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Long Overdue Update: What has been happening in 2015?

Another long gap without an update. I apologize. I do have a good reason, though; my husband and I had our first child in late March. I thought maybe maternity leave would give me time to write; I didn’t realize that both sleep dep and a newborn would combine forces to make that not happen. An unanticipated C-section (and the recovery that followed) didn’t help things, either. (I guess the pro is that I now have the firsthand experience in having surgery, as well as a baby…”research” complete on that front!) Finally, we also purchased and moved into our first home – and right after that, I went back to work to do a 4 week summer school stint to help make up for what I called the “maternity deficit.” (My job does not give me paid time off for maternity leave; after all the sick leave is cashed out, paychecks are just docked for all the days out. While it was pretty neat to get to “end” a school year at Spring Break, as the baby was due immediately after, the pocketbook was sad.)

Things have been quiet, then, on the writing front. However, in April I did start to reread the PIT books for the first time in aeons. (I think for PIT5 and PIT4…maybe even PIT3, it was the first time since they were published.) I’ve been pleased by how well they’ve held up so far. I get some weird memories, too – I remember writing a lot of that stuff, where I was in my life or whatnot. And yet there are swaths of prose and parts that I have no recollection at composing and am surprised by some of the developments with plot, etc. (Yes! You do forget after a while!) It’s also taken me since that time to get through the first 3 books. Again, free time is limited. I’d like to say that once I finish the rereading I’ll jump back into writing PIT6, but I have no idea if that will be the case. After summer school wraps (in two days), I will have 7 weeks left of summer break – which will also dovetail with my husband’s break as well. (He, too, is a high school English teacher; he’s been home caring for our son while I’ve been working this month.) We’re not doing any epic traveling in that time, but we will be hosting some houseguests and being at the beck and call of a baby, and that stuff takes priority.

I miss the characters, the world, and the act of writing itself. I just haven’t even attempted it in about a year with everything that’s happened. (A year ago I was wrapping up summer school; then had a 3.5 epic road trip; then started feeling “off” and found out I was pregnant; then the school year started up; etc.) I’m still trying to figure out how writing will fit into my life now. Everything really did kind of begin to grind to a halt 5 years ago, during the period where I lost my job, moved back home, met my husband, and started “living life” instead of living through my imagination. Escapism lost its appeal to me. (But, man, what a way to escape it was, and it was a form I embraced since the age of 9!)

I have fairly good intuition, and something tells me that writing and I aren’t quits forever. I need to be patient. My family certainly has been supportive of me, both with writing and my writer’s block. I suppose I simply need to feel inspired and need to sort of unplug from the day-to-day worries and demands to just let my imagination roam about. Perhaps part of that inspiration will happen with my son as he continues to grow and I witness childhood through his eyes.

In the meantime, the most writing I’ve been doing is blogging about once a week about my life. Which is better than nothing.

Another summer....

Summer Break is once more upon me...sort of. Normally, I'm filled with all sorts of delicious ideas on how to spend time now that school isn't taking up about 80% of my free time! However. I am almost certainly going to get a summer school gig that will take up the 4 weeks of June. Then, my husband and I are venturing on a 3.5 week road trip to the West Coast. So that leaves about 3 weeks after that before the clock resets and a new school year begins. So.

I do have some plans to try and obliterate the Writer's Block. One thing I want to do is actually sit down and reread all the PIT books. Shockingly, I rarely do this. Once I write something, it's like I lived it...I've "been there, done that." I find it incredibly hard to read something I've written once its published because, to me, it's done. There's nothing more I can do with it. I think I've read PITs 1 - 3 before post-publication...but I don't think I've done that with PIT4 and I KNOW I haven't done that with PIT5. So I'm hoping that "project" will help reignite my connection with the characters and the world of O'Hara, Ore.

I remain about 80% of the way through Draft 1 of PIT6. At this point, finishing it is the biggest goal I can hope for, let alone the plans for publication before, say, 2020. I cannot offer any guesstimations as to when that will happen.

Still here. Still hoping to write. We'll see what happens.

Checking in

Hello -- I am still alive!

It's been a pretty ridiculous amount of time since I last updated. I apologize. Life has been crazy the last few months, and I'm once more in the thick of a school year. When that happens, any hope at writing tends to evaporate. I am trying to curtail that, however. For one thing, I'm the creative writing teacher at the high school where I work. I really should be setting a better example for the students as I walk them through the aspects of the craft. (Last semester, I had a huge class of 27; this semester is much more manageable with just 14 teens.) For another, I need writing for my own mental health. It's to a point now where I feel like I'm losing my a muscle that is no longer getting a workout and is starting to atrophy.

Other outside forces are conspiring to urge me as well. One of my current students decided to pick up my books at the school library and has pulled me aside a few times to ask me various questions (about PIT) and gaze at me in an different way that is NOT typical of most students who likely see me as "just an English teacher." (I do not make a secret of my "double life," but nor do I mention it a lot.) I need to continue these stories...for myself and for the others who invested time in reading them.

We'll see how the latest experiment and attempt goes. Maybe if I make it a 2014 resolution to finish a first draft, it can get done!

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Just a small update….

Now that the busiest part of summer is past, I've been making a solid effort at getting back into writing. This basically means setting aside at least 1 hour/day for me and the laptop to go to town. I've had a setback or two with trying to wedge that in -- a couple of days, it was impossible to adhere to the structure -- but mostly this has been successful. In fact, on Day 2, I wrote almost two full pages in the hour, which was the most I put out in months!

PIT6 is actually 75% done…the first draft is, that is. This is a fact a lot of people don't know. (Writer's block only sunk its teeth into me in a big way about a year ago, and I am increasingly convinced a huge part of it had to do with the thyroid condition I was diagnosed with in early May. Particularly since a large portion of the block was due to numbing fatigue and an inability to focus.) If I can keep on making that hour a day a priority for the next month -- we've got about 4 weeks until the school year calls us back -- then it is possible I could have a first draft finally done by mid-August. (And then revisions would need to take place before it would be Beta-ready.)

It feels good to be wading back into this again, and I've really missed the time with Sam and Meg. Tomorrow I'm getting a jump on some preliminary research for PIT7 -- yes, I know when and where that story will go…most of the books are outlined in sketches of sorts for the entire series run -- and I should be getting more fun research for PIT6 squeezed in before school begins once more. I love hands-on research -- it's the best kind!

Made in Oregon

Welcome to Fabulous O'Hara, Oregon

O'Hara, Oregon does not exist in any capacity. Period. I came up with the name to the fictional hometown of Sam and Meg back when I was 13 or 14 and writing a story that involved a magical pen. (I had no idea such a device had been done and done and done before, incidentally.) I liked the alliteration of the name so I shamelessly stole it from myself when I started writing the first PIT a few years later. I saw it as a small town in Oregon and, years later, settled on a precise geographical location for it. (It's situated near Sublimity, Ore, which is nearish Salem.) Most of the geographical stuff was dictated due to the fact that I needed to reference locations and distances to other towns, like Portland.

I did not grow up in a small town. I grew up on the fringes of Beaverton, Oregon, which packs a population of around 90,000 people now I believe. To get super technical, I was actually growing up in Aloha, OR -- but no one knows where that is, and it was more or less unincorporated Beaverton for a number of years.

At the age of 33 --last year -- I found myself transplanted into a town that is so very O'Hara in nature, I feel like this is an ongoing research project. The town in question is not in Oregon, but the size of it is so delightfully O'Hara-ian. One school district encompasses the town. (My employer!) There are 6 elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools that are, technically, on the opposite sides of town. When you leave your house and hang around in the town, you will and do run into the same people. (Oh, to go to the grocery store without running into any of my students….!) The town where I live -- just a stone's throw from Colorado Springs -- has a downtown district of a couple blocks (literally) and was established back in the 1800s thanks to the railroad. (Trains -- huge long trains -- still run routinely through.) Unlike O'Hara, it doesn't rain a ton -- snow is more prevelent in the winter months, and feet of it! -- and the elevation is quite high.

Small towns, I have also discovered, have some interesting things happening that you don't see so much in large suburbs. For example, the teenage population is incredibly restless and keen to get out of the town as much as possible. Cars are critical for the sanity. The area actually does have a fairly serious drug problem -- aflluent homes + bored teens = a lot of "better living through chemestry." Crime does happen, but not often the serious kind. (There was a murder several months ago of a very prominent local official, and the thing made national news. That was sort of bizarre, seeing the town where I live with that kind of press.) I haven't met a TON of people who have lived here for generations -- my town is mostly experiencing surges of growth now as a bedroom community for people in Colorado Springs and even Denver -- but there are definitely those who have lived here for a decade or two that remember dramas that went on over the years. (The building of the Wal Mart; the controversy when the school district built a second high school.)

I'm curious how much living here will affect my portrayals of O'Hara, since I now am up close and personal with small town-itis. I suppose we'll see.

Let's get back to doing this!!

On the cusp of summer vacation -- we administer our final exams to students next week and, after Memorial Day, are free until mid-August -- I can finally say with some confidence that THE END IS IN SIGHT with my long, unwanted break from writing. Because, for the most part, since about the time school started I've written little to nothing this year. For someone who has considered "writer" akin to her bloodline in terms of identity, this is a shock. Or, to put it another way, in the last 9 months I've written the least I have since I was 12 years old. Yep.

One aspect of cause was the crazy circus my life was from 2010-2012. Job loss due to a terrible economy, moving back in with Mom and Dad at the tender age of 31, falling in love, trying to search for a job, going back to school part-time to add another certification, etc. I mean, I had no consistent schedule, no routine, no place that was sacred to writing. So things fell apart over time.

Another cause was life since last summer. Moving 1300 miles. Starting a new job within two weeks of the move. (Teaching full-time is NOT for the lazy…believe me!) The adjustments that come with a new workplace, new state, a new category for the relationship. (We got engaged in November and will marry in little more than a month.)

A third cause, which only came to light in the last few weeks, was my health. I'm a generally healthy person; in spite of having no flu vaccine and working in close proxmity with teens, I only got sick once this school year -- a nasty cold that waited until Winter Break to attack. So when I was so exhausted these last few months, found it hard to think, found myself cold all the time, and other little aspects…I chalked it up to aging. Stress. Living at a high elevation of 7,100 feet. Living in a climate that is not as mild as the ones I previously resided in on the west coast. (Truly, the town where I live had quite a long winter…it snowed as late as May 1st!) It was only in a conversation with my mom several weeks ago, when she mentioned a family history with the women on my dad's side having problems with underactive thyroids, did I even think about going to the doctor. I requested a blood test, just to make sure everything was okay; what I found out, instead, was that things were NOT okay and I had hypothyroidism. (In laymens terms, my thyroid was underactive.) I was put on a daily thyroid medication to fix my levels and BOOM! Energy again! Clarity in thinking! No longer shivering all the time! Etc. Since the symptoms crept in gradually over time, particularly in the last year, it makes me wonder if that is connected to the writer's block. Because, truely, one reason I fell off the craft was a lack of energy and feeling like I couldn't think or focus. So that's been fixed.

Once I get my finals graded and the grades in and wrap the school year, I plan to turn a portion of my attention back to writing -- establishing a routine, an hour a day, where I go back with my characters. I figure by the time school resumes in mid-August I should have writing incorporated into some capacity once more.

I am also getting married in late June. While my last name will change in my "real life" and in my classroom, there will be no adjustment to it with my writing. My website's URL will remain the same. My e-mail address that I use for that will also remain the same. I always intended to preserve my maiden name as my pen name if it came to pass that I married. When PIT6 finally is published -- 2014? 2015? -- it will still be under Kristen Sheley.

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The freeze continues…hoping for a thaw eventually!

Yet another long-overdue update.

Writer's block continues to have some kind of hold on me. It's hard for me to sit down and write…I've fallen out of the habit and have to reestablish it. So progress is s-l-o-w. I'm hoping that I can start to slip it into my life again in bits and pieces…but here I am on a perfectly peaceful Sunday morning blogging instead of writing fiction!!

In a sort of weird attempt to jumpstart things, I've picked up one of my favorite authors from back in the day (Christopher Pike) and read a few new things he's done. Reading old favorites (or new releases from old favorites) does something to me…it reminds me of why I started writing in the first place and it almost reenergizes the muse. So we'll see if my experiment provides some fodder.

I'm also getting married this summer. Whoa! So clearly planning a wedding and negotiating the maze of all that is a definite sidetrack to the attention. I decided a long time ago, though, that my pen name would forever and always be Kristen Sheley, no matter what life changes would happen. So though I'll be changing my name in every other aspect after late June, I will always publish under Kristen Sheley and nothing will change in terms of my website's address, e-mail addresses, etc. (I actually like this; now I can have anonymity if I wish. A double life! Ooooo!)

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The New Normal

Oh my my my, it's been a while since I updated!

Since my last entry in July, I embarked on a 1350 mile move, away from the west coast which has been my home forever to a small town in Colorado. There, I settled down with a full-time teaching job in a high school, which has kept me quite busy. Among the classes I teach is creative writing, which is pretty neat.

Amid all the chaos -- which, admittedly, is settling down now into a consistent routine -- I've neglected my writing TERRIBLY! My significant other keeps encouraging me to write; we even struck up a deal, whereas he gets up before 9 A.M. on days he doesn't have to work and I write a paragraph. Both of us have been lousy at keeping up our ends of the bargain.

The urge to write is there; I'm feeling stuff shifting inside, which I know will be good for the writing thing. I have writ a bit, too; it's not like it's been a barren desert of nothingness. It's just extremely slow going and I have to almost sit there and meditate for a few minutes to get back there.

The urge to write is there. I still need it in my life. But I'm still negotiating as to how it will fit in with the "new normal" that is my life now.

I still have a goal of finishing PIT6. I'd like to have Draft 1 done before 2013. That may be farfetched. But if I can actually create and STICK TO a system of writing routinely, it can certainly happen.

Hopefully I'll have more progressive news to report next time I post!
Made in Oregon

Epic Life Changes Ahead…what will it mean for the craft?

Last month, in mid-June, life got interesting again when -- after two years of struggling to find another full-time teaching job -- I was finally offered a perfect job in a wonderful school for the 2012-13 school year! In Colorado. This was all good, for I had spent more than a year plotting and praying and planning for this to happen. Although I will soon be uprooted a distance of 1300 miles, and leave the west coast for the first time in, well, my whole life, I will be settling a stone's throw from my brother, his wife, and their adorable daughter. Additionally, my boyfriend is also coming along, as he is also an educator in the same subject area and age group as me. And, sadly, there are no jobs for educators in Oregon right now, especially for high school English language arts teachers!

Thus, life has kicked into high gear as of late. Fortunately, there were about 6 weeks to prepare for this epic shift. Moving plans have been going forward. A long distance housing search was made and a wonderful place has been secured. And through it all, I've continued to work my current job, which is 20 hours/week. I will actually be working up until 3 days before I leave for CO. So writing time has been hard to come by.

However, as much as I feel disconnected and sad and angst and anxious about this writer's block, there are signs of hope and life. On the plane to and from Colorado Springs last month, when I flew out for Father's Day weekend for an informal interview that led to the job, I was able to churn out a couple pages. Without Internet, cell phones (text messaging), and television, there was really nothing stopping me from getting stuff done. I was able to sink into the story, into the characters, without much of a problem. I was stressing out more about the anticipation of writing, but "letting go" let me get there.

And while this was about 3 weeks ago, I was able to get writing done today. I was feeling kind of spacy and disconnected most of the day, which is better than my brain going a million miles a minute in trying to make lists and worry about move-related things. So I was able to slip into things quite quickly and without much effort this afternoon and get a page made.

I still keep feeling this story might be gutted when it gets to a second incarnation. But if I can finish this first incarnation this calendar year, I'd be really happy!

I also find it interesting that the ability to write is still there -- it never left, though I've worried and fretted and feared it has a lot in the last couple years. My life has changed so much in so many ways in that time, though, that it is really unsurprising that my approach and my techniques to getting to "the zone" also will have to be modified. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to find the right method. It does seem that shutting myself down in terms of external distractions *cough* the Internet and Facebook *cough* do help to a great degree. So does feeling antisocial. :-)

My relationship with writing has also changed, which I've waxed on about in my personal blog. Namely, it used to be my escape hatch from reality, the method in which I coped with loneliness, isolation, and other negative aspects of life. Now, however, my life is much richer and I am not feeling a lot of that, so I have to approach the craft in a slightly different way and incorporate it into my life from another angle. (Or, as I said before, "What do you do when you're happy and satisfied with life? What do you write about then?" So many of my stories do have elements of unrequited love/affection to them because that was all I knew for so long. That is no longer true.)

Fingers still crossed that 2013 will mark the completion of PIT6.


A May Update

Well, the good news is that I'm starting to feel more creative and inspired and urge-y to write. This has resulted in having PIT dreams, which is pretty rare for me. As in a once-a-year kind of rarity. When I sit down and actually put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, I slip into things in the way I am used to and don't feel so much strain or anxiety.

The bad news is that I'm currently working two jobs M-F while also conducting an incredibly vigorous job search in another state. This results in feeling absolutely exhausted when it comes to the point of the day when I actually have time to write. So I'm still making glacial progress on PIT6. (I think I've been on the same scene and chapter for two months. At least.) I drop back to just one job after mid-June, when Job #2 (part-time and temporary) ends. And since Job #1 is also part-time, one imagines this will grant me more time and energy to channel into storytelling. Because, baby, I've missed it so!

So no ETA when it comes to PIT6 wrapping a first draft, let alone being published! 2013 is still possible, though.