Tag Archives: Writing

If Mo Willems Wrote My CV

I’ve been reading this book at least once a week for about a decade.

If you have children, you know about the pigeon. He wants to drive the bus. He wants a puppy. He does not want to take a bath. I’ve read the books by Mo Willems to my children for so long I can recite them. I imagine if Willems wrote a book about my career it would go a little something like this:

My Mom Wants To Publish A Story

Hey! I’m Kid, Let’s listen to my mom talk about writing.
Oh, hello. Am I a writer? I am.
What does a writer do?
I spend a lot of time thinking about writing things.
Sometimes I write things.
I spend a lot of time fixing things I wrote.
Waiting for people to get back to you is a big part of it.
You want to know what I write?
I write about writing.
I write about eating and cooking and reading and knitting.
Have I written non-fiction books about celebrities? I have.
Do I write children’s books? I do.
Am I working on a series of horror stories? I am.
What about grants and scientific papers, do I write those? Yes.
Will I write something for five dollars?
ARGGHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOO!
I should be writing right now.
What’s that you say? Anthology submissions are open?
Hmmmmmm…..

 

 

This Is Not A Lifestyle Blog.

A tiny hand making tiny cupcakes, probably the most you’ll see of my kids on this blog.

I’ve been thinking about how to focus this blog, find a niche. Then, the other day, I was on Twitter and I noticed the description I’d given of myself: Mom, Wife, Writer, Knitter, Cooker, Reader, Eater. Hmm, it seems my problem may be solved. I don’t want to use this space to talk about my kids (much) because I’m very protective of their privacy. My husband has expressed numerous times he doesn’t want to come up in my writing. That leaves: Writing, Knitting, Cooking, Reading and Eating. I can write about those things!

Immediately after I decided this would be my focus, I thought, “Oh crap. Does that mean I’m writing a lifestyle blog?” I don’t know, you tell me, does it? I’m not trying to be Martha Stewart. I can’t really give advice to anyone. Does anyone want to read about my take on any of these things? Do I care? Nah.

So, look forward to: A total re-design of this blog. A total re-design of my other website (katekastelein.com) My reviews of books, discussion of the writing life, knitting and food talk! I may from time to time post my grad school annotations of books I’m reading. It is my hope to bring a little light into the world and perhaps inspire others to enjoy some books or food or yarn.

Three cheers for finding a focus! It only took me 8 years!

Enough With The Texty Texty.

Outch! #iphone #broken #dead

Not this drastic yet. via @johnnymip on Flickr/Creative Commons

Should I write this post? I don’t know. I think I’ve written it before. If I wasn’t lazy I would l check. Here’s what it’s about: Social media. Time. Kids. Attention.

During my residency I attended a panel on blogging and social media. What I noticed was that the participants talked about having a good, focused blog, updated regularly. They did not talk about having tons of interaction on social media as an asset for your writing career. Social media is good for promoting yourself, but it is not necessary to do much with it besides have it post links to your blog and/or upcoming events. Yes, I know, there are many out there who have leveraged social media identities into book contracts and TV shows. That’s cool. Good for them.  That’s not what I want to do. What I want to do is write some stories and books and get them published and have people read them.

If you know me, you probably know I spend way too much time on social media. I got thinking about this and wondered, why? Through deep self-analysis I came to the conclusion that I am one of those weird intro/extroverts. I love interacting with people and am energized by it. However, I am prone to extreme bouts of anxiety at public gatherings, and often prefer to spend most of my time at home. My RSVP response is often, “Solid Maybe” and then I don’t show. I’m terrible that way. Social media allows me to feel like I’m interacting with people, and I guess I am in a way, without the risk of crushing anxiety. But it’s a time suck, and I’m not interacting with people in a way that is good for me, not really. What is better for me is to accept some invitations and go have a cup of coffee.

Finally, and this is the worst, my kids tell me I’m on my phone too much. “Enough with the texty, texty,” they say. Does that make me feel terrible? Yes.

This is my plan: more blog posts, less social media. I have a goal of one blog post per month on my resolution this year, but I’d like to bump that to two. One here and one over at www.katekastelein.com  I also need to figure out a focus for this bad boy. As you can tell, right now, it’s mostly just random essays. Is there any coherence here? I don’t know.  My other site will be writing focused. I think I should keep whatever this is and my more professional page separate. Facebook and Twitter are deleted from my phone and iPad (OK. I kept Instagram. Baby steps.) . Accounts will only be used to promote blog posts/publication information etc.  I’ve disabled the banner notifications on my apps, all that’s left are the little bubble numbers indicating I have messages.

Oh, and one more thing, which should be pretty obvious if you bothered to read this thing;  if want to comment, do so on this page. I won’t be checking/responding on social media….just using it to promote.

 

I Will Achieve Some of My Goals!

Still nearly my constant view.

Remember when I turned 30 and freaked out and started a blog, the  30 list? No? Well read that link, it’s all explained there. When I look at the list, I cringe. It was a terrible list. However, it started a new tradition and every year I make a new list of goals, although now I call it my Unreasonable Goals. At first I tried to match the number of goals to my age, then I got lazy and kept it to 30. Now I am nearly 39. It’s time to freak out. I mean, freak out more than I’m normally freaking out. I’m jacking the list back up to 39. Will I achieve all my goals? Probably not. Looking back over the years, I think at my best I run at about 50% achievement. That’s awesome. I’ll take it. My new motto: I will achieve some of the goals!

Looking back, many of my goals stay the same from year to year: Read X amount of books, Knit X things. Many times goals rolled over from year to year.  One first year a goal was, “Take one class at UMA”. I didn’t that year. I didn’t the year after that. Or the next. Finally, in 2014 I bit the bullet and re-nrolled at USM. Last year I not only finished college but applied for and now am enrolled in grad school. I wanted to have my MFA by the time I hit 40, but I’m OK with 41. Things I did that were not on my list? Have another child. Move. Both amazing things.

This year the list has a lot of writing goals, and a separate writing spreadsheet (I was inspired by one of my professors, Theodora Goss, she has very ambitious writing goals and an equally ambitious spreadsheet). As usual I will post the list here, and hopefully it will automatically update when I update it. I will also do a little recap of 2016 goals in another post.

I’m also happy to report that my daughter is doing her own list this year! She is doing a spreadsheet with 11 goals. When I asked her if she wanted help figuring out how to add sums and percentages she said, “Uh, no. I learned how like last year.” Thank God. Now she can help me figure out the graphing part.

Anyhow, that’s where I’m at at the end of 2016. Looking at 2017 with a big list of things I want to do.

 

Fear of Falling

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’ve started an MFA program in creative writing, which has been my dream for about 10 years. I couldn’t believe I got in, and now I’m scared to death about what that means. I am occasionally gripped with the same kind of terror I experience at the top of a tall building. The view is beautiful and exciting, but it makes me feel shakey and pukey. Will I have the time to do it justice? Is it a bad idea for my family, with so much time dedicated to school over the next two years? The other students I’ve seen in the handbook are much more experienced than I am, or at least better at writing bios. I don’t know if I can do this, but I have to. For one, I just took out a loan so I can. For two, if I don’t , I’ll never know, and fear of not knowing is worse than the fear of doing.

Here is the Jessie Spano Caffeine Pill Freakout, which is basically how I feel all the time. (Not the drugs part obv)

 

 

What’s Up With All the Instagramming?

Interesting and beautiful things are everywhere.

Interesting and beautiful things are everywhere.

I knooow that’s what you guys are asking yourselves. Well, those of you that ‘follow’ me social media-wise. I’ve had Instagram for awhile, but I didn’t really start using it until a few weeks ago. Now I’m trying to add one post per day. Is it as simple as me just wanting to participate in something fun? No. Nothing is ever that simple.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, more than usual even. Trying to get some new perspectives, change old habits, pay attention to how different things make me feel. ln much the same way that I notice eating certain foods make me feel sick, consuming various types of information and media were also starting to make me feel gross. Now, this isn’t going to be one of those long, ranty posts about how much Facebook sucks, but I will say, that I started noticing that it wasn’t making me feel very good. I’m not going to lie. I friggin’ love Facebook. However, I found myself getting super annoyed and cranky with people that honestly, if Facebook wasn’t around, I would have no contact with whatsoever. I found myself getting wrapped up in the enormous long-winded oversharing dramas swirling around. Spending time wondering, “Gee, I wonder how so and so is doing with her whatserwhosit”. Is that necessarily bad? I don’t know. I’m what’s known as a ‘super-empath’, I know it sounds very new-agey, but whatevs. It’s what I am. Basically, I it’s a really nice way of saying I very easily get wrapped up in other people’s shit on an emotional level.  So, I started to back way off on Facebook. I deleted it from my phone. I did what dieters do when they try to get ahold of eating habits and check-in with myself when I found myself logging on to the blue beast, asking myself “Why?” Why are you checking in? This is what I discovered, most of the time when I was checking in, which honestly was frighteningly frequent, I was either:

  • Bored
  • Lonely
  • Procrastinating

Does FB really help me with any of those things? Sure it kills time, but it’s certainly not helping me achieve any of my goals, and aiding in procrastination isn’t great either. It does help with loneliness, but so does a text of a phone call. Anyhow, I’ve backed way off. Yes, I’m still on FB probably once a day. Sometimes not. I feel a lot better. Does this mean I’ve given up social media? Oh, God no. Which brings me to…

Instagram. (BTW, yes my account auto-posts to my FB and Twitter unless I unselect it. I can’t decide if this is obnoxious or not.) As opposed to FB, Instagram is making me feel pretty good. For one, I’m using it as a tool to find beauty in my everyday life. Well, beauty and humor, but I think those go together. I subscribe to other members that have similar ideas, but also that post amazing photos. So, instead of checking in on political rants or people’s divorces, what I’m seeing are incredible photos of MOMA, sunsets in Hawaii, knitwear, meals people are proud of. It’s a really different vibe, and it makes me feel better about the world around me, and what I’m putting out there. Pretty deep for a photo app, eh? Also, I have GOT to  become a better photographer. No, it’s required. I have new clients, and some that are in the wings, and in the world we live in today, if you are a writer, you better be able to take some decent photos. Publishable photos. I’m trying, you guys. I think I’m getting a little better every day.

Twitter, I love you. You’re a different post altogether.

If you want to see my photos, there’s a button over there —> to follow me on Instagram. You know, if you want to, or whatever.

Kwitcherbitchin, or How I Solve Your Meal Planning Problems

Menu calendar. Win.

I may have already written a post with Kwitcherbitchin in the title, but I’m too lazy to check. When I was young, I used to go to a friend’s camp on a lake, and there was a little sign with Kwitcherbitchin painted on it. It took me forever to figure it out, but when I did I thought it was awesome. Anyhow, this post isn’t about signs or camps or friends. It’s about the negative Nellies, and it’s about food, and it’s about solving your meal planning problems forever.  A little history first.

This post is inspired by two recent articles: First, the article ‘What if You Just Hate Making Dinner’ by Virginia Heffernan. I despised this piece. Is part of a slew of recent articles and writing that are nothing more than whining and breaking down other people. I’m so incredibly tired of it. “Wahhh I don’t like making dinner”! “Wahhh! Look at these beautiful cookbooks full of things people have taken time and effort into making,I’m going to make fun of them!” It’s very mean girl. It really is. Secondly, there are SO many women using this tactic to make names for themselves sort of branding themselves as feminists. OK, we get it. You don’t like making dinner, you think people who put time and effort into making beautiful food are wasting their time. Good job. Good job making the rest of us feel like bad feminists for taking the time to make something to eat. We all know you can’t be a good feminist if you take care of your family and cook dinner. No, in fact you actively have to rail against it to be a good feminist. My other problem is this: What the hell is she eating? She spends the whole article whining about how she hates cooking, and then breaking down cookbooks that she thinks are dumb, without ever offering a solution to what she does. Is it all take out? She must have a lot of money. Also, she’s feeding the myths that 1. Cooking is hard and 2. Women MUST do all the cooking. OK, I’ll stop. Now I’m just railing against her railing. It’s a loop. But you should at least skim her article so this makes sense.

Michael Rhulman does a phenomenal job taking the Heffernan article to task in his post, “What if You Hate Cooking Dinner” If you must know, I think Michael Rhulman is friggin’ awesome, and highly recommend his books, especially The Making of a Chef   One of the best pieces of food writing I’ve ever read, and also one of my favorite books in general. I digress, again. Anyhow, Rhulman takes Heffernan to task, for many of the reasons I mentioned above but also adds what I think are some good, real word solutions. For example, just make some hot dogs with chips and good pickles. Cooking is not hard, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Just read his article, it’s great. I’ll wait here.

Now that you’ve finished reading both of those articles, here’s what I have to say. Let me repeat: cooking is not hard. I think, from reading the Heffernan article, that a lot of her problem is planning. You know what’s not easy? Figuring out what you’re going to eat at 5:30 when your kids are freaking out and you just got home from ballet and everyone still needs to do homework and take baths. That downright sucks. Guess what, I’m going to tell you how to fix your meal planning problem for the rest of your life. I KNOW, RIGHT? Are you excited? I actually use this and it is life changing. Here’s what you do:

  1. Fire up Google Calendar or similar calendar program. It must have the ability to repeat events. Sharing is also a nice feature if you have family members that will also use this.
  2. Input a meal on each day of the week and then make it repeat based on how often you want to eat it. For example, I have beef stew on repeat every 6 weeks, but pizza is on repeat every week.
  3. Don’t forget to input days for takeout, and leftovers.
  4. Each week your menu is ready, and you can adjust as you want, but your ‘base’ is done.

There you go. Menu plans done for eternity. My planning is done, and I after shopping, I have ingredients for 5 meals a week (one night is takeout and one night is leftovers). I do not follow the menu/days of the week like a crazy person, except on takeout night (Friday) and I do a crockpot meal every Thursday because it’s a really busy day and I don’t have time in the evening. Sharing the menu calendar with your family allows anyone to look at it and say, “OK, we have stuff for tacos, fish chowder and roast chicken, which one do I want to make tonight?” Also, you can easily adjust it. So, if I’m looking at my menu for the week and I see crab cakes but  I’m just not into it, I just change it to something else. What’s important is that the base menu is done. Forever.

You’re welcome. Now go make a menu calendar and Kwitcherbitchin.