins and candy, a big parade on an old Stockton television with turkey to follow, Christmas trips to the city and then the countdown to Santa, banging pots and pans on New Years, cold rainy days inside with a puzzle and Mom, valentines from friends as the light began to change, spring rain and green hillsides, the hug of summer heat and endless summer nights, all to begin again.

It’s the same rhythm that made me love teaching. In a world of windowless cubicles there are no seasons. In a classroom everything changes with the month of the year. So it is at home. I can feel the end of summer. I must have been four years old the last time a fall went by without school or outside work. Reflexively I prepare to focus again, even if this time it is from home. It is that burst of completed effort before the holidays arrive and everything slows again. Life in synch with seasons.

Blogging fits into the cracks of life, those moments when she is asleep or in someone else’s arms. The real work of writing is the bigger projects, the ones that require more determination to keep going even when there are fewer words to say, (as opposed to the instant gratification of a quick post shared…).

I am almost ready. The trick is picking one project instead of getting distracted by five. A tired promise, but an important one all the same. In the weeks before Eloise was born I started a middle grades fiction novel about a girl named Indigo who lives next to a cemetery. I think I’ll start there, seasonally appropriate after all.

What are you gearing up to work on this fall? Maybe we can inspire each other…

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BEACON OF VENGEANCE, A Novel of Nazi Germany, CORRIDOR OF DARKNESS Volume 2, NOW AVAILABLE!

A fantastic read– and not because we share the same last name! Started reading last night, had to put it down because it was too haunting of a bedtime story. Adeptly written. If you haven’t read Corridor of Darkness, Volume 1, start there!

Patrick W. O'Bryon

Beacon front cover jpeg

In the summer of 1941 America edges closer to joining battle against Hitler’s victorious armies in Europe…but a dangerous spy game is already underway.

Reluctant former operative Ryan Lemmon disappears in Nazi-occupied France, a country riddled with corruption and deceit. Ostensibly assigned to the State Department’s Special War Problems Division, Ryan now works for America’s newly centralized intelligence office under William “Wild Bill” Donovan. His official assignment– undermine German intelligence operations across Occupied Europe.

But the first task of independent-minded Ryan Lemmon remains deeply personal–release his friends from a fascist internment camp while there is still hope for their survival.

And what ever goes exactly as planned?

Beacon of Vengeance, the new thriller inspired by my late father’s undercover life in Nazi Europe, is the second volume in the Corridor of Darkness trilogy. It is now available as a trade paperback at online retail outlets, and as an eBook for Kindle and Apple readers on Amazon.com.

For ease of ordering, just click on one of the book covers pictured in the…

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Wanted: WordPress.org Advice

Hi fellow bloggers–

I have been researching making the move from wordpress.com to wordpress.org for my other blog, Leap of Mama. Does anyone have experience with hosting a wordpress.org site? I’m looking for the simplest option that is also affordable, as I don’t have a lot of experience with site maintenance or security. Even though I like the built-in community of WordPress.com, I want more control over the ads on my site, as communities like BlogHer won’t let you join from WordPress.com.

Any words of wisdom would be much appreciated! I have read forums, but it helps to hear from other bloggers who have actually used WordPress.com as well.

Happy writing,

Olivia

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Come join me over at my new blog!

I know posts about motherhood aren’t for everyone, but in case you missed the memo, I am now blogging over at Leap of Mama as well. Whether you are a first-time parent, empty nester, or suffering from baby fever, you are welcome! Come on over, click follow and join the fun.

I'm sure you don't want to miss what is happening in the world of this cute face.

I’m sure you don’t want to miss what is happening in the world of this cutie.

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Tonight I Found Myself: Mama, Yogi, Occasional Writer.

I have heard of people finding God on their yoga mats, instead I found myself. As I moved my creaky, postpartum body through yin yoga poses, I realized I am not the same person who started this blog. I’m not even the same person I was three months ago. We are constantly undergoing transformations and don’t often pause to think about it. Tonight, instead of writer, teacher, occasional traveler, I am mama, yogi, occasional writer.

It was difficult to get my tired butt to my first yoga class since I got pregnant. Colic usually hits us hard between 7:30 and 10:30 PM and the class I most wanted to attend was smack dab in the middle. Thankfully, my husband pushed me out the door, almost literally. Armed with both his parents and some pumped milk he would not take my worried excuses as reasons not to go. Had it not been for the improvement to her colic with my change in diet (I miss you dairy, wheat, and eggs!!), I would have fought harder. But fortunately, the last few nights have been a little quieter around here, so I felt tentative, but alright to leave.

I am so glad I did.

First, I discovered my body needs to move, everything down to my wrists and toes still hurt. I could feel the fear I was holding from the end of pregnancy and the beginning of parenthood melt on the mat. It is incredible how our emotions manifest themselves physically and so often we hardly notice.

Second, tears escaped. I cried as I realized how much fear I was holding onto, fear to move the parts of my body that hurt worst in labor, fear to leave her tonight, fear to make the right decisions regarding her health. Fear, fear, fear. Then the instructor began talking about what needs we have that aren’t been met, and I realized mine was the need to be brave. She then explained how once these needs are identified, she spends the day recognizing when those needs are being met as an exercise in gratitude for what we already have. As I poured through my recent life choices, I realized I am just as often brave as I am afraid, if not more so. I felt empowered.

Third, as these emotions unfolded, it struck me my fear of leaving my baby girl was unfounded. I had the most beautiful visualization of this invisible cord still connecting us, weaving its way out of the studio and all the way back to our house, where Eloise was safely cradled in a floating bag of water. Powerful symbolism in light of my water breaking three weeks early… More tears, of course. To know I am always connected and protecting her, even when we are not together or things do not go exactly as planned, happy tears.

Fourth, me. I forgot how much I love yoga, how it opens my mind and plants me back in my physical and mental self. I realized I am a new me. The writer, the teacher, the occasional traveler have made way for an improved version. So, I think it is time to rebrand myself, to figure out my place in this world as the mama, yogi, and occasional writer (among a million other things). This means new focus in my writing, I’m excited.

I leave you with a couple questions I enjoyed contemplating tonight. You do not have to answer to anyone but yourself:

First, what needs do you have that aren’t being met? If you stop and pay attention, how are those needs already being met without you realizing it? Or, what do you need to change to have those needs met?

Second, who are you tonight? Not three-months-ago you, or three-months-from-now you– who are you in this very moment? Can you sum yourself up in a few words or is that too stifling, too confining?

Happy thinking.

And, in case you were wondering, Eloise slept peacefully until about 10 minutes before I got home. Alex even time stamped photos to prove it because he figured I wouldn’t believe it! Here’s hoping all this dietary self-restraint is paying off.

Amazing how one little person changes everything!

Amazing how one fiesty little person changes everything!

 

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