Vocation Awareness Week – A Reflection on Callings and Life

 

 

Vocation-Awareness-Week-Final.jpg
Photo Circa October 2011

 

 

Yesterday in church, a visiting priest spoke to us about how this week is Vocation Awareness Week. It was perfect timing because I’ve been questioning everything lately.

Grad school is going well, but whether it’s because I’m only taking two classes a semester, or because a lot of the publishing material is the same as what I covered studying broadcasting, public relations, and general communications during my days as an undergraduate, I realized last week that I am profoundly bored. I know, I’m as horrified at the prospect as you are. Mostly, I can’t figure out what, aside from teacher insight, I’m getting out of the classes that I couldn’t get on my own. Graduate school isn’t worth it just for the degree and the name of the school on my resume.

When I was first earning my bachelor’s degree, I was convinced that the right school on my resume was my ticket to the Best Job Ever. After transferring to a smaller school and getting a better education there, I realized how ridiculous that idea was. It’s never been about the school name, it’s always been about what I can learn from the program. That’s why I chose Emerson College. It is supposed to be the best graduate publishing program in the country, taught by current professionals, and my ticket into the industry through networking.

I am enjoying my copyediting class, but that’s because the teacher makes it interesting, and the textbooks are a little dry for me to work through on my own. We also have to take overview classes in book, e-book, and magazine publishing. I was assigned to take magazine publishing this semester, and it is almost exactly the same as three different classes I had to take for my bachelor’s. The teacher is lovely, but the material is nothing new. We also have to do interviews with magazine professionals for this class, and for all of my googling/emailing/twittering/calling, I have yet to get a response from anyone I have reached out to. And the lack of interviews, even though I don’t have control over that, actually affects my grades, which is just terrible and makes me incredibly sad.

So, what am I getting out of graduate school? The truth is, I don’t know. My apartment lease is good through August, so I am going to keep at it for another semester and try to take more classes in book publishing specifically, but if it doesn’t get any more interesting then I don’t see the point in sinking myself into more student debt if I don’t need to.

I spoke to an associate editor back in September at the Boston Teen Author Fest, and while she has a master’s in publishing, she said that if she could go back and do it over, she wouldn’t. She would apply directly to internships instead and get involved in the industry that way. Because you can get as educated as you want, but at the end of the day, the industry is small and the only way in is to know people who will want to hire you. Every day that I’m bored with my classes I feel her advice more strongly.

 

If I choose not to stick with graduate school, the next question becomes, of course, whether I want to try for internships here in Boston, or in New York City? My parents live about 90-minutes from NYC, so moving back in with them would make it possible for me to work a part-time job locally and go into the city a couple days a week for an internship.

On the other hand, I love Boston. I feel at home here, and I rarely feel at home 5+ hours away from my parents. Maybe it’s because I have family nearby if I need them? My aunt, uncle, and cousin live here, and my great aunt and a slew of second cousins live just north of the city.

In 2015, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, for a public relations conference and fell in love with the city. My favorite parts were the lack of nightlife and the abundance of green space. It felt like coming home, except it was on the other side of the country. That’s what it felt like moving to Boston. There are parks everywhere here, and New England is almost as friendly as the Pacific Northwest. I have a profound desire to live within walking distance of bookstores, coffee shops, and museums, and I have that here in addition to a church I really like. This city is huge, but at the same time, it is incredibly small. There is a reason the Boston Marathon starts in another town. The entirety of Boston proper is maybe three miles by five miles, and the extended Boston Area is about ten miles by twelve miles. There is always something going on, and that drives my curiosity and my imagination constantly to new heights.

Moving back home requires me to give up all of the coffee shops, bookstores, museums, and my church, and moving near New York City would require me to give up all of my parks and outdoor space as well as my church community. I am at an impossible crossroads.

 

When the priest spoke about vocations yesterday, a couple things clicked in my mind. I started thinking about my life as it stands now, what I can and cannot live without, and what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I’ve never really wanted to be a nun. In fact, until the spring of 2016, the only thing I definitely wanted out of my life was motherhood. I wanted to raise babies with the love of my life, teach them how to survive in this crazy world, and watch them fly. Admittedly, I went to college because I needed to do something and get a job to pay the bills until the day I got married and had babies and could be a stay-at-home mom, and also to have something to go back to after my babies were grown. But I didn’t love anything like I loved the idea of motherhood, and I think that is one of the primary reasons why I floundered so much during college. By the time I transferred schools at the end of 2012, I was completely lost and unsure if I would ever get married, let alone date, and I threw myself into studying communications at my new school in part to distract myself. I enjoyed communications. It was logical, it was scientific, but it was also at the root of what I loved as a child: creation and creativity. Studying communications brought back my love of writing, which had been missing since I started high school.

I graduated with my bachelor’s in Communication Studies, and then I started looking for a job. I quickly realized that none of the companies that could pay me any livable salary had ethics that I could live with or worked with brands that I could get excited about. It was a sad day when I realized I was back to square one. No potential jobs, no potential relationships, and a fat lot of nothing to show for the last five years of my life. I was lost again. I job searched for six months while helping to plan two weddings, and then I took a retail job. I enjoyed the job and wedding planning, but they didn’t change my life or give me direction. After the weddings, I moved to Boston and became a nanny for my baby cousin. I loved that, too, but it also opened my eyes to the trials that would come with motherhood. For one, you can’t turn it off, and I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. I wasn’t even his mother and the worry was almost crippling. The good days were amazing, but the hard days were harder and more exhausting than anything I have ever experienced. It showed me that I’m not quite ready for motherhood; and that finally allowed my heart to consider other options.

Options. There were many of them at the time. I could move home and get another retail job and exist listlessly while I saved up money for an apartment and then some unfocused future doing who knows what. I could get a job in Boston and stay here, doing the same thing with less of a support network. Or, I could consider graduate school in something.

As a child, I wanted to be in school forever. I wanted to possess all of the knowledge of the universe. I really couldn’t blame Eve for trying that apple, because knowledge is intoxicating. While getting my bachelor’s degree, I decided that I was firmly against going to graduate school. I didn’t want to be a teacher, and if I wanted to study history there were a thousand ways to do that without getting a degree of some kind.

Then I discovered publishing through a YouTube video. Ironically, this is similar to the way I discovered public relations, except that that was through Twitter. After a year of praying over it and processing the idea, I applied, thinking I would have to apply for multiple years before I got in. I was accepted on the first try, and now I’m in the thick of it, but I’m still questioning.

Discovering publishing didn’t suddenly make me want to be a writer or an editor. I’ve always loved those things, but it never occurred to me that I could make a career out of it. When I found publishing, I thought a master’s degree was my only way into the industry. Since getting accepted in March, I have learned so much about the ways into the industry, but the doors themselves are still very much closed to me. I hope to crack them open next semester when I take my book publishing classes, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that opening these doors isn’t something anyone can do for me, but something I have to do for myself, in my own way, and with my own timing.

 

All of this questioning started a couple weeks ago when I finally landed a new job. I’m working in retail in what I guess could be described as head cashier position at a superstore that I won’t name for security reasons. My first day was interesting enough to keep me engaged, and then the morning of my second day I sprained my foot/ankle. After nearly two weeks, I returned to work a week ago for my second day on the job, and everything has been hunky-dory since then. I’ll never know if it’s because I’m on crutches or not, but everyone has been especially kind and calm when I ask questions, and so many people have come up to me and introduced themselves that after only six days on the job I can now tell you the basic hierarchy of the store and who is in charge of which departments, as well as point out the store manager, the HR manager, and the regional manager upon request. It’s amazing to me how quickly the acclimation process is going, and just how much I am enjoying it. I get excited to go to work, even though it means being on my feet/crutches for about eight hours and dealing with a handful of frustrating customers each day. I love serving people, especially when I can serve not only the customers but also my fellow employees in some sort of leadership position.

 

So, in the middle of yesterday’s mass, I realized that motherhood wasn’t my only calling. I can’t live without books. The writing, editing, and creation of them as well as the consumption of them. I adore working with people, whether in a customer service or leadership capacity. I also have a dream of being a Girl Scout Leader someday. I was an assistant leader in middle and high school, and it’s life-changing to help young people discover their strengths and the confidence to pursue their dreams. I want all of these things, and where I live won’t change them. These are my vocations.

September Update & Goals Check-In

Update - 9 - September

This post is going up a little late this month. Mostly because I was completely unmotivated to write it until today, but also because I have kind of a lot going on at the moment.

I’ve moved! I’m still settling into my new home, but I promise to share pictures of my space once my bed arrives. Until then I’m sleeping on an air mattress, which is not ideal, but still better than I thought it would be.

Grad school is going well so far! I’m only two weeks in, but I’m loving my classes and the professors are great. There aren’t a huge number of opportunities to socialize, but I’m working on that. I’ve signed up to be a fiction reader for the graduate-student-run literary journal on campus, Redivider, and I’m hoping to get some opportunities to gain more copyediting experience as well.

There has been nothing but radio silence on the actual paying job front. I don’t understand why companies can’t at the very least have an automatic e-mail sent to anyone they throw into the ‘no’ pile. No answer is just plain rude. Even places that I’ve been able to go into in person and talk to a manager about hiring opportunities just redirect me to online applications that are then met with silence. Thank goodness it’s autumn again. Most retail places are looking to hire for the holidays now, so I should be able to get a position at someplace like Target or Macy’s. I’m sending out those applications today or Sunday.

Right before my nannying job ended, I wrote a cool post about the top 10 board books I read as a nanny. Did your childhood favorite make the list?

Tomorrow, I am attending Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF) at the Cambridge Public Library and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School! Over 40 YA authors will be there, and while I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any of their books, I can’t wait to learn more about their work and get excited to read it! Best of all, the event is totally free!! I am most excited to meet Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg. Lindsay and Sasha have written a space opera called Zenith that is due out in January, and I preordered it months ago. Sasha is also one of the reasons I am where I am today. If I had never watched her videos about Emerson and their publishing program, I wouldn’t have looked into graduate school here, and I would probably still be living in New Jersey and trying to get a job in Public Relations while I attempted to write my book and actually working in retail. Instead, I’m chasing my dreams in a city I adore. So thank you, Sasha, and welcome back to Boston! Lindsay is also one of the reasons The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova was on my TBR that day I walked into B&N to find Elise doing a signing. She was so nice and gave some really amazing advice about writing and publishing that further convinced me that working in publishing is what I want to do with my life. So thank you, Lindsay, for sort-of introducing me to Elise. Once I get a job I can’t wait to pick up the sequel in the Loom saga, The Dragons of Nova! I was thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for this book!

Next week I’m seeing Patti Smith at an event for Harvard Bookstore, and I am so so excited. After reading her book M Train this summer (twice!) I am psyched to hear her speak and to pick up a copy of her new book, Devotion, which is supposedly about writing. You might only know her for her Springsteen-co-written hit “Because the Night”, or because of her marriage to Fred Sonic Smith, but believe me, her writing is something downright magical.

When I’m not working on homework, filling out job applications, or making multiple trips to the store to buy apartment necessities, I’ve been reading voraciously and re-reading my WIP. It’s amazing how many things I didn’t need during undergrad that I need now (like a teakettle). I haven’t read my manuscript in its entirety since I wrote it last November. Reading it again is like greeting an old friend. It’s a relief to know that I still love it and that the story is still solidly in my head as well as my heart.

I know I’ve been pretty terrible so far with the Friday Files posts, but I think they’ll pick up soon. I just needed to take a beat and figure out how to incorporate them into my life. Expect one on time management next week that should help explain my process. In the meantime, if you haven’t read my first Friday Files post, check it out here. It’s all about building a grown-up wardrobe without breaking the bank.

That’s what’s going on with me this month. Let’s check and see how I did on my goals in August.

August Goals:

Walk over 40 miles: My total for August was 43.45!

Read 8 Books:
River Secrets
Someone to Hold
Forest Born
The Diviners
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
A Man Called Ove
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

What I’ve actually read: A lot of romances.
River Secrets
A Knight to Remember
Getting Out of Hand
Forest Born
Knocking Boots
The Princess Saves Herself in This One
Fahrenheit 451
The Diviners

Review 7 Books:
River Secrets
Forest Born
Someone to Love (Review available in 2018)
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
Getting Rid of Bradley
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Diviners (Review Available in 2018)

Secure an Apartment: CHECK!!

Secure a Job: Search in progress.

 

September Goals:

Walk over 50 Miles: As of yesterday, I’ve passed the 50-mile mark!

Read 5 Books:
Fall of a Kingdom
Over Sea, Under Stone
Rise of a Hero
Voyager
The Dark is Rising

What I’ve actually read:
Fall of a Kingdom
Someone to Hold

In Other Lands
Over Sea, Under Stone

Review 6 Books:
Fall of a Kingdom
Someone to Hold (Review Available in 2018)
In Other Lands
Over Sea, Under Stone
Rise of a Hero
Fahrenheit 451

 

Get a job: Apparently, I am not the only graduate student struggling with this. Thankfully the holiday season is fast approaching and all of the retail stores are hiring. Who would have thought that two years out of college I would still be struggling to find a job? Not me. I’m also looking into how I can work as a virtual assistant or freelance copyeditor (once my copyediting class is over). I think this whole financial situation will get a lot easier if I can learn to diversify my income and pull from many places rather than one.

 

How are you doing on your goals? Are you still struggling to find a job? Do you have any advice about diversifying your income? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email at Amanda@highlightsandhotchocolate.com.

Until next time,

Amanda

August Update & Goals Check-In

Update - 8 - August

 

Hello, August!!

Welcome to the first monthly update of my life as a 25-year-old. Yes, that still feels strange to say.

My vacation at the beginning of July was fantastic – the lakes in Maine are superb! – but then I had to come back down to Earth.

The last couple weeks have been intensely stressful, to the point where my brain has all but stopped working and my body has decided to make itself ill. I’m talking headaches, exhaustion, stomach aches, loss of appetite (which literally never happens), and especially in the last week, complete lack of sleep.

All this because I formally announced to my family and friends that I’m moving out on my own (with roommates, obv.). Apparently, my body is terrified, meanwhile until this past week my spirit and brain have been all “LET’S DO THIS!! FINALLY!” which is why I’ve been exhausted all the time. The first half of this month I spent every evening and day off going on apartment tours, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I signed my lease. I’ve been an absolute mess for the past week while I waited for my landlord to get around to sending me the lease. It was awful. But at least I have a place to live now!

On top of all of that, I started taking Accutane for my acne issues in June, and that has been a trip in and of itself. The first two weeks, basically all of my skin fell off. It was just as gross as it sounds. Not leprosy bad, but bad. My lips continued to peel for the rest of the first month as well, which made me very self-conscious for possibly the first time, ever. The lip-peeling eventually subsided when I started using vaseline on them at night, and the dry, flaky skin petered out on its own under my use of sunscreen and moisturizers. The Accutane also has all kinds of emotional side-effects, and the first week was just insane. Most of the chaos I’m dealing with right now is stress and fear-induced, but I’m sure the Accutane is magnifying it all to some degree.

With all of that going on, it’s no wonder that I completely failed at Camp NaNoWriMo. You’ve probably already noticed that I didn’t post a single update after my intro post, and that’s because I got sucked into the chaos of apartment hunting.

The next thing I’ll be focusing on is job hunting. Yes, I’ve been searching since July, but the vast majority of positions are open for submission until the beginning of September, which means I won’t hear about interviews until probably mid-September or get anything full time until October. This necessitates a secondary job search, for part-time positions. What are some cool part-time jobs you’ve held? I’ve worked in I.T., bridal retail, the restaurant industry, as a camp counselor, and as a campus police officer. I think working at a bank, a grocery store, or a book store would be interesting, as those are all things I’ve never done. Do you have one industry you like to stick to for part-time work, or you enjoy diversifying your resume? Maybe it’s the writer in me that loves to try different things all the time. It’s hard to write about something you’ve never experienced, right?

It’s been a long two months since I’ve updated you guys on my life. As September approaches, I’m getting really excited for grad school to start. I have two classes this semester: Intro to Magazine Editing, and Copyediting. I can’t wait to get started.

Before I go, let’s check out how I did on my July goals, and what I’m working on this month.

 

July Goals:

Walk more than 40 miles: I walked 51.57 miles according to my step-tracking app. Woohoo!

Read 10 books:
Scourge
Carry On
River Secrets
Forest Born
The Diviners
Ella Enchanted
All Signs Point to Murder
The Magnolia Story
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World
Jane Austen’s England

Yeah… I ended up not reading any of those except for Ella Enchanted. I did read The Little French Bistro (review here) and Someone to Love, however, so it wasn’t all bad. I’ve since started Carry On, but I’m just not feeling it.

Who’s idea was it that NetGalley manuscripts expire? My plan was to read the books the week before they released, but I went to start them and they were gone. 😦 So now I will be borrowing them from my library so I can complete them and submit my reviews so that my NetGalley rating doesn’t go to crap.

Write 6 Reviews:
Enna Burning
River Secrets
M Train

Ella Enchanted
Scourge
All Signs Point to Murder

Write 10,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo: Nope. Didn’t happen.

 

 

 

August Goals:

Walk over 40 miles: So far so good!

Read 8 Books:
River Secrets
Someone to Hold
Forest Born
The Diviners
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
A Man Called Ove
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

What I’ve actually read: A lot of romances.
River Secrets
A Knight to Remember
Getting Out of Hand
Forest Born
Knocking Boots
The Princess Saves Herself in This One

Review 7 Books:
River Secrets
Forest Born
Someone to Love
Carry On
Fall of a Kingdom
Getting Rid of Bradley
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

Secure an Apartment: CHECK!!

Secure a Job: Search in progress.

 

 

That’s all for this month! Check back next month for another update, and don’t forget to check out the weekly book reviews on Tuesdays, my Friday Files series on Fridays, and my other random Thursday posts.

Until next time,

~Amanda

TOTY – 25: Responsiblity

 

 

IMG_3085
A+ self-confidence here, letting you know that this photo is 100% makeup and filter free. Wheeee!

 

It’s July! Which makes it my birth month, the anniversary of this blog (starting its FOURTH year!!) and also time for a new theme of the year, or as I like to call it, TOTY. If you’ve never read one of my TOTY posts before, allow me to explain. Every year around my birthday, I like to select a broad theme for the next year of my life, to help guide my decision making for the next 365 days. I’ve focused on things like experience, health, and writing. You can find links to all of my previous TOTYs at the bottom of this post.

It’s been one heck of a year. Being 24 was one of those strange in-between years like 19 and 20, where you’re not really sure what the objective is except to survive. I’m turning 25 today, which to 12-year-old me seemed impossibly old, but to be honest I still feel fairly young. Turning 24 helped me to take a little control of my life. I wasn’t so much in my early 20s anymore, and people stopped expecting me to go out and party with them every night, which definitely allowed me to come into my own skin a little more. Now that I’m turning 25 and officially in my mid-twenties, I feel completely free of that party-hard culture that tried to suck me in during college, and people have stopped looking at me strangely when I talk about career opportunities like the important things they are. I’m extremely happy to be out of that age where people say ‘oh, you have plenty of time! Just concentrate on having fun!’ instead of taking my job inquiries seriously.

The last year started off by helping two of my friends plan their respective weddings, both of which were at the end of August/beginning of September, on back-to-back weekends. Cue tons of crazy drama, none of which is mine to share but I was somehow a part of anyway. Let me just say: WEDDING PLANNING IS HARD! Thank goodness I had both of them to bounce ideas off of for each other. I was able to fill in the holes in both plans based on what each was doing to make sure all of the bases were covered, down to vases on the reception tables for the bridesmaid bouquets. At the end of October, I made the huge decision to leave my part-time retail job of 10 months in Allentown, Pennsylvania to become a nanny for my then seven-month-old cousin in Boston, Massachusetts. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, though I do still miss my amazing coworkers.

One of my goals for last year was to write every day. While that didn’t happen, I did do quite a bit of writing, and I’ve definitely adjusted mentally so that writing is at the forefront of my mind 90% of the time. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and you can find my weekly updates from November here. Besides NaNoWriMo, I’ve worked hard to locate some of my favorite coffee shops in the city where I can work besides my room, and it’s helped immensely.

Another goal was to apply to graduate school, which I was intensely nervous about. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in right away because of my lack of writing experience aside from this blog, and I would need to reapply a few times before I got accepted in another year or two. BUT I WAS WRONG! I have been accepted to the Publishing and Writing Master’s Degree Program at Emerson College here in Boston, Massachusetts where I will be starting in September! I think because I didn’t expect to get in right away, this all still doesn’t quite feel real. I have to pinch myself a few times a day just to remind myself it’s all happening. Just thinking about it makes me tear up from joy. *as I start to tear up*

My last goal was to apply to full-time jobs. This one has been a little complicated because I took the nannying job in October, and I’ve been pretty happy doing it. I cannot, however, continue doing it once I start graduate school for logistical reasons. So I am back to square one, but with a lot more writing under my belt than I had last year. I’m ideally looking for an Editorial Assistant or Copy Editor position, but I would take something like an administrative job if need be.

Last year around this time, I was contemplating my current nannying position and the general idea of Boston. I had only been here twice, both briefly, and yet the city enthralled me. I’ve now lived here almost nine months, and if possible love this place even more. Sometimes I take a train to a random part of the city and then walk back to my aunt and uncle’s place, just to explore. I guess what I’m saying is, not only do I have to remind myself that I got into grad school but I also have to remind myself that I live here and that I get to go on living here, not leave when a semester or internship ends. It’s an amazing feeling: a mix of freedom and adventure, the world an open book in front of me.

 

This feeling is fueling my theme for the next year: RESPONSIBILITY
I need to continue working things like time management skills, becoming financially literate, and getting better at cooking and baking. General skills all adults should have. Looking towards a future that includes moving out on my own, it would irresponsible of me not to learn these basic skills. So, how do I plan to achieve these things?

To become more financially literate, I’m going to start reading about it. From finance and money management blogs to Finance for Dummies, I’m going to try to read something every day for the next year to help me better manage my money and understand the finance industry (ie, stocks, bonds, bank account types). I also started a spreadsheet to track my spending in January 2017, and starting January 2018 I’ll be able to make fairly strict budgets to help me get the most out of my time in grad school and still pay off my debt in a reasonable amount of time.

To become a better cook, I’m rounding up family recipes to practice. I want to combine these into a cookbook that I can refer back to anytime I need a meal idea, which should take the pressure off of making a full meal for dinner when I live on my own. I’ll probably be moving out of my aunt and uncle’s house and into my own apartment this Fall, so knowing how to make more than Mac and Cheese and Chicken Parm should be pretty helpful.

Fridays this year will consist of a mix of lifestyle posts. Finance posts will share secrets to money management I’ve picked up, and share some cool blog posts to help you with your own money skills. Food posts will share my favorite family recipes.  In addition, Fashion posts will chronicle my building of an adult wardrobe appropriate for all aspects of life, Fitness posts will share snapshots and thoughts on how to get back in shape your way, Focus posts will share study and writing tips to help you get the most work done in your spare time, Family and Friends posts will teach you how to deal with your family as a new adult, and Faith posts will share ways to incorporate your faith into your everyday life. Obviously, I won’t have a chance to share on all of these topics every month, since there are seven of them and only four or five Fridays per month. My plan is to mix it up a little, and we’ll see what we get.

If this all sounds like a lot to do on top of grad school, finding a new job, writing book reviews, and continuing work on my novel(s), that’s because it is. But I’m excited to share this journey with all of you! I feel that at the age of 25, these are the things I should know how to do. I’ll be on my own next year for a lot of grown up things (like healthcare), and I think that makes it important now more than ever that I know how to take care of myself in any kind of situation.

 

What are some things you want to work on this year?

 

 

Check out some of my previous TOTYs:
TOTY: 22 – Why Soul Searching is not my Theme of the Year
TOTY: 23 – Wellness and Becoming My Best Self
TOTY: 24 – Me Doing Me

 

Camp NaNoWriMo – July 2017 Intro

 

Kermit-Writing
Source: Pinterest

 

That’s right! I’m working on a new novel! Camp NaNoWriMo starts today, and I’ve decided to push The Everest Chronicles off to the side a bit to work on something new.

Last November, during NaNoWriMo proper, I had a dream that turned into 13 handwritten pages of something, which I then tucked away so I could focus on the project I was trying to work on at the time. I’m not going to reveal a whole lot about what occurred in the dream because that would give away the entire plot of the book. In fact, I’m going to keep this project fairly secret. Seriously. I shared the dream notes with one of my sisters back in November, and I just told one of my writing buddy friends about it last week. No one else knows anything about anything. I will say though, that it is a Regency Romance, and that for citing purposes I’ll be referring to it as Aunt Bea’s Pearls.

I’d like to write 25,000 words towards it this month. I’m only doing half the normal goal because I have a hundred other things to write this month, what with my birthday and the TOTY (Theme-Of-The-Year) going live among other cool projects for the blog. I’m excited! It should be a fairly intense month of writing, trying to balance fiction and blog posts while still getting my reading done for book reviews, but I think I’m up to it.

And honestly, I need something to distract myself until September when Grad School starts because I am B-O-R-E-D and my job search is going nowhere fast.

 

My writing buddy, and one of my oldest friends, Shannon is going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo with me, so I am very excited to get started. I’ve been doing writing exercises for the last week trying to stretch my brain into shape so I can use my imagination to it’s fullest potential. Fun times.

You can expect writing updates just like last November here on the blog in the coming weeks. I’m planning to post them on Saturdays this time around if that works for you guys.

Until next week, good luck and happy writing!

~Amanda

May Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

Update - 5 - May

Long time no see, everyone! It’s been a bit chaotic around here for the past eight weeks or so while I was working on the new layout and format. There was no monthly update in April due to the site being down for rebranding, and I was surprised by how muddled my life became when I didn’t have you all to check-in with. It’s definitely time to reinstate the monthly updates!

April, as you know, was full of website building and logo designing. I honestly had planned to wait until July for the official re-launch, but I got really excited and carried away into web design, and before I knew it I was at the point where I needed to take the site down to do the actual redesign. Curio Street Reads has now been rolled into The Curio Street Blog, and they’ve been rebranded as Highlights and Hot Chocolate. I’ve been keeping up with the weekly book reviews, but I’ve also been debating a little with how best not to back myself into a corner. The focus of this site is writing and literature, but it’s not necessarily a ‘book blog’. I’d call it more of a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on writing, editing, and reading. This self-definition allows me to play around with other things, like film/TV reviews, recipes, and D.I.Y. bits if an idea strikes me. And that’s what makes blogging exciting: I’m the boss. I get to decide how, when, and what gets published.

May has been quite interesting so far. I signed up for NetGalley, an online book review site that connects beta readers with publishing companies. So far I’ve been approved for four ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), and reviews for those will be coming soon! It’s all thanks to you guys that I’m able to get these advanced editions because availability is all based on audience size, so THANK YOU! Y’all are amazing.

In other life news, I spent last weekend in Maine celebrating my sister’s college graduation. It’s been an amazing four years watching her excel in classes and Timbersports competitions, and I’m almost sad it’s over. But I am so SO excited to see where life takes her next, and I am incredibly proud of everything she’s already accomplished. She’s definitely more prepared for the real world than I was at graduation. The idea of job hunting scared me to death, but she’s right up there in the fray, chipping away at the mountain of possibilities, looking for a piece big enough to suit her. I know it won’t be too long before she lands somewhere fantastic.

While I’m definitely tired from all the driving this past weekend, I’m not letting it get me down. I signed up for a free 10-day trial of oneOeight, a yoga and wellness site based in Aruba, and I’m diving into meditations and some basic yoga to boost my energy levels. I was on the fence about this program back in March, but I’ve been doing a lot of research on it, and I think it’s worth the $14/mo. Many of the yogis are among my favorites, and I am definitely someone who needs guided practices. Besides oneOeight, I’ve also been tuning into Yoga With Adriene, who’s based out of Austin, Texas and has some of THE BEST beginner yoga lessons. Both websites are amazing, and I’m not really sure what I would do without them.

Writing has been interesting. My cousin, whom I watch during the day, is just over one-year-old now, and he’s decided he only needs one nap a day. Great for him. Bad for my writing. With what time I’ve had, I’ve mostly been stewing on the next scene I need to write and realizing that I don’t know my secondary characters well enough to write it. My story tends to be very involved, especially for me, though I’m sure 90% of what I’m writing will get cut from the final copy. I’m the sort of person who needs to have an entire family history back to the beginning of time for everyone. Even the characters who have no names have names, you just don’t need to know what they are for the purposes of the specific story I’m telling. So I’ve been working on some of my more prominent secondary characters, those who make prolonged appearances and need to have coherent personalities. I’ve finished four of the six people I need in order to write this next scene so far, and I think that’s pretty good. Writing backstories also tends to color in bits and pieces of country history and helps cement my world together, which always makes me feel like my work is worthwhile, even if it often seems like I’m procrastinating on the actual scene writing.

 

I think that’s all for now, so let’s take a look at how I’m doing on the goals side of things.

 

 

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: 
I’m definitely not writing every single day, but I’m definitely brainstorming every day, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.

Apply to Full-Time Jobs: As my little one-year-old cousin prepares to head to daycare this summer, I am beginning my search for a full-time salary job that will allow me to get a place of my own and save copious amounts of money for graduate school.

Apply to Grad School: ACCEPTED INTO THE EMERSON COLLEGE M.A. PROGRAM FOR WRITING AND PUBLISHING, BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 2017.

2017 Goals:

Stick to My Budget: This is still going much better than expected. I’m saving but not feeling like I had to cut off my arm to do so.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: Also going well! I might be able to pay off $5,000 worth by the end of the year.

Build Savings Account: My little savings account is growing! I’m pretty proud of myself, even if it’s still a relatively small amount.

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: This is still a struggle, but I think I might just succeed.

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: CHECK!

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HA.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: I’ve been doing so much reading that I have completely neglected my TV watching. I only watched one more episode of Stranger Things, and while I’m not really excited about it yet (maybe because I’m pretty sure I know where it’s going?), it’s still relatively interesting without being too creepy. I was also watching Chesapeake Shores, but it was only on Netflix for a month and I didn’t get to finish it. At the end of March, I speed-watched six seasons of Bones because they were being taken off of Netflix the week after the series finale aired on Fox, but I was only able to do that because I’ve watched 85% of the episodes already and just needed a refresher on the larger story arcs. Lat but not least, I discovered a show that was originally on SciFi/SyFy called Wynonna Earp and it is WICKED GOOD. I mean that. There are wicked demons from Hell. Seriously. Wyatt Earp’s family is cursed to have to kill the same people over and over again and only the heir that kills them all can break the curse. It’s a modern western/police drama and the cast and storyline are beyond diverse and it’s just amazing. Once I finish Stranger Things and Wynonna Earp, I’ll finally move on to The Last Kingdom, which there are now two seasons of. If I don’t watch Girlboss first.

Finish Craft Projects: I haven’t made any progress at all over the last eight weeks. I’m disappointed in myself.

Post Regularly: Getting a little better at this!

Keep Up With Book Reviews: So far, so good!

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Also going pretty well!

Read 50+ Books: I’m currently sitting at 24 books, but I’m looking to hit 30 before the next update goes live!

Get In Shape: Now that it’s finally warming up outside, I might stand a chance at completing this one!

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: April = 50.7 Miles. So far this month I’m right around 30 miles, and we’re only halfway through! I’m doing a lot of driving over the next couple weekends though, so it’s all going to come down to weekday walks instead of weekend exploring.

Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: My ‘much smaller’ goal for this month is 4,000 words of manuscript, but that’s only going to happen if I finish these character backstories. Someday I’m probably going to release all the histories in some sort of character dictionary. I can’t wait to see people’s heads roll with the amount of information I have on every living thing in this universe. It makes me happy to know that someday I’ll get to see the awe on their faces. There’s definitely more history than manuscript at the moment, and no matter how much of the manuscript I write, I think it’s going to stay that way.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Someday.

April/May Goals:

Walk 40+ Miles Each Month: YES and ALMOST YES!

 

Run: Nope.

Yoga: I’m supplementing this with Meditation, and so far, so good!

Read Lots of Books: (* indicates finished)
April:
*Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
*Double Down by Gwenda Bond
*Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
*The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova
*Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

May:
*Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond
*The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
*The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower
The Waterless Sea by Kate Constable
The Tenth Power by Kate Constable
Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson
Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Write 5+ Book Reviews in May:
*Double Down
*Cotillion
*The Singer of All Songs
Triple Threat
The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate
Pretty Happy
A Conjuring of Light

Write 8,000 Words of Everest: My brain just keeps up a refrain of ‘Backgrounds first. Backgrounds first. Backgrounds first.’ It’s exhausting.

 

 

So, those are my goals. What are some of your goals right now? Are you working for a promotion? Getting ready to graduate college or high school? Working towards a summer beach body? Join the discussion in the comments!

Until next time,

Amanda

March Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

March Update

Maybe it’s the weather, the last dregs of winter that hang on until you want to scream or spend your meager savings and fly somewhere tropical, but this time of year always makes me want to sit down and assess things in my life. What do I want to accomplish this year? Where do I want my blog to go? Am I making my brand work for me? What can I do to make my content better?

The results of all my brainstorming usually end up getting published in my annual Theme of The Year post in July, but it all starts spinning around in my head now – in March!

This year, I’m tossing around a few big ideas for the blog including consolidating (and possibly rebranding!) as well as tons of post ideas on a variety of topics. I can’t wait to share everything with you!

I’m also processing some very big news that I recently received: I got accepted into graduate school! I will now officially be attending Emerson College in Boston this Autumn to get my MA in Publishing and Writing! Of course, this means I have to figure out how to pay for it all, and where I’m going to live, afford textbooks, etc. I suddenly have a lot on my plate, but I’m not going to let it slow me down. I’m taking it all in baby steps: planning for school, working on my book(s), making this space the best it can be… there is a lot to get done before September, and I’m excited to dive in!

I’ll write a more in depth grad school/life update after I attend accepted graduate students day next month, but until then let’s take a look at how I’m doing with my goal tracking.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day: 
The writer’s block is real, but I’ve been re-reading my favorite series from my childhood and it’s really jumpstarting my imagination again. Some of these are the books that inspired me to write The Everest Chronicles! It is also almost spring, and that always gives me the urge to write contemporary, so I’ll be diving back into a contemporary mystery series I started writing last year that I’ve tentatively titled The Catchachatchamunga Diaries (try saying that 10 times fast!)

Apply to Full-Time Jobs: I have a full-time babysitting gig, but with grad school expenses I may need a full-time salaried job in order to pay tuition and maybe get an apartment closer to campus.

Apply to Grad School: Complete! As you read in this month’s intro, I just got accepted to Emerson College! WOO HOO!!! I won’t find out any scholarship/fellowship information until later this week, but I am so incredibly excited to have been accepted into this program!

2017 Goals:
Stick to My Budget: This has really been more like building a budget and assessing how I spend, but so far it’s going better than I expected.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: My bank account is saddened by this, but it’s really not so bad.

Build Savings Account: I’m getting there! I know most of what I’ve saved is going to end up going towards a security deposit and/or tuition payments, but it’s comforting to see the money sitting in there right now, haha!

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: I’ve managed to get all the books on my read/review list for the year and stay under $300, so I feel like I’m doing okay. I’ve also taken advantage of sales and sale sites to save money, which has been helpful. #FirstWorldProblems

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: I’m trying to come up with a list of what I might need to replace or add to my wardrobe for the spring/summer before I do my shopping either the end of this month or the beginning of next before everything is sold out. I hate that I have to do my summer shopping when it’s still snowing.

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: It’s been more like six-seven hours with all the reading I’ve been doing, but not terrible.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: With the season finale of BBC’s Victoria behind us (SO GOOD YOU GUYS), and having finished The Crown at the end of February, I have now moved on to Stranger Things. I can’t say it’s amazing yet, but that could be because I’m watching it alone and therefore have no one to theorize with. There’s also not a lot of explanation, and I’m doubting that anything is going to be resolved by season end (I’m only three episodes in out of eight total). Next, I’m planning to watch The Last Kingdom.

Finish Craft Projects: I am now more than halfway finished with all three of my projects. That’s as much as I can say. I’ve been reading a lot and neglecting everything else.

Post Regularly: Ha. As usual, I have big plans and then they never see the light of day. I’d be a great content planner for anyone except myself. I’m going to keep hacking away at this goal though because I think I’m starting to break through!

Keep Up With Book Reviews: If only I had Wi-Fi in my room. We’re getting a booster this month, but as it stands now I am writing to you from the kitchen island, which I’ve taken over for the day so I can write a few reviews and pay my taxes. Fun stuff. (update 3 days later: we moved the Wi-Fi box and now I have a download speed of 89 and upload speed of 13. For comparison, last week’s speed readings were 0.39 for downloads and 0.04 for uploads.) Everything is ridiculous.

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Still not keeping to them, but at least I glance at them every now and then.

Read 50+ Books: I’m at 13 for the year so far, which is slightly ahead of schedule now. Yay! But I have two books to finish by the end of the month that I’m no longer excited about, so that stinks.

Get In Shape: I did get some running in two weeks ago when it got up to 70 F, but it’s been snowy and frigid since then. I’m trying to fit in some yoga and pilates to make for being cooped up.

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: I walked over 50 miles last month! WOO HOO!

Finish Everest Draft: Not even close.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: I wrote three sentences last week, and I’m hoping to write a good chunk today.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: Too cold and snowy to run with a baby, so I can’t get anywhere near this goal yet.

March Goals:

Walk 40+ Miles: I’m close to 28 miles already and it’s the 20th. Not too bad considering I spent a whole weekend in bed sick.

Run 12 Miles: If it ever warms up outside, sure.

Learn Stretching Exercises: YouTube is a cool place.

Do Yoga 8 Times This Month: I debating whether or not to get a subscription to One0Eight.com. I love Yoga Girl and everything they’re doing at Island Yoga, but I’m not sure if it’s a financial thing I can do at the moment. It’s $14/month for yoga, meditation, and nutritional content.

Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
*Uprooted by Naomi Novik
*The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Fallout by Gwenda Bond
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson

Write 4+ Book Reviews:
The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Fallout by Gwenda Bond
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Get more involved at church by going to an event: I attended a very nice dessert potluck at the beginning of the month, and there’s a group of us going to the Museum of Science. Yay for making friends!

Write 20,000 Words of Everest: This is meant to be the same 20,000 words discussed before, and yes, I am failing hard.

Find a Hair Salon: I have a lead on one that I need to check out, but I’m also going home to New Jersey because I need to make a visit to my Dermatologist, so I think I’m putting off the hair salon decision for anther month and just having my stylist back home do a touch up while I’m there.

DO NOT BUY BOOKS: This is a given.

 

 

So, those are my goals. What are some of your goals right now? Are you working for a promotion? Getting ready to graduate college or high school? Working towards a summer beach body? Join the discussion in the comments!

 

 

Until next time,

Amanda