Mama Knows Best: Silas House

With Mother's Day coming up, we thought it would be fun to ask our writers, friends, and favorite Kentuckians to share the best advice their own mothers ever gave them.

Writer, musician, and activist Silas House's mama passed along the most timeless advice of all. Silas told us:
She told me to treat others as I'd want to be treated. The Golden Rule.

It doesn't get any simpler or more true than that.

{Thanks so much to Silas for sharing with us!}

Mama Knows Best: Robyn Peterman-Zahn

With Mother's Day coming up, we thought it would be fun to ask our writers, friends, and favorite Kentuckians to share the best advice their own mothers ever gave them.

Author, actress, and Lexington native Robyn Peterman-Zahn shared her mama's fantastic advice:

My Mom is the most amazing woman I know and I'm so very grateful she is mine. Here's some of her sage advice: "If you're going to lie, you'd better be really smart because the truth is a whole lot easier to remember than a lie!" Ironically, I make a living making up stories...
Robyn makes up stories in her series of sassy, funny paranormal novels, Fashionably Dead. I'd say she proved her mama right in the best possible way!
{Thanks to Robyn for sharing her mama's best advice!}

Mama Knows Best: Julie Wilson

With Mother's Day coming up, we thought it would be fun to ask our writers, friends, and favorite Kentuckians to share the best advice their own mothers ever gave them.

Image via Lexington Herald-Leader
Julie Wilson, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Lexington-based Story Magazine, shared some great advice. Julie is smart, hard-working, and all-around awesome. Did I mention that she recently interviewed The Coolest Kentuckian, Johnny Depp, for Story's Hunter S. Thompson issue? That fact alone makes her my Kentucky Writer Girl Crush.

Here's the sage advice Julie passed along to us:
"My mother told me to never settle. No matter how outlandish my dream might seem to others, I should always go for it. I know my Mom would be proud of me for not giving up." 
 Julie was recently named Business Owner of the Year by the Lexington chapter of NAWBO, was the subject of a KET documentary, and can't keep Story's Gonzo swag on the shelves. That's all pretty impressive for a business that's barely two years old! I'd say her mama's excellent advice paid off!!

{Thanks so much for sharing this fabulous advice with us, Julie!}

{Follow Your Dreams Friday} Megan Whitmer, Author of Between

This is one of my very favorite posts from the HerKentucky archives, as it's an awesome story of a dream come true. Early last year, HerKentucky writer Megan Whitmer learned that her novel Between was being published! I thought we'd revisit the post because Between is now available for pre-order on! Have a great weekend, and remember to follow your dreams! -- HCW

As many of you know from my very first post here on HerKentucky, I've been working on a young adult novel, BETWEEN, for about two years. I wrote it, then re-wrote it, re-wrote it, and re-wrote it again. I'm talking major, beginning-to-end rewrites, not including all the minor revisions I made on those drafts along the way.

Many times, usually about halfway through a rewrite when I realized I had written myself into a corner and couldn't find a way to make my plot work, I thought about giving up on it.

I'm glad I didn't.

I decided pretty early in life that I was going to write books. I gave up on that dream several times as I got older. Writing was always something I enjoyed, but I quit looking at it as something I would seriously pursue. I didn't even really understand how a person got a book published, and when I started looking into it, the whole process seemed so big and terrifying that it just felt too far out of reach for a girl from a tiny town in Kentucky with no publishing connections and no idea of where to start.

One day, I'm going to sit down with my daughters and tell them that. I'm going to explain how I almost let my silly fear of the unknown keep me from doing the one thing I'd known I wanted to do since I was old enough to make up stories. Some dreams might actually be a bit out of reach. (For instance, my goal of marrying Prince Harry is probably not going to happen and might even be slightly creepy at this point. And also I married a pretty stellar fella already.) But other dreams only seem out of reach because you're told that they're impractical, or that they're the kinds of dreams only certain people get to have.

I'm so thankful that I have the kind of family who never said, "This is ridiculous. Grow up."

This morning, I gave my six-year-old a really long, thought-out speech about how I had wanted to be an author ever since I was a little girl and it's important to never give up on what you want in life. She looked at me very seriously and said, "Mommy, my dream is to make toys and houses for all my Little Pet Shop animals."

I nodded, hugged her, and told her to go after it.

The Year of the Goal

I have decided that 2014 is The Year of The Goal.

Several of my blogger friends -- including HerKentucky's own Sarah and Lydia -- participate in the One Little Word project by Ali Edwards. It's pretty self-explanatory: you choose a word to serve as your guide for the year -- a word that embodies the things you hope to accomplish, or how you want your life to look in the upcoming year. (You can read about Sarah's word here and Lydia's word here.)

As I think of the year ahead, I am filled with so many ideas that I don't know where to start. I recently moved to a new home  in a city that, while familiar, has changed enough since I left to seem new and exciting. My beau and I have greeted some wonderful new opportunities, both personally and professionally. To be honest, I'm so bombarded with ideas for "what's next" that I'm a little overwhelmed. I can't do it all. 

Jessie Spano, y'all.
Maybe I can't do it all, but I can do most of it with some careful planning and even more carefully set goals.  That's why 2014 will be, at least for me, the Year of the Goal. Resolutions are easy to make. Dreams are easy to conceive. But goals? Goals are something that you plan to accomplish. Goals require action and accountability. Goals mean that you're going to get something done.

So, as 2014 came around, I asked myself "What do you want to accomplish this year?" I took those ideas and turned them into something concrete, with plenty of room to reassess, revise, and reestablish goals. I'm looking for long-term happiness and success, not crossing something off a to-do list just because I said I would.

I started January with three ideas. I want to publish my writing in more outlets, I want to exercise more frequently, and I want to start knitting again. I turned each idea into a goal: "I will publish in forums x, y, and z by the end of the year"; "I will complete another half-marathon this spring"; and "I will knit a scarf in January." See how my aspirations were turned to declarations? Goals are something you will accomplish. 

Knitting was an easy skill to re-learn. Today is January 8th, and I'm nearly finished with a dark grey wool scarf for my beau. That one was almost too easy. 

Country Music 1/2 Marathon, 2008

As for the 1/2 Marathon, I don't know if it's the right goal. Of course, I'd need to start a training program right about now to get myself up to 13 miles in the spring. But, I've been fighting a back injury for several months, and I worry that this isn't the most attainable goal. Getting fit might be a better goal for my long-term health and fitness. I'm consulting with a doctor and logging my mileage. I'm not giving up just yet, though. There are exactly 100 days until the Derby Mini. A lot can be accomplished by then.

Promising Prose.
And then there's writing. I've devoted a lot of time to brainstorming ways to make various articles and essays better fit their intended audience. I've studied the submission guidelines for the publications in which I want to be published. But, I don't know any surgeons or lawyers or any other professionals who got to be great just by brainstorming and studying. They succeeded by practicing their trade. So, in 2014, I will reach my publication goals by writing more. It's easy to call oneself a writer. But, as Holly Golightly famously asked her neighbor Paul, "Do you write every day? Did you write today?" I hope to write something every day in 2014, even if it's just a character sketch or a well-planned Facebook status. I nearly allowed this goal to be derailed because our new computer, ordered just before last year's end, was delayed in shipping. If you think about it, though, the list of great works that were not composed using OS Maverick is infinitely longer than its cutting-edge counterpart. Writing simply takes an idea and a means for recording. A goal shouldn't be abandoned due to a mere technicality.

Limping to the finish line. I didn't run it all, but I did finish the thing!!

I figure I'll add goals as I mark others as complete. But, I want to embrace this year as the year I get things done.

2014 is The Year of the Goal.  (Click to Tweet.) What are your goals for 2014?

Finding Inspiration

May is all about Inspiration here on HerKentucky. 

Last week, our writers posted about the mothers who'd inspired them and the many ways that Kentucky has inspired their own parenting decisions. As we planned the editorial calendar for the rest of the month, we talked about additional ways to spotlight the Kentucky women who've inspired us -- mothers and daughters, graduates and brides. It's a really well put-together plan; I'm quite proud of it. Speaking of which, did you see the awesome blog entry I wrote yesterday?

No, you sure didn't. Because I've, as my grandmother would say, run plum out of inspiration. I just have nothing to say. For a "word girl", as my editrix at Ace calls me, that's a bad situation indeed.  Recently, I've been working on a novel, a couple of freelance projects, and some essays. And, for the past few days, they've all been on hold. I just have nothing to say. I'm in serious need of inspiration.

I've been thinking a lot about inspiration lately. As a writer, I find that my work is intimately tied into my geographical surroundings. I write more about traditions and history when I'm in the mountains, and my work is ever-so-slightly lighter when I'm in the city. If I leave a piece incomplete in transit, I have trouble making the parts match tonally. As a writer, I'm obsessed with the implications of regionalism. It's not surprising that I count Mr Faulkner and Pat Conroy as literary heroes. Simply put, I think that "Place" is the key to most stories. (By the way, who wants to road trip to Nashville with me next week to go see that Chinese-American New Yorker who wrote a bluesy novel about the Mississippi Delta, which he's never seen? He's doing a Q&A at Parnassus, and I have so many questions for him.)

I take so much inspiration from the accents and customs around me and the landscape that frames them. Maybe I shouldn't try so hard to force inspiration; maybe it's just there. Maybe it's all around me if I just sit back and observe. Makes sense, right?

The other day, I stood in my mother's yard with my iPhone for several minutes, trying to capture the perfect photo of a butterfly in the lilac bush. It was patient, and so was I, and eventually the whole thing came together in a stunning fashion. 

But, you know, the other handful of pictures were pretty damned good as well. And, if the butterfly hadn't fully opened its wings, or if it had never turned to just the right angle, it still would have been a beautiful and perfect moment. I suppose I should look at inspiration the same way -- the perfect circumstances may never arise. The perfect inspiration likely isn't out there; maybe there are plenty "perfectly good enough" moments to kick me into gear. 

What about y'all? Where do you find your inspiration?


November means a lot of things.

Basketball season begins. Football season gets interesting. The world is divided into those folks who decorate for the holidays before Thanksgiving, and those who don't.

For some reason, November's internet brings a plethora of memes. For the guys, there's No-Shave November and its weak cousin Movember. For the Facebook crowd, there's Thirty Days of Thankful. And, for the writers among us, there's NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month, despite it's horrid acronym, is a writing project that operates under a very simple idea. You have thirty days to write a book. Don't take forever, don't overthink it. Get it done. Get out of your head and write. 

The HerKentucky writing team were all over the place when asked if they were participating this year.  Megan W just finished a round of revisions on her existing book and is, as my granny would say, "wore plum out" with writing. Sarah's undertaking a November challenge of her own -- she's slowing down, taking control of her days, and "Saying No in November." Lydia is knee-deep in big life changes. So, in short, a lot of us just don't have time right now.

Emily and I are both writing in November. Emily tells me she's a "NaNoWriMo rebel", as she's writing non-fiction rather than a true novel. I have a good outline from the idea I developed while attending the Southern Festival of Books; I don't know if it'll take off into a full-size novel by December 1, but I'm certainly giving it a try!

What about y'all? Anybody else doing NaNoWriMo? Or No-Shave November? Or some awesome November meme I don't even know about?