Erma Bombeck

I just spent a fabulous 3 days in Dayton, Ohio (yes, it’s possible to have a fabulous time there.)  I attended my first ever Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, a bi-annual coming-together of humor writers.

Attendees run the gamut of published authors, screen-writers, bloggers, social media fanatics and those who were just dipping their toe in the stream of writing.  There was a fantastic line up of presenters and speakers, including, but certainly not limited to:

W. Bruce Cameron-author of my favoritest-ever (yes, that’s my word) book, “A Dog’s Purpose.” (Which, by the way, will be made into a movie soon.)

Craig Wilson-USA Today feature writer and author of “It’s the Little Things: An Appreciation of Life’s Simple Pleasures.”

Adriana Trigiani-writer for The Cosby Show and A Different World, and author of “Lucia, Lucia” and “Big Stone Gap” which was where Adriana and I both began our lives.

Irene Beckerman– whose writing career began at the age of 60 (Oh, thank you, Irene- there is STILL hope for me!)

Alan Zweibel, one of the original writer’s for “Saturday Night Live.” He also wrote  for “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and the movie “North”, among others.

Dave Fox-author of Globejotting and Getting Lost, and who I consider responsible for my enthusiasm about writing humor. I’ve taken 2 of Dave’s online humor-writing classes, and he encouraged me to go to the EBWW conference.

There were many more inspirational presenters at the conference, and, perhaps most inspirational of all was Erma’s family. Each family member read one of their favorite columns written by Erma, and gave us a piece of their own life with the woman we all consider “Mom.”

The presenters were unique, but the message was the same. Keep writing. Do what you love. Persevere.  “Overnight success is a myth, so don’t give up!”  That is exactly what I needed to hear. Muchas Gracias!

My roommate, Angela, was a former classmate in Dave’s online humor classes, and, although we were virtual strangers, we at least had a clue that we would get along.  She knew my penchant for wine and dropping the “F” bomb, and still agreed to let me room with her.

One problem.

Angela is a “low talker.”  (Remember Seinfield’s Puffy-Shirt episode?)

I am deaf.

No, not totally deaf, but I struggle to hear, much less understand, anything quieter than a passing fire truck or dynamite blast.  I have no idea what I nodded and smiled about for the first hour in our room, but after showing her my hearing aids and asking her to please yell at me, we hit it off. We’re even talking about taking a trip to Asia next year.

Polly arrived 8 ½ months pregnant, but other than that she seemed normal.

Then the truth came out.

Polly is a Mormon.

I’m from rural Appalachia. I’ve never met a real Mormon in person. My exposure lies in the endless TV ads that have ambushed us every 5 minutes, ever since Mitt Romney began his bid for president. You’ve probably seen them: Drug addicts, ex-convicts, Walmart greeters…  Each commercial ends in “I am a Mormon.

Maybe they should get Polly on that ad, saying she’s a Mom and a writer. It would have laid my fears to rest, for sure.

The bottom line is this. Last weekend I was exposed to some of the funniest, funnest, coolest and genuinely warmest people I’ve ever met. Thank you, Erma, for your gift.

The Cracker Queen

This weekend I attended an excellent and entertaining workshop presented by the Atlanta Writer’s Club. I’ve been working on a couple of writing projects for awhile, now, and seem to have hit a wall.  Lauretta Hannon (The Cracker Queen) spoke on the importance of platform for writers. She kept us on our toes with crucial tips to getting ourselves “out-there.”  I totally love that Lauretta, like myself, is a “Whup-Ass Southern Woman”.  The “anti-Southern Belle”.  I am looking forward to reading her book “The Cracker Queen”.

2 hours into the workshop, our break was announced. Immediately,  100 women ran to get in line for the 2 stalls in the bathroom. Thankfully, I’m retaining water, (another symptom of Mental Pause,) so I wasn’t so desperate to pee just then.  So I took the opportunity to buy a book and get it signed. While in the book line, I had a brief conversation with a nice 70-something gent about the book he is writing.  Then I  got in the (now shorter) bathroom line.

As soon as I came out of the bathroom,  the man approached me.

“Would you like to go out with me sometime?” he asked.

Shit! 

“Well, I’m married,” I replied.

He looked at my hand.  “You are? I don’t guess that would sit too well with your husband,”  he replied.

I held up my naked ring finger. “Oh, well, see, I don’t have my wedding band on because I’ve gained so much weight, I don’t know if it’s water or age or what, I had to take it off and I just can’t get it back on and it cuts off my circulation and I’d hate to lose that finger and all, I tried to get it re-sized but it was too expensive so I probably should just lose weight but it’s really hard…

I have no idea the purpose of that aimless babble. We both stood there for an awkward moment before the lights flashed, marking the end of the break.

I dashed back to my seat and pretended to scrutinize my notes.

I felt bad for him, sort of. I mean, he put himself  “out there,” which, I bet, is really hard to do. Especially when you’re, um, old.  Then again, good for him. I admire his balls. You know what I mean.

After the conference, I ran into him in the doorway.

“Good Luck,” I smiled, not sure if I meant with his book or finding a date.

On the drive home, I thought about the day. The workshop. The man. The necessity to “put ourselves out there” in order to achieve what we want. I vowed to make more of an effort, even at the risk of rejection, to accomplish my goals. Yep, starting now, I’m gonna put myself out there. Thanks, Lauretta. Thanks, Mr. Man.

Happy 40th Birthday

Travel. It is my passion of passions. (Besides my passion for dogs, but that is a completely different blog). I think my love of exploring the world began when I was “knee-high to a grasshopper”, exploring the wooded wonders of the Appalachian mountains where I grew up. Never content to sit at home, I was out and about by any means possible, whether that meant on foot, my pony, bicycle or dirt bike. As I crossed that threshold into my teens, my world became bigger, with more thrills and dares to take.  Boyfriends with fast cars or, better yet, motorcycles were coveted. (Used? Maybe.) I occasionally even resorted to using my thumb as a way to oppose my parents and meet my transportation needs.

With independence came true wanderlust, and now in my filthy’s (uh, fifties), I’ve had the good fortune to experience many countries around the world. I’ve got album upon album of the trips I’ve taken, the photographs carefully culled and filed within a week upon return. Along with pictures, I have journaled most of these trips, the good, the not-so-good, and even the ugly, and have been pouring through these for inspiration for a travel piece I’m working on.

So I’ve decided that I have enough fuel to fill my blog for awhile, and am going to start posting some of these trips here on JulesRules. I’d love you to comment on my blog, letting me know the places you have enjoyed, your experiences, questions, just whatever comes to mind. So go grab a latte, tea or glass of wine, sit back, and lets hit the road! I hope you enjoy the trip!

This first segment of Hit the Road is a collection of totally random shots that have little connection, they are a basic “introduction” for you.

Hitting the road w/ my BFF- age 12

Rome, age 15

Italy was my first international destination. I was with the Harlan Musettes, an all-girl singing group that won GOLD in the International Choral Festival. We sang for the Pope. I quickly realized that group travel was NOT my bag. Here I’m plotting how the hell to break away and enjoy the boys and some Italian vino.

Ticket to Ride

Remember when passports and driver’s licences looked like mug shots?

 Here I’m thumbing a ride on the Pan American Highway after we had to ditch the horses near Banos, Ecuador.

Galapagos Islands 1995

  This was my first skydive jump, in Wanaka, New Zealand, one of THE most beautiful places on earth!

Machu Picchu, Peru 1996

In honor of No More Excuses Month, I have to say I’ve done myself pretty proud!

Yesterday, in looking over my writing projects, I reviewed some notes I took at the recent SCBWI conference. (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators).  In the notes were a few random ideas for children’s stories that had popped in to my head at various times, like driving in the car, laying in bed with the pups for “snuggle time” in the morning, and while enjoying a nice long soak in the tub. I realized during the conference that I was investing too much time and energy in this one story that is going to make me a break-out phenomenon.

For one thing, while a story is sitting in an editor or agents slush pile, it is common courtesy not to send it elsewhere. That is called a simultaneous submission, and by most accounts, it is a no-no. So I figured it’s time to get off my ass and start writing another one of my great story lines. Well, I sat down at about 10:00am, and other than a 1 1/2 hour appointment with my physical therapist (shoulder rehab), I had completed my rough draft by 5:00 pm.   And this one is pretty damn good, if I may say so myself.  I’ve read it aloud several times (using my “voices”)  to the dogs, and Chance and Kismet think it’s pretty great.  Chance especially likes it because he is the main character, and Kismet likes it because, well, he just likes me to talk silly to him.  Roxie… not so much. If there is not food or a Frisbee involved, she pretty much hangs out under the bed.

Anyway, sometimes we just need a prod to move us along that path that lies directly in front of us. We often find ourselves just standing there, staring, knowing that that is the ultimate direction that we will need to take to get from point A to point B, but there is often that little something that diverts us. Some little detour in the road. A nice blade of grass? A new facebook message?  The decision to have a cup of tea followed by a glance at your email only to see that one of your favorite bloggers has posted a new entry and you have to comment on it which leads you to reading 7 other comments from bloggers you don’t know and adding them to your RSS feed and then seeing that you have 3 more emails…..

God, it’s no wonder I can’t find the time to write.

Sailing with Chance

Some of you know that  I have recently begun writing a children’s book. This is new to me, as the focus of my writing in the past has been centered around travel–travel memoirs, product reviews, how-to’s and the like.  I am editor of the European Travel Site over at Bellaonline.com and also contribute to a couple of other online sites.  I actually have a VERY rough draft for my crazy, off-the-wall travel memoir stuffed under my bed. I just lost interest.

You may also know that recently, well, about 6 months ago, I became a foster failure and adopted a new doggy-member into our family, making a total of 3 dogs.   Our home has been so full of life these past months, and Chance has brought new life to my oldest dog, Kismet, who, at almost 13 is slowing down a bit.  It is heartwarming to have 3 dogs cuddling on the couch with me, running to the door upon my arrival (even if I’ve just gone to the mailbox), and yes, sharing the bed with HK and me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So a while back, I started toying with the idea of incorporating Chance into my children’s book.  Originally, my main character was Willy and the Boyz, but, after tossing that around in my head, I figured kids might not be able to relate to a napkin holder too well. Kinda hard to warm up to, ya know?

But Chance, now he’s another story altogether. He’s already got the personality, I just give it a voice.  And it’s fun! Children’s books are a completely different genre for me, especially since I never had kids.  I’ve been spending lots of time in book stores and at the library, getting a feel for wha’t’s popular. I think the main thing is that I’m feeling enthusiastic about this new project. So we’ll see where this goes. Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted.

I have been working on my book diligently lately, but have been having a helluvatime staying on track. Distractions are everywhere, and as soon as I hit a rough patch or a brain drain, my mind wanders, and I find myself trying to decide what color to paint my toenails, or looking through my closet for just the right thing to wear this weekend.  Did I feed the birds?  Is the mail here? 

At the same time that I’m writing, I’m reading about writing.  “Always write first and second drafts freehand”. “Write everything in a Word Doc”.  “Distance yourself from your writing”.  “Become one with your characters”.  That last one is easy, because I am my character.

As many of you know, I am a travel addict.  When I’m not actually on the road, I’m planning my next adventure. Or reading about travel. Or talking about travel. I know it’s annoying,  but it’s In My Blood!

In the book I am writing,  I share some of the crazy shit that has happened during my travels. More often than not, the “vacations” start out innocently enough, but often take a wrong turn, somehow

Like the time Iwas escorting a group of retired farmers in Chile and we were arrested for…

Or the time my travel companion got locked out of our room at the  Hudson Hotel in NYC naked, and I slept through the whole ordeal.

Or that time in the Amazon when I suddenly found myself fighting for my life…

Sigh…guess I’d better get back to writing the book instead of just talking about it.  Check back, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  (Yeah, I know, this blog is another distraction)