Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sometimes it rains

My front yard this morning.

We're getting ready to have a thunder storm here, which figures because I just spent the morning watering my garden.  I even pulled out the big guns and dosed my hydrangeas, coneflowers, and 1/2 of my containers with liquid fertilizer.  I was feeling pretty good about myself until storm clouds rolled in as soon as I finished rolling up the hose. 

If I'm working by hand (not setting up sprinklers) it takes about an hour to water about 1/2 of my garden.  The last thing you want when you've just put down liquid fertilizer is for rain to come through and dilute it.  I looked up at the clouds and thought, All that work, down the drain. 

Then, because I'm weird this way, my thoughts turned to writing.  (Everything comes back to writing, doesn't it?) 

How many times have you looked at your writing and thought, All that work, down the drain.

When you've been rejected.

When you read over your day's writing and realize it's not just bad, it's really bad. 

When your computer crashes before you remember to back up your novel and you lose it all.

All that work, down the drain.

And yet...

With thunder comes lightning.  And what you might not know is that lightning fixes nitrogen in the soil.  I won't go into the entire chemical process, but I will say that nitrogen is an essential component of fertilizer--you know, the stuff that helps plants grow?  The stuff I was putting down by hand?  For plants to use nitrogen it must be "fixed" or combined with other elements and there are only a few ways in nature that nitrogen can be fixed.  Lightning is one of them. 

Have you ever wondered why the grass is so green after a thunder storm?  Nitrogen fixation brought about by lightning.  The grass is essentially getting a does of fertilizer. 

And so are you every time you face and overcome a writing obstacle.  You are growing.  Getting stronger.  Getting better.  When the rain stops, you will be bright and beautiful.  Just like the grass after a storm. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Friday!

Here's to having a weekend filled with everything you need!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I've been up to

Stacks at the Cincinnati Mercantile Library

As you might have noticed, Dear Readers, I've been absent from the blog this past week-and-a-half.  Don't worry, nothing's wrong, I've just been trying (frantically) to wrap up some writing related stuff before May 30.  Otherwise known as D-Day in the Knipper household.  Elsewhere, it's probably known simply as The Last Day of School. 

If you don't have kids, you might not understand why this date strikes fear into my heart.  Well, let me explain it.  Kids at home = no writing for me.  Kids at school = I get to write. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my kids.  They are without a doubt the best part of my life.  However, kids are black holes of neediness.  I can't accomplish anything if they are home.  I think sitting in front of my computer trying to write sends out some kind of signal (you know, like a high-pitched whistle only dogs can hear.)  As soon as my fingers touch the keyboard, they're at my elbow, with skinned knees, boy problems, or important updates on Dragon Vale. 

Needless to say, my work suffers in the summer.  So I'm trying to cram in as much as possible now.  My editor has my revisions and I probably won't hear back from her for a few weeks, so I'm working on the second novel.  Which means research.  Which means library time.  Which is where I've been the past several days. 

Lucky for me, we live near some great libraries.  Including the Cincinnati Mercantile Library.  Oh my goodness.  If you live anywhere near Cincinnati, you have to check it out.  Really.  It's like walking into Hogwarts.  (The picture at the beginning of this post is of the stacks.  I don't know if you can tell, but the call numbers are hand written in on little chalk boards.) 

It's in downtown Cincinnati, on the top two floors of the Mercantile building.  You walk into the building and there's a bank of elevators.  It looks like any other city office building until you notice an elevator tucked into the left corner of the room.  Look up and you see a sign that reads: Express Elevator to the Library. 

As if a private elevator to the library isn't fantastic enough, this small library is full of really old books.  And if you're a member, you get to take them home!  Look what I found last week:

I don't know if you can tell but the date is 1889.  Before me, the last person who checked out this book did so in 1931.  That's 81 years ago.

This is where my inner geek shows.  I get excited about this kind of thing.  But then, I suppose you do too, otherwise you wouldn't be here.

Anyway, I'm going back to the Mercantile Library later this week, and I'll try to get a picture of the elevator.  Because really, a library with its own private express elevator--how cool is that?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

And the winner is...

This dog is clapping just for you!

Cristin Bruggeman!  Yay! Cristin wins her choice of a chapter critique or a $25 gift certificate.

Thank you all for entering.  For sharing all of the nice things people have done for you.  It's amazing when you look around how much we connect and depend on other people, isn't it?  Even writing depends on others.  It's a solitary pursuit, but we want other people to read our work.  We're all looking to connect with others.  After all, we're writing about people.  We're reading about people. 

People matter.  So Thank You to each and every one of you. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This post is not for the squeamish

Yesterday was the first day of my blog contest.  Yay!  For the rules, prizes, and whatnot, here's a link to that post.  The contest ends tomorrow at midnight, so enter soon!

Anyway, today I promised that I would share the nicest thing someone has done for me, but before I get to that, I wanted to explain why I'm even having this contest.  It's not about getting followers or twitter peeps, although that is nice.  I love to meet great new people.  I'm doing this for one reason and that's because while writing can be a lonely task, it's also one where you need a little help some times. 

Let's face it, sometimes that help is hard to find.  Sure, your mom could read your work but is she really going to tell you that your main character is so boring she can't stand reading another page?  Probably not. 

Most writers know that a good critique is a gift.  It's also incredibly hard to find.  I'm lucky enough to have fabulous writer friends and a great agent and editor who will tell me when something's not working.  That is a great kindness to a writer. 

One I'd like to pass along to you. 

Now it's my turn to share the nicest thing someone has ever done for me. 

Mine is in keeping with the husband theme started yesterday.  As a lot of you know, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease after my son was born.  To say it was a difficult delivery is the understatement of the year.  I was in the ICU so many times I earned frequent flier points.  At least three times my husband was told that I probably wouldn't make it through the night.

To make a very long story short, when they delivered my son via c-section, the doctors discovered that my small bowel had perforated and I had peritonitis, a frequently fatal infection.  To get rid of the infection, the doctors made a long vertical incision that went from my c-section incision all the way up my stomach ending just below that spot mid-sternum where your ribs join. 

Basically, I had an upside down T on my stomach.  Both incisions were left open to drain the infection.  That's right.  OPEN.  As in not stitched or stapled shut.  As in, "Oh look, I always wanted to be able to look down and see what I looked like on the inside." 

The incision was packed with gauze that had to be pulled out and re-stuffed twice a day.  It hurt.  A lot.  This process went on for almost 5 months.

Through it all, my husband was beyond wonderful, but there's one incident that I will never forget.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I came home with the incision still wide open.  Each day, a home health care nurse would show up at my house and redress the wound. 

Every single one of them did the same thing the first time they saw me.  First, there was the quick indraw of breath.  Followed by, "Oh.  Oh."  Then they always ended with, "Don't worry, plastic surgery can fix that right up." 

Gee.  Thanks.  Just what I wanted to hear. 

At this point, I had not looked at the incision yet.  Every time they changed the dressing in the hospital, I looked away.  I did the same thing the first week I was home. 

But eventually, curiosity got the better of me.  I'm not a squeamish person.  When  co-worker stapled through her fingernail and out the other side of her finger, I was the one who pulled the staple out while everyone else turned away. 

I could handle a little cut. 

After a week of comments from the home health care nurses, I started asking Steve if I should look at it.  He would frown and bite his lower lip.  "Wait a little," he said each time. 

I asked him this every night.  And every night he said the same thing.

A note: my husband is even less squeamish than I am.  No lie.  He helped pack my incision every morning. 

One morning, as he was getting ready for work, I said, "I'm going to look at it." 

He paused and said, "At least wait until I'm home with you."  You need to know that he had missed a lot of work.  A Lot.  Our son was still in the NICU and I had only been home a little over a week.  He was waaaaay out of vacation days.  

He left for work and I promised not to look at the incision until later. 

You know where this is going.

A few hours later, I got out of bed and decided to take a shower.  As I undressed, I thought, I'm going to look.  It can't be that bad.  I'm standing aren't I?  If it was that bad, I wouldn't be able to stand. 

I pealed off my clothes and the layers of bandages without looking down.  I stepped in front of the mirror.  Counted to three.  And looked at myself for the first time in two months. 

Oh.  My.  God.

My stomach was ripped open.  I could see at least three inches inside.  I looked like hamburger meat.  Not only that, but I had been so sick I only weighed 87 pounds.  That's right.  I came out of pregnancy at 87 pounds.  That's 30 pounds lighter than I am now.  30 pounds.

I looked like a concentration camp survivor.  My hip bones were sharp ugly things that pointed to the red gash running down my middle. 

Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, I finally realized how sick I had been (and still was).  I sobbed.  I wrapped a towel around myself, shower forgotten, and called Steve.  (I took the phone in with me in case I fell.)

"I looked," I sobbed into the phone as soon as he picked up.  I didn't even give him a chance to say hello.  "Oh my God.  It's awful.  Why didn't anyone tell me?  How am I even standing?"  I sank down onto the toilet and cried. 

I think I repeated Oh my God several more times. 

Finally he calmed me down.  And this is where the beautiful part comes in.  Without telling me as soon as we hung up, he got in his car and started driving.  He worked about an hour away from where we lived.  He didn't have any vacation days.  On his way home, he got stuck in traffic and couldn't make it.  He had to turn around. 

He called me when he turned around.  I was still sitting on the toilet when the phone rang.  I picked it up and he said, "I tried to come home to you, but I couldn't make it."  He was crying softly.  "I'm so sorry.  I tried to be there.  Traffic is too bad.  I had to turn around and go back to work.  But you don't look bad.  I promise you, it's not bad.  You're beautiful."   

He tried to come home to me.  Even though he worked an hour away.  Even though he didn't have any more days off. 

Dear ones, he had already spent almost every day at the hospital with me.  He argued with doctors to make sure I received the best care.  He made them bring my son to me when I was still in ICU.  Yet this is the incident I cling to.  The day I realized exactly how sick I was.  The day I looked at myself in the mirror and saw this ugly carved up thing, and he told me I was beautiful. 

He didn't make it home that day, but that didn't matter.  He tried.  And I will never forget that. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Super Awesome Contest of Niceness!

It's here at last!  My first blog contest!  (Imagine a drum roll here.) 

Since signing with Dan, the past several months have been amazing (and terrifying!)  One of the best parts has been that I've met so many wonderful people.  So many of you.  I want to give something back.  That's the reason behind this contest. 

It's easy.  As you might have noticed last week, this contest is all about niceness.  I don't think there's enough of it in the world, and I think we could all use a little bit more niceness in our own lives.

Let's get down to business.  First the prize.  Since most of you are writers, I spent some time thinking about what would be most helpful to you.  I came up with two things.  The winner can pick which one she (or he) would like.  Either a critique of your first chapter or a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble or Amazon. 

A word about the critique.  I tend to be...thorough.  Not mean.  I just write down everything I think of.  It can be alarming at first to get something back from me.  Again, I'm not mean, I just mark up everything.  One of my students opened up a story I had critiqued from them and said, "Oh my God, there's red everywhere!"  She had to close it and walk away before coming back to it. 

Ahem, consider yourself warned. 

So how do you enter?  Easy.  All you need to do is go to the comments on this post and write the nicest thing that someone has ever done for you.  Not the nicest thing you've done for someone else.  The nicest thing someone's done for you

Tweet about it and you get entered twice.  (Just make sure you put @sknipper on the post so I'll know to count your tweet.) 

That's it.  Comment on this post.  Share the nicest thing someone has done for you.  On Thursday I'll randomly pick the winner and announce it on that day's post.  Finally, make sure I have a way to get in touch with you.  Either a link to your blog, an email address, follow me on twitter, etc. 

Tomorrow, I'll share the nicest thing someone has ever done for me. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Friday and Pre-contest Hype!

In keeping with the cuteness theme this week and in light of Monday's Super Awesome Contest of Niceness, I found this picture:

I love this because it's true. 

I've worked out the details for my contest announcement on Monday.  This is my first contest ever, so please please please help me make it a good one!  Tell your friends and pop in on Monday morning for the big announcement.  If asking isn't enough, here's my dog, Whitman, giving you puppy-dog eyes.  Pleeeaazzz, he says.  You'll like it.  I promise. 

Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In Which the Cuteness War Escalates

As you know from yesterday's post, I am engaged in a cuteness war with the clever Alex Villasante.  I thought I was safe when I posted yesterday's picture.  I mean, how can you top a dog holding a basket of puppies? 

My friends, she did.  Bunnies in teacups.  Villasante, you are the cuteness master.  I bow before you, and leave you with Dog in swing.

And now, I must return to grading my college students' stories and starting a new one of my own.  Oh yeah, and there's a contest announcement I'll be making soon...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I see your bunny and raise you even more puppies

Last night was my last class so right now I'm buried in student stories.  Will dig myself out sometime this week just in time to post the contest information! 

But I had to stop for a minute to post this picture.  Yesterday, the wonderful Alex Villasante, mentioned that she almost posted a cute bunny picture on her blog to top my puppy picture from yesterday's post. 

Well I think we can all use more puppies and bunnies, so let the cuteness war begin!