Fun With The Kids

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I haven’t written a blog post in almost two full months. Partly I’ve been working on my novel, but mostly it’s because I really want to post something light, funny maybe, and lately, with the distressing state of the world, I haven’t felt that way. But the other night, I had a great time with my kids…

We just subscribed to our free month of Netflix. I know, I know, Netflix is old and I’m so behind. But I wasn’t even sure how it would work here in Egypt, and quite frankly, I totally plan on cancelling before the free month is over. Anyway…so we watched our first movie the other day. We chose ‘The Prince of Egypt’ as our first pick. I was rather disappointed by it all. The makers did it a disservice to the film by removing almost all religious context from the story. Throughout the entire movie, I kept having to tell the kids, “Well, that’s not the real story; that’s not how it is in the Qur’an…and probably not how it is in the Bible.” Disappointing.

After that let down we needed something funny. Scrolling through, we found ‘Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.’ Now, most parents would not encourage their children to watch a movie about a young student who ditches school and goes all over Chicago having a grand-ol’ time. Most parents would not want their kids to get ideas about how to deceive their parents, how to trick their school administration, how to take their parent’s car without permission…and after all this, never get caught. Most parents are far too responsible to expose their children to all of that….

Well not me! As soon as I saw it on the list, I yelled out, “YOU GUYS HAVE TO SEE THAT! It’s such a good movie!”

Clearly, there is something lacking in my parenting skills…but whatever! Now’s not the time to dwell on that…

We had a blast watching Ferris as he played sick, fooling his parents and his friends (not his sister, though!). We loved watching him take the restaurant reservation for the ‘Sausage King of Chicago,’ then sneak out without his father seeing him. His rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ on the parade float was well appreciated by all (although, the kids probably liked it just because I was making a fool of myself singing along!). They loved watching the beat-down Ed Rooney chase after his car as the tow-truck pulled it away! I wonder if they wished the same fate upon their own principal?

We laughed the whole movie through. It was a great time. And for that, I’m gonna go ahead and count it a parenting win. Not because it was a good choice (because who are we kidding?), but because we spent time together, laughed together, and hopefully, they’ll remember that more than any of the specifics of the movie. (I know, I know…not likely. But it could happen!)

Thank you for reading my post. Please give it a like. If you’d like to read some of my fiction, simply click here to read the character interviews for the women of my latest novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write and I think you’ll enjoy them. Again, thank you so much for your support. 

Rays of Love

 

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I pray the hate never finds you,

I pray you live protected from its jagged blade.

I pray it does not tear at your heart,

That it does not shred you

From the inside out.

 

I pray the hate never finds you,

I pray you live protected from its jagged blade,

I pray it does not puncture your flesh,

That it does not shred you

From the outside in.

 

Come,

Hide ourselves and our children in the bosom of compassion,

And when hate comes,

Hold up our shields of brotherhood,

Warn it off with our saber of love.

Stand our ground, lock arms,

And let it not penetrate the circle.

 

Multiple rays of love can melt the hate.

 

I pray the hate

never finds you.

©Hend Hegazi

 

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

Writing Backwards

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is already more than a quarter finished. Writers from all over the world are scribbling, typing and running word sprints as you read this, trying to complete the goal of writing 50,000 words in just one month.

This is only my third year NaNo-ing, and I have no real intention of ‘winning.’ I haven’t visited the official NaNo site once, nor have I even been tallying my word count. But I do lurk around the NaNo Facebook group that I’m on, giving words of encouragement and sometimes finding inspiration in their posts. One of the best parts about NaNo is that it turns writing from a solitary act to a team sport; that connection with other writers who are also creating characters and living in fictional worlds unites us in normalizing these seemingly escapist techniques.

My personal goal with NaNo is just to keep disciplined—to write for two hours daily. And of course, just days ago, I failed that goal. Partly, it was the weekend and writing while the kids are home is like trying to roast a leg of lamb in a toaster oven: yes, the heat is on, but the door will never close and the task is simply too grand for that tiny toaster.

The other reason is I just don’t know how the rest of my scene is supposed to play out. I sat there for a while, staring at the pen in my hand, unsure of what to do next. Then, I remembered something…

When I began writing my debut novel, Normal Calm, I had a revelation that afterwards made me feel so silly for not realizing earlier: When we read books we must read them chronologically for them to make sense. You must read page one, followed by page two, and so on. But one of the beauties of writing a novel, is that one is not governed by that same law. I can very well write the final scene of the novel first, if I so choose, and no reader will ever be the wiser. Writing backwards, I call it (even though it would be more appropriately called ‘writing out of order,’ but what fun is that?).

Writing backwards is what will save me with this novel. I have a few scenes ready in mind, and so the time has come for me to abandon the scene which is giving me trouble and work on another. The added bonus of that, is that usually my subconscious will continue to figure out that troubled scene, and by leaving it alone for a while, the solution will probably make itself know to me very naturally.

If you haven’t already, try writing backwards, and see how it works for you.

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

Homesick in Autumn

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Today it looks like it’s going to rain. I miss the rain.

But I miss the rain that falls on grass and makes puddles. I miss walking with its pitter-patter bouncing off my head and shoulders and its calm wetness melting on my tongue. I miss the rain in a place I still call home, which will soon no longer belong to the family who has owned it for nearly forty years. I miss watching the rain through the bay window. I miss that bay window. I miss my room, next to the bay window. And sitting in the yard, enjoying the soft shade and fresh breeze. I miss the oranges and reds of autumn, and that serene, smoky smell is holds. Oh, I can almost smell it! I don’t go there enough in my mind. And soon, I won’t even be able to go there in body.

After all these years, why do I still call it home? I live ages away from that place now. Here, the rain is not the same. Here, the rain forms rivers on the paved streets and spits grime on my clothes. But this is my true home now. This is the home that shelters me, and in which I live and love. And I am happy here, despite missing the rain. So why do I still call the blue house with the rock in the yard my home?

I spent my childhood there, all my youth. It was the only home I knew for twenty-three years. It will always be home, even once it isn’t. It is not a building, it is an entire system; it is the people, the experiences and the settings that nurtured me. It will remain where I grew up, where I played. It will remain the place that held me so that I could become me.

Today, it looks like it’s going to rain.

I miss the rain.

 

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

For the Love of Books

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I have loved to read ever since I was a child. My parents were not in the habit of reading to us, and I don’t think they ever really encouraged us to read either. My dad has always been a math and science guy, so he stressed those subjects. Literature? Not so much. Growing up, neither of my brothers liked to read. And if he didn’t have a degree saying he’s an actual, real life dentist, I may even argue that my older brother doesn’t even KNOW how to read! Just kidding. He totally knows how to read…I saw a Dr. Seuss book on desk when I was there over the summer.

Anyway, in my case, I think it was the influence of my teachers that taught me the love of reading. I don’t remember vividly, because it was so long ago (and I have four kids, which means my brain cells are probably more fried than if I had been a druggie), but I do vaguely remember story time. I remember sitting in a circle with the rest of my classmates and listening to teachers read. My guess is, that’s how I learned to love reading.

But now, my kids don’t get story time at school. And only one of them is showing any interest in reading. I really want to nourish this love, but unfortunately, we don’t have public libraries here. And although I may be able to download books onto his tablet, I feel that digital books are just substandard, especially for kids. I don’t want him on a device, sucking up whatever kinds of waves they have and have not yet discovered being emitted from those things. I don’t want his reading time to be screen time. But the bigger problem is that I simply can’t afford to buy him a paperback book every few weeks. But I can’t afford to have him lose this interest either. I am torn.

So I’m trying to find free e-books, and I can read (at least partly) to them. My kids enjoy that; even my teenager enjoys it when I read to them. I do voice acting, which really keeps them engaged. The problem is it’s very easy to get out of the habit when our routine gets thrown off due to traveling or whatever, and it is very difficult to get back in the habit, mostly because it takes my kids FOREVER to get ready for bed.

But tonight, they did it. They got ready (relatively) early, and we had time to read together. We started The Wind in the Willows (because it was free!), and even though the language is a bit beyond them, and the digital version has no illustrations, they enjoyed it. And so did I.

Now we have a different problem altogether. I mean, do YOU know the difference between a mole, a badger and an otter? Google has already caught me looking up rifles and Dallas and trolls and recipes for cinnamon rolls (which turned out pretty good, actually) and folding furniture and all sorts of madness this week…guess we have to add furry creatures to the list now, too!

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. For a peek at some of my fiction writing, please click here and I’ll send you the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they truly are characters from a book. Check it out.)

The Blessing of Bad Writing

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I’m working on my third novel, and praise God, I’m actually moving along at a reasonable pace. So much so, that I’m not even stressed about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) being less than a week away. I’m already in the groove, already have my daily writing time allotted. I’m actually hoping that if I can maintain this discipline, and continue to make my writing a priority, I may be able to finish this novel before the end of the year.

There is only one problem: it’s complete crap. There are some scenes I’m literally cringing at just how awful they are. My second novel was a vast improvement—in terms of writing— from my first. I see it, and many of my readers do as well. And I love that. Naturally, I’d like this one to be even better. But I wonder if I’ll be able to make that happen. And that doubt makes me hesitate. And when a writer hesitates, she can easily get off track, lose momentum. So what to do?

Stop thinking and keep writing…even if it is crap. It sounds almost counterintuitive, like I should really take a break and reevaluate, but no…any professional writer will tell you, sometimes the crap has to be spilled on the page in order to get to the gems. Fixing the bad writing, taking out the useless scenes, improving the language, all that stuff gets done with subsequent drafts. The first draft is the brain spill draft; write it as it comes to you, no matter how horrible it may seem. Maybe there are two conflicting scenes, and you’re torn between which to choose? Write them both; once more of the story reveals itself to you, you’ll know which one to keep. (And you may even be able to use the other one in a different project.) Can’t think of the perfect word to use? Leave a blank space; it will either come to you later as you write or during your editing.

Really, that’s what NaNo is all about; writing, writing, writing, never stopping to edit. And that’s really why so many people can ‘win’ it. NaNo isn’t about producing a publishable novel; it’s about maintaining the motivation to write daily—through the good and the bad—to get so far ahead, you can’t possibly quit, and to give yourself a first draft that you can then re-write and edit into the next bestseller.

That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. I’ll keep you updated.

 

For a peek at some of my fiction writing (some of my better stuff; I promise it’s not crap!), please click here and I’ll send you the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they truly are characters from a book. Check it out.

Climbing the Writer’s Pyramid

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Let me start by telling you my favorite part of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ In the early sections of the book, one of the main things that struck me, was his acknowledgment of his wife’s part in his work. Did you know that if it hadn’t been for her, Carrie probably never would have been written? (And if it had never been written, it never would have become a movie!) His wife literally pulled the crumpled pages of his first draft from the trash, and told him he was onto something. I love that he gives her that credit. Throughout the book, he presents his appreciation and love for her so simply, and yet, so sincerely. He explains that she is his Ideal Reader—when he writes, he writes for her; if he can get the right reaction from her, then he knows he’s got it! Can you imagine what it would be like to have your spouse be your Ideal Reader? Or is that just me being jealous because my husband doesn’t even speak the language I write in, let alone read it? At any rate, I love that King was so forthright with something that he could have easily decided was too personal to be in a book about writing. To me, that says something about his integrity.
Throughout the book, I continued to be astonished by the realization that what I go through as an unknown, emerging author is so similar to what he goes through as a famous, established writer. It makes me feel like part of the club, if you will. It gives me immense hope. Well, it did… until I read about his thoughts on the quality of writers. According to King, writers can be represented in a pyramid chart, where the base are the bad writers, followed by the competent ones, the good, and finally the great are at the apex. He makes a note that the great are only the elite, the ones whose work will continue to be read for generations after their deaths. Then he explains that no amount of practice or learning can turn a bad writer to a competent one. Likewise, no amount of practice or learning can make a good writer great. The only progress possible, he says, is to go from competent to good.

Now, with about 50 novels under his belt, King obviously knows writing. And he knows writers, both through his profession as a writer and through his past profession as an English teacher. Compared to him, I know nothing. I should probably take what he says as truth, and just move on. But I can’t. I disagree that bad and good writers can’t make those jumps to the next levels. Maybe that makes me naïve—or just an idiot—but I do disagree.

I believe that with the right amount of training and practice, a writer can always improve, no matter where she ranks on the pyramid. It’s like anything: the more you practice, the better you become. I mean, I probably would agree that you can’t transform a bad writer into a great one, but besides for that, improvement is always a possibility. It’s like me with golf; I have never played golf, and even my performance during the golf unit we had in high school PE (a million years ago) was an embarrassment. I’m fairly certain that my club never once made contact with the ball, let alone sent it anywhere near a hole. But if I practiced for two hours each day and watched some videos and maybe had a patient teacher mentor me for a while, wouldn’t I get better? I wouldn’t be challenging Tiger Woods to any matches (does he still play?), but I would improve. If I were dedicated enough to put in the time, my performance would certainly improve. So why wouldn’t it be the same for writers?

I’m gonna go ahead and label myself a good writer. And while I realize that it is highly unlikely that I can make it to great, I will continue to try. And I encourage you to do the same, no matter what field your passion is in. Can’t hurt to try.

And if you’d like a sample of my fiction writing (perhaps to make a decision about whether or not I should be calling myself a good writer at all!), please click here to join my email list. You’ll automatically be sent the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they truly are characters from a book. Check it out.