Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On Putting Yourself Out There

In 2014 I set a writing goal to finish first drafts of a short story and three novels. It was ambitious. I was pushing myself, trying to see if by using a new writing method I could increase my productivity. At the end of the year I had a 12k word short, two full-length novels, and about 2/3 of the third novel. Remember, these were first drafts. But it was a huge increase in my usual writing time.

I used Alan Watt's wonderful book The Ninety-Day Novel ( to make my goal happen. I can't say enough good things about his book. It sounds like a formulaic write from an outline kind of book, but it's nothing like that. For the first 30 days Watt guides you through a series of questions from the points of view of your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). You begin the rough draft on day 60, and you write every day without looking back or editing. His daily entries coach you expertly through the doubts and difficulties you face as you go. 

I couldn't believe how well it worked. I couldn't believe how deeply I delved into the characters and their motives, how little miracles of plot and structure happened along the way as I raced through the first draft. It was my method, the one I have always used, but it was my method distilled to a fine and efficient liquor.

The longish short story that came out of this method came out almost perfectly. I took it to Weymouth Center with the goal of editing and after the first day's read through, asked my fellow writers-in-residence if I could read it out loud during our critique time. When they gave me their feedback it was unanimous: they all felt it was not only ready to go, they encouraged me to send it to literary journals as soon as possible.

The next week I sent it to Paris Review. After about a month, they sent this:

I sent the story on to Granta, who just yesterday said it wasn't right for their publication. So off it has gone to AGNI Magazine. 

My point here is that in life as in writing we have to put ourselves out there over and over again, in little ways, in bigger ways, in order to get results. It's so easy to remain safe and still and maybe stagnant and stuck. It's nice when things work out and we get the result we want, but even when rejection comes, it's a testament to the fact that we put ourselves, our work, our wishes, OUT THERE in the first place. 

I was wondering as I started this post how it would wind its way around to horses. Not that it needs to, but most things here usually do.

This one winds back to a frustrated night searching for a first pony, when I threw my hands up and typed in all the criteria for my ideal horse - and found him. And called the next day and made the appointment to go meet him, even though we weren't looking for a horse for me. And instead of letting reason take over, instead of canceling the appointment, I went, and I met Keil Bay. 

There was a moment when I nearly stopped myself from putting my dream first that day. After I watched him being put through his amazing paces, when it was my turn to get on and ride, I said, no, I'm not a good enough rider for this horse. But his trainer said, come on, you'll be fine, and I got on. What if I hadn't? The idea that I might never have had Keil Bay as my riding teacher, life coach, beloved friend, and handsome companion brings tears to my eyes.

Many of you know the ending to the story. I did get on and I had the best ride of my adult life. And Keil Bay came to live with us and every good riding day I've had since is because of him.

Whether it's books or stories or horses or anything, put yourself out there. Take a chance. The end result is always going to be better than if you didn't.

Friday, February 13, 2015

when it's cold outside even the fluffy Corgi stays in

Yesterday I went out to the barn mid-day to get ready for hoof trims. I had to take my jacket off because I was sweating! Twenty hooves later, I was bundled up tight. The sun was gone, the sky overtaken by clouds, and the wind was blowing hard. Just as the trimmer left a flurry of snowflakes began to fall. Crazy weather here on November Hill.

Today it's sunny but very cold. I removed thick ice from water troughs this morning and again near noon.

Thankfully the wind has quieted but it is too cold out to do anything except count the chores and the minutes until you can come back inside.

And one of us isn't even counting. He's on the sofa on fleece by the woodstove! The Life of Bear. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


That about sums up my day today. 

But I can reframe it like this:


Tooth fixed!



ee cummings poetry.

It's all in how you name the thing. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Playing With the Pony We Have

This week the Little Man initiated some arena ground work when he shoved past me into the back door of his stall at breakfast time. In the moment, I was pretty annoyed with him, but once we got to the arena and worked through a little bit more cheekiness, we each shifted our expectations and what blossomed was an absolutely gorgeous free lunging dance where I asked and he walked, trotted, cantered, and pirouetted with grace and power. 

We had so much fun that when we were done and I brought the donkey boys in for their own play time (they were banging at the gate to come in) the pony tried to climb through the fence to get back inside with me. He actively wanted more.

We've repeated this for three days now (without the need for cheek!) and it has been a wonderful way to give him some exercise, a job, and some attention and fun. 

Yesterday his girl walked out while we were playing and stood there with a big smile on her face. I know my smile was even bigger. 

In hindsight, maybe he was asking the way he knows how to ask for some attention and some fun. It almost always happens that when we accept the present moment and allow for something wonderful, we get it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

squeaky wheels and donkey boys

I was out at the barn this morning pushing the wheelbarrow. The wheel was squeaking loudly and then suddenly there were TWO squeaky wheelbarrows and then THREE. Totally confused, I stopped and listened. Numbers two and three were in fact not wheelbarrows, but donkeys!

I ask you - is the wheelbarrow mimicking donkeys or are donkeys mimicking wheelbarrows?

Something to ponder on this chilly (but sunshiny, oh so happy to type that!) day.