Monthly Archives: July 2013

Writing: A family affair

In my house writing is a family affair. This month I’m in the U.S. for work (I live in Saudi Arabia) and I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for my supportive husband, flexible daughter and well, the animals are not too happy but they’re managing.

I’m a firm believer that any writer (or creative person) should involve family in their process. For one, it’s good to let them know what you do so they don’t think you’re crazy when you shut them out to spend time with fictional characters. I love talking about story ideas with my husband and getting his feedback and I feel that he likes being involved. Baby Markey is just three but when she’s older I can’t wait to discuss story ideas with her.

Beast on a computerAnd then there are the furry babies. Right now is one of the very rare occasions when I’m not writing with a dog, cat or bunny on my foot and I don’t like it. I feel like something is missing. I love the furry support that I get and it definitely helps with stress. Reports are always coming out about how having pets is good for ones health and I believe it.

By involving your family they will also be more willing and understand why you need to schedule and devote time to your craft. You don’t have to go out of town to a nice lake house for a writing retreat. Of course such trips are nice but you can always schedule a writing retreat anytime in your own home.

Involving your family in anything that you do and love is always the best plan. My family supports me and enjoys being part of my writing process no matter how many legs they have. How do you involve your family in your writing?

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The power of effect

I’m in the U.S. right now for work and for writing breaks I’m doing a lot of what I miss the most about living in the States—watching movies! I love going to see a new movie in the theater and I can’t do that living in Saudi Arabia. So this week my mom and I went to see “The Conjuring.”

I loved it! Now, keep in mind that I love scary movies and the hubby hates them so I’ll take any chance to see a scary movie that I can get. With that being said, there is a lot that writers and creative people in general can learn from “The Conjuring.”

The age-old decorating and style tip, less is more is often true. Over the past several years I’ve felt that horror movies have become graphically gory for the sake of blood and guts. To me this is no different than an author writing a sex scene just for the sake of a sex scene and not for the justified reason of furthering the plot. Blood and guts DOES NOT equate scary!

“The Conjuring” (as did “Insidious”) returned to a more classic horror film approach. Many of the effects could be easily duplicated and the thrill came in the form of the build up, camera angles, and acting. The film’s success should prove the importance and still relevance of “old school” thrill tactics.

So what can we creative people take away from this? While stuck on a manuscript tonight I noticed how I was over thinking the scene and using more words when less worked best. I was trying to overwork the scene. “The Conjuring” is simple. It’s just what it needed to be and that added to the horror and thrills. One of my favorite scenes was when NOTHING happened. The film’s simple approach to build up is brilliant and successful, that should lead many to question overly worked tactics in the bag of creative tools.

Have you seen “The Conjuring?” What did you think?

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Refilling the creative cup

Not many writers live in Saudi Arabia. Since I moved there in September I’ve become active within the library community and have met some very welcoming Arabic writers, mostly poets. As supportive as they are they just are not what I’m used to.
Refill cup
I moved from a VERY active and fabulously supporting RWA chapter in Houston to having nothing in Saudi Arabia. It’s easy to quickly feel isolated. It’s easy to feel cut off from the world when all you’re doing is sitting in front of a computer when you’re not chasing a toddler or furry babies.

RWA and other large conferences are not just about learning craft or industry trends. Though that is important, getting out and meeting writers is just as important if not more.

Yesterday I met fellow YA writer Christina Kirby. Now tonight we’re planning to have dinner together. This is what conferences are about. This is how critique partners are found and life long writing friends are discovered.

Writers are a special brand of people. We’re creative border-lining on insanity. Don’t laugh. If you’re a writer, you probably hear voices in your head. You then probably listen to said voices and mold them into stories. Yep, most people would define that as not normal. But if you are a writer getting your annual creative booster shot is just as important as that overdue dental cleaning you’ve been avoiding.

So if you’re at RWA or planning to attend another large-scale writing conference be sure to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to go to a workshop, coffee shop or lounge alone. Take advantage of the lobby’s free WiFi. Meet people!! Make the most of your creative cup refill and get ready to dive into another year of productive writing.

Are you at RWA 2013? Tweet me @NatalieCMarkey. I’d love to meet you.

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Loving the lobby

A hotel can be more than a front desk, home of a likely Starbucks, probable bar and ATM machine. At a conference, the lobby can be a place to network, meet new friends and in this particular place free WiFi. This week I’m attending the national Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta, Georgia. After two very long international flights it’s tempting to camp out in the comforts of my room. However, I know that is not how I’m going to meet people and get ahead in my career.

It’s so easy for writers to not be social. We spend our time in front of a computer with imaginary friends. I think of conferences like this as being a booster shot of creativity. There is something special being around other creative people and we need to work together to get out and hone that creativity.

Do you stay in your room at conferences or are you a fixture to the lobby? Take this time to get work done but get out so you still have the opportunity to meet people.

If you’re at RWA Nationals let me know. I’d love to meet up!

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Conference Season Prep: Embracing the cute

I’m now leaving in two days for the U.S. for a month of work. As a freelance journalist and author it’s pretty easy to work from my home in Saudi Arabia but sometimes I just have to get up and travel. I’ll miss my daily wardrobe of comfy workout shorts and a Baylor University t-shirt and my four furry baby assistants who gather at my feet while I work but mostly I’ll miss my family and home. With that being said, these last two days for me are all about EMBRACING THE CUTE!

Last night my daughter and I had a girl party. It was just the two of us, well and the entire cast of Glee on blu-ray and just about every pillow and stuffed animal/doll in our home. Who knew toddlers loved pillow fights so much? Anyway, my point is that I had stuff to do to get ready to leave but instead I spent time with my daughter. It’s moments like that that I will miss so I’m taking them all in now.

Tonight the plan is to watch a movie with my husband after our little one goes to sleep. Of course when we watch a movie it isn’t just us. Oh no, we have Oscar the eighty-pound dog, Beast the kitten and occasionally either one or both of the rabbits, Diamond and Jedi. Movie night includes our furry babies. Again, I’m embracing the cute.

While on my own for the next month I’ll have plenty of time to work but I won’t have my family. It’s easy to get caught up in packing and last minute tasks but stop and think about what really matters. EMBRACE THE CUTE!

Let me know if you’ll be in Atlanta for RWA. I’d love to meet up!

Beast-3 Our kitten Beast, how could you not embrace this cuteness!

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Conference Season Prep: Doing your homework

I leave in four days for the National Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta. This year I’ll be traveling from our new home in Saudi Arabia for the first time. Conferences are exciting, exhausting and they can be a little overwhelming. However, you can make things a little easier by doing your homework. This can also help maximize your conference experience.

So what do I mean by “homework” and as I type surrounded by mounds of clothes it’s easy to refer to the dreading packing but no, I mean actual homework. Your conference work starts before arrival as you look over your itinerary and conference schedule. You have the names of the workshop leaders. Learn about who they are, what do they write, etc. Knowing this can also help determine if what they are speaking on is the workshop for you.

Writer's Conference Guide pic

If you have agent interviews it is important to read up on that agent or editor. Do they have a blog? Have they written lately about what they are looking for? Have they published books? Learn as much as you can prior to the meeting.

A great resource prior to a conference is the “Writer’s Conference Guide: Getting the Most of Your Time and Money” by Bob Mayer and Jen Talty. This book is fantastic especially if this is your first major conference experience.

If this isn’t your first time at this particular conference, look back over your notes and business contacts from the previous year. Follow up with contacts. Schedule coffees or happy hour. Make the effort in advance to be social.

If that isn’t enough to think about, don’t forget to pack while doing your “homework.” Conferences are tiring and hard work but if you play it right they can be very beneficial.

Are you going to RWA Nationals in Atlanta? If so, I’d love to meet up!

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Celebrating the Fourth in the Middle East

I’m breaking from my current “Conference Season Prep” blog series to celebrate the Fourth of July and share with you all how I am celebrating America in my new Saudi Arabian home. I’m asked continually about my experiences living over here and I have to say that I have it pretty good. We love it. My family and I moved here in September and we continue to have nothing but good experiences.

I live in an International compound and I’m getting to meet people from all over the world. It’s amazing the diversity that Baby Markey will grow up experiencing. That educational opportunity was one of the things that attracted us to this experience on top of the obvious adventure.

Many of the local people here ask me questions about America and since I’m from Texas, the most frequent line of questioning involves my ranch or cattle. Of course, I have neither of these things! I often get questions about what I (or we Americans) call something or what does a certain holiday mean. I have been asked what the Fourth of July is. Many over here do associate that date with America but some I’ve spoken to only guessed on the holiday’s true meaning. I found that interesting but I’m kind of liking my self-appointed ambassador position. I’m always happy to educate others on where I’m from just as I too enjoy asking questions about other countries and their customs.

All the fellow expats I know already know what the Fourth is even if they aren’t American. We are all supportive of each other’s cultures and many are quick to say “happy _____” when a Nation has a celebration such the most recent Canada Day.

Not living in America does give me at least a bigger sense to celebrate American holidays. Not that we didn’t before but I feel the need to really break out the family traditions and celebrate each holiday right. A lot of this is probably because I’m mother to an almost three-year-old. Baby Markey is too young to really “see” the difference between living in America and living here. As parents it is up to us to show her our American pride so that she too can be proud of where she is from. And I’m proud to say that she can accurately identify both the American and Texas flags and is quick to tell people where she is from.

We will not have fireworks or parades where we live so we’re keeping things close to home as we celebrate the Fourth of July. We’re going All-American with the menu with hot dogs, potato salad, homemade onion rings and homemade ice cream. We’ll be having a few American and even non-American friends over for the event.

It’s hard to find decorations for the holiday over here so I’m incorporating my daughter’s newly discovered love for art to “Americanize” our little get together. Thanks to the Internet you can find great craft ideas for just about anything. I’m using this site for coloring pages and craft ideas but there are so many sites out there and of course Pinterest is bursting with inspiration.  

When you don’t have the option of big commercial celebrations, it’s easy to focus on home and family. I actually think sometimes the big events to celebrate holidays can draw us away from the true importance of the occasion.

From our experience, being American where we live in the Middle East is a wonderful experience. We represent our country in how we act and treat others and I like to think that we make America look really good! Baby Markey hears stories of America and the meaning behind the Fourth of July even if she doesn’t really understand it all yet.

I’ll be in the U.S.A. for some work this summer but then, as a family we’ll be back in December. Being an American outside of America really makes you appreciate things that you took fore granted before. It also makes for a bigger celebration when we reach American soil!

I’m sure Americans all over the world are witness to different international experiences every moment. What I write about is just my experience. However, no matter where you live, be it Houston, Texas or Saudi Arabia, an American is an American. Tomorrow my family will be singing to Lee Greenwood, grilling some good food and celebrating what it means to be an American with friends. We’ll just being doing it from our happy sandbox in Saudi Arabia.

Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!

And to jump start your celebration…

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