Wednesday, April 30, 2008

That Time of Year

Well, it's that time of year. Planting tomato and zucchini plants, stress for kids in college, HOA meetings.

My daughter and I had lunch at a wonderful spot in Austin this Saturday—the Eastside Cafe. Wonderful food and they have a gorgeous garden where they grow produce. Plus plants for sale. One zucchini plant and one tomato plant have gone into the ground in my back yard. Mind you, I had to get some fresh dirt first. What I have isn't the best in the world.

My daughter and I swapped grad school stories. Discovered there were things I'd never told her before. And I found myself thinking how much things have changed.

My HOA had its annual meeting this week, too. We were reminded that we're going to be annexed soon. Don't get me wrong—it's a lovely town. I'm just not so thrilled knowing how much my property taxes are going to go up as a result of our annexation! Lots of intense emotions, too, about choices the HOA will have to make about what to turn over to the city and what to keep. I found myself thinking I could see both sides and honestly didn't know which the better choice would be. Eventually I slipped out and walked back home, thinking how nice it was that I COULD walk home from where the HOA was meeting.

Mind you, this time of year also brings the annual fight against fire ants and I've had to mow my lawn quite a few times already but....still, it's a nice time of year.

Oh, and if you're curious to know more about my online Book in a Week class, Debora Dale has posted an interview with me on her blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Every year at this time, I think of my cross country journey in 2003. It ultimately led to me settling here in the Austin area. I think with fondness of that adventure. (And I thought gas prices were high then!) It was, as one friend said at the time, a journey in emotional as well as physical miles.

Despite the concerns of some friends, I was perfectly safe going on my own. I learned a lot about myself. I learned it was okay to take wrong turns—sometimes that led to the most interesting experiences and it would turn out all right in the end any way. I learned that I could fit in anywhere. I learned that I liked people everywhere I went. I learned to let go of a lot of assumptions I had about myself and life. I learned that change was what life was all about.

Because of what I learned on that journey, I try, every year, to go new places and do new things. None of it is as grand as that cross country journey, but it doesn't have to be. Each new experience helps me grow. Each time I step outside my comfort zone, my comfort zone expands. And that's A GOOD THING.

What ways do you step outside your comfort zone? What are some of the experiences that are most vivid in your memory?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Do You Choose?

Who are you as a person? What are your priorities? How do you make choices? What are your fears? What are your hopes and dreams?

It's useful to ask ourselves those questions. Once we know, we can decide whether those answers are working for us or whether we want to rewrite them—and thereby improve our lives.

If we're writers, it's even more useful to ask ourselves these kinds of questions. If we pay attention to our own emotions and emotional responses to situations and people, then we have material for our writing, too.

Example: What is it that has allowed you at times to rise above your fears and do what's right even if you were scared or it wasn't what you wanted to do? Knowing the answer gives you a starting point for how a character in your story might grow or rise above his or her fears. If you write nonfiction, then knowing your own emotional high and low points and what works for you gives you a starting point for realizing what will matter to readers.

EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT A WRITER, it is useful to ask this question! All of us find ourselves at times in situations where, if we could change so that we rose above our fears or past patterns of behavior, it would get us out of a crisis or make life easier in some way. If we know what lets us rise above our fears and past patterns, then we can consciously choose to make sure that whatever worked before is present NOW as we set about making changes.

Isn't it great to know that we CAN rewrite our lives? Just because we've always had a fear of heights or had trouble managing money or told ourselves we couldn't do X, Y or Z doesn't mean we have to keep being that way!

And if we are writers, just think of the fodder for setting up turning points for our characters or in nonfiction recognizing what our readers' concerns (and possibly objections) will be.

So what questions can you ask yourself this week? What changes could you make in your life if you did?


PS I'm setting up an online class on REVISIONS THE PRACTICAL WAY. (April 25 to May 9, $25). Full details are on my website April Kihlstrom.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Unexpected

It’s easy to fall into patterns of thinking we know people by what we see. If we do so, however, we miss 9/10ths of what might be there.

When you pass the overweight woman in the store, do you stop to realize she might have been an aerobics instructor?

When you see the college professor, do you picture him hiking in the woods or playing a guitar?

When you see the harried mother in the airport, does it occur to you that she might be a high powered attorney?

When you see the young man with Down syndrome does it occur to you that he might play the piano?

If you are a writer creating characters, do you think to give them the unexpected talent or background or hobby?

Our lives will be richer if we look beyond the surface to see what we might not usually stop to notice or ask about or wonder. Our lives are richer when we truly look at people, look beyond our expectations and see the person who might defy every one of them. And the stories we write will be infinitely more interesting if we add dimensions to our characters that go beyond the surface to make each one unique.