Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving Thanks

Like everyone else, this week has had me thinking about the blessings in my life. And especially now, with all the chaos in the world and the economy, I suspect it's especially important for us to remember those things aren't the sum total of our reality.

I'm grateful for my kids. I'm grateful my son is in a wonderful group home and can learn limits and social skills he hasn't before. I'm grateful my daughter is doing so well in graduate school and is such a marvelous young woman!

I'm grateful for my dog Sophy and the way she makes me laugh, even if she does like mud a little too much. (See her blog post about it here: Sophy's Dog Eye View of the World.

I'm grateful my ex and I are on good terms.

I'm grateful for my friends—whether here in Austin or all around the country.

I'm grateful for my fellow writers and the chance to offer my writing classes online. I'm grateful for the chance to share what I know and to learn from my fellow writers as well.

I'm grateful for my house.

I'm grateful for Austin and the rain we're getting now as well as the blue skies and sunshine and warmth we get most of the year. I'm grateful for all the creative people in Austin and everyone else as well—it's a terrific mix.

I'm grateful to have enough to eat and clothes to wear. (A friend's mother made the observation that we are rich if we have things to give away—whether money, food, clothes or household goods. A great way to look at life and so very true!)

I could go on and on. And some days I do. Realizing how much I have to be grateful for is a good antidote to fear or worry or jealousy.

Here's hoping each of you has your own very long list of things to be grateful for!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Revisions Workshop and Next Book in a Week

As promised, here's the information about my next workshop. For those who have asked about the next Book in a Week workshop, that will start in early January. I have details up on my website April Kihlstrom and will post here later in December but this gives you a chance to mark your calendars. Note that because I've had a number of people ask to take my classes more than once, there's a discounted rate if you've taken the class before.

For now, the next workshop I'll be offering is Revisions the Easy Way (called Revisions the Practical Way last time around).

Cost: $30 ($20 if you have taken this class before and are taking it again)
Dates: December 1, 2008 to December 12, 2008
Format: All classes via email so you can read them and post responses any time of day.
Deadline to sign up: November 28, 2008

Class size will be limited so that students can ask questions, post homework responses (if they so choose), do brainstorming, etc.

Course description:
I believe there is a far easier AND MORE EFFECTIVE way to make revisions than to start with page one and go through to the end. This class will look at a layered approach to making changes with the knowledge that every change has a ripple effect AND there are questions one ought to ask oneself before one does anything.

Lessons are designed to take the author through the revision process in a way that minimizes the rewriting time.  It is based on the concept that if one asks the right questions—in the right order—before one begins rewriting, the process is easier and faster and more effective. 

To sign up for Revisions the Easy Way send an email to with the title of the class in the subject line and in the body of the email please let me know whether you prefer to pay by check or Paypal.  (Note: Please let me know if you have taken the class before.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fires, Guest Blogging and Feeling Under the Weather

My apologies if I'm not entirely coherent today. I've come down with a bad cold. But I did want to post about the fires in California and ask for your good thoughts for all the families and firefighters affected by them.

It's easy, sometimes, to tune out news about places distant from where we are. But it can suddenly hit home too. I just found out that my brother's home was destroyed by those California fires. He and his family are safe. But his home is gone. And so is the building where he teaches his classes at Westmont College.

He's not the only one. Too many people have lost their homes in this latest round of fires. Too many people have been injured or killed. It seems as if these kinds of disasters are growing more frequent. Or maybe it's that we've become more aware of them. Either way, a lot of people could use your good thoughts and prayers right about now.

On a much happier note, I'm blogging at the Wet Noodle Posse blog this week on Wednesday, November 19th. I hope you'll go check it out. I'll be talking a bit about Book in a Week and why I believe in it so much as a way to grow as writers.

Which reminds me....I should settle on dates for my next online classes. I'm leaning toward a 2 week class on revisions for the beginning of December and my next Book in a Week class to start the beginning of January when I figure lots of people will be ready to dive into writing again after the holidays. Look for more information in next week's blog.

Meanwhile, please keep everyone affected by the California fires in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Veggie Chili

I make vegetarian chili a lot at this time of year. It's comforting and healthy and easy and uses up whatever veggies I have in the refrigerator. I use a crock pot and that makes it even easier because it simmers all day. I make it just for me and it usually lasts 3 or 4 meals—depending on how hungry I am, whether or not I add some rice, how many veggies I have on hand, etc. You may want something very different but here's how I do it:

can of beans or dried beans
can of tomato sauce or paste or diced tomatoes (depending on my mood and what I have in the cupboard)
diced zucchini
diced onions or pepper or whatever other veggies I have handy
chili powder to taste
enough water to create a good consistency
optional: rice (added an hour or so before I want to eat along with extra water so it stays the right consistency)

If I'm using canned beans, everything goes into the crock pot at once. If I'm starting with dried beans, I start them 2 or 3 hours earlier. With canned beans I can start it around noon. If I'm using dried beans I try to start it by 10am at the latest. I start it on high for about half an hour (to heat up the water) then turn it down to low for the rest of the time. (My crock pot only has two settings—high and low.)

I top the chili in my bowl with shredded cheese and sometimes make biscuits or bread sticks to go with it.

I suspect true chili aficionados would be horrified by my chili but...I like it. As I said before, it's easy, warms me up, is filling and healthy.

What are some of your healthy comfort foods at this time of year?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hiding Our Treasures

Despite all the cartoons, I've never had a dog that actually buried things. Until now. I was out for a long stretch today and when I came back gave my dog Sophy a rawhide treat. She ran outside and came back in a couple of minutes later. No treat. I looked outside. No treat. I asked her where it was. Obediently she took me to the spot where she had buried it and when I asked her to, she dug it up and brought it back inside. I reassured her that she didn't have to bury treats any more because there would always be treats for her. She settled down to happily chew it then.

I found myself wondering how many of us do the same thing—hoarding talent or ideas or money or...whatever out of fear there won't be any when we want or need it/them? How many of us are afraid we—and what we care about—won't be safe?

I think that it's this kind of fear that lies behind the deep divisions in this country as we go to the polls to vote. What I hope we remember—no matter who wins—is that we ALL want to be SAFE. We ALL want to know there will be ENOUGH when we need it. The louder the voices, the nastier the smears, you can be sure means the greater the fear. Because ultimately all conflict, deep down, is about some kind of fear.

If we're writers, we may hoard our ideas—or even our manuscripts—out of fear that someone will steal them. But if we don't take the risk of sending those manuscripts out then we can't get published at all. When we share challenges and ideas someone may think of possibilities that would enrich our writing in ways we would never think of ourselves.

It takes courage to face our fears and look beyond them to the possibilities. Just think what a difference it would make—in our lives, in our country, in the stories we might write or read—if we all did so.

Whatever your views, I hope you vote on Tuesday—or have already voted.