Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gum on the bottom of my shoe

I’ve recently rejoined the work force. No way, no how was I ever going to dust off my degree and return to my old life as an Interior Designer. Uh, uh. The last thing I need in my life as I nurture two rambunctious teenagers, a passel of mismatched dogs and a bookful of characters who refuse to cooperate, is a job that extends beyond the bounds of 8 to 5 with irritating meetings and revisions that stick in my mind like gum on the bottom of my shoe.

So, instead, I accepted a job as an administrative assistant in our local Extension Office serving the 4-H community at large. No stress, no outrageous responsibilities – just the ordinary workings of your average, every day secretary. You’d think having been an organizational leader of a 4-H club for 10 years would have prepared me for this adventure, right? Okay, so I manage fine with the common garden-variety enrollment forms and procedures, but nothing equipped me for the details, most minor, some very major, that continue to explode around me. . .

. . .much like writing a novel -- you knew I’d work this in somewhere, didn’t you?

For most of us, the love of writing sprouted from the love of reading. How many of us haven’t at one time or another uttered the infamous words, "I can write better than this!!"

And thus we have the birth of an author.

My mundane admin asst position with limitless rules and regulations mirrors the clandestine twists and turns we take as we craft our book. Let’s skip past the obvious elements of simple character, plot and ending and dig deeper into our craft -- isn’t that what we’re always being told?? I’m talking about unearthing some good stuff here, you know what I mean?

Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, yada yada, and live happily ever after. Yup, that’s the way I saw it, and years ago, that’s the way I wrote it. This is afterall, a romance.

And I’ll have you know, my mother loved my writing.

But the rest of the world didn’t. Boring, predictable, cliche. Now, that wasn’t the feedback I got from my crit partners. When I used to go out on Critique Night, my husband and kids would lay wager whether I’d come home with any hide left on my bones or not. No, these short, concise evaluations came from contest judges. And my response?? Pffft, what do they know?? Well, pretty soon, I began to dread paying the $10 - $15 entry fees -- don’t snicker! Yes, I’ve been writing since postage was a minor irritant on my tomb-worthy Priority Mail envelopes -- only to expect similar comments, especially when I’d wait up all night waiting for the coordinator to call to tell me I was a finalist. After a loooong while, I talked myself into looking at a change or two offered by some sympathetic judge whose sincerity twiddled through the pages.

Hmm, dark moment? Give them a situation that looks impossible then have them overcome?? Make’um laugh, make’um cry, make’um wait??? This was when reason began to war with instinct.

I’ll never survive this.
This is a book! People expect larger than life.
But I don’t like fighting.
You’re not the one fighting.
No, but my children are and I don’t like ugliness.
It’s gotta get good and ugly before you can clean it up and win the reader with the happy ending.
It hurts!
It’s memorable!
I want to cry.
That’s great!

And in those tears sits the truth. Writing is hard work. We go against everything rational and safe in our sense of survival to give our readers a ride they’ll never forget. We devour movies and sitcoms looking for clever twists to life; we walk through fields of flowers or beside highways of heavy traffic to try and see the world through someone else’s eyes; we write and re-write until our eyes cross and our finished product doesn’t resemble the original idea in the least.

Ah yes, those irritating traits we now possess that make quirky situations stick in our minds like gum on the bottom of our shoes.


I was less than a six-month tenured employee when the task of preparing all the necessary files for the office-wide Affirmative Action audit was thrust into my lap. I recognized the Black Moment of my otherwise happy job yawning before me. Fight or run? Sink or swim? Do or die?

It’s okay for those frantic thoughts to run through our minds and it’s perfectly alright for them to race through your hero/heroine’s mind, too. Being honest with ourselves puts us higher up on the food chain. God gave us the ability to reason through our problems, and God gave us the desire to encourage one another to be our best. God loves us enough to never give us more than we can swallow.

Go and download the score sheet of a contest you respect. Look at the elements the judges are to consider. Do you have them incorporated in your story? Be honest now, okay? Does your dialogue so natural? Are you using all five senses? Have you sprinkled in enough, or too many, commas?

How badly do you want to enter the Rita? Participate in a booksigning? Be recognized as XXX’s lead author?

See the truth, face your fears, and stifle your impatience. God has good things planned for us.
Oh, and BTW, here it is, a year later, and I’ve been gifted with a new office chair and two lateral files of my own. Next year, I’m hoping for an electric stapler and keys to the postage machine.

May God’s blessings fill you abundantly!!


Katherine Harms said...

You have a lot of courage, and grit, too, to take on a job when writing is already a full-time job, engaging all your time, energy and creativity. I think sometimes about going back, and then my stomach hurts. Thank goodness, I have no children at home.
My mother thought everything I wrote was great, but apparently editors with sales goals don't feel the same way. I don't like criticism, and I hate rejection. I want my first creative outflow to be the breakout novel of the year. I hate that my inspired writing isn't a finished work. I must die to self and follow the Holy Spirit to the end. Thank you for encouraging me to persistence and high standards.
Thank you for sharing your odyssey. And may you get that electric stapler!

Audra Harders said...

LOL, Katherine : ) This job started as a temporary experience and I simply assumed ownership of the postition -- and I have my firstborn starting college in the fall. Can we all say Economics?? Still, God has a sense of humor in his care and feeding of audra. I've found some incredible fodder for stories here!! Thanks for your sympathy and I'm glad I could nudge up your persistence : )

Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, I don't think I could survive a full-time job, too! But you're obviously doing great, Audra, with all the contest wins you've raked in.

Tina M. Russo said...

Ah the wonderful truth to the old theory: if you're gonna write about life, you gotta live life.

And as I sit in the comfort of my home office (watching it snow like crazy and checking the calendar to be sure it is May) I realize that my trial work from home is not nearly as successful as my out of office job life.

I am now job hunting. Frankly it is not just the financials. I am better at trimming the fat out of my life, and balancing the balls when I am not in my home office. Why is that?

I get more done with less time alloted. I am more effecient too.

I hate the admission but it is true. I was ruthless when I had a job outside the home. Now I am just ho-hum.

Audra Harders said...

Hi, Melanie! I wanted to stay in bed this morning since big, fat snowflakes are falling and my husband got to stay home today!!

Mary Connealy said...

New files!!??? You are so spoiled, Audra.

Audra Harders said...

Oh Tina, I'm with you 100 per cent!! It's taken me a long while, but I find I'm more organized with my home time now. Snatching moments for writing is still a challenge, but I've discovered comp time comes in real handy for that while everyone else is working or in school.
Oh I'm an awful mother : )

Audra Harders said...

Heh, heh, heh. They lock, too : )

Missy Tippens said...

Such a great post, Audra!!

I really do think the sooner we can learn to take critique and feedback from others (without falling apart, I might add!), the better off we'll be. Now, I'm not talking about the flaying of flesh off bones as you mentioned, but the thoughtful, honest feedback from someone we trust. We're just too close to our work sometimes and need someone who can be objective (and who doesn't anticipate every word right before reading it--you know, since we practically memorize our manuscripts!).

I'm glad work is going well for you. I've found I'm much more likely to get good writing done after I went back to work part-time. So Tina, you're in good company. (At least I hope you count me as good company! :))

Missy--enjoying a nice bold coffee with Irish Cream creamer and Splenda.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Audra, great post about dealing with life and the chronic ups and downs, and time demands.

About those time demands????

Plenty of time to rest in the grave, ladies...

Ben Franklin. Smart dude.

And Jason Michael Carrol has a country song out that says...

"I can sleep when I'm dead..."

Of course HIS song is about partying, and I don't think that's what's keeping most of us up at night, but the economics of Audra's situation ring true for most of us.

We need money. Moola. Samolians.

But Audra, aspiring toward an electric stapler sounds greedy, sweetcheeks. Maybe just a deluxe Swingline in bright red. A total upper, and still a bit of exercise throughout the day.


In honor of the Colorado snowfall which I'm thankfully NOT privy to here in upstate NY, let's do a hot chocolate/cappuccino bar this morning to balance this amazing fritatta I just made.

So easy, and the perfect country breakfast. And how about some Texas toast on the side, with home-made cherry preserves, of course.

And we'll finish with a mid-day trifle I'm practicing for the shower on Saturday. Who doesn't love a good trifle?????

Raspberry or strawberry, ladies? Your choice.

And Audra, I'm totally with Tina on the job front scenario. The more you have to do, the more efficient we become. It might not seem so at first, but it happens, and we use that time to the best of our ability when it's scarce. And we seem to appreciate it more.

And btw, darling, how is R&R coming along?????

Gina's waiting for me (I'm such a dork, Gina, I won't even tell you... But I'm waiting in a similar vein for our Audra here, and I'm waiting with baited breath...)


Get a move on, Cupcake.


Missy Tippens said...

Well, I hate to tell all of you who are experiencing snow that it's 74 degrees and gorgeous here! I may go ice my coffee since it's supposed to hit 80 deg. today.

Ahhhhh. I'm so glad winter is over.


Audra Harders said...

Missy, you are so right about about knowing our own words too well. I used to resist deleting because I thought I'd never be so inspired again : )

I hardly think teaching is a part time job!! You have your hands full of class prep and being the nurturing soul you are, every child's problem becomes yours, right?

Hey, anyone can have 80 degrees in May. . .can you claim a blizzard on May Day???

Audra Harders said...

Ruthy, are you on a diet?? All that food talk has me looking at my low fat yogurt and multi grain muffin with distain : )

I don't know how you juggle all the facets of your life, girlfriend. I haven't been current on the Seeker loop lately (shameful, shameful), but I know you're always doing 10 things to my one.

I know you're waiting for R&R, but take a deep breath, It's gonna be a while yet. . .

Ruth Logan Herne said...

All right, I'll wait, albeit impatiently...

And I know how crazy it must be, to be in thick of raising children, keeping a home (well, kind of... little smirk here), keeping a husband (time-consuming endeavor) and working a job.

And kids grow up real quick, so it's good to enjoy them while they're around.

And food:

It's only considered good manners to present your guests with your very best, whether that be a morsel from the bread drawer, or a full-blown meal.

And since it's e-food, I've got plenty, LOL!!!

But no Orlando today. He was busy reading scripts for possible contracts, so we'll catch him another day.

Although I did hear a rumor that Gerard Butler was going to drop by sometime soon.

Be still my heart....


Tina M. Russo said...

Missy, it was 78 here in Colorado yesterday.

We get to taste it all.

Sounds like a great storyline.

Lorna said...

Audra, as the wife of an Extension youth development specialist and as a fellow 4-H leader, my admiration for you has increased ten-fold. I know what it means to "bleed green" in the Clover way, and I know how hard you must be working both there and at home. Thank you for sharing your excellent comparisons, too.

Ruthie, I love hot chocolate. Can we make it Ghiradelli's if I bring the double chocolate cocoa?

Gina Welborn said...

I'm so overwhelmed with cutting brilliant words from my brilliant manuscript that I can't even remember what Audra posted about three seconds after I finished reading it.

Where's Orlando when I need him...umm, some coffee.

Begin count: 92,530 words, 417 pgs

Current count: 86,849, 394 pgs

And I'm at page 118. Despite the *cringe* realization that I'm brilliant-but-wordy, I'm amazed that a little snip here and there along the way adds up quickly.

Debby Giusti said...

I seem to be getting more inefficient by the day! Guess I need to get a job.

But you're right, I fill the time I have for a task. If the day is mine, the task can take hours. Put me under the gun, and the work zips along.

Snow? I'm sitting just about an hour and a half from Missy, enjoying the sunshine and warm May day!

Speaking of . . . it's the National Day of Prayer. Please offer one up for our country and our future. Add one for the guys and gals deployed throughout the world too!

Missy Tippens said...

Well, Audra, I'm not as sweet as you think. Besides, I teach adults. :) But you're right about prep and grading tests and all. It takes more time than just class time.

Congratulations on your May Day blizzard! But I'm not a bit jealous. LOL (My kids would beg to differ. They rarely get good snow.)


Audra Harders said...

Hey Lorna, high fives on the *bleeding green*, LOL! Now everyone will know who wrote the new 4-H mss on the contest circuit!!

Audra Harders said...

Debby, thank you for the reminder of today being the National Day of Prayer. Our country has so much to be thankful for and we need so much guidance!

Pam Hillman said...

Hi guys! I'll pop in later and read all the comments...

Gotta run. Mil's cooking STEAKS (real ones, not fake!) for my nephew's Marine graduation celebration dinner.

Great job, Audra!

Pam Hillman said...

Before I go....that full-time job...and free books over at WAP has kept me away all day too! lol

Missy Tippens said...

ROFL, Pam!!! I know what you mean. We don't ever splurge on steaks unless I get some fantastic clearance bargain. And then they're usually cut from a chuck roast. So when my mom and dad come and buy "Real" steaks, it's a big deal in our household! :)


Audra Harders said...

Mmmm, steaks? Like from a cow? I've been eating chicken for so long I've forgotten what beef tastes like!

Julie Lessman said...

Hi Sweetie! Miss you!

You said: "And I’ll have you know, my mother loved my writing."

Well, you and Katherine are one up on me there, I'm afraid. At the age of twelve, I remember giving my mom my 150 pages of the original manuscript of "A Passion Most Pure" to read. It must have been pretty bad because she said she "couldn't get past the first page because it was so dry." Hmmm ... maybe she was just breaking me in for editors ...

Julie Lessman said...

I get more done with less time alloted. I am more effecient too.

OMIGOSH, Tina, I SOOOOO needed to hear that!! I quit my day job over a month ago and now I feel as if I am slow as sludge. It seems to me that I got TONS done when I had less time, where as now I seem to spin in circles. It has been bothering me so much that I've actually been thinking that something is wrong ... like maybe I have brain fog or something. I guess I just have to work smarter and crack the whip a bit more ... but at least I'm glad this is normal ... uh, or at least as "normal" as a Seeker can be ...

Janet Dean said...

Excellent post, Audra. Sorry I'm a day late. I'm blaming it on not having a day job. Think I'll get Seeker posts e-mailed to me. That ought to haul me over here.

My mom was the leader of my 4-H club, the Chummy Chums. I took baking, food prep, photography, sewing, personality improvement. Do they still have that one? The county fair was the highlight of summer.

High of 77 today. Rain is predicted. We're participating in our community garage sale tomorrow.


Melanie Dickerson said...

I couldn't wait until both my kids were in school so I could "write all day." Ha. I hardly write at all now. But then, I've been blaming it on all the smackdown contest scores and comments I've had recently, along with all the rejections. Got another one yesterday. At least she liked my plot. She even took it to her agency's review committee, but alas, I'm smacked down again.

Audra Harders said...

Julie said: Hmmm ... maybe she was just breaking me in for editors ...

Sweet stuff...Maybe your mom and I weren't reading the same book. Dry? The only thing making your work of art dry is my fanning myself as I read, LOL!!!

Know what though? I'll bet you were a little spitfire when you were teeny (wait! you still are!) and good ol' mom thought she better nip her little temptress in the bud before she blew any hope of writing inspy : ) Whew! Chalk one up for the Bright Side!!!

Love ya, Jules!!

Audra Harders said...

Janet said: My mom was the leader of my 4-H club, the Chummy Chums.

We're the Busy Beavers and Gary has a hard time using the club name with our .22 Rifle team at State. LOL! Poor guy, he'd really like something more along the lines of Sharp Shooters or The Salty Dogs. Oh well, we inherited the club. . .

Oh, and I don't think work is what side tracks you. Maybe something more along the lines of world traveler : ) Enjoy! Life is too short not to love the moments given you.

Audra Harders said...

Aw, Melanie, I'm bumming with you! Smackdowns were not intended for anything besides chili. I'm scooping up extra prayers for you this month, babycakes. Spring is no time to mope, especially since your kids will soon be home for the summer. . .

Ann said...

Audra -- since I just dropped off the last registration paper for our kids' 4-H heifers today, I appreciate the people gifted with organization who make the Extension office go ...

Last spring I took a job in town for the first time in 11 years. I'm using my time at work to people-watch. I work at a tourist trap so I have quite a selection to watch.

I'm out of my comfort zone but I think God can use that ...

Audra Harders said...

Ann, good for you! Sometimes a change of scenery to rekindle the creative flame is good for us all. Of course, I'd love something in a size 4 hours a day, but you can't always get what you want : )

I appreciate everyone who has commented on the 4-H program or have ever stepped into an Extension office. Fascinating place, folks! Since that's where most of my days are spent, you'll probably notice more horticulture, home economics and agriculture sprinkled into my blogs. Oh yes, have I ever mentioned my daughter is going to college to become a farmer...?

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Audra. Do you guys remember me?

I suppose vaguely..........


Found myself flicking through tv late last night in bout of choices for shows.

History Channel...UFOs
Biography Channel...Jeffrey Dahmer
O'Reilly Factor...Hillary Clinton

Not sure which was scarier...none helped me sleep.

Ausjenny said...

im late to WAP kept me there last night then this morning i was running late as usual and now getting to the other blogs.
Im not a writer but im not sure i could deal with a full time job either.
Oh Missy congrats on winning a free book

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Audra, I love your spunk and know some editor is going to be blessed to scoop you up! I'm glad that you're getting some good fodder for future stories and I can't wait to see those on the shelves!