Monday, July 18, 2022

Travels in Ireland

Two years ago, we had a plan. Mom, my sister, my aunt, and I were going to Ireland to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday…but of course, we all remember what happened two years ago. So, obviously, that didn't happen. 

So, we were going to go again in 2021, when "things open back again." But darn it, that didn't happen either. 

Before we knew it, it was 2022. 

And we gathered at Mom's house, passports and vaccination cards in hand, holding our breath, and hoping the borders stayed open, the planes still flew, and we all stayed healthy long enough to get there. 

And we did! 

All four of us, on the road to Kylemore Abbey.

Since none of us had ever been to Ireland before, and one of us is vegan (always a challenge when traveling), we did a purchased tour through Brendan Tours "The Enchanting Emerald Isle Tour." It had a great itinerary that hit lots of bucket list places as well as places we didn't know that much about. 

  • Dublin
  • Strokestown
  • Carrick on Shannon
  • Ballina
  • Westport
  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Galway
  • Dunguaire Castle
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Killarney
  • Ring of Kerry
  • Blarney Castle
  • Newtown Jerpoint
  • Kilkenny
  • and back to Dublin

I didn't do much research. I wanted to just be open to what came. 

Magic light in the gardens of Strokestown Park

I'll be processing for a long time--the pictures, the keepsakes, the memories. There are good things and bad things about being on an organized tour. 

Our tour guide was charming. No one had to learn to drive on the "wrong" side of the road. We got a lot of great experiences at lower cost than we could have arranged them for ourselves. Someone else managed our luggage. My sister had vegan food at all provided meals. 

We weren't in charge of our own schedule, and often I wished for more time in a location than I could have. I felt harried at times. Bus is not my favorite mode of transport. We were thrust among companions we didn't choose. 

So, good and bad, just like everything :-)

I wasn't even home yet before I started plotting to go back. Heck--I'd emigrate given the chance, which is funny, given that some of my ancestors left those shores to come to mine. Maybe they'd be pleased at the idea of me coming back home, or maybe they'd just shake their heads and laugh at the irony. 

I won't try to recount my journey for you here, though I'd be thrilled to talk Ireland with anyone anytime! In the meantime, I'll leave you with this collage of me and my first novel posing our way across the Irish landscape (and a couple in JFK airport). 

And this one of the mortal terror on my face when I learned that kissing the Blarney stone involves hanging upside down from the top of a castle. That gift of gab better be worth it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

IWSG: Finding my New Normal

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the July 6 posting of the IWSG are J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton!


In late May, I made a major life change that was a long time coming: I left teaching (check my leaving teaching blog post for details). I have an entirely new day job: a content writing job in corporate. Overnight, my stress dropped by half, so I'm feeling sure it was the right decision. But, it's quite a change after 27 years of teaching. 

What I haven't figured out yet is how my writing life fits into the parameters of the new job. 

I had a pretty good pattern going these past few years, writing evenings and taking advantage of the cyclical nature of teaching to give writing fuller focus during the times of year when school wasn't in session. 

But I haven't made any progress on my latest novel since the job change. 

Maybe that's just the transition phase. There's a lot to learn in the new job, after all. 

And I've had other curve balls, like taking a long-awaited trip to Ireland, seeing my daughter through college graduation, and getting the other kid going on driving lessons. Life has had my attention focused elsewhere. 

But I suspect that I'll need to re-set completely, that these life changes are going to require revamping my writing schedule and approaches, because come evening, I am screenburnt after all the zooming and it's hard to get myself to sit behind a screen again in the evening, even for fun stuff like playing with my imaginary friends. 

Will I need to become a morning writer? Someone who writes on their lunch hour? Do I need to start writing on paper and transferring to computer later? I don't know!

It's weird to be seven years along a path and feel like you've lost the trail, but I'm trying to stay positive and tell myself that it's exciting to have the chance to start fresh and try new approaches. 

Have any of you had to change how you fit your creative ventures into your life after a big change? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

What I Read in June

I only read four books in June, but all of them were good. I spent a goodly portion of June traveling (a long awaited trip to Ireland with my mom, sister, and aunt--I'll post about it soon). So here's a quick peek into my summer reading life. 

I started the month already in the middle of an audiobook which I finished in the first day or two: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix. I'm becoming a bit of a Grady Hendrix fan girl. He won me over with My Best Friend's Exorcism, which was pretty much liquid nostalgia for me--channeling both the teenager I was, and the books I read at the age. 

The Final Girl Support Group scratched that nostalgia itch again, and gave me a wonderful story of women's friendship and the ways we help one another survive. You might not expect a book about the survivors of horrific violence to have such a heart of empathy and kindness, but it absolutely did and I loved it. 

After that, I picked up George Orwell's Animal Farm, which was the June pick for my First Monday Classics Book Club. I read it as Kindle/Audiobook, going back and forth between the two, which I often do with Classic reads. 

I'd read it before, as a teenager, and it really helped me understand Russian communism--I've always apprehended history better through fiction. Re-reading it as an adult, I was struck by the deep-seated cynicism. Sure, it's a story about the failure of the Russian attempt communism. But more than that, it's a fable about the inability of humanity to build a system that doesn't rely on the exploitation of someone, regardless of the best of intentions. Depressing. But, he's not wrong. 

Next for me was The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, which I enjoyed as an audiobook read by the author. It's probably no surprise that a woman who writes a feminist superhero series of her own has an interest in Wonder Woman. 

I picked the book based on title alone, so I didn't know what to expect really. What I got was a really intriguing history of the social movements of the early 20th century and of William Moulton Marston, the man who created the character. 

Fascinating stuff, even if it took a long time to get Wonder Woman. It's sort of academic in tone, but I don't find that off-putting. I'm a bit academic myself. It's one of those books that extended my TBR again, because now there are so many topics I want to read more about!

The last book I finished in June was Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor. I started it in May, then set it aside (it was on Kindle and I was feeling screenburnt) and picked it back up for airplane entertainment on my way back from Ireland. 

It's the third and final in the Nsibidi Scripts trilogy, in which we meet Sunny Nwazue when she finds out that she is a Leopard Person (Nigerian magical person) and we watch her grow into herself and her powers while building powerful friendships with three other young people. 

I really enjoyed the series, which felt positive and light and had a sense of wonder and joy in the magic. Definitely more optimistic than grimdark. Highly recommended. 

So that was my month in books. I finished the month with a good start on David Copperfield, the August pick for my classics book club, and I'm poking at a cool horror anthology I'll tell you about at the end of the month. How about you? What did you read this month? 

And here's your reminder to review what you read! Especially if it was by a less-famous writer like me. Your reviews, no matter how brief really help with the visibility of our work.